the simpler things

Lately, I’ve been thinking about the simpler things in life. There are so many things that have gotten needlessly complicated. From politics, to technology, to religion, to soap.

One of many things from the aspect of religion: Dan Bouchelle is the former minister of the church Tara and I attended in Amarillo, called Central Church of Christ. (FYI, those of you Acapella fans will appreciate that Kevin Schaffer is the worship minister there. Always a wonderful time worshiping in song with that congregation.) Well, Dan’s son and daughter-in-law have begun work with an inner-city mission group in the Bronx. He posted a blog about just being available being a ministry in and of itself. It is an amazing look at how just being available to anyone and everyone can allow you to be put in the right places. I’d encourage everyone to read it, and to read the other entries about their experiences.

Also, Tara and I had the privilege to be present at First Colony Church of Christ in Sugar Land this past Wednesday, when their missionary they support in Uganda spoke about the work going on there. You can read more about their work on their blog. But he shared a story with everyone about how one of the congregations they work with in Uganda helped a family with the burial of a member of the family after the Anglican church in the town was going to leave the family out in the cold as punishment to the man because he had slipped in his attendance. To that congregation that helped the family, it was only very simple. Help was needed. Help was given.

I could go in to politics more, technology, and even more religious examples. I could give you other topics and get on my soap box about them as well. But literally soap?

Well, my family took an impromptu quick trip this weekend to Galveston. It is the first time we could really take a trip like that and not feel pulled in all many different directions the way this move has done to us. After we left, I realized I forgot two things. One was pants for church in the morning. Thank you Sam Walton and the wonderful invention called Wal-Mart. Check. The other was soap. No worries though, we weren’t camping. Hotels always have soap on hand. For the longest time, I’ve been using “shower gel” like most other Americans likely have (if you are to believe the shelf space given to that over bar soap). But in hotels, there is always a bar of soap. And I am always astounded that the clean feeling, where all the grime has been washed away, always happens when I use bar soap. Hmmmmm…


I know no one that is fluent in more than 6 million languages. Well, except this guy. C3P0

Ok, bad example. But it has been Star Wars on Spike TV this week. That’s why I thought about it.

But I did have a stupidly funny and fanciful idea this weekend. Tara and I always talk about what the cats maybe thinking in given situations. I’ve decided to add a twist to it all.

iCat now “speaks” in Spanish.

Dax now “speaks” in a Sean Connery-influenced Russian accent, much like what you hear in the movie “Hunt For Red October“.

That is all.


ScreamI was on my way home from work Wednesday. I got in to the flats where the casino and the saw mill are, and I saw a jogger running along side the road. The jogging shorts, lightweight shirt, and everything. Except, this person had a Scream mask on. They looked awkwardly at every car that passed. Scream? Me? Nah. Got a good laugh. So much for Mischief Night…

He Flowed To The Pacific

MIt’s tough losing a friend. It’s even tougher losing a good friend in a tragic manner. I’ve shed many tears this week. I’ve also been very ineffective at work.

I took this picture of my cat M this past Sunday evening. He was laying on the bed when we went to straighten it up before Tara was going to bed for the night. This was right after we had pulled the sheet and blanket to. I pulled the corner back so M could have fresh air and move if he wanted. It wasn’t the best picture in the world, so I played with some filters and effects. I then commented to Tara how this looked like news print. When I came to bed a couple of hours later, he was laying on the end table by my side of the bed. Once I laid down, I reached over and rubbed his shoulders and the back of his neck for a minute before closing my eyes. And that’s the last time I saw him alive.

Both M and iCat would often go outside between 4 and 5 am. So when I got up, I went in my office for a little while. Then when Tara woke up, I looked out the back door for the kitties to let them in for breakfast. No kitties. I went to the front door and iCat came slinking around the corner and inside. That’s not unusual, but the way he carried himself was. However, no sign of M. I didn’t think too much about it at the time, because it’s not the first time iCat showed up for breakfast without M.

However, as I am sitting there watching a little bit of TV in the living room, I didn’t realize Tara had walked outside. But there was a banging at the front door, followed by the door opening and Tara was bawling. I went to check and see the cause, and she couldn’t get a word out. But she pointed off to the side of the house. When I looked, immediately I knew that it was M that I saw there, nearly in two pieces.

I didn’t have time to react. Tara was in tears, and I had one hour until I needed to be to work. I just tried to focus on cleaning up the scene and trying to calm my wife.

Before cleaning everything up, I had to take a picture of him. No, I didn’t take a picture of EVERYTHING. I just took a picture of his face. His normally grey nose was dull, and it was like someone had flipped the light switch off for his eyes. I had to take it. I needed something to put in front of me to really show me he was gone. So the last picture I have of him alive, the picture from the night before that looks like news print? Fatefully enough, it was his obituary picture.

M was born June of 2011 as a member of a litter of four to Spaz, our semi-feral cat whom adopted us back in Hereford. There were 3 boys and 1 girl. Tara called the girl “The Little Girl”. We both named one of the boys “Loudmouth” because he wouldn’t shut up. I named the kitten that looked like “The Little Girl”. The name? “Cyclops”. For the longest time, he only had one eye open. M never got a name at that time. He was the most unassuming of them all.

We were taking a trip shortly after the litter was born, and we had to leave them all outside because we didn’t have permission from our landlord to officially have a pet. Half way through that trip, we looked at the temperatures back at home, and they were pretty stinkin’ hot. So we called a friend to ask if she could check on the bunch. When she did, Cyclops was dead, and the rest of them were nowhere to be seen. After getting back, Spaz showed up. Eventually she brought The Little Girl, who did not make it. Later, she brought M. We eventually found a half-eaten Loudmouth under the shed in the backyard.

M was tiny. He fit in my palm. Turned out he had some kind of worm. We took him to the vet. We got permission from the landlord to keep him. We took him to the band hall once summer band started. He was a great kitten, and still very unassuming.

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When I moved to take my current job, friend and former colleague of Tara, Mike Bryant, helped us get me moved. We stopped for a few minutes at the Continental Divide. The sign there on I-40 indicated where the water would flow depending on what side. When he saw that, Mike decided to crack a joke. He said “let’s throw this cat over the side and see whether he flows the Atlantic or the Pacific”.

I got the chance to travel back to Hereford to see Tara twice between September and Thanksgiving. However, M was the one who was at the house at the end of each day. He helped see me through that time. I know Tara understands, because that’s why she got iCat.

Tara brought iCat out to Arizona over Thanksgiving. M and iCat became instant friends, but M had forgotten about Tara and reacted very poorly to her. That finally corrected with time.

M had an odd tick. He laid on things. Yeah, yeah, cats always lay on things. But really, he liked to lay on thresholds for instance. Even when there was a level change, he would lay there. It just didn’t phase him. When Tara would go to the bathroom in the morning, he would follow her in there, and then lay down half across the threshold. There’s even a small saguaro that Tara planted outside our front window that she caught him laying on one day. It didn’t phase him.

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In the week since M was killed, it’s been really weird in my head. There are a lot of things I’ve thought about, talked with Tara on, and experienced that would probably be considered supernatural at many levels. Familiar spirits and animal hauntings. I know it is in my head, but I can understand a little where people would come up with these ideas. I also know it is not likely that will go away anytime soon.

I’ve done two things since M left us to try and help. One, I just did yesterday. There was a toy that M would always bring to us, but he never wanted to play with it. We finally figured out that it was his way of bringing us his “dead bird”. He was trying to impress and show off. That toy has been retired with two toys that belonged to the blonde Lab Taz (a story which I will tell at another time).

The other is a bit more out there, and I know there are some people who wouldn’t agree with this. However, it made sense for me. I went to the humane society that evening and came home with a new 6-month old kitten. I just couldn’t stand the thought of going home and M not being there. So I asked to leave work early, stopped by and picked Tara up from the house, and went straight to a specific location for a kitten that I knew was the right one. Something about him just spoke to me when I found his profile on the humane society website. I called about him, and basically said that I would be there to get him before the day was over. I’ll introduce him in another post. He doesn’t replace the fat cat, but he sure does fill up a big hole in our hearts. Was it still tough coming home that night? Yes. But not quite as much as it could have been.

Before I get done writing this and trying to put a bookend on the fat cat’s era…

I’ve always been a person to try and have an explanation for everything. Why? Because there is always an explanation. Did I have one Monday morning? No. I tried to make my wife feel better by making jokes. We had just been talking about how courteous M had become the night before. So I remarked “he was so courteous that he made sure to get killed in the yard so we didn’t worry”. Lead balloon. “Babe, at least he was courteous enough to get killed on a trash day.” Tara actually cracked a smile on that one. I also at one point said “at least he finally found a diet plan that worked”. Tara laughed about that one a couple of days later.

I sang “Circle of Life” in my head all day Monday, and still am thinking about it now.

IMG_5287Since then we’ve talked more about it. Ironic, considering my last blog was about living in the wild… We don’t know if M escaped 10 other situations like this before and then number 11 was unlucky. But even in the bigger picture, it’s amazing that M survived past his first few weeks. He by all rights shouldn’t have made it, but he did. Maybe he was supposed to make it to help break us in to this new adventure in Arizona. If I never got the interview, could he have possibly died as a kitten? These are answers I may never know. However, if the movie “All Dogs Go To Heaven” holds true for cats, too, then M is running around and playing with his litter mates right now.

Gone, but not forgotten. RIP my good buddy. You are terribly missed.

the perils of living in the wild

RIP Members of Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crewyarnell

Let no one fool you. Arizona is the wild west. Even if you live in the population centers of Tucson, Flagstaff, or Phoenix, you chance having an encounter with something you would prefer not to run in to. A scorpion, a javelin, a bobcat, an elk, a bear…

A really big difficulty in this state is the end of May through the beginning of July. Mid-June starts monsoon season officially. It is defined as a shifting of the winds. However, as my wife points out, the monsoon rains don’t always show up at the same time. During this time, Arizona is at its driest period of the year before those rains show up. It’s also the hottest period of the year as well. So combine the fact that many people spend their summers outdoors in the more sparsely populated areas of this state (coming from both inside Arizona, outside Arizona, and even outside of the country) with the chance of a random storm cell that is producing a little bit of lightning, you have a recipe for potential disaster.

Last year’s wildfire season was not quite as active as this year’s is turning out to be. Without looking at anything official, I want to say there have probably been at least 7-8 moderate to major wildfires in the state so far. The ones that have hit the news the heaviest are two near Prescott. One is northwest of their by a few miles called the Doce Wildfire. That one was caused by humans. It burned nearly seven thousand acres. However, it is almost fully contained. The other started this weekend and was caused by a lightning strike near the small town of Yarnell. It was only 8 acres in size at first. However, it’s already grown to two thousand acres by the end of the weekend. The town of Yarnell has been evacuated and it is reported that nearly half the town is in flames. The Granite Mountain Hot Shot Crew that led a successful charge to put out the Doce fire ended up getting encircled by the Yarnell fire today and were killed. The worst wildfire tragedy in the state’s history, and the worst in the country in the past 80 years.

Tara and I have often talked about how we do enjoy Arizona. But we have fondly spoken of the possibilities of moving up to higher elevation areas. The temperatures would be cooler, and perhaps the houses would be better insulated! But it does make you think. Are you any more in danger from wildfires if you move closer to the fuel?

2011 09 23 fire smoke sunsetWhen we first got moved out to Arizona, there was already a fire burning on Pinal Peak, which is a mountain located a few miles to the south. The story was that no one was actively fighting that fire because it wasn’t threatening any structures and the terrain was too steep to have crew up there. Driving up there a year later, Tara and I could both tell you that we saw where the burned areas are, and we wouldn’t expect anyone to be able to actively fight a fire on that terrain. But it just goes to show that it can happen anywhere.

That was also the year of the Bastrop County fire in central Texas and a very major fire near Colorado Springs.

Prayers and blessings to the families of those lost today for comfort.


It’s not quite officially my wedding anniversary yet as I start to write this, but it is already in Ohio, Texas, and even New Mexico. That’s good enough for me. Four years of being married. Six years of being a couple. I couldn’t imagine anyone else side-by-side with me.

Our first date, Tara says that when I first laid eyes on her that I just had a blank stare on my face. She didn’t know what to think. What was wrong? Was her fly down? (Her words.) Two mythical creatures came in to existence that evening. The butterfly chicken and the spider pig. We laughed, we talked, and we laughed some more. A year later, we were making a trip through Texas. What I like to call “The Loop”. Hindsight? I guess you can say it was her audition tour with my family. A year later, we were getting married. We whisked off to the Dominican Republic for a week. On our way back home, we saw all the fireworks in the nighttime July 4th sky over Dallas as we came in for a landing at DFW.

The next year, we whisked away to Chicago for a long weekend. It was the paper anniversary. I gave her the paper the plane ticket was printed on. We got to visit with one of my amazing groomsmen who lives in the Chicago area. We were able to stay in an amazing historic hotel right in the heart of downtown. It was kind of fun riding the “L” between O’Hare and downtown. We ate Chicago style deep dish. It is the only time I ever stopped at one piece of pizza ever. We went to the natural history museum, ate at different booths at the annual Taste of Chicago event, had a very wonderful dinner at a Russian restaurant a block from our hotel, and even went to see Blue Man Group. Getting of the “L” to go to that show, it looked like a rough neighborhood. However, once we left the station, the neighborhood was full of revelry from people whom were still in the streets from that day’s annual gay pride parade. (By the way, go see Blue Man in Chicago. The intimate setting of that theatre is just so much more awesome than the huge auditoriums in places like Vegas could ever be.)

Year 3 brought some changes for us. We did start it by going to Ohio to visit my sister-in-law and her family. One of my nieces was having a birthday party at the end of that week, and we were invited to come hang out the whole week. On the way up there, we scored a historic Hilton in Bricktown in OKC and got to watch fireworks that they were having nightly the whole week leading up to the 4th. Oh, and there was also severe weather cells with dangerous lightning overhead, too. And we were on top of a parking garage next to the hotel. The next day we explored Joplin just 5 weeks after the devastating EF-5 tornado wiped out a portion of that community. It was a heart-wrenching site. That evening, as we started to pull in to St. Louis, I all of the sudden realized that we would be staying in downtown St. Louis (another historic Hilton, thank you Priceline Name Your Own Price) and would be able to walk a couple of blocks over to watch fireworks under the St. Louis Arch. One of the better unintentional bonuses we’ve run in to. After leaving Ohio, we went out of the way to visit the Biltmore Estate in North Carolina, stayed in some funky retro hotel in Nashville, ate Memphis BBQ on Beale Street, and explored the National Cemetery in Fort Smith, Arkansas.

At the end of that summer, I moved to Arizona for a new job. Yes, I said “I”. By the time I obtained the offer, Tara was already starting summer band and did not feel it would be right for her to leave. So she moved out there the day after Christmas. The snow had dropped so heavy between the Texas panhandle and Arizona that we didn’t know if we would make it out the day we were planning. Thank goodness they opened the roads in the eastern half of New Mexico the morning we left Lubbock. They opened the rest of the roads the next morning prior to leaving Alamogordo. Phew.

The next year, we did go up and spend several days with my parents in Ruidoso, NM. Neither of us had seen any family since Christmas, so it was great to see them and spend some time with them among the pine trees and the cooler air. This year, we will be going to downtown Phoenix and eating at a rotating restaurant that sits on the top floor of one of the downtown hotels. My awesome wife even had the idea to book it for right before the sun started setting.

Yes, my wife and I have had some enjoyable times exploring together, but she has also been the most awesome supporter for me, too. She followed me out to Arizona, living many hours away from anyone that can be called family. Even before then, when I left my last job, one that kind of beat me down at times, she supported the fact that I wanted to expand looking for other employment over a wide swath of area in the western part of the country. I went by myself because she still had a couple more commitments to where she couldn’t. But she probably was thinking as well that it would be good if I distanced myself from that job, even if just geographically. I did get a chance to spend a couple of days looking for opportunities around Portland, which was new for me. I got a chance to see a cousin graduate high school in Utah. I also got a chance to see people surfing the well overflowing its banks Colorado River. Yes, I did say surfing. Then, when I got back to Texas, our quasi-adopted feral cat had her kittens. That was the litter M is from.

My darling wife has also been by my side for some of the most extensive medical issues I have ever had. I’ve always had problems with migraine headaches and with some numbness issues in my arms and hands. They progressed a couple of months after the wedding to include pain, too. I know there have been times she has felt helpless because I’ve been miserable and she can’t do anything to make it better. I visited 7 different doctors in two years in Texas. Only one of them might have been on the right track, but would not have been the doctor to treat me. In Arizona, however, I’ve seen five in the last two years. I’ve gotten doctors who have been willing to act, and a handful of surgeries in, about 50% of my problems are cured, including the awful migraines that would lay me out from one to three days at a time. PTL Lord willing, they will be able to take care of the other 50% in the next year or less. My wife, while absolutely hating that I have to be cut open to get things fixed, knows that the Lord’s hand is coming down on these doctors and allowing me to be cured, slowly but surely. All she has ever wanted is for me to feel 100% all the time, not just part of it.

My wife has also supported my want to pursue my Master’s degree. (Why in the world am I doing that again? I’m a horrible student.) Now we will also be embarking on our latest adventure this fall with the arrival of our first child.

Tara has taken on the role of my wife willingly and with gusto. She is always there to support me (and even poke me in the ribs when necessary). I thank the Lord every day for her being in my life. She has been the perfect companion. I learn more about her every day, whether I realize it or not…and I love her more every day! Happy 4th, babydoll. Here’s to 40 more…and then some!

kitchen nightmares meltdown

The Meltdown Continues…Even On The New Facebook Page

This one is short and sweet from me. I am a fan of this show. I have seen restaurants personally that probably should have a spot on this show. That means I can believe that what you see on this show is real reactions. (Plus, I think Gordon Ramsey would have already been outed if it wasn’t real.)

So, if you saw this episode with Amy’s Bakery in Scottsdale, then read things from the local news here like what’s in the link at the top of this post, all I can say is if they want to prove themselves that they may have to go to a different town and change their names. Even then, I don’t know how long they would last.

The Original Meltdown

Grand Re-Opening Event

The Full Episode (according to Fox’s website, it should unlock for viewing on Saturday 5-18)

welcome to arizona, home to the aspiring nascar driver training center

Here’s a story I forgot to share with you, until on my home yesterday I noticed something that jogged my memory.

It seems that every time I passed any cars on the way home, they were always in pairs. It’s like they were learning the drafting techniques that NASCAR drivers use to save on fuel before pulling some slingshot maneuver to pass the guy in front of them.

Well, two different instances ended up pulling me right in the middle of issues that I wasn’t interested in being in.

The first one, I was on my way out of town to work one morning. At the last stoplight before you leave town, the four lane road merges down to a two lane road about 100-150 feet past the intersection. I always gun it a little in those situations to stay out of people’s hair when I have someone in the next lane over, no matter what lane I am in. This particular time, the guy next to me thought it was a NASCAR race. He wanted in front of me. The interesting thing was, he never even pulled even with me. I finally had to give in. I slammed on my brakes, honked my horn so he knew what I thought of the situation, and then started to go again after he got past me. Just as I let off my horn, he slammed on his brakes. I don’t know if he was getting me to try and rear-end him, or if he was thinking about exercising his road rage and getting out of his vehicle. However, after a few tense seconds, he kept going.

The other happened last time I went in to the Phoenix area for a doctor’s appointment. I had stopped at the last major commerce spot before leaving to head back home because I needed to pick up a couple of things that you can’t get in the illustrious city of Globe. So when I left, there were three of us in the right turn lane to get on the ramp for the freeway. The first was a pickup with a trailer attached. I was second, and then there was a black car behind me. From the moment we got the green light and the truck started moving, I could tell that I wouldn’t have a chance to pass him on the ramp, where the dual lane merge happened in no more than 100 feet. (Side story: If you have never driven in a metro area that has a major rush hour, let me explain this one. The traffic oncoming to the freeway is metered during rush hours, so all ramps to the freeways are multiple lanes that turn only in to one lane as you enter the freeway.) Well, once this black car turned on to the ramp, it was behind me at first. Then I saw it move over, and quickly speed up to come even with me. I finally slammed on my brakes so she wouldn’t run me off the entrance ramp, all while honking my horn to express my dissatisfaction at her dangerous and narcissistic driving methods. This lady just gave me a beauty queen wave until I let loose of my horn. Unlike the last situation that had me slightly fearful, this one just ticked me off.

But, it’s not over with that. Once on the freeway, I moved in to the left hand lane after a vehicle passed by me so I can just get out of her hair. But as that car that was now in front of me in the left hand lane approached even with this lady’s back bumper, she started to float over to the lane line, and then with the slimmest of margins, change lanes in front of this guy.

Good news? There maybe more drivers like that in the state of Arizona. But I have only met two. Everyone else, despite their love of speed, are relatively safe drivers.

magnetic personality


How many of you have seen something like this? Well, it is a little reminder for me of the day I found out my child will indeed be a boy.

After my wife and I were done at the Ob-Gyn’s office from getting her ultrasound, we had to go to another medical location because I was scheduled for an MRI. I specifically requested this one place because every other MRI tube I have ever been in, I’ve been squished in like a sardine. According to the MRI tech, apparently this machine is 70 millimeters across in the tube, while most others are only 60.

So we get there and there is a parking garage right next to the building. I pull this ticket as we enter, and then put it above my visor. However, at last second, I pull it back out and drop it in my shirt pocket so we can pay the ticket on the way out before getting in the car. I proceed to forget I did this, until mid-way through the MRI.

Magnetic strip vs. MAGNETIC resonance imaging.

When we left, I tried to put it in the pay machine. Nothing.

So, I was thinking there was a manned booth to sort this out with. Nope.

I had to pay the lost ticket fee. Rats.

commando operation

Commando Operation

This was the scene in my office this afternoon. I have these windows blocked off with felt material to try and insulate the windows. They are single pain windows. It lets in quite a draft in the winter. It makes it quite warm during the summer. It lets in a lot of noise one way or the other. It has flags hung over the felt as a matter of décor.

Rewind about twenty minutes…

I was talking to Tara for a few minutes, and then started looking for the cats. They were not in her sitting room. They were not behind the easy chair. They were not in the kitchen or the utility room. They were not in the guest bedroom. I looked under our bed and it appeared like they might be in the box springs. Ok. Fine.

I went back in my office. After a few minutes, I start hearing some noises that appear like they are coming from outside, and I think Tara stepped out for a second. Then out of nowhere, I see iCat between the computer and the TV down on the floor in front of me at the office door. I look back, and there is M sitting on the table behind me, having just come out of the opening in the window sill.

I guess that makes their commando operation a success. That also gives me another hiding place to look for them when they’ve disappeared and can’t hear where they are.