Tag Archives: The Latest

The Latest 05-06-2019

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
Garrett proposing to Madison on the Isle of Skye in Scotland.

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.”

Little Milo in his red jacket exploring Scotland.
A Week in So-Cal
Enjoyed exploring the Gaslamp District in San Diego.

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.

April Birthdays
Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.

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.

Celebrating April Birthdays at The Stuffed Olive.
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
The Herzog Crew from “Stage” 2019

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.

The Latest 02-05-2018

It’s been a while since I’ve updated family and friends on the latest happenings with Wendy, me and the crew. Here’s the latest…

The best Christmas gift 2018: Milo James Vander Well!
  • Our grandson, Milo, is doing really well. Arriving five weeks early and weighing in an ounce over five pounds, he’s now over eight pounds and growing. Taylor and Clayton are still adjusting to life on a three-hour sleep cycle and all of the regular challenges of a newborn. We, of course, don’t get nearly enough of him but an extended visit to grandpa and grandma’s house is coming up and we’re excited.
Sharing the message in the Auditorium services at Third Church.
  • January 1, 2018 meant two transitions for me. First, I was named CEO of C Wenger Group (CWG) the company I’ve worked for since 1994. My transition into leadership has been long planned, but the exact timing has not. A few months ago my business partner and I agreed that the timing was right, so I’ve not had long to prepare. Functionally, things won’t change much in the near term other than taking on entirely new layer of administrative work and responsibilities while I set the course for our company’s future. Second, I have accepted a slightly larger role in the auditorium services at Third Church. This means preaching a little more often [FYI: you can find messages on the TRC channel on YouTube or through the TRC website] and consistently taking the leadership role in Sunday services.

  • Wendy and I officially stepped down from leadership in Union Street Players, our local community theatre, after 12/13 years of service on the Board of Directors. We didn’t exactly know the other transitions were coming, but felt that it was time and now we feel the synchronicity of it. We will still volunteer and support USP and be in shows when the timing is right.

  • Wendy continues to work for CWG and her administrative gifts have already become invaluable in helping me with my new realities. She’s been volunteering some of her time at the Pella Opera House in recent weeks.

  • We’re headed on a Caribbean cruise in a few weeks, and can’t wait for 7 days away from the Iowa winter.
Madison with Grandma Jeanne.
  • Madison continues to work for Laura Geller New York from her home in South Carolina. She’s doing great and has settled into community there.
  • My folks are doing well in their retirement community and continue to reside in independent living. Dad continues oral chemo for his Multiple Myeloma and cares for mom with love and fidelity. Mom is her doctor’s oldest surviving Auto-Immune Hepatitis patient and continues to battle Alzheimer’s as best she can.

  • Taylor and Clayton are in Des Moines focused on little Milo. Clayton is doing a short research project for the UN in February which is a great feather in his cap. Taylor is on maternity leave for a few more weeks and then will return to her job at ThinkDigital.
Celebrating Suzanna’s birthday this past fall.
  • Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, has started a successful career with a bonding company in Des Moines and is living in the Des Moines area.
So thankful for the family and friends who fill our lives with so much love!

The Latest 08-07-2017

They typically call August in Iowa the “dog days of summer,” but it definitely as not felt that way this year. We had the 100 degree August heat in July, and now nightly temps in the 50s have us thinking of football weather. And the Iowa State Fair hasn’t even begun.

It’s been terribly dry here in our little neck of the woods. Our lawn is dead. We’ve been watering to keep the landscaping alive, but that’s about the extent of it. It’s a little depressing to see nothing but weed in a sea of brown grass.

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Wendy and me. July was full of business travel for me. I returned home to assist Wendy with running the box office for Union Street Players production of The Wizard of Oz and to helm meetings in preparation for our community theatre’s upcoming Board elections and Awards Night. Wendy and I are stepping down from leadership this year. It’s time for a new generation of leadership, and we’re ready for other things.

We also spent some time at the lake together. It was a working getaway. Having home offices, it affords us the opportunity to work from the Ozarks. While it’s hard sometimes to sit inside and work while the lake and sun are just out there waiting of us, it is nice to wake up in the morning and have a cup of coffee on the dock. It’s nice get done with work and enjoy dinner on the deck or go for a boat ride. We managed a few dates out in the boat, which is always a ton of fun.

Wendy’s key lime cheesecake.

Wendy has been busy making cheesecakes (and cupcakes) this summer. Not only has she made them for Grandma Vander Hart’s 90th birthday bash and her upcoming Cabi party, but she also has been getting fairly regular orders from people wanting cheesecake for this or that celebration. She loves baking, and I’m glad that she gets the opportunity to do it so regularly for others. If she satiated her desire to bake exclusively for the two of us I’d weigh 400 pounds.

I’ve also been busy on Sunday mornings. Three weeks straight I’ve been in the pulpit at our church here in Pella. That’s been really enjoyable despite the demands of preparation and delivery.

Taylor officially announced her pregnancy a few weeks ago and it’s been fun celebrating the good news with people. I can’t wait to be grandpa. It’s a fun new stage of the journey for us. Taylor is still in Des Moines and works for a digital marketing firm. Clayton is in Africa working on research for his doctorate degree. He’ll return in November and be with Taylor for the duration with baby’s arrival due mid January.

Wendy and I are pumped to make a fall road trip to see Madison. She’s been in South Carolina for so long and we’ve yet gotten down to see her in her community there. She’s still working for Laura Geller New York and is really enjoying her ever expanding community of friends there. She’s also enjoying being just a couple of hours from the Atlantic coast and the beach.

In a couple of weeks both Taylor and Madison are going to join Wendy and me for a trip to the lake together. It will be the last time that just the four of us will have family vacation time together. January begins a whole new chapter in life. We’re looking forward to marking the time together.

The Latest 12-6-2016

Wendy and I have been crazy busy with Union Street Players‘ holiday musical, The Christmas Post. It’s the third time Wendy has directed the show (2001, 2006, 2016) and for the second time I have suited up to play the comedic villain. Wendy, as anyone who knows her can imagine, is a very capable and organized director. She’s done great things with the show. This past weekend was the opening weekend and we saw increased attendance with each performance (225, 242, 289) which tells me that we’ve gotten good word-of-mouth in the community.  There are three more performances: tonight, Friday night, and Saturday afternoon.

It was great to have family down to see the show this past weekend. My folks came on Saturday, along with my sister, and brought with them a small crowd of old friends from Des Moines. Taylor came down on Sunday afternoon, as did Wendy’s family who made the trek from Ankeny. We’re so appreciative of family’s love and support. The one down-side is that we are so busy with the show that we don’t really get a chance to socialize with our visitors. We’re looking forward to hosting family on Christmas Day when we can relax and enjoy their good company.

For the past couple of weeks I have been feeling really run down. This isn’t unusual during a large production, but I have been feeling unusually run down. It hasn’t been like cold or flu, just feeling like the energy tank is constantly on empty. I was really struggling over the weekend. I slept 10 hours on Saturday night and woke up feeling like I’d been hit by a truck. I told Wendy that I felt like I had pneumonia. There’s only two times in my life that I can remember feeling so utterly depleted: when I had Pneumonia and when I had Mono.

I felt like I was on the verge of passing out  most all of Sunday’s performance, and was thankful for the prayers and thoughts of family and friends who were in the know. When we went out for the curtain call one of my fellow actors looked at me and said, “You look really pale.” And, that was with make-up on. I’m so thankful I made it through the show, but the energy I expended to gut it out really did a number on me. I was in bed nearly 12 hours on Sunday night and still had to drag myself out of bed. Ugh.

So, yesterday I went to see Doc. He tested my blood and immediately diagnosed me with a “Mono-like” virus. Great. Nothing to be done but fluids, vitamins, and rest. I’m praying that my immune system kicks it into high gear. There’s still a lot to get through this week.

We’re excited for Taylor. She recently landed a job with Think Digital in Des Moines. She’s moved out of the Catholic Worker Community (though she will continue to volunteer her time there) and rented a small apartment in the Drake neighborhood. Ironically, she’s living on the same street where my mom grew up. There’s something in the synergy of that which makes me smile.

Madison is staying very busy this time of year. Working sales in the retail environment makes life very hectic during the holiday season. She is continuing to build community in SC and doesn’t seem too sad about the more temperate weather she’s experiencing there. We’re looking forward to having her home for New Year’s.

Hard to believe that another year is drawing to a close. Our work continues to keep us busy, as well. We’re finishing up 2016 project work and I’m busy working on 2017 proposals and renewals. I’m grateful to have seen small, incremental growth this year, though it’s continued to be a tough slog since the 2008 recession. As I speak with clients I’m finding there’s a generally positive sentiment in the business community for the first time in many years. I’m praying it translates into good things this coming year.

The Latest 10-15-2016

Life continues to feel like a whirlwind, whipping Wendy and me from one thing to the next. This past couple of weeks and weekends was no exception.  I spent the entire  work week, last week, on the road to Texas, working with a client there in Laredo and San Antonio. Wendy stayed busy with rehearsals for The Christmas Post here at home.

 

I arrived home on Friday evening in time for the Cubs first playoff game against San Francisco. Wendy had beer, hot dogs, and nachos ready and the living room here at Vander Well Manor was transformed into our own little ball park for the game. Glad to say our Cubbies won in dramatic fashion. Classic pitcher’s duel into the bottom of the 8th when Javy Baez hit a solo-shot to left for the game’s only run. I spent the late innings texting updates, like a modern form of the telegraph, to our friend Kevin who was monitoring the game in Palm Springs. So much fun to get to text the good news.

Saturday was Union Street Players annual Award’s Night. This year our friend Spence Ver Meer was inducted to the USP Walk of Fame. Spence starred with Wendy in the 2005 production of Barefoot in the Park and it was an honor to be part of the festivities. While Wendy spent Saturday morning at rehearsal, I spent the time preparing slides, video, and music for the festivities. It was a full day of preparation as Wendy had made cheesecake’s for our dessert. The event went really well. The local improv group who performed (made up mostly of USP members) even got Wendy to volunteer to help out on the final game. That’s not an easy feat but it was hilarious to watch (see featured image).

Wendy continues to do a masterful job directing The Christmas Post for Union Street Players. Performances are scheduled Dec 2-4, 6, 8, 9 here in Pella. You don’t want to miss this! I’ll be on stage reprising my role as Mr. Herzog.

I preached again last Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third. We kicked off a series on the love chapter. Wendy and I got a little rest watching the Vikings beat the Texans in the afternoon before our preparations for the coming week kicked into high gear. The whirlwind continues.

Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!
Madison got some Cubbie swag to help maintain her Midwest roots in SC!

Madison is safe and sound in South Carolina. Hurricane Matthew gave Madison her first taste of a tropical storm, but Columbia was mostly hit with heavy rain and 25-30 mph winds. She hunkered down in her apartment and killed flying cockroaches. I sent Madison some Cubbie swag so she can “keep the faith” down south for a Cub’s World Series.

Taylor has received some encouraging signs regarding potential employment across the pond. And, some interest in employment here in Fun City. Where will she end up? More on that as things prayerfully progress.

 

The Latest 10-3-2016

I know that I’m not going to generate much sympathy, but Wendy and I really struggled this week to get back on schedule after our time on Kauai. Like most people, our autumn schedule is packed full and jet lag did not help us manage the stress well this week.

We are deep into rehearsals for Union Street Players production of The Christmas Post. Wendy is directing the show. I’m both producing and performing. It’s a heart-warming Christmas musical based on two Norman Rockwell paintings. Wendy’s directed the show twice before. The last time was 10 years ago. So, our free time has been sucked up by 4 rehearsals a week and production responsibilities on top of that. Performances are Dec 2-4 and 8-10.

Work has also picked up for us of late. We’re grateful for a couple of new clients and new projects! Of course, that means some increased business travel for me. Off to Texas this week. Trips to California and northwest Iowa are on the horizon in coming weeks, and there’s potential for even more. That, of course, conflicts with rehearsal schedules for the show. You get it. It’s busy.

2016-10-01-megan-kappa-sigma-isu

I did get to enjoy attending parents’ weekend at Iowa State University’s Sigma Kappa sorority with Megan this past Saturday. Megan played my daughter in USP’s production of K.O.L.D. Radio back in 2010. I’ve been blessed to get to continue playing an honorary “dad” role for Megan after her father, Mike, passed away during production of the show. So, I drove up to Ames for a late breakfast at the sorority house and hung out with Megan and her mom, Cyndi. We all walked to the ISU vs. Baylor football game. It’s always a joy to be with Megan.

boeing-boeing-date-night

Wendy and I had a date night on Saturday evening and attended Theatre Central’s production of Boeing, Boeing. One of the actresses is a USP Alum and it was fun to see her in the show. The cast and crew did a fabulous job. Wendy and I laughed a lot.

I’m continuing to preach on a regular basis in the auditorium services at Third Church. I was wrapping up one series on Sunday and will kick-off the next series next Sunday. That’s been a lot of fun for me, and I’ve really enjoyed the opportunity.

Taylor is back from Scotland. She continues to live and serve at the Des Moines Catholic Worker. We had a chance to spend an hour or two with her earlier this week and hear about her adventures working the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. It was a great experience for her. She’s continuing to pursue jobs in the art world and has had a few interviews.

Madison is continuing to grow life, community, and career in South Carolina. She works in sales and training for a cosmetics company. She’s on the road regularly across South Carolina and is enjoying her work, even as she learns the ups and downs of it.

I’ve had several friends ask about Wendy’s sister, Suzanna, who lived with us over the past few years. Suzanna is living with her folks in Ankeny and working as Assistant Manager of the Family Bookstore there. We’re looking forward to seeing her this coming weekend!

 

 

The Latest 09-14-2016

Summer 2016 wound down with a beautiful 12 days at the lake with family and friends.  A full autumn schedule has begun. Here’s the latest….

Wendy and I spent relatively little time at the lake this summer in comparison to previous years. We were, therefore, ready for some sun and fun in August. We headed to the lake on August 25th. That weekend was the annual Lake of the Ozarks Shootout, an annual speedboat race that is centered out Captain Ron’s, the resort in our cove. The timed runs take place on the main channel outside our cove. It’s a big deal at the lake and makes for a crazy weekend with a lot of activity around our place. Wendy and I usually avoid that particular weekend, but we’d planned all summer to try to get Madison there around that time.

As things turned out, we weren’t sure Maddy Kate was actually going to make it. She had a few issues with her car at the last-minute. She ended up driving but splitting up the trip, stopping in Nashville to stay with a Pella native who was happy to help her out. Madison arrived on Monday. The weather that week was a little rainy, but we still found time to get out on the boat, go out to eat, and enjoyed some family movie time in the evenings. With school back in session the lake is very quiet, which affords us the opportunity to spend more time on the water.

Our little 18′ runabout, Apollonia, doesn’t do well when things are choppy on the lake, but it was quiet enough that we were able to  take Madison to Ha Ha Tonka State Park by water. Wendy hiked with us to the natural spring there, but opted to stay with the boat while Madison and I hike up to the top of the ridge to visit the ruins of Ha Ha Tonka Castle. It was a gorgeous day, and on the return trip we stopped at The Nautifish for an afternoon cocktail from Buff, our favorite bartender at the lake.

It was so fun to spend four days with Madison. She’s doing well with her budding career at new community in South Carolina. We’re proud of her adventurous and independent spirit. On Thursday night we all went to Captain Ron’s for dinner and she took off for home early on Friday morning.

A few hours later, on Friday afternoon, our friends the JPs and the VLs arrived for Labor Day weekend. Both families had been there earlier in the summer, but this was a weekend for the adults. The JPs brought their boat and we enjoyed a weekend full of the nicest weather Wendy and I experienced at the lake all summer, beginning with a late evening cruise on Friday evening after dinner.

On Saturday we took the boat all the way to Shady/Lazy Gators which was a long (over an hour) ride in very choppy water created by heavy lake traffic. Wendy and rode in the front on the way there which was a bit like riding a mechanical bull that occasionally sprays you with water.

We had lunch and hung out at the pool for a while before heading back. We made a brief stop at the Red Head before determining it was too busy, and then proceeded back to the Playhouse. The JPs have a water mat that we threw out off the dock and enjoyed floating and enjoying each other’s company. We grilled out and had an amazing steak dinner that night.

On Sunday we went back to the Red Head by boat, but made it there early enough to beat the crowd. We enjoyed hanging out in the pool, having lunch right there in the water. Sun, fun and conversation before heading back to the Playhouse for more fun and frolicking off the dock. We returned to find a number of large yachts tied together at the back of the cove, with everyone floating off the back enjoying the sun and water. We enjoyed a meal of appetizers and wine and settled in to watch Hail, Caesar! (though not everyone stayed awake). On Monday morning we went to Chances R for a local greasy spoon breakfast before packing up and heading back to Iowa.

Wendy and I started rehearsals for The Christmas Post immediately upon our return and I had to make a business trip to MN/WI. I also had my first meeting back at the helm of Union Street Players.

Taylor finished up her time in Scotland working at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. She had a ball and I so loved seeing the joy on her face in all of the Snapchat, Facebook and texted photos. Unfortunately, Wendy and I didn’t get to actually see Taylor before we headed out to Kauai on vacation. But, more about that later.