Some Things You Can’t Un-See

My dad reminded me again recently that I haven’t been blogging.  I often make the excuse that it’s because there is nothing I feel passionately enough about to blog it.  But that’s not true.  I have very strong opinions on the jerks that make up our Congress, certain workplace politics and goings-on, and a certain NFL fumbling running back by the name of David Wilson.  But I can’t talk about them here … even my right to free speech may not protect me in that case.  I also have happier (but equally passionate) feelings about Christmas and Tom Brady’s handsome face.  But no one wants to hear me rave about those things either.  But today, I was out running, and I saw something that you can’t un-see.  Something so disturbing, on so many levels, that I feel too passionately about NOT to share it with everyone that I know (and even those I don’t).

You may or may not recall our next door neighbors, affectionately dubbed “The Unfriendlies”.  I haven’t written about them in quite some time.  In the past year, they have become significantly friendlier.  I even started feeling guilty about calling them the Unfriendlies.  And their garage hasn’t caught on fire again.  So that’s good.  We think Mr. Once-Unfriendly-Turned-Friendly is training for a triathlon.  Instead of filling their garage back up with exotic animals, they just filled it up with bicycles.  Or so I thought ….

When their garage caught on fire a couple years ago, there was a news article about it.  It turned out that they had some rather exotic pets in their garage that had to be rescued – two alligators, a snapping turtle, and cat.  I realize that cats aren’t generally “exotic”, but it must have been a fairly intimidating feline if it could co-exist with those reptiles.  Anyway, a heat lamp for these animals was what started the fire. 

So, since the garage was repaired I have kind of kept an eye on the ever growing contents of their garage every time the door is open.  This isn’t snooping, if you were wondering.  It’s called good sense.  And being aware of your surroundings.  “Unagi”, if you will.  I haven’t seen any sign of the former or current pets.  Until today.

I was finishing up a run and stopped as I reached our block.  I was walking towards our driveway, and their garage door was open.  I happened to glance that direction.  They weren’t around, but two glass tanks against the back wall of the garage caught my eye.  That was new.  As I walked up my driveway, I was able to get a better look inside the garage at the tanks.  And their contents.  And that is when my insides froze.  Because one of those tanks holds a big, gigantic, long-tailed RAT.

That’s right, a RAT.  And not just your average outdoor rat (I saw one of those once while camping), but a big, fat, healthy indoor rat.  And before you get all “rats make lovely pets, why are you so narrow-minded” on me, let me just explain something.  I am immensely afraid of fire.  So much so that I can barely light a match.  And this is only because my high school chemistry teacher forced me to learn to light one.  This is why their adjoining garage catching on fire scared me so much.  But I have an even larger, and very real, fear of any and all four legged rodents.  I would gladly face fire any day if it meant I never had to see or deal with another rodent as long as I lived.

I have enough of a problem with mice.  Both places we’ve lived had mice when we moved in, and we had to deal with getting rid of them.  We were very successful in doing so, and were therefore able to enjoy several mouse-free years afterward.  But those experiences were rather traumatic for me, and I do not wish to repeat them ever again.  All those people who say, “They’re more afraid of you than you are of them,” – yeah, they don’t know what they are talking about.  I don’t think they can fathom my level of fear.  If the common cold doesn’t kill me first, don’t be surprised if I meet my maker by suffering a heart attack from the sight of mouse.  I’m always so grateful that I just don’t live in a city with a big rat problem.  

In our neighborhood, people’s animals never seem to stay where they should.  Cats, dogs, wild children – they all seem to wander freely.  So you can see why I might have a teensy weensy problem with our neighbors, who have already proven to not be the most responsible pet owners, keeping a gigantic pet rat in their garage, directly adjoining our garage, which directly adjoins my HOUSE.  I don’t even want to imagine it getting out.  Except that since I saw it, I can’t STOP imagining it breaking loose and going all Ratzilla on all of us.  I have a strong suspicion based on it’s size that it’s either on rat-steroids, or it’s pregnant.  Neither one of these scenarios are ideal.

As with every terrifying moment in life, there is a lesson to be learned here.  People may change on the surface, but they don’t change on the inside.  Even formerly unfriendly turned friendly people.  Congress will always be full of jerks who care more about playing power games with each other than doing the right thing.  Tom Brady will always be the most handsome player in the NFL (sorry, Colin Kaepernick, nice effort though).  David Wilson will always fumble when you need him most.  And neighbors with weird pets?  Will always be neighbors with weird pets.



I am sitting in my million degree house sauna, and I know it’s going to be a long time before it’s cool enough to sleep (thanks for that, Mother Nature), so what better to do than grace the Internet with a new blog?  I know I haven’t been blogging a lot lately (my dad has pointed it out multiple times) – partly because of stress, partly because I’ve been busy, and partly because I haven’t been super inspired to write a lot lately.  But today, I have something I want to share!

Erika is back in town!  And she brought a very special someone with her …


This is John.  He doesn’t know he is making his blog debut, but I’m sure someone will tell him soon enough.

I took the afternoon off work and went with my parents to pick them up from airport.  Mom and Dad rewarded me by refusing to use the air conditioning in the car all afternoon, despite the fact that it was NINETY SEVEN DEGREES.  Yes, you heard me.  Sometimes I am not sure we are really related.  They will regret this decision next winter when they come over to watch football and complain that my house is too cold.

Anyway, back to Erika and John.  I am SO happy to see my sister, and so excited to meet John after hearing all about him.  We ran some errands, went out to dinner, and then we took them to visit the world-famous track at my alma mater.   



It was a very fun evening, and I am looking forward to a fun couple weeks while they are here!


Butte to Butte - 2013

We rang in 4th of July as a family today by getting up early (literally the crack of dawn) to participate in the 40th annual Butte to Butte 10K run.  This is something we try to do as a family every year.  This race is a ton of fun and I would recommend it to anyone who lives in Oregon or is in the area visiting.  The atmosphere is great.  Plus, it’s a good excuse to take a nap and eat whatever you want later on in the day.  Many participants celebrate the occasion by running the race in 4th of July themed costumes.  One lady even dresses up as Lady Liberty and runs the whole way with a burning torch!  This year we decided to join the dress up fun and make our own custom t-shirts.  Nathan and I are artistic geniuses, as you can see.  I expect Project Runway: Couples Edition to contact us any day now.


This year’s race was extra meaningful to Nathan.  One year ago, he was on the couch with four broken toes.  The doctor said it would be several months before he ran (which it was), and even now he does not run pain-free.  This time last year, when he was still stuck in a cast on the couch, he made a goal to run and finish the the race in 2013.  He did even better, setting a major PR and easily breaking the 50 minute barrier.

We were also joined this year by Nathan’s friend Chris.  Like me, Chris is a former high school cross country runner.  He hadn’t run for several years, but Nathan talked him into doing the Butte to Butte a couple months ago.  For the last two months, he has been training to get back in shape.  Clearly, it worked, as he broke the 50 minute barrier as well!

Mom has also been doing a lot of training.  For several months, she has been training for half-marathons, and has already completed two.  In fact, she did one 5 days prior to this – so her legs were not nearly as fresh as she would like.  Despite that, she PR’d by several minutes!

My goal this year was to be in good enough shape to finish the race in significantly less pain than last year.  Not only did I succeed in that, but I also PR’d.  Only by 19 seconds, but who’s counting?  Next year, the goal is to get below the 55 minute barrier.

Dad outdid us all and took second place in the Old Guys division and won a medal!  This is the second year in a row that he has placed in his age division (but only the first that he has actually received his prize).  Hint, hint, race organizers.  We couldn’t be prouder of him for kicking some Old Guy ass!

We were all very grateful that the weather cooperated and cooled down a little from the 90+ degree heat that we have been suffering with for the last week.  It made the race MUCH more enjoyable.  A cool thing that the race had this year were immediate race results available after you finished.  They just typed your number into a computer, and it printed you a little slip that showed your time, pace, overall place, and age group place.  It was the first time I have been at a race with something like this, and I think it’s awesome!

Happy 4th of July!


Florida, Part 4: On Safari

Yes, I know, it’s been a while.  I’m easily distracted, and it’s been a busy spring.  We enjoyed a long spell of unusually nice weather, and I’ve been spending a lot of time running and cooking.  It’s kept me quite busy.  Plus, I don’t know about you, but looking at my vacation pictures started making me sad that I was not still on that wonderful vacation.  But the time has come to get back to Florida pictures.  I haven’t even shared the best ones yet!


My favorite of all of the Disney parks was Animal Kingdom, which is ironic, because initially I didn’t want to go there.  But we loved it so much that even after spending an entire day there, we park-hopped back to it the next day too!  The park combines nature and animals with roller coasters and other Disney shows.  It’s fantastic.  Animal Kingdom contained Nathan’s favorite Disney coaster, Expedition Everest.  We also got to see a live musical Lion King performance, which was very well done. 

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But obviously, the best part of Animal Kingdom are the animals, and the twenty minute safari that you go on to see them.  We loved the safari so much that we went on it twice!


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Hakuna Matata, warthogs sure aren’t the prettiest animals, are they?


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The giraffes were the animals that we saw at closest range.  They would walk right next to the safari car.  It was incredible to watch them move – their legs are so long that even at a run, they look like they are going in slow motion.  They also make for pretty hilarious pictures.

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The lions were easily the most boring animal.  Did you know they sleep 18-20 hours a day?  Rough life.


We also learned that flamingos are not naturally pink, but get their color from the shrimp they eat.

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This ostrich really wanted to be left alone.  (Dude, Where’s My Car flashback, anyone?)

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Outside of the giraffes, this guy was my favorite.  He REALLY wanted something in that tree.  I felt so bad for him.  He did this for a couple minutes before he realized people were watching him, and then he gave up.  I hope he eventually got what he was looking for.  Never give up on your dreams, big guy!


Amazing animals, amazing weather, amazing fun . . . an amazing day!


PAC 12 Championships

I’ve mentioned previously how one of our favorite things to do here in Oregon is attend gymnastics meets at Oregon State University.  The majority of the family are “Beaver Believers”, and Oregon State is a perennial gymnastics talent.  We try to go to as many home meets as we can.  A couple weeks ago, they got to host the PAC 12 Conference championship.  Mom, Dad, Nathan and I were lucky enough to get tickets and attend. 


The PAC 12 is a really tough gymnastics conference.  Nationwide, UCLA is ranked 6th, Utah 9th, OSU 10th, and Stanford 11th.  We had the opportunity to see some very talented gymnasts and amazing performances.



It seemed like every team brought their A-game. Stanford fell off pace after the first rotation, but UCLA, Utah, and OSU were all vying for the lead to the very end.  Utah’s gymnasts were incredible – I think they stuck every landing that night!  They were like machines, they were so consistent.  UCLA and Utah started out incredibly strong, but OSU stayed right on their heels and started to make up ground on the third rotation.  We saw some great performances from the Beavers, several of which garnered 10’s from some of the judges!  Every time a 10 went up, the crowd would roar their approval.

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One of the big individual performance of the night came from one of the UCLA gymnasts, Vanessa Zamarippa, who scored a perfect 10 (meaning her four scores combined averaged to a 10.0) on the vault.  I have never seen a perfect 10 before, so it was pretty cool to see what a perfect routine looks like!

The best part of the meet was the fourth rotation.  By then, OSU had passed UCLA by a slim margin, but still trailed Utah.  Utah was on beam, UCLA on vault, and OSU on bars.  The Beavers had to not only overtake Utah, but they had to hold off UCLA on one of their strongest events.  The Beavers rose to the occasion and brought the crowd to their feet with an school record-setting bar rotation that included scores of 9.925, two 9.950’s, and a 9.975.  Combined with a few slight wobbles from Utah on the beam, the Beavers easily took over the lead and got a standing ovation from the home crowd.


After attending every home meet this season, it was so rewarding to watch this team bring home the PAC 12 championship!  We can’t wait to cheer them on at the NCAA Regional this weekend.  Go Beavs!


Florida, Part 3: Around The World!

Our third installment of Florida pictures brings us to Epcot, where we rode some rides, did some learning, and visited a variety of different parts of the world (present and future)!


We started the day exploring Future World and hitting the rides, some of which were very memorable.  Mission Space simulated space flight training.  I made the mistake of choosing the most “advanced” level on that ride – for someone who suffers from motion sickness, it was not the wisest choice!  It took a quite a while for me to recover from that one.  We visited the Chevrolet Test Track, where we each designed our own cars, then went on a roller coaster that tested the performance of our cars.  I had some trouble figuring out how to use the computer to design my car, and ended up with a vehicle that didn’t really resemble a car at all (Nathan described it as a purple Batmobile).  Interestingly enough, my non-car outperformed his (I feel this is worth noting).  Then we hit the Innoventions Pavilion, where we got to design our own roller coaster ride, then ride on it in a simulator!  It was pretty cool.

We got a lot of education in Future World as well.  After we hit the rides, we visited the Land Pavilion and took a boat tour through Epcot’s hydroponic greenhouses.  It was really neat to see all their innovative, unconventional growing techniques.  For instance, they grow things like tomatoes and cucumbers on “trees”.  They focus on growing plants in a way that benefits the grower, consumer, and the environment. 

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In the afternoon, we made our way over to the World Showcase.  Epcot has many different countries of the world scattered around their huge lake.


One of the best parts about having so many countries to explore?  Having so many different foods to sample! Nathan was particularly excited to visit Germany and sample some of their food, as he has German ethnicity.  He was especially excited when we found an entire caramel themed store there. During our travels through the World Showcase, we sampled cannoli from Italy, caramel corn from Germany, empanadas from Mexico, and the big attraction – bratwurst from Germany!


In Italy, we found ourselves in the middle of the town square just as a live show was starting.  We were right next to an empty table, so we had front row seats to the action!  The show was a performance by the comedy troupe The Ziti Sisters.


The Ziti Sisters were hilarious!  One of their big things was getting the audience involved in the act.  Nathan was trying to act all aloof and unnoticeable, in an effort to avoid getting pulled in.  He kept grumbling about how he would refuse if they tried.  Just then, one of the Ziti Sisters walked over and pulled him into the show!  (And of course, he didn’t say no).  Initially, he was playing a guest at a wedding.


His next “role”/task was to hold this painting while the Ziti Sisters used audience members to recreate it:


But the Ziti Sisters had hidden a surprise under Nathan’s side of the painting!


It was so much fun to watch!  And I think if you asked Nathan, he would have to say he honestly had fun being part of it (even if he grumbled about it at first).

We finished off our day at Epcot watching their amazing evening fireworks show over the lake.  Epcot was Nathan’s favorite park of the four Disney parks.  Fun rides, interesting facts, and good food?  Count us in!



Florida, Part 2: The Happiest Place on Earth

The first four days of our trip were spent “park-hopping” around the Disney Parks.  Our first stop was the Magic Kingdom.

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It was a beautiful day and a great way to start off our week of fun.  A lot of things have changed about Disney World since I was a kid, but thankfully the magic and excitement of walking down Main Street USA has not.  It was so fun to experience it all with Nathan, who was having his first Disney adventure.

We set aside an entire day for this park, but quickly discovered that as adults traveling without kids, we could get through the place rather quickly, which was really nice.  We were able to get through a ton of rides, including big ones like Space Mountain, in the morning during the “extra magic hour”. 

There are a lot of things you notice as an adult that you don’t notice as a child.  For instance . . . strollers.  So many strollers.  Everywhere.  After a couple hours in this park, I was ready to declare war on anyone with a stroller.  They even have designated “stroller parking” areas, which basically consist of a hundred strollers are parked in a mini parking lot.  People would leave their diaper bags and snacks and purchases in their stroller and go on rides.  Those people are way more trusting than I would ever be!

The park itself is quite a bit different than I remember too.  They have redone Fantasyland, and Toon Town no longer exists.  The new Fantasyland is cool, although quite popular and crowded.  The other thing I noticed is that you didn’t really see the characters wandering the park.  When I was a kid, it seemed like they were everywhere and you could just walk right up to them.  These days, you either see them in a parade or you wait in a half hour line at designated times and places for a Character Meet & Greet.  That is definitely something I missed this time around.

Thankfully, the best and most classic rides were still there.  Teacups, anyone?


Jungle Cruising . . .


Magic carpet flying!


Our favorite rides of the day were Space Mountain and Thunder Railroad.  Least favorite?  Winnie the Pooh.  Nothing against the Winnie the Pooh ride . . . in fact, I love Winnie the Pooh.  It was one of my favorite cartoons as a kid.  That, and the fact that it was only supposed to be a twenty minute wait, were the whole reason we went on the ride.  But sixty minutes, a pushy mom, and a crazy child on a leash later?  I’d had enough.  So at that point, we parked ourselves at the train station with a prime view of the parade route and the castle for the evening festivities.


We had the best seat in the house for the Electrical Light Parade and evening fireworks show.


The Electrical Light Parade is such a great show!  The best part of it is that it pays tribute to some of the oldest, most classic Disney characters and stories.  Even though you don’t see them as much throughout the park anymore, you see them in the parade.  It was fun to watch.  After the parade, they had a show called Celebrate the Magic, where the castle is lit up to tell the stories of Disney’s most popular and beloved stories along to music.  I had never seen this show before, and it was really cool to see them transform the color of the castle and actually reflect the stories and images on the castle.  Finally, we kicked the night off with the fireworks shows over the castle, another first for me.  My husband, the fireworks connoisseur, gave the show two thumbs up. 

It was an amazing, happy, and magical first day!