Oh my, it’s been a while since I’ve given a little update on what’s happening in our journey. Here’s a brief summary from this spring:
A New Member of the Family
Madison and her boyfriend, Garrett, were in Scotland this past week paying a visit to Taylor, Clayton, and Milo. A day trip to the Isle of Skye provided a ridiculously stunning setting for Garrett to pop the question to Madison. We’re excited to welcome Garrett into our wonderfully messy family. An autumn wedding in South Carolina is planned.
The Scotland Crew
We are missing Tay, Clay, and Milo terribly. Thank God for FaceTime. Though, no matter how hard we try, we can’t reach through the screen and hug them. Clayton’s academic work is going well. He’s publishing on multiple fronts, has facilitated both undergraduate and graduate classes, and is trying to work on his dissertation in between everything else. Taylor has gone full-time working for Storii and is traveling around the UK conducting on-boarding training for different care facilities. Milo is cuter than ever and he melts my heart every time he looks and me on FaceTime and says, “Papa!” We’re still working on “Yaya.”
A Week in So-Cal
Our Spring Break was spent in Southern California this year. Wendy and I jetted to the west coast for a few days in San Diego followed by a few days (and St. Patrick’s Day!) in Palm Springs with our friends Kevin and Linda. The agenda for the week was simple. We walked, explored, enjoyed good food, good drink, and a wonderful time with friends. We were excited when our friend, Ann, drove up to Palm Springs from Yuma, to spend an afternoon with us.
Kaiser Grill, Palm Springs
Found a real Irish Pub in San Diego.
Our friend, Ann, drove from Yuma to spend some time with us.
Scootin’ around San Diego.
Hat shop. Duh.
Lunch at Maracas!
“California, here we come!”
The view from our guest room porch in Palm Springs.
Spent a lot of time doing this.
Harbor Breakfast, San Diego.
San Diego Harbor sunset.
Happy hour overlooking San Diego Harbor.
Our first time back at a Ruth’s Chris since our honeymoon.
Our friends Kevin and Beck both have April birthdays, and so do I. Over the past few years we’ve made it a point of celebrating all three birthdays together. This year was a little tough to fit it in with four very busy schedules, but we managed to steal a few hours at one of our favorite places. Wendy provided the party favors and, as always, a good time was had by all.
Tulip Time 2019
We just finished Pella’s annual Tulip Festival this past weekend. Once again Wendy and I portrayed our town’s founding couple. We greeted tourists, had our picture taken a million times, and were in five of the festival’s six parades. We also hosted Aunt Linda, Uncle Gary & Aunt Fern, Uncle Brad and Aunt Barb, Mom Hall here at the house for various nights.
Our participation in Tulip Time was limited this year because we found ourselves making a movie and hosting a couple of the members of the film crew, but more about that in a subsequent post.
The weekend was perfect this year. The tulips and trees were all blooming and peaking at the same time. The weather was a little overcast on Thursday and Friday, but pleasant. Saturday was sunny and warm.
Reprising a Few Roles
Wendy and I have not been actively involved in community theatre the last few years as we’ve transitioned our time and energy to work and other endeavors. We were asked, however, to reprise a couple of pieces for a variety show at the end of March. We performed one of our scenes (Getting it Back) from Almost, Maine. I also performed Green Stuff from the musical The Christmas Post.
It has been a while since I’ve posted anything but my chapter-a-day. Forgive me. I’m feeling good just to get that done most days. Nevertheless, I’m well overdue to, at the very least, post a brief synopsis of all the events of autumn.
Summer ended and our fall began with what has become an annual adult weekend at the lake with the VLs and JPs. It’s so much fun with this crew and there is never a dull moment when the six of us get together, which we did again a few weeks later with dinner in Ankeny for JP’s birthday.
A quick update on the girls. Madison continues living and working in Columbia, South Carolina as an area sales and training coordinator for Laura Geller cosmetics. She loves it there and we don’t foresee getting her back to the midwest without an act of God. She’ll also be home for a week at the holidays, which we’re ecstatic about. She and her boyfriend, Garrett, made quite a turn as “The Incredibles” for Halloween this year.
Taylor, Clayton and Milo moved to Edinburgh, Scotland early this fall. Clayton is finishing up his Doctorate from the University there. Taylor was hired part-time by Storii, a fabulous company helping senior care centers tell, and utilize, the stories of their residents who are struggling with dementia. They’ve had a busy few months with travels to Sweden, Denmark, London and the Scottish highlands. Thankfully they will be home for a few weeks in December for the holidays, and we can’t wait to have them here.
Sadly, the kids weren’t the only ones we had to say good-bye to this fall. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, left for Mazatlan, Mexico where she is attending Discipleship Training School with YWAM (Youth With a Mission).
We also bid farewell to our dear friends Kevin and Linda as they moved to Palm Springs, California. While the snowbirds promise to come back and spend summer in Iowa, it was hard to watch them pack up all their belongings and head west (though we are headed there to visit them soon!). I was also glad I was able to enjoy Kevin’s turn as host of the Pella Opera House’s first-ever Scotch and Cigar night. Almost 50 men attended, and Kevin did a fabulous job.
Farewell lunch with Suzanna. We’re so much fun, our server wanted to get in on the photo!
Scotch & Cigar night at Pella Opera House. Greeted by a piper.
Kevin hosting Scotch tasting.
I have been kept busy in leadership of my company including a major rebranding from C Wenger Group to Intelligentics. There will be more responsibility transferred my way with the start of 2019. I’m excited to see where it all leads.
Wendy and I stepped down completely from leadership in our community theatre after nearly a decade and a half. We’re taking an indefinite hiatus from community theatre with all the other things going on in life. That said, Wendy was honored by Union Street Players for her years of service by being inducted to their Walk of Fame during the group’s annual Awards Night on October 6th. Here’s a little clip I put together of some of my fave photos of Wendy over the years at USP. I’ve also, for posterity sake, posted a video of my introduction and her acceptance speech.
We were scheduled to be part of an independent production of Freud’s Last Session in October at Central College with our friends Kevin and Linda. We were forced to pull the plug on the production at the last-minute because of unforeseen and ultimately insurmountable scheduling obstacles placed in our way. It’s a long story both sad and frustrating. Not only for us, but also for the Central theatre students and professors who were looking forward to being involved in the show and with whom we were excited to work on the production. We are discussing an attempt to resurrect the project next year.
Chocolate always makes her smile. Celebrating Chad’s birthday at Malo.
Or Pella. It’s a regional thing.
Pella Opera House Gala
You know what fall means? Vikings football!! SKOL!
Autumn at the lake with Kev n Beck.
Me and the ladies, out for Chad’s birthday.
The fall included some annual events such as a fall weekend at the lake with our friends, Kev and Beck. Fall means you’ll find Wendy and me in purple and gold every Sunday afternoon cheering on the Vikings. We also enjoyed the annual fundraising gala for the Pella Opera House. And then there was an evening out with the VLs and JPs to celebrate Chad’s birthday. A wonderful dinner at Malo and nightcap in Des Moines.
Our support of Pella Historical Society included a couple of new experiences this fall. Wendy and I once again found ourselves portraying our town’s founding couple, H.P. and Maria Scholte, in a cemetery walk. There were a number of costumed actors stationed around the local cemetery portraying historic individuals from our town’s past. As visitors approached we delivered a short monologue. It was a cold, blustery fall day, but at least the sun was shining to provide a little warmth.
Just this past weekend I had the honor of being Master of Ceremonies for the annual Tulip Queen Announcement Party. Twelve young ladies were finalists in the annual festivities that select a Tulip Queen and four members of the Tulip Court who will preside at Pella’s annual Tulip Time festival in May. As M.C. I spent Friday evening and Saturday morning in rehearsals, then got to join the candidates at a special luncheon on Saturday. At the Saturday evening event I introduced and interviewed all of the candidates before a packed audience in the high school auditorium. Each candidate did a three-minute presentation and were interviewed by a panel of over 30 judges representing a diverse cross-section of our community. It was a tough decision as all twelve of the young ladies were exceptional and would have been great representatives of the best our community has to offer. Then I got to make the big announcement at the end of the evening. It was a lot of fun, and I’ve already been asked to M.C. next year’s event, so I guess I did okay.
Wendy and I have also been focusing on getting some projects done around the house this fall. We finally completed a DIY project that’s been in the works for a couple of years. We made a console table out of old dock wood from the lake to sit behind the couch downstairs in the Pub. We also designed a sign for the pub and actually had one made by the local sign company.
The Vander Hart name lives on!
A house full of Vander Harts.
With the world progressing at breakneck speed, it’s nice to know some things never change 😉
No one starves at a Vander Hart gathering.
Wendy and I also enjoyed playing host to her mom’s family this past weekend. The Vander Hart clan descended on us Sunday afternoon. There were 20+ of them for a potluck lunch and hanging out. Wendy’s cousin, Ethan, and his wife, Kim, recently gave birth to the only Vander Hart male to carry the family name into the next generation, so it was fun to meet him and celebrate.
Of course, then there’s the regular activities of both physical and spiritual exercise. I’m more involved than ever as a teaching leader. Wendy and I were asked to present at a fall retreat on our experience with the enneagram, which prompted another opportunity coming up in December. Wendy has been faithfully doing yoga and I continue to show up at CrossFit.
Wow. Writing this post reminds me just how busy we’ve been. But, life is good and we are blessed. Next week the holidays begin, and Wendy and I both have hearts full of gratitude ready to give Thanks.
This past week was full of adventure, and not just my Grumpy Old Men Marathon to the Windy City. We had the pleasure of Taylor, Clayton, and Milo’s company all week. The trio are headed back to Edinburgh, Scotland where Clayton will work to finish his Ph.D. It’ll be a year or two that they plan to live there. The kids moved out of the Des Moines house they’d been leasing with friends for the past year in Des Moines. They stayed with us for about 10 days as they made the rounds to say good-bye to family and friends.
On Monday I drove the crew to Minneapolis where they boarded their flight for Glasgow. They’ll be in Glasgow at a friend’s flat for a week and then move into their flat in Edinburgh that they’ll be sharing with a friend from Pella.
Wendy and I, of course, were sad to say good-bye to Milo. We’ll look forward to having them back for the holidays.
Summer 2016 is almost half over. Time flies. Late June and early July have been on-the-go for Wendy and me. We headed to the lake at the end of June and spent a rainy 4th of July weekend together. It literally rained non-stop, with maybe one or two brief breaks, for over two days. It was actually kind of depressing. We stayed inside and began binge watching House of Cards.
On July 4th we were joined at the lake by Kev, Beck, and the kiddos. The weather finally started to break and we were able to enjoy the better part of two days together. We ate at Captain Ron’s the evening of the 4th, and then went to Bear Bottom the following day for some fun in the sun. Wendy and headed for home that afternoon while our friends stayed to enjoy the rest of the week at the lake.
Congrats to our Taylor! She headed to Scotland right after the holiday weekend. She walked the stage at Queen Margaret University in Edinburgh to receive her Master’s Degree. We’re sorry not to have been there with her, but so proud of her. She’s staying in Scotland and will work at the Fringe Festival there in July and August.
Wendy and I have been spending a good part of our summer doing some finish work on decorating our house. After moving in last year there were a number of things that we just decided to put off for the sake of time, energy and finances. We got some new furniture both upstairs and downstairs which meant moving and rearranging in several rooms. I installed some dimmer switches in V-Dub pub to give us more control of the “ambiance.”
It was fun to host our niece, Lydia, and two of her friends last weekend. Lydia was playing a wedding on Saturday and her friends were along to make it a girls weekend. It was nice to get to play host to the lovely ladies. I preached last Sunday at Celebrate Church in Knoxville, and we celebrated Grandma VH’s 89th birthday that afternoon with a small family gathering at her apartment.
I was on the road this week in Texas along with one of our team members, Nick. It’s a trip we make quarterly. It was very hot in Texas and on Wednesday night we decided to go out and have some fun. We went to a Laredo Lemurs game. The Lemurs play in an independent league not affiliated with MLB. It’s mostly ex-college players and minor league castaways who want to keep playing and hoping for a shot. Nick and I actually had a great night and enjoyed both the baseball and the Lemur.
I finished up earlier than expected on Friday. My flight wasn’t until late afternoon. So, I spent a couple of hours having an artist’s date at the McNay art museum in San Antonio. It’s still one of my happiest places on earth.
Madison’s summer has been a combination of building both community and career in South Carolina while maintaining a relationship with her boyfriend Matt back in Colorado. They’ve traveled back and forth to see one another. She’s back in Colorado this weekend attending a wedding with Matt. The two were here with us at Tulip Time, and we’ll get to see them again at the end of August when they meet us at the lake for a few days.
As we head toward the dog days of August, Wendy is busy prepping for her role as Director of the community theater holiday production, The Christmas Post. This is the third time she’s directed the show. It’s been ten years since the last one. I’ll be auditioning for the show as well as playing the role as her Producer. Auditions are in a few weeks and all of the leg work has begun.
Sometimes photo opportunities come from paying attention to details. While in Edinburgh this past summer I began noticing that many of the old buildings contained small decorative flourishes with a message. They were often Bible verses or a moral reminder. Once I started noticing them I began to take photos of them. Themed photos can make for fascinating collages.
Some photos just happen in an unexpected moment, and this photo has become one of my favorite personal examples. Wendy’s favorite color is red. This past June while visiting Scotland’s Museum of Contemporary Art in Edinburgh, Wendy took a seat on a bench in one of the galleries to rest. I turned to look at her and realized that the artwork behind her made this gorgeous red halo. How apt. She had no idea why I lifted my camera and snapped her picture, but I loved the result.
I’ve come to realize that there are some photos that you love, and you don’t really know why. This photo from the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh is one of them. Every time I’m flipping through my photos and I see this one my soul smiles. I love the simple joy lying on the grass, napping in the sun. I love the way Wendy and Taylor are placed in such natural, beautiful surroundings. I love the blue of the sky meeting the green of the trees and the lawn. Of course, I loved experiencing that morning in the gardens when it happened and perhaps that is the most powerful attraction the photo has for me.
Anyway, I hope it makes your soul grin a little too.
This is another favorite shot from Scotland. I love the way the vast landscape and the path on the plain funnel your vision to Wendy making her way up through the crevice, her blue sweater providing a colorful contrast to the earthen rocks surrounding her.
This is one of my favorite shots from Edinburgh, Scotland. There was something that struck me about the juxtaposition of this massive, man man edifice that has stood for hundreds of years commanding the view from miles around, and these fragile, temporal wild flowers residing nearby in the simplicity of their seasonal beauty.
This was one of my favorite photos from all that I took in Scotland. We were at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Edinburgh. It was a sunniest day we’d experienced during our time in Scotland so we were all enamored with the sunlight and its warmth. There was this gorgeous tree with pale golden leaves, so pale that they almost looked white. I noticed that the sunlight through them made a gorgeous glow in contrast to the dark limbs. I stepped underneath the boughs and clicked the shutter at just the right moment to catch the starburst of sunlight. This photo is untouched and appears just as I shot it.