first in a decade

The last time a tropical disturbance hit the Texas coast was nearly 10 years ago. Check Wikipedia and other article sources for a little storm named Ike back in 2008. I remember it quite well because I was working in television at the time. We were broadcasting pictures from helicopters hovering above Houston. They issued evacuation orders (probably later than they should have) and all of the hurricane evacuation paths were jam-packed with cars. Traffic was at a standstill. We were hearing stories of people running out of gas waiting for traffic to move. I found out later that one of my aunt and uncles that live in a town south of Houston ended up being one of those that ran out of gas. This was also the second of a one-two punch that year. Gustav had made landfall only 12 days prior.

The one tropical system I’ve personally experienced prior to now is Hurricane Chantal back in 1989. However, it was a tropical storm by the time I experienced it. The storm actually formed similar to how this week’s did. It spun up just north of the Yucatan peninsula. It was a category 1 hurricane by the time it made landfall. I was 8 years old and visiting my grandparents at the time. I remember being upset that I couldn’t go outside because it was raining so heavily and the winds were blowing so hard. However, when it was over, I was ecstatic. Then my bubble was burst 12 hours later when I found out that the eye of the storm was just passing through.

So, by morning, Tropical Storm Bill will be kicking our tail. I will likely be heading for work right after the storm makes landfall. We’ll see how the conditions are. The funny thing is, the National Weather Service Hurricane Center is putting the forecast track for the eye to make landfall and push right up through Ganado dead on. With the cone of uncertainty built in to the forecast, that may not necessarily hold on, but it is an interesting though. I’ll be interested to see if I can even make it to work or not. The one thing that they have been saying with this storm is to expect probably 20-25 hours straight of rain. It will be interesting to see what the rainfall rate is, because the entire region is just starting to recover from historic flooding just last month!

a camel

True Story: I was leaving HEB with a few accoutrements for Southwest Chicken Salad night at our house. As I am about to exit the building, a lady walks in wearing a tie-dye t-shirt. It has a picture of a camel. And yes, today is Wednesday. You can guess what else was on that shirt.

Story Time: Before this woman could get through the door, a camel comes running from around the corner of the building. It tells “Guess What Day It Is?!?” The woman, scared out of her wits, is upset for being scared, and turns around to slug the camel thinking it is a man dressed in a camel suit. To her surprise, it was a real talking camel. Her punch lands somewhere in the vicinity of whatever the camel version of an Adam’s apple is. This causes the camel to spit in the woman’s face. She starts to shriek. I run away laughing. My reason for running away? My family was waiting on me at home, and I didn’t feel like being delayed due to having to sign photography release paperwork for the camel’s commercial production company filming the incident!

The Honking…or “Heeeeere’s Johnny!”

Alright, so my wife shared the following story on Facebook this morning…

I really needed to be at the bank first thing this morning since they were closed yesterday. It didn’t go as planned.

I grab the baby, still in his PJ’s and go to put him in his car seat. I shut the car door and the horn blares and is stuck. I look down, no, I am not holding the panic button on my keys. It’s still honking! I press on the steering wheel. IT’S STILL GOING! I start and stop the engine. STILL HONKING!!! Oh no! My neighbor works overnights and got home not too long ago.. IT. WONT. STOP!! The workers across the street are staring.. STOP THE MADNESS!!! I bang on the steering wheel and it finally stops. What was that?!!?

I back out and it starts again. There’s something loose in the steering wheel for sure. I just keep driving. I am now driving down a residential area of town sounding perfectly insane, surely disturbing everyone. I finally get it to stop by pressing on a certain place with one finger. I drive all the way to the bank with my finger pressed on this spot. I can’t help but laugh out loud. I can only imagine how ridiculous I look..

At the bank, I let go. It doesn’t honk. Dare I breathe? I am about to name this car Christine or Pandora. While waiting in the drive-through at the bank I find in the manual which fuse leads to the horn. I need an oil change anyway, so I’ll just go and have them pull the fuse. Long story short, I have new oil but they didn’t know what the heck to do to find a fuse.

I decided to drive out of town so if it goes off again it wont disturb anyone. I find the fuse (easy!!) and I cant get it out with my fingers so I will stick a pair of needle nose pliers in the car and we will see what happens.. Stay tuned..

So, how was your morning?

So, for those who may have been staying tuned, those who didn’t get the first part of the story in the first place but should have, and for those who didn’t know at all…you’re now all caught up.

In our household, the evening routine on a normal night normally goes as follows: Jay goes to bed anywhere from 7:30-9:30. Tara will go to bed anywhere from 8:30-10:30. After that is my quiet time to write, read, or catch up on the DVR. So tonight, I’m catching up on the DVR, and I hear this car horn sound that at first thought could be in the universe of my show I’m watching. 20-30 seconds passes, and I revise my thoughts. Pausing the show, I still hear the horn. Another 20-30 seconds pass before my wife’s Facebook post from this morning occurs to me.

I go wake up Tara. She had just gotten to sleep a little bit before this. And yes, this was midnight. Tara finds her keys as I put my shoes on. Has Jay waken up? No. I run out to touch the horn to make it stop. I only hear one front door shut, and that is of my neighboring county sheriff deputy neighbor’s house. No one had come out on the porch or in the yard.

So I suggest to Tara that we go ahead and pull that fuse. I find a light and she finds the needle nose pliers. As we are walking back outside, I remark about how it didn’t seem to wake anyone up. Then my next thought was “watch, they called the cops”. Tara thought the responding officer would get a laugh out of the situation if that did happen.

Now my wife is back asleep (or getting there), my son never woke up, and I’m writing this before going back to my show.

I wonder what would have happened with that horn if I had gone to bed early…

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)