Tag Archives: Union Street Players

The Latest: Kick-Off to a Chaotic Season

Wendy and I knew that we were entering into a fall and winter 2019-2020 that was going to be jam packed with events and travel. We didn’t plan it that way. It just sort of evolved. So, we’re embracing it.

We considered last weekend the kick-off of the chaos. Long ago we’d planned a Twin Cities getaway. It just so happened that the Twins and Vikings had home games on the same weekend. Wendy and I got a hotel in between Target Field and U.S. Bank Stadium.

Friday night was unseasonably hot and humid as we trekked about a mile to Target Field. We had seats right behind home plate and found ourselves surrounded by professional baseball scouts with their stopwatches and clipboards. We had a fun evening watching the Twins beat the Royals.

Saturday was a day of simply being together. We walked about a mile to have a wonderful breakfast at Eggsy, then trekked back to the hotel where we hung out and watched the Iowa State football game. We dressed to the nines in the late afternoon and took an Uber to the Red Cow for dinner. There was a gorgeous, cool breeze and we walked back to the hotel, stopping at Finnegan’s Brewery for a pint.

Sunday morning we headed to the “mother ship,” U.S. Bank Stadium, and really enjoyed watching the Vikings beat the Raiders. It was a really fun getaway to launch a busy season.


Earlier this year we’d heard about an occasional event at one of Des Moines’ breweries, the Foundry, called “Hymns at the Hall.” We put it on our calendar to attend the next one, which was this past Thursday. We joined our friends, Kev and Beck, and ordered some food truck pizza for dinner as we waited for the festivities to begin. We didn’t realize that one of the organizers of the event is a good friend of Taylor and Clayton’s, and we ran into some of the kids’ peeps which was a lot of fun. A very festive evening of singing great hymns and enjoying some great craft brews.


Last night was our community theatre’s annual Awards Night. Last year Wendy was inducted to Union Street Players Walk of Fame. This year it was my turn. We were surrounded by our friends and I was given a wonderful, honoring introduction by Doug DeWolf. It was a really fun evening with our theatre community. Lots of laughter and reliving memories. I was both humbled and honored. We retired to the Vander Well Pub afterwards for some enjoyable conversation.

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 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 04-24-2016

The past two weeks were dominated by last weekend’s production of Almost, Maine. Wendy and I were cast before Christmas and the curtain finally rose on four performances April 14-17. The play is a series of nine vignettes that take place in on the same night, at the same time, in the mythical town of Almost, Maine. The scenes are all reflections on love and relationships.

The challenge and opportunity for both Wendy and me were to play multiple characters in the show. I played five characters and Wendy played three. It is not unusual for actors to play multiple roles in a show, but the multiple characters are often bit parts or walk-on roles. It is another thing altogether to develop 3-5 fully developed, differentiated characters in one show. From an acting perspective it is an exciting challenge to walk off stage, change costume in less than 30 seconds and walk on as a completely different character. To pull it off and make it believable for the audience was a really, really fun stretch for both Wendy and me.

The show went well. Attendance was slightly above average for a spring show in our community theatre. For both of us, the fun was all about the experience of being directed by our friend Kevin McQuade who is a brilliant director and who pushed both of us to new heights in our acting experiences. In addition, we loved, loved, loved our fellow cast members who were focused, disciplined, and really fun to work with.

Production weekend was fun, but took a lot out of us. The cast socialized after every show. Opening night we had a party here at Vander Well Pub and the last guests to leave meandered out the door around 1:00 a.m. Friday night the cast and crew stopped at the Cellar Peanut Pub and then enjoyed drinks and eats at Monarch’s. Wendy and I enjoyed a nightcap at McQuade Pub and walked home somewhere around 2:00 a.m. Saturday night the cast and various friends enjoyed after show festivities at Kaldera. The closing performance on Sunday was followed by set strike and a cast party at McQuade Pub.

Oh…and I preached two services on Sunday morning in the auditorium at Third Church.

It was wonderful to have Suzanna, Taylor, my folks, Jody, and Emma join us over the weekend to see the show. It’s always a bittersweet experience having loved ones come to town to see the show, but then not having the time or space to actually spend time with them.

McNay Stags Head

We got home from the final cast party on Sunday evening about 9:00 p.m. and I immediately had to pack for a week-long business trip to Texas. I flew out first thing Monday morning and spent five days in San Antonio and Laredo. It was a long week, for sure, but on Friday I got to meet Tim and Kumi for a late lunch at BJ’s Brewhouse between San Antonio and Austin. It was fun to hear about their recent vacation in Japan to visit Kumi’s sister and to see their photos. I also got to spend a couple of hours at the McNay Art Museum before flying out for home.

This weekend has been blessedly quiet. I mowed a crop of weeds on Saturday and tried desperately to groom our pitiful lawn so that it wouldn’t completely shame the neighborhood. Though, our weed infested lawn is an admittedly nicer sight than the apocalyptic wasteland that was our lot last year. We ended Saturday with a wonderful evening on Matthew and Sarah’s deck.

ICubs Game

We headed to the early service this morning and enjoyed the message from Roger DeWaard before making the trek to Principal Park for our first Iowa Cubs game of the season. The I-Cubs sucked wind and got blown out by Oklahoma City, but Wendy and I sat in the sun and got our first sunburn of the season.

It’s a momentous week ahead. My 50th birthday is this coming Saturday. [sigh]

The Latest 12-20-2015

Christmas is less than a week away, but it certainly doesn’t feel like it. The weather in Iowa has continued to be unseasonably warm for the most part. Instead of snow and ice we’ve had chilly downpours that feel more like March or October.

USP LWW Cast Party

Right after my last Sunday Summary post we hosted the cast party for Union Street Players (USP’s) The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe. We loved having cast and crew here at the house. They did a great job. We weren’t involved in the show other than helping man the box office phone and sell tickets.

In fact, it’s been a while since Wendy or I have been on stage. Two weeks ago we auditioned for Union Street Players’ upcoming production of Almost, Maine and were cast. The show is a romantic comedy set on a moonless winter night in a mythical town in northern Maine. In a series of vignettes, a series of couples struggle with that thing called love. Wendy and I will play multiple roles in the show which will be performed April 14-17. We’re looking forward to working with our friend and neighbor, Kevin McQuade, who is directing the show.

2015 02 12 Scholte House Dinner9

While we haven’t been on stage, we have been in character. On the 11th we donned the period costumes of our town’s founders, Dominie H.P. Scholte and his wife Maria, and played host at the Scholte House Museum to a corporate Christmas dinner for the executives of a business here in town. Wendy and I have portrayed the Scholtes in numerous productions. We enjoy volunteering our time and helping share their unique story.

Later that night we joined Taylor and her friend at Peace Tree Brewery in Knoxville for their annual Christmas sweater party. The band included Taylor’s faculty advisor from Grandview and we enjoyed the evening.

I was on the road this past week. Visited client in Texas on Monday and Tuesday. On Wednesday I flew to Denver where I visited another client, then drove down to Colorado Springs. Madison had her last college final that evening. I met her at her favorite coffee haunt and we enjoyed a Crave Burger with Brett and Evan Strait. Madison has been living with the Straits for the past couple of months as her lease was up and she’s not sure where the path will lead after graduation.

Madison headed to her test and I visited with the Straits. I then met her at BJ’s Brewhouse across from campus after her test was done and we celebrated together joined by her friend, Matt. We got to enjoy breakfast together and hang out for a few hours the following morning before I had to head for home.

Madison has been interviewing for sales jobs in the cosmetic industry. While she would love to stay in Colorado, she’s committed to moving wherever a good job opens up. She will continue to work as a flight attendant in the meantime. We’re bummed that she won’t be home for Christmas. In order to schedule her life to finish school, she’s had to work the holidays this year! 😦

On Friday I got to greet Suzanna who is home from Cedar Falls for Christmas break. She’s had a great first semester in college and it’s great to have her home. On Friday afternoon Wendy and I headed to Des Moines for the funeral of my friend and mentor, Chuck Wenger who was also founder of our company, C Wenger Group. It was a great memorial service. Chuck had committed his life to mentoring young men, and it was rather incredible to hear the testimonies from many who were in attendance. It was also great to see former group members, clients, and friends.

On Friday night we joined friends Kevin, Linda, Rob, Vandy and CD at McQuade Pub for a reading of the script Art. It was a great excuse to spend an evening of food, drink and good company. The script was great and we both enjoyed it immensely.

At Star Wars The Force Awakens

Birthday Girl!
Birthday Girl!

Wendy’s birthday is Monday, so we started celebrating on Saturday with an early matinée of Star Wars: The Force Awakens. We loved it! We ran a few errands before hightailing it back home. In the evening I took Wendy to dinner at Kaldera with Kevin and Linda (where we ran into the JPs & VLs!) . After dinner we retired back to V-Dub Pub for a night-cap.

We have been talking for months with our friends Vandy and Rob about getting together to watch football. They are still relatively new to town and Vandy is a Vikings fan. So, today was the day! They arrived before noon and we watched the Vikes beat the Bears, while keeping an eye on Rob’s Giants who came back and then fell short against the undefeated Panthers.

I’m looking forward to continuing Wendy’s birthday celebration tomorrow, and to Christmas celebrations with family this week!

The Latest: 08-30-2015

State Fair is over. School is back in session. Summer is quickly fading back into the routine of autumn. Cooler temperatures even meant that we could turn the air conditioner off for a few days this past week.

Our lives paralleled the societal trend this week as work routine took over. I headed to the Twin Cities for a long couple of days with a client while Wendy and Taylor held down the fort back at home.

On Friday afternoon the week’s work gave way to wedding festivities. Wendy’s Uncle Brad got married to his fiancé Barb in a small wedding in the lobby at Third Church. I felt privileged that Brad asked me to stand up with him at the ceremony, so I donned my best gray suit and stood by him as he and Barb were hitched. All of Brad’s girls were present as were all of his siblings sans Linda. Wendy took my usual role as amateur family photographer during the ceremony and handed the camera back to me at the reception.

The reception was in the back room at Monarch’s, a room where Wendy and I have great memories. Our own rehearsal dinner was held in the back of Monarch’s. It was a lot of fun to hang with the family for the celebratory evening. There was a lot of laughter and cheer. The joy was radiating off of Brad and Barb and it was fun to be part of their launch.

Saturday was a good day of getting things done around the house. My honey-do list included pocket-door adjustments and a sticky door knob. I then spent the afternoon going through the tub of family photos given to me by my folks. One of my fall projects is getting them organized and to begin scanning and digitizing them.

almost maine reading

Saturday evening we walked down the block to McQuade’s Pub for a script reading of Almost Maine, which Kevin will be directing for Union Street Players. Wendy and I had never read the script and were really, really impressed with it. We were the first to leave the party, but it was still late when we walked the half-block home.

Wendy and I were both on camera at church this morning. Wendy spent the afternoon working while I continued my photo-sorting project. We’re settling in for a Cubs vs. Dodgers evening and pita pizzas. I’ve got my scorecard ready and plan to relax and score the game.

The Latest 08-16-2015

Our week was full and the highlight of the past seven days was the wedding of our friends Matthew and Sarah Burch on Saturday night. The week began on Sunday afternoon at the house Matthew and Sarah are moving into in Hunter’s Ridge outside of Pella. It was Lincoln’s 7th birthday and they were having a a gathering of family and friends for a cookout to celebrate. It was a the first chance Wendy and I had to meet some of Sarah’s family.

Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.
Union Street Players annual meeting and Potluck Picnic.

On Monday night Wendy, Suzanna and I all headed to West Market Park for Union Street Players’ potluck picnic and annual meeting. It was a gorgeous evening and we had a great turnout. I have just completed my 10th year as President and Wendy just completed her 11th on the Board, most of those years serving as Treasurer. We decided earlier this year our time of service on the Board has been fulfilled. Time to let others step up and step in to leadership. Elections were held and we officially entered lame duck status until September 1st when the new officers will take over.

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The gorgeous summer weather would continue on Tuesday and it was a great night for baseball. For the second year in a row, the Vande Lude boys treated me to Dude’s Day as a birthday present. We headed to Des Moines and had pizza at Scornovacca’s before heading to Principal Park to watch the I-Cubs take on the Nashville Sounds. The I-Cubbies dropped the game 3-2 but a good time was had by all.  Throughout the evening Chad and I plied Nathan and Aaron with “Dude’s Day Questions.” Two of my favorites:

Tom: Dude’s Day Question. Blonde, brunette, or redhead?

Nathan: Redneck.

Tom: If mom was a superhero, what would her super power be?

Aaron: Kissing daddy.

Thursday night was supposed to be a bridal shower for Sarah at our house and a Guy’s night out with Matthew and the boys. Matthew’s guy’s night transitioned to just a dinner between Matthew and me, then late in the afternoon Matthew bailed on me to spend some time with family who had arrived for the wedding. So…..while Wendy and the ladies celebrated Sarah I walked down the block to McQuade Pub and enjoyed drinks and stogies with Kevin and Linda which is always, always a great way to spend the evening. Wendy had a great time with Sarah and her friends.

On Friday we enjoyed a quiet day at VW Manor. Late in the day Taylor and I enjoyed a nice time of conversation downstairs in VW pub watching the Cub’s and White Sox and Kevin McQuade joined us late in the game to watch the Northsiders win their eighth game in a row. Taylor took off to join Emily Boyd and her boyfriend, Zac at George’s Pizza for dinner. Wendy made wonderful Tilapia filet’s for a quiet dinner just the two of us.

Before Patio Deck

Patio DeckIt was a hot one on Saturday, but I was determined to tackle one of my summer honey-do projects before heading to Des Moines for the wedding. I had stained some green treated 2x4s late in the week and spent Saturday morning building a deck step outside our patio doors on the back patio. Felt very manly.

It then felt manly getting cleaned up and donning my tux. Wendy, Taylor and I drove to the Temple for Performing Arts in Des Moines where Matthew and Sarah’s wedding was scheduled for 5:30. It brought back a lot of memories for Wendy and me as we got married  at the Temple on New Year’s Eve 2005. We arrived about 4:00 and checked in with Matthew and Sarah who were taking pictures in the Grand Ballroom. After snapping a picture or two we met Taylor and Kevin & Becky Roose at the Centro bar for drinks.

The grand ballroom is an unbelievably gorgeous venue for a wedding. Matthew and Sarah were stunning and the wedding was really meaningful. Matthew had asked me to stand and provide a brief introduction of him for those who may not know him. It was fun to share a few words. After the ceremony everyone moved into the Recital Hall for drinks and appetizers as they readied the ballroom for dinner. I enjoyed conversation with Matthew’s friend from his grad school days at Fuller and we also hung out with Chad and Shay.

The dinner was amazing and it was a wonderful feast. When the feasting was over the dancing began. So much fun was had by all. Late in the evening Matthew and I stole away to the guy’s dressing room where we had a few minutes of quiet time and I got to pray over the groom. By the end of the evening it was the Vander Wells, Rooses, and Vande Lunes who were the last ones on the dance floor. It was midnight before we got home.

This morning it was back to Des Moines where I had the privilege of sharing the morning message at Westview in Waukee. Taylor came with her friend Curtis. After the service she and Curtis headed to the Des Moines Art Center for a lunch date. Wendy and I had lunch at the Roose’s with Keith and Tanya Wilhite.