Cat Starvation Averted: A Reason to be Thankful

Last summer, on the night James was born, things were understandably crazy, and we never locked the cats in that night. (For anyone unaware, they are outdoor cats that live in the garage.)

The problem is, Dortmunder never came back that night. Or the next. Or the next.

With the new baby I didn't have much time to worry about it, and I figured he could take care of himself. We wondered if he had finally had enough of Vin and decided to run away. We walked around the neighborhood calling for him, and I even went into some of the houses under construction and called for him in case he had been trapped.

After about 10 days, he finally came home one evening, scrawny and starving but otherwise looking okay. Katie in particular wondered where he had gone, and was disappointed that we would likely never find out.

Later in the summer Sam and I were out taking care of the lawn one day, when our new neighbor came over to chat for a minute and ask about our cats. She asked if we had a fluffy orange one, and I said we did. As it turned out, Dortmunder had been stuck in the furnace of their house as it was being built. He apparently crawled into a heating duct and had fallen down to the furnace area and was unable to climb back out. She eventually got the builders to come extract him, and they took him home for a night to feed him. Their little girl wanted to keep him, but they felt certain he belonged to someone, so they brought him back to the neighborhood and released him. It just so happens that he lives next door, so they can play with him whenever they want.

Last week Vin disappeared for a couple days. The day before Thanksgiving Sam and I decided to check some of the houses currently under construction. Sure enough, there she was, in the furnace of a house just down the road. We were able to get her out and bring her home.

There might be a moral here about how curiosity isn't good for cats. That'll probably never catch on, though.

Experimental Thanksgiving

This year I am going to give Katie something she has always wanted—holidays with just the family.

I have always enjoyed spending time on Thanksgiving and Christmas with our extended families, but it's been a constant source of stress for Katie. With the move this year putting us farther from our families, it seemed like a good opportunity to start establishing our own traditions.

I do the majority of the cooking for us (not to be confused with the baking; that is Katie's department), but I've never cooked a turkey before. I am looking forward to giving it a shot. And we won't have to worry about picky kids not eating someone else's food. It will just be the usual pickiness of them not eating our food.


One of my good friends posted to his blog after a long time, so I decided to follow suit. I know I'll never be caught up on everything happening, but I can at least share something.

Having four kids is crazy. Seriously, what were we thinking when we decided one more would be okay?

I guess I'll backtrack a bit here. On July 11 of this year James was born. This was a little different from us in that our other three kids are four years apart. But we're getting up there in terms of child-bearing years, and the last couple pregnancies took a while to happen, so we decided not to wait so long. And we were surprised at how quickly he was on his way.

Anyway, back to the present. James is now four months old, and he is a pretty good baby, but he has his moments. Meanwhile, there's Clara, who is now 2-1/2. And, well, we've taken to calling her Cyclone.

I don't know if we were just spoiled with our first two kids, but they didn't do a lot of the stereotypical naughty things as toddlers. But Clara has decorated much of our home with markers (as well as herself), she went through a period of constant undressing, and she is kind of a jerk to her baby brother. She also doesn't really eat anymore, so I can only assume she survives through some kind of psychic parasitic link with us.

My days basically consist of getting the kids up and ready for school, going to work, coming home and making dinner, and trying to get the kids to bed. That's seriously it; there's no time for anything else. Meanwhile, Katie spends all day trying to take care of James and keep the house in some kind of order.

Still, if I'm crazy it's a good kind of crazy. I mean, look at these guys.

As long as they pick a restful mental hospital for us, we'll be okay.

License to Dream

Last night I dreamed that a neighbor of mine with whom I had worked on church assignments had a book store. It was part of some sort of big bazaar-like series of shops that was situated in a large open building like a high-school gym. I found out (it was as if I were thrown into the dream in the middle of it) that he had somehow stolen my driver’s license, so I went to his shop and yelled at him a bunch and got it back. Also, another friend I used to work with apparently worked in the book store.

Then it somehow happened again. I had to go get my license back from him a second time. Someone I knew who ran another shop (not sure if it’s a real person) lent me one of his goons because I guess the bazaar was all mobbed up or something. The goon was 6’3” and had red hair, so he kind of stood out. I instructed him to follow me at a distance because if we spooked the book store owner he would run. So I confronted this neighbor again, and he was very apologetic but somehow infuriating. For some reason I grabbed a book and went to the cash register. The owner shooed the girl away from the register, and I said the book cost $50, meaning he had to pay me $50 to keep my mouth shut because I guess this wasn’t an isolated incident. He didn’t want to pay me, so I said he was committing identity theft and got out my phone to call the police. Then my alarm went off.

So, yeah. No explanation for this one.


A few general observations before I begin:
  • Huntsville is a gorgeous little town. I would totally live there.
  • I'm glad I grew the beard before the race instead of after, given the cold and rainy conditions.
  • This guy was apparently trying to draft behind other runners, getting right behind them uncomfortably close. Not sure that did anything besides make people feel awkward. Run your own race, dude.

I left home at 5 to get there in time to board the bus. It was dark and rainy, and there was thunder and lightning at home. I worried that if that continued up in Huntsville the race would possibly by cancelled, but there was no way to know without showing up. So I make the hour and a half drive without incident. (It helped that I had done it the day before to pick up my race packet.)

I arrived at about 6:30, and it was raining in Huntsville as well. They had staff members directing us where to park. So I got my stuff together, which consisted of my belt with water and energy gels, and a bag with warmer clothes in case it was cold up the canyon where the race would begin. I wandered around for a bit until I overheard where the buses would load, then talked with some other people until the buses showed up.

We loaded up and made the hour-ish drive up the canyon to the starting line.It was foggy and rainy and cold up there at 9,000 ft. We were greeted by the long line of portable toilets that grace the starting line of every race.

They had put up a large tent for people to go in and stay warm until it was time to start, so I stood around in there for a bit and watched everyone's strange pre-race rituals. People were putting on clothing, taking off clothing, stretching, putting on some lotion that is supposed to prevent blisters, and just generally chatting. There's an interesting feeling of camaraderie among people before a race. You're about to have a shared experience, and everyone is at a different level of experience. It's friendly rather than competitive.

A few minutes before starting time we put our bags of extra clothing and such into a big trailer that would take them down and have them at the finish line for us. Then we walked to the starting line and waited for the last couple minutes. It was a small group, something like 350 people. The big races have thousands, which is a little much for me.

Then it was time to begin. It was raining a bit, but it wasn't too bad, and I enjoyed the first couple miles as it was all downhill. One of the organizers had said it was a 3,700-foot drop over the course of the race, so I was looking forward to a fast time. After about 3 miles I started to feel the downhill speed taking a toll on my legs, and I got a little worried that I would injure myself. But I kept going.

At the halfway point I was on pace to make it to the end in about 3 hours, although I figured I would slow down for the last few miles once we hit the bottom of the canyon. Every few miles was an aid station staffed by local volunteers, with gatorade and water and other snacks.

At about 16 miles I was starting to get tired. the rain had stopped for a while, and I was drying out. The constant downhill gave way to gentle ups and downs, and by mile 20 we were at the bottom of the canyon. 

It was at this point that I allowed myself to give in psychologically. I had probably "run faster than [I had] strength" early in the race, which is something I have done the first time I race at other distances. I stopped and walked for a minute or so, then pushed on to mile 21. Then I walked again for a bit. That continued for the rest of the race, with the running periods getting shorted and the walking periods getting longer. Around mile 22 or 23 it started pouring rain, enough that my shoes got all soggy. There were a lot of people around, because they had started the half marathon, 10k and 5k a while after our race had started. Usually that motivates me to keep going, but I was pretty spend. As I came around the final corner and saw the finish line I started running again, determined to at least cross it while running. My parents had come, and my mom was cheering for me in front of the finish line.

I crossed the line, collected my finisher's medal, and grabbed a drink. Then I got the most wonderful surprise that I could have hoped for – Katie had brought the kids. It was pretty awesome, and I may or may not have shed a few tears due to emotional exhaustion. 

We met back up with my parents, and my dad made me put on a warm jacket before I got hypothermia. It was still miserably wet, and there was nowhere to get dry. I sat in the cars for a while with the heat on, to warm back up. Then we discovered something fantastic. There was a barbecue restaurant right across the street from the park. So we had lunch, and then it was time to go.

My time was about 3:26, which is not objectively a bad time (about 7:52 a mile), but I felt like I should have done better. I was 5th out of 26 men in my age group, and overall #40 out of 335 finishers. 

So I'll take some time to recover (I can still barely walk), and decide if I want to go through all this again one of these days. If so, I'll figure out what I can do to train better, and see if I can make a better showing of myself next time. It's not so much where I finish, but whether I can feel I gave it my best effort. And I don't want to leave anything out there on the course like I feel I did this time.

Room for One More

Impulse buying is never a good idea. And when that involves acquiring a living creature, that makes things even more interesting.

A couple weeks ago we got the whole family into the van and went off to look at mattresses. Katie and I had been feeling that it was time for a new one, and Sam had been complaining for months about his. On our way home I decided to have us stop at the pet store to buy some frozen rats to feed Monty. While there, I played with a cat they had found abandoned outside the store with a litter of kittens. They were taking care of them and were selling the kittens, but the mom needed a home too. So we decided to bring her home.

I had been considering getting a companion for Dortmunder for a while. He’s pretty good with other cats and has made friends with a couple, so I figured he would adjust. When we brought the new cat home, we named her Vin. Vin is the main character in the Mistborn trilogy by Brandon Sanderson. She’s a small girl who was orphaned, but she becomes a powerful assassin. This cat is little but a prolific hunter, so it seemed to fit. And she likes being around us, but she’s not a lap cat, which also fits the way her namesake isn’t big on physical touch.

We mostly kept Vin and Dortumunder apart for a week, but when they met… it was not good. There was much hissing and chasing. As it turns out, Vin is actually the aggressor, which seems odd with her being the one coming into unfamiliar territory. The first night that I locked them in the garage together I sat out there for a while with the spray bottle to keep them separate. Poor Vin got pretty wet. Now every night Dortmunder just hides under the steps, and they still hiss at each other when they get close. I’m hopeful that eventually they will at least tolerate each other. But for now we’re at least happy to have Vin with us. As with any family member, you have to take the good with the bad.

It’s interesting that Dortmunder is good at catching mice (and birds), and Vin is an insect killer. So between the two of them, we should be free of pests. Even neighbor children, as it turns out—one of them tried to bring something back to our house and said Vin wouldn’t let him up onto the porch. That could come in handy during school fundraiser season…

A Star Is Bored

I had an interesting experience a couple weeks ago, and as my de facto journal this is probably the best place to record it.

I enjoy the sketch comedy show Studio C that airs on BYU Television. It’s family-friendly, fun, and probably some other nice word beginning with F. Fuchsia? Anyway, a couple months back they put out a call for extras, and I signed up without really expecting anything. Then I got an email saying I was in.

So on Thursday evening I went down to Provo for the dress rehearsal. Mostly I hung out in the green room with the other extras. We talked about the instructions we had been given for the different sketches, and there was a TV in there where we could watch what was happening on stage until it was time for us to go on. It took a couple hours to get to our sketch, but finally we went backstage. Someone from makeup powdered our faces a bit (any excuse to wear makeup!), and then we were on.

From what I had seen before, the extras usually hung around in the background acting like nothing much was going on. But we were actually seated at tables with cast members, which was fun. We talked for a minute before the skit started, then we ran through it once and were done. It was a little anticlimactic to be there for three hours to spend five minutes on stage, but that’s what we signed on for. Apparently they were running behind and expected to be there rehearsing until 2 a.m.

Friday night was a little more lively. For one thing, there was an audience there. We were still stuck in the green room, but we could see them having fun with the audience between sketches, and things moved a little more quickly. We managed to corral the director before going on and ask the big question we had: were we supposed to act like nothing was going on, or react normally to something happening in the vicinity? He said to act natural. I have no idea if I succeeded, and won’t until it airs sometime in October or November.

I’ll try to post an update later when it airs. In the meantime, let’s do lunch. Have your people call my people.