Friday, May 25, 2018

I'm Never Moving...Again

 I’m NEVER Moving…Again

By John W. Vander Velden

Oh, I don’t know where I will spend all my remaining days.  It seems unlikely that I will stay at this location forever.  But the events of the past ten days have taught me an important lesson…I’m not moving. 
Our son’s achievements resulted in his location to a new state.  Beginning your career is a big deal and he was SO excited.  We should have known the drill, we had moved him before, three times before. But things were a bit different this time.  Distance for one thing and Nick, like all of us, had with the passing of time gathered “things”.  There were his things and there were “our” things.  So, it turned out for our good fortune that the things were divided so we needed to move less stuff each day.  On a Thursday, we rented a U-Haul and Jackie and I rumbled down the two hours to campus and near day’s end rumbled back…and unloaded our furniture.  My back will remind me for weeks that hauling a chest-of-drawers upstairs alone was a mistake.  It was only thirteen steps for crying out loud.  Once it would not have caused a sweat, well, maybe a sweat, but nothing more.  But now…the task was pure insanity.
On Monday we started early, drove that two hours to “college” town and rented the truck there.  Nick lived on the ground floor.  I had forgotten just how big a plus that was.  We had him loaded by noon.  A quick lunch and Jackie and I were on the road.

A truck driver would have thought driving a 15 foot U-haul a piece of cake, but I’m not a truck driver.  So interstates, bumper to bumper traffic at speed, and construction narrowed lanes made an interesting four and a half hours.  It must have been crowding five when we entered a really nice quiet apartment complex and the _____ began.
Yes, I knew that the ground floor in West Lafayette simplified things, but…
Nick has a really nice apartment on the THIRD floor.  Oh by the way, did I mention the six flights of stairs.  I GUESS NOT!  I had help…thank goodness.  And Nick handled the heavy…downward ends…but I’m never doing that again…I MEAN NEVER!
It was after eight when I nearly passed out.  Upper eighties and 114+% humidity, with a thunderstorm on its way.  Maybe it was the heat, OK the heat didn’t help.  Maybe it was not eating for nearly nine hours, likely, my sugars had to be in the basement.  Maybe it was all of the above, but my world spun and things began to get dark.
Food!  There are times when it is EXTREMELY necessary to take the time.  Microwaves, and frozen stuff can be lifesavers…
We nearly beat the storm.  I did say NEARLY.  But we got the truck unloaded.
No matter how much stuff you have, you need something.  A Target run provide a couple of vitals so Nick could make the night.  Steak and Shake fed us…officially.  It was well after 11:00 when the U-haul found its way to the hotel where Jackie and I would rest our weary, and in my case “OLD” bones.
But through it all I learned an important lesson.  I’M NEVER MOVING AGAIN!   

(544 Words) 5-25-2018

Friday, May 18, 2018

What Parents Do...

What Parents Do…

By John W. Vander Velden

My mind is reeling.  It would be no surprise the events of last weekend, including Nick’s graduation, and preparations for his move, fill my mind to bursting.  So for this week’s post I offer some of my personal thoughts. 
We spent a few hours wandering the campus with Nick on Friday last.  Hard to imagine that he has spent so much time at the university, and it was the first time Jackie and I entered the Mechanical Engineering Building.  So our son showed us the senior projects that were on display, including his.  He took us to some of the lecture halls the computer lab and much of the world that had been his over the last five years.
We made the trip back to West Lafayette on Saturday, for pictures.  Those that know me understand how often my Nikon is found dangling around my neck.  So though the light was just plain terrible with the constant threat of rain, we walked miles and I did my best to capture Nick and “his” school.  Someday perhaps those images will mean something special to him…they mean something special to me.
As we raced about the central portion of the campus with Nick in his black robe and his gold stole, he was careful to keep his orange tassel on the right side, and not cross under the bell tower.  Superstitions and traditions blend in ways not always logical.  But underclassmen do not cross under the tower until they hold their signed diploma.  For five years Nick has made certain he never did, and Saturday was the last day he would take those few extra steps to go around the tower’s base.
We met up with Jackie’s nephew and family on that photo shoot.  Having driven from South Carolina, their company was an extra bonus.  Nick showed them about the
Nick spending a few moments with John Purdue and
his cousin Stephen
campus, as we dodged raindrops.
Sunday.  What can I say?  Our day started early.  We reached Nick’s apartment by seven and made the long walk to the Armory.  It was there we left him for a time surrounded by a sea of black capes mulling about in the early morning sun.  It is hard to describe a father’s thoughts as he watched the child he witnessed enter this world surrounded by so many others that began their lives in much the same way.  But your head tells you, those soon to graduate are not children any longer, but young men and women, that like Nick are ready to begin the next part of their lives, but your heart will not allow you to believe.  You remember the road that has at last led us all here…all the stumbles…all the achievements…all the ordinary days that matter the most.  You look on and wonder how we have reached this point.  You wonder what new challenges lie ahead for him, and pray he will face them and persevere.   You pray that he finds the success he seeks and that in some way he finds the happiness that he deserves…just as he has given a happiness to his mother and father all these years.
The Hall of Music is a grand space.  We sat there, and by chance, found ourselves in perfect seats.  With a name like Vander Velden he was not among the first to parade past.  There must have been four hundred or more soon to be engineers that walked at my elbow before Nick’s turn arrived. I saw him, standing tall in pride with the gleam of excitement in his eyes.  Five hard years and five Co-op rotations in his wake.  All the work and moments that led to this achievement…Nick’s graduation…on Mother’s Day 2018.
Did the world stop to take a breath?  Not likely.  But Jackie’s and mine did…for a moment…just the briefest of time…we found ourselves between what was and what would be.
I think that most parents feel the same way.  At graduation we never consider our costs that have helped our child.  No we see the significance of a change in a way that no other is able.  We bite our lip locking emotions in places from which they scream to be released.  But it is not the time…it is not our time, but Nick’s.  And we do nothing to take away even the slightest glory he so richly deserves.
That’s what parents do.  That’s what parents always do.

(730 Words)  5-18-2018

At last he could walk through the clock tower.

Congratulations Nicholas John Vander Velden
2018 Graduate Purdue University School of Mechanical Engineering

Friday, May 11, 2018

Spring Brings Changes

Spring Brings Changes

By John W. Vander Velden

It seems that spring has really arrived and with it comes changes.  A sure sign that the weather has changed is the grass.  It’s green for one thing and it’s growing like crazy for another.  It seems to be making up for the time it waited dormant.  If you don’t like mowing you would have been pleased with April, but May has sent us into extra innings already.
The trees are filling with new leaves, fresh and green, the fruit trees are in bloom.  I see lilacs in full flower, yes, spring is bursting out at last, and it brings changes.
But nature is not the only thing that announces that the summer grows near.  Sunday is not only Mother’s Day but also Nick’s graduation.  Our son has completed this stage of his education, and a university degree is something that set’s his parents’ minds reeling.  But I remember when he graduated from John Glenn High School.  I remember facing the changes that meant.  Certainly Nick faced significant alterations to his life, but to me his father it seemed more of an ending than a beginning.  For though I was proud of the accomplishment, and I was rooting for his future successes, I understood that my day to day involvement was ending.  My little boy, the child I had watched enter the world, learn to walk, whose hand I held as we braved the Atlantic Ocean’s waves, the boy I cheered from the stands, was becoming a man.
When we settled him into his dorm, it was more than his leaving for the first time, I understood he was never coming back…not in the way things had been…always had been…again.  Now he has lived on his own for five years.  Between time at Purdue, and his five rotations of Co-oping he has proved his ability to “live” on his own.  I am proud of that too.
It has been a difficult five years for our son.  Achieving a degree in engineering from Purdue University is not an easy task.  Learning and negotiating a way to live under the pressures of campus and classes, is a difficult education of its own.  But it has not been easy on those left behind either.  We have watched from two hours away, seen only the snippets he has shared with us.  We had worried as much about his grades as he did.  But parents worry about other things as well, about diet, about the amount of sleep he’s getting, about the friends he has.  We worry if all the “stuff” that makes up college life isn’t too much for a young man to face.  Parent’s worry.  That’s in the job description.
He’s graduating on Mother’s Day.  It is easy to see the success but not easy for us to ignore the significance.  A parent’s purpose is to prepare their child for life.  Graduations are a symbols of success in that area.  They are also a signpost of changes.  I am proud of my son…but I miss the child of my memory.  But that’s OK.  It’s a good sign that I have those special memories.  It is a good sign that I am forced to watch Nick take flight.  It is a good sign that he will soar beyond my vision.  But though his wings will take him far from me, he will never be beyond the reach of my heart.  That’s a good sign too. It is a good sign that he is capable of independence, but always knows that his mother and I will be available…to talk…and when the need arises…to help.
I know that Nick is no longer a child…that the boy that once rattled about in our home has become a man…and I am proud of the man he has become.  The man that will be moving even further away to a new career and home out of state.
Pride and tears…there is a place for both…this weekend…  As we are once more reminded that spring brings changes…

(675 Words)  5-11-2018


Saturday, April 28, 2018

Late April Rambles...

Late April Rambles…

By John W. Vander Velden  

Throughout the years I have used this platform to share my thoughts and feelings.  I have written small pieces that I have shared with you, pieces describing day’s beginnings…and endings, sensations of a walk on a frigid night.  I have spoken of star filled skies, of tired old barns, of the fresh new leaves of spring.  I have shared my thoughts about the courage of the everyman in “Heroes”, of the importance of the unique individual in “Square Pegs”, and about how our view of the world changes by where we stand in “Perspective”. 
There were times I reached deep within to release thoughts in the hope that some meaning might be found for me…the writer…and you…the reader.  Those have been lofty goals…unreached perhaps…but sometimes the reaching is enough.  For it is only through the reaching we can stretch…and through the stretching we can become something larger.
I do not pretend that these few words, I post each week, will change the world.  I do not imagine that these few words will change any of my readers.  But I have found that these few words have changed…me.
That was never the purpose I had hoped to accomplish.  Times I have shared my dream for this enterprise.  Those particular expectations will never come to fruition.  Once that failing did concern me…I saw it as the value of this Blog…I was foolish…na├»ve… Now I understand that the journey is as much a part of the traveling as the destination…and these post have very much been that journey…and it continues.
So to those that travel with me…thank you for your time…and your trust. 
The road trip has changed.  The pace may be slower. But for now I must stretch…and it is my hope that I will grow…

Friday, April 13, 2018



By John W. Vander Velden


I think self-reliance is an admirable quality, but, in truth, none of us achieve complete independence.  No matter how we strive to “deal with it” on our own, sooner or later we find that help is needed one way or the other.  Yet many of us strive to “take on the world” all by ourselves.  Hmmmmmmm….

This comes to the forefront of my mind because my son approaches an important milestone, his college graduation.  And having a degree opens doors he has yearned to step through.  Nick is very ready, mentally, to begin his life.  I am certain he feels that all the years of schooling are just that…schooling, and now the real “stuff” can begin.  There is a bit of truth to that…but just a bit.  For our lives start, at the beginning, even before our earliest memories.  Life is about steps taken…doors pass through…ordinary days and the extra ordinary ones.  Life is about living and it is made up of all the days we are given…including our youth and ALL the years of our education.
Yesterday Nick signed a lease agreement for an apartment out of state.  He moves soon.  He has done all the leg work, the research, the correspondence, the driving, the paying, on his own, and I respect him for that.  It is a sign of his self-reliance.  Nick has the need to prove himself, to his parents perhaps, but to himself mostly.  People tell me that he needs this job in another state to build his independence.  I just shake my head and think he has been independent for five years, living on his own, only reaching out for help in the most dire of emergencies…it practically never happens.  He would scarcely be more independent if he lived on the moon!
He’ll be living five or six hours away…not too far I suppose, but it hurts.  His self-reliance breaks our hearts.  Not because we do not want him to stand on his own two feet, but rather our mind clings to the time when he didn’t need to.  I think that is the crux of it.  As parents it is hard for us to accept the change in roles that we face.  Nick’s independence and self-reliance are signs of a “cord” cut that can never be knotted together in the same way again.  We stand quietly and watch as he takes a divergent road knowing that we are left behind…spectators…proud to be certain, but spectators all the same.
Nick is not the only one that will see a grand change in his life.
We want Nick to be self-reliant.  We want him to be independent.  We want him to live his own productive life.  Yet as we see our own involvement shrinking, we smile while feeling left behind…even though being left behind was the goal in the first place. 
There is something to be said about goals, of planning, of succeeding.  But with anything gained a price must be paid, and only parents understand the price of their child’s self-reliance.

 (510 Words)  4-11-2018


Saturday, April 7, 2018

The Doorway

The Doorway 
By John W. Vander Velden


We stand at the doorway, uncertain what waits beyond.  Remembering too well all that lies behind us, our pains, our failures.  The road traveled, each mile unique, a pathway with bumps and chuckholes.  For each, the journey traveled has made us.  Are we not formed by the years…by the challenges…by the hardships…by our achievements?  Step by step we move forward, down one hallway following another, around corners unexpected, often facing the greatest resistor…our own feeling of inadequacy.  Knowing ourselves too well, seeing all kept hidden from others, our weaknesses, so obvious, fuels our fears.  Each day, doubt’s strength grows.  We feel bound by the past.  How can we lift ourselves above the mire…this time?  Yet an optimism, as we face the future, a tool worthy of hope’s possibilities, for we once more stand in the doorway.  Though the future beyond is hidden, surely it offers both risk and great triumph, it remains for us to choose.  Charge forward, chin high, eyes set, seeking what can, ignoring those that say nay, or to cower fearful made impotent by the lies of smaller minds.  What do you choose…for we stand at the doorway!

(196 Words)  1-2012



Friday, March 30, 2018

1st Book Signing

1st Book Signing

By John W. Vander Velden



Those who have followed these posts over the years know that I often write about possibilities and dreams.  I write about making a difference and faith as well.  Each week I lay before you a few words…just a few… And I hope those few words have reached within you, as you have taken the moments out of your busy lives to read.  I thank you all.
But today I write about another dream…my dream.  I write about the long years pressing toward a goal now coming to fruition.  For today I will host my very first book signing.  Imagine that, John will be having a book signing.  But greater is the surprise that John has published a book.
I don’t suppose those that knew me in high school ever imagined that I would be in this place I find myself.  Some will point at my age and say, “it’s about time.”  Perhaps it is.  But I believe, strongly, that there is a reason we stand at the particular place we find ourselves at a particular moment.  No, things do not “just” happen.  No, it was not an easy process.  But, yes, I had help.
Each week I have posted “something”, and each week some among you have ventured to read that “something”.  You have supported me in ways you do not know.  Also throughout my life, others have kindly aided me in ways that they too might not recognize.  Each of us face challenges and writing and publishing a book has its challenges.  I would love to list out all of you name by name, friends, other writers, editors, fellow participants in workshops and all the rest, but I must limit the length of this post, and the list of your names would exceed my word count.
But this post is about dreams…and never giving up on those dreams.  This post is about courage, to face new challenges face on.  This post is about self-value for each of us struggle with feeling of self-worth.  This post is about Misty Creek, my book and a story in which I believe.
So if you come to see me in Plymouth today or Nappanee next week, I wish to thank you, my friends, my co-writers, and all the others I have yet not met.  For you all have been part of the voyage I have undertaken.  Dreams can come true…I know that’s true…even now…mine is…

(408 Words) 3-28-2018