Tag Archives: Suzanna

The Latest: Anniversary Cruise

New Year’s Eve 2020 was our 15th wedding anniversary, and we had planned a cruise down the Mexican Riviera. Covid messed up those plans like so many other things in life, and we ended up pushing it back a year.

Wendy and I headed to San Diego on December 28 where we worked remotely and took the opportunity to visit two of our team members who live there. On the 31st, our friends Chad and Shay arrived to join us for our anniversary celebration and embark with us on the cruise.

We made a late afternoon jaunt to the Gaslamp District of San Diego. It was crazy busy already so we opted to grab a quick bite at a small burger joint and pick up some wine at Ralph’s to enjoy back at the hotel. It ended up being a quiet celebration and an early night.

On New Year’s day, we headed to a great breakfast joint and did some shopping along the harbor. Chad and I found a bar to watch the Iowa Hawkeyes choke away their bowl game in the last eight minutes. We then walked up to the U.S.S. Midway museum. The decommissioned aircraft carrier was fascinating to tour. Even the ladies enjoyed it more than they thought they would. We had a ball.

The next day we boarded Holland America’s Koningsdam and headed down the Pacific coast of Mexico. After a day at sea, we made ports of call in Cabo San Lucas, Mazatlan, and Puerto Vallarta. Wendy and I chose to stay on the ship in Cabo and Puerto Vallarta. We really desired to enjoy the quiet on this trip. Other than a mid-day trip to the pool to enjoy a stogie while I read, Wendy and I spent a lot of time in our cabin and on our verandah. It was awesome.

A lot of people have been curious about how Covid affected the trip. The cruise required all passengers to be vaccinated and we had to produce a negative Covid test that was taken no more than 48 hours before embarkation. Masks were required in hallways, elevators, and interior public spaces when you weren’t eating or drinking. The ship seemed to be about half-full, so it never really seemed very crowded. The two things we really noticed were that the ship seemed to have a smaller staff so we sometimes had to wait longer than expected for someone to take a drink order around the pool, and we only got to hear the B.B. King All-Stars perform once. We assume that one of them must have gotten sick because all of their subsequent performances were canceled.

Wendy and I did get off the ship in Mazatlan to see Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, her husband, Chino, and our new nephew, Ian. Suzanna and Chino live in Mazatlan where they serve on the base of Youth With a Mission (YWAM). It was fun to see their apartment, get a tour of the YWAM base, and have lunch together right on the beach. The day flew by before we knew it and we had to depart. It was so much fun to see them!

Wendy and Shay enjoyed time in the Ship’s spa during the week, and we all enjoyed our evening dinners together. The final two days of the cruise were days at sea as we journeyed from Puerto Vallarta all the way back up the Mexican coast to San Diego. It was a great week. After the winter storm that we just experienced yesterday, we all agreed that we’d rather be back on the ship!

The Latest: Wayfarers Travels

Wedding in Mazatlan, Mexico

A few months ago I posted about the chaotic season of travel into which Wendy and I were entering. Don’t get me wrong. It’s all good stuff! Nevertheless, the coming and going have left us grasping for even a few nuggets of normalcy and routine. We are on the downhill side of our gauntlet of travels. It’s been a while since I’ve posted an update. So, away we go…

Two weeks after our daughter, Madison’s, wedding weekend in South Carolina, Wendy and I flew to Mazatlan, Mexico. Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, got married to Emmanuel (a.k.a. Chino) in a gorgeous sunset wedding right on the shore of the Pacific. It was an amazing, multi-cultural event. Chino’s family speaks little or no English. Our family speaks very little Spanish. Nevertheless, there was no shortage of love, laughter, and warmth as we celebrated their wedding.

Not a bad view from our condo balcony.

Our family rented a large condo right on the beach with lots of bedrooms and living space. I will say that the accommodations were in desperate need of updating, but it was still very comfortable. There was a lovely view of the ocean and the sounds of the surf resonated non-stop. When we opened both the doors to the condo and the patio doors to the balcony there was a constant ocean breeze that blew through the living area. It was really lovely.

Chino and Suzanna welcome everyone to their rehearsal and dinner.

On Friday evening we hosted the wedding rehearsal in our condo. A large contingent of both family and friends from Suzanna and Chino’s YWAM (Youth With A Mission) base gathered. Chino’s mother made an amazing, authentic Mexican meal for everyone. There was lots of love, laughter, and joy as Suzanna and Chino blended their worlds and prepared for their big day.

“I don’t think that’s heavy cream. I really want heavy cream.”

One of my favorite memories of the weekend was making multiple Walmart runs with my father-in-law. He desperately wanted some heavy cream for his coffee, but how do you say “heavy cream” in Spanish? We were shown the shelves of Coffee-Mate creamers (sorry, that’s not it) and found several cream products in the dairy case, but which one is the right one? It was a hoot.

The wedding day dawned and the condo was overrun with females. Cakes, flowers, dresses, and various other wedding accouterments were being baked, decorated, assembled, judged, revised, and improvised (rinse and repeat). I slipped onto the balcony with a cup of coffee and stayed out of the way.

Wedding chaos inside, but it’s quiet on the balcony!

The wedding venue was the courtyard of a home along the pacific shore north of Mazatlan. Wendy had joined Suzanna and the wedding party in getting their early. I joined my in-laws, including Aunt Barb, in a YWAM people mover with lots of young people (some of them holding cakes on their laps). As the people mover took off my mother-in-law pointed to the driver and asked me, “Does he know where he’s going?” I remember thinking, “I certainly hope so because I definitely don’t know where we’re going and I don’t speak Spanish!” All was well.

The outdoor venue was beautiful and the wedding began as the sun was setting in the Pacific Ocean behind the wedding couple. I had very little do to with anything, but Suzanna did ask me for suggestions of music to play as the bridesmaids and groomsmen entered. Suzanna asked me for something kind of moody and bluesy. I immediately suggested a song which she immediately loved. What she didn’t realize was that the song (I am Yours by Tracy Chapman) was one of the songs Wendy and played at our wedding. Suzanna was in our wedding, but I forgive her for not remembering. She was, like, ten years old. Anyway, it was awesome that the song began just as Wendy and her groomsman escort started towards the front. I got some nice looks from Wendy. She and I enjoyed the moment, for sure.

After the ceremony, we enjoyed a lovely catered meal as the sunset behind the wedding party. Wendy gave her sister a lovely toast (by that time she needed a little iPhone flashlight to see her notes). The dance was really a lot of fun. There may be cultural differences between the U.S. and Mexico, but everyone loves a wedding dance whether the music is Tejano or R&B. I even was blessed to get in a step or two with the beautiful bride that I’ll always treasure.

Here’s a gallery of photos from Mazatlan (Keep scrolling! There’s MORE afterwards!)

Christmas in London, New Year’s in Dublin

It seemed that we had no sooner gotten home than we were packing again. This time we were heading across the pond for Christmas with Taylor, Clayton, and our grandson, Milo. Taylor’s friend, who lives in London, offered her flat to us for the holidays. Wendy and I flew out of Des Moines on the 23rd (DSM-ORD-DUB-LHR) and arrived in London early on the 24th.

It was really a wonderful week together. We went to the annual Christmas concert at Royal Albert Hall and Milo was transfixed… for about ten minutes. It really was a cool event. We made it just past intermission before Milo throwing his cars at fellow concert-goers prompted us to beat the rush and head home.

Milo was mesmerized by the Christmas lights and music (for about ten minutes)

We went for walks. We played in the park. Taylor made a wonderful Christmas meal complete with figgy pudding (ugh!) and brandy butter (yum!). We played Christmas games (balance an orange on your forehead for a minute), and binged the second season of Fleabag.

Christmas lights at Kew Gardens! Amazing!

A lot of the week was simply spent enjoying one another’s company, but Taylor did a nice job of planning an itinerary that included about one event per day. We went to see the Christmas lights at Kew Gardens (spectacular). The adults got away for the Harry Potter studio tour at Warner Brothers (fantastic), and also got away for a show on the West End (The Play that Goes Wrong). Wendy and I found a pub that was playing the Iowa State vs. Notre Dame bowl game (depressing). It was a great week of just getting to spend time together with this trio that we miss so much.

The Westin Hotel, Dublin

Wendy and I flew out of London City airport on the 30th and made the short flight to Dublin. Our anniversary is New Year’s Eve, so we figured it would be a lot of fun to celebrate our 14th year of wedding bliss with a pint o’ Guinness on the Emerald Isle. Regretfully, our time there was far too short. We were blessed to have a room at the Westin, which is an old bank building. The hotel bar was in the old bank vaults in the basement. It was really pretty cool.

We didn’t arrive until late afternoon on the 30th. After settling in we took a stroll up Grafton Street and stopped to buy Wendy a charm for her bracelet to mark the occasion. We enjoyed a pint at the Stag’s Head pub, a place I’d enjoyed when I was in Dublin twenty years ago. We had dinner at the Exchequer before making our way back to the hotel for a night cap.

Waiting for the Hop-On Bus

On New Year’s Eve day we took a hop-on hop-off bus tour of Dublin which allowed us to get a good overview of the sites. It also allowed Wendy to start planning our next trip to Dublin (“We are coming back here,” she informed me). We ate lunch at the Brazen Head Pub (which opened for business in the year 1098… that’s not a typo). We ended up back in the old bank vaults for a nibble and great conversation with the eclectic patrons sitting with us.

Happy New Year from Dublin. A kiss over the River Liffey!

Just before midnight, we walked the block or two up to the River Liffey where thousands of revelers crowded the streets and we kissed in the year 2020 as fireworks exploded overhead.

Then we quickly high-tailed it back to the hotel and went to bed.

We flew home on New Year’s Day.

Here’s a gallery of photos from the UK:

The travels are not done! Stay tuned….

The Skinny: A Recap of Our Fall 2018

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.

The Incredible Madison and Garrett.

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).

A bittersweet evening at the Vander Well pub, saying good-bye to Kevin, Linda, and Suzanna.

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.

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 was inducted into Union Street Players’ Walk of Fame in October.

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.

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.

Portraying the Scholtes at Pella Historical Society’s Cemetery Walk.

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.

Having just announced the Tulip Queen as M.C.

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.

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.

CrossFit!

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.

The Latest 09-13-2015

Wendy and I have spent less time at the lake this summer than ever since buying my folks’ place back in 2008. There are a number of reasons for the reduction in lake-time including our increased involvement in Tulip Time, our trip to Scotland to see Taylor, Taylor’s move back home, a new house that still requires a ¬†number of projects to get settled and finished, my parents transitioning into a retirement community, three weddings in August, and Suzanna’s final summer home and launch to college. As summer wanes, we figured we’d better get in some time down south before it’s too late.

We headed to Missouri on Tuesday, Sep 1st. Wendy and I worked from the lake and did some much needed cleaning up before our friends Matthew and Sarah joined us for Labor Day weekend. Matthew and Sarah were celebrating their three week anniversary (one of the weddings in August) and since they didn’t take a honeymoon after the ceremony this provided them with a much needed getaway for the two of them.

As soon as Matthew and Sarah arrived we jumped in the boat and headed to Bear Bottom for an afternoon of sun and fun in the pool. It was a gorgeous weekend and Saturday was also spent in the sun, this time off the dock. We had a fabulous grilled steak dinner on Saturday evening followed by watching the movie A Little Chaos (highly recommend). Sunday morning was spent in some amazing conversation before our friends headed home.

Wendy and I stayed behind and enjoyed some time to ourselves, though we continued to work while we were there. We were hoping for more¬†sun on Labor Day, but the weather didn’t cooperate. We laid out on the dock with our books under overcast skies until it finally began to rain. Later that day we both had an “Awww” moment when we got a text from Taylor saying, “You can come home now!”

The lake gets so amazingly quiet after Labor Day when all the summer revelers have left for the season and only the residents are left. We enjoyed breakfast at local greasy spoon, Chances R, on Tuesday morning. On Wednesday morning we took a nice cruise on the lake (we were the only boat out there) before grabbing pizza at Captain Ron’s for lunch and heading home where we found new sidewalks out front of Vander Well Manor thanks to G&B Concrete.

We got settled back in at home, and Wednesday evening was spent doing handyman duty as we had a couple of nightstands and a desk for Wendy’s office for which there was “some assembly required.” The nightstands were a cinch, but the term “some assembly required” was a bit of an understatement for Wendy’s desk which game in about a half-million pieces. Got ‘er done, however.

Suzanna came home from college for the first time on Friday. It was great to see her. She’s enjoying her freshman year at Hawkeye CC while living on the UNI campus. One of her friends from USP had a birthday party on Friday night and Suzanna came home to surprise her. Wendy and I¬†enjoyed a date night at Kaldera with our friends Dan and Anna on Friday. As always, good food, good friends, and good conversation were a winning combination. We were among the first to arrive and the last to leave our favorite Pella eatery.

Taylor and Tom Coffee on the Patio

Taylor has been house-sitting again this weekend but came home for our routine family breakfast on Saturday morning. Wendy wasn’t up yet so Taylor and I sat out on the patio in the gorgeous early fall sunshine for coffee and conversation. So excited that Taylor has an interview for a job on Wednesday. More on that at a later date.

Dumping dirt for lawnThe one last major project at VW Manor is our lawn. We missed the window for planting grass in the spring. The result has been a muddy, weed infested, wasteland of a yard which I’ve told people was landscaped by the four horsemen of the apocalypse. ¬†We’re finally getting that remedied and on Saturday morning Hackert’s had the black dirt delivered and grading began for what will eventually be an actual yard. Seeding should take place early next week.

Saturday morning was clean-up day as Wendy and I prepared to host the VLs and JPs for an Iowa-Iowa State football extravaganza with dinner following. The crew arrived around game time and we set up in the V-Dub Pub downstairs. Wendy and I, Cyclone fans, were outnumbered by black and gold but it was a good natured crowd ūüėČ At least it was a good tight ball game which kept everyone interested until the final couple of minutes when the Hawkeyes took the lead and the Cyclones imploded. Ahhhh, as a long-time Cubs fan I’m reminded that there’s always next year.

We ordered take out from George’s for dinner and enjoyed ourselves late into the evening.

Speaking of the Chicago Cubs, Wendy and are still excited about baseball in mid-September for the first time in years as our beloved boys of summer make a run towards the post season. Go Cubs, go!

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.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

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.