Tag Archives: Suzanna

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.

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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.

 

Ready to Launch

On ‚ÄúRemember When Wednesdays‚ÄĚ I look back at a post from yesteryear and re-blog one for newer readers. This was originally posted in¬†September 2013 shortly after Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, came to live with us. Today, Wendy and I take Suzanna to UNI and she begins a new stretch of her life journey. Suzanna is ready to launch and I couldn’t be more proud of her…

I have the highest confidence in you, and I take great pride in you. You have greatly encouraged me and made me happy despite all our troubles. 2 Corinthians 7:4 (NLT)

Late this summer Wendy and I were blessed to have Wendy’s youngest sibling, Suzanna, come and live with us. Suzanna is attending her final year of high school here at the local public high school and getting involved in some of the artistic exploits she loves and are available to her in our wonderful little community. Last night was parent teacher conferences and we headed over to check in with Suzanna’s teachers. I must admit that it was a bit surreal returning to the high school. Madison graduated three years ago and I thought I was finished. But, you never know where the path will lead and what adventures lie ahead of us on the journey.

Having a teenager back in the house has prompted this father to a lot of personal reflection in the past few weeks. It has brought back a lot of memories, and even made me wax a little nostalgic for the days when Taylor and Madison buzzed back and forth in front of my home office and argued in the bathroom as they got ready for school in the mornings. It has been so quiet here on the 2nd floor of Vander Well Manor for so long.

As I read Paul’s words (above) I thought of Taylor and Madison who are grown and have struck out on their own respective paths. I have such confidence in them, am so proud of them, and am so encouraged to see the amazing women they have become. I thought of our sister, Suzanna, and the glowing comments we heard from teachers last night at parent teacher conferences. I am blown away by her courage to take a step of faith, enter a new community, attend a new school, and stretch herself in almost every way. She is proving herself to be such a capable, intelligent, articulate young woman in so many ways. We are blessed to share this time of life with her.

I have always believed that job one for a parent, starting day one, is to work yourself out of a job by raising children who can capably and successfully strike out on their own faith journey, make their own way in this world, and have their own positive influence on the lives of others. To watch it actually happen is the source of tremendous encouragement, pride, and joy.

Top Five Beauties

We have a long standing family dinner tradition at our house. There is a book the girls gave me when they were young called “If…”. It is a book of discussion starters that all begin with an “If.” Last night we gathered to celebrate Suzanna’s 19th birthday (Is she really 19? I thought it was just 18. Where does the times go?) and Suzanna wanted to do “If…” questions.

One of the questions that came up at the table was if you had to choose the most beautiful person in history, who would it be? That’s a tough question because we don’t tend to know a lot about historic beauties other than from artist’s depictions and then the person’s beauty is highly dependent on the quality of the artist. Then there is the subjective definition of beauty. We immediately think of physical beauty, but if we’re talking about spiritual beauty then the likes of Mother Theresa are going to the top of the list. Such are the interesting discussions that the “If…” book raises around a dinner table.

So, here are my Top Five beauties, which has more to do with what I find beautiful than any kind of objective standard of beauty. Four of these came up at the table last night, and I can’t argue with any of them though they are all relatively recent as history goes. They are also all women. There were male names that were bandied about at the table, but this is my list and as beauty goes, there is not a man that can get anywhere near the Top Five, perhaps the Top 100.

(in alphabetical order)

 Laetitia CastaLaetitia Casta

Audrey_Hepburn_1956

Audrey Hebpurn

Elizabeth HurleyElizabeth Hurley

sophia lorenSophia Loren

Grace_Kelly_1956Grace Kelly

 

The Latest 08-02-2015

Weeks come and go, but this past week held special significance:

Wendy reading her Charles Martin book in Starbucks as we waited out Taylor's 3 hour flight delay.
Wendy reading her Charles Martin book in Starbucks as we waited out Taylor’s 3 hour flight delay.

IMG_6129

  • On Tuesday night Wendy and I picked up Taylor at the Des Moines airport as she moved back from her year in graduate school at the University of Edinburgh. Her flight was supposed to be in at 8:30, but strong storms in the Des Moines area delayed her flight until just before midnight. Wendy and I holed up at the Starbucks on Fluer until they closed at 10:00. It was a late night and had been a long day of travel for Taylor. She fell into our arms and cried. We got home just before 1:00 a.m. to give her a tour of the house and show her to her new room.
You know it's been a long day on the road when you watch the sunset in your rear view mirror!
You know it’s been a long day on the road when you watch the sunset in your rear view mirror!
  • Busy week work-wise for me. Road trip to Sioux Center on Wednesday. Hopefully it will result in a new client. End of the month always means deadlines, so the end of the week had me chained to the desk.
Photo: Jim Palmer
Photo: Jim Palmer
  • It was the second weekend of USP’s Fiddler on the Roof¬†which means we’ve seen very little of Suzanna. Wendy and I have been helping with ticket sales.

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  • Madison flew in on Friday. We tried in vain to remember the last time that the four of us last had a meal together at home. It’s been years. We boiled up some Iowa sweet corn, had Italian chicken in the crock-pot with salad and a nice bottle of wine. It was so wonderful to spend the evening together. After dinner we enjoyed wine and chocolate as the girls played videos and we all laughed.
  • After the girls headed to bed Wendy and I buzzed down the road to our friend Cyndi’s where we enjoyed an after show drink and conversation with she, Megan, and the McQuades. Lovely evening chatting about Fiddler¬†and theatre. We were up much later than we’d planned on [shocking].
  • On Saturday morning we were up early to get ready for our nephew, Sam Keithley’s, wedding to Lydia Yoder. We had to be on the road for Des Moines at 8:30. It was so fun for me hearing Taylor and Madison getting ready together, hearing them laughing and singing. Made this papa’s heart extra joyful. We arrived at Westkirk Presbyterian at 9:30 for a quick Vander Well family photo. The wedding was at 10:30 with a brunch reception after. The bride and groom zoomed off to their honeymoon about 2:00. We headed to the folks new apartment in Woodlands Creek to hang out with them. Tim, Kumi, Terry, Bonnie, and Ellie all joined us. They, along with Taylor and Madison, had not seen Grandpa and Grandma’s new apartment. Madison took her leave to spend the night with Nancy. Taylor, Wendy and I made a stop at Baskin Robbins (Taylor’s request) before driving back to Pella.

 

My Life: A Photo Abecedarius

2013 Sanna Senior Pic 002

S is for Suzanna. Wendy’s youngest sibling came to live with us last summer and has been such a blessing to us. It’s been so awesome to watch her processing life and growing into such a capable (and gorgeous!) young woman. We have been and continue to be blessed to walk along side her on this stretch of her journey.

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