Recent Conversation

Feed me!

“No, I’m not going to give you food.”

“Let me finish my shower!  Then I’ll give you some food!”

“You’ve got plenty of fat to get you through the long, hard, 5 minutes ahead.  I just need to finish putting on regular clothing, then I will give you food!”

I shudder sometimes when I think that my neighbors may hear the conversations that I have with my cat.  Oliver isn’t able to talk, but he communicates very well.  Unfortunately, this means that anyone listening only hears my side of the conversation.  They don’t see that Oliver sits there, staring at me expectantly, attempting to butter me up by rubbing himself against me, and then trotting off towards the laundry room (where his bowl is) every time I move, only come back a moment later looking annoyed when I don’t follow him.

My neighbors probably think I’m walking around refusing to give my pregnant wife food; and not only am I starving her, but I’ve just implied that she is fat! (for the record, she isn’t).  They probably think I’m abusive, and that I keep my wife huddled in the corner, curled into a starving little ball.  Little do they know that I actually spend most of my time at home serving a cat hand and foot (paw and foot?).

“I fed you this morning already!”


“Stop lying to me, you still have food left in your bowl.  You won’t win, Oliver!”


Eventually, even I know when I’m beat.  I finally fed Oliver tonight.  He acted like he hadn’t ate in about 3 years.

10 Things That Delight Me

I read a blog called Doin’ The Grown-Up Thing by a young lady in Washington DC.  She does something called “10 on Thursday,” where she writes about 10 (usually unrelated) things in bullet point format.  I always enjoy reading them as they are frequently hilarious, regularly insightful, and always well written.  Miss Doin’ The Grown-Up Thing, you can quote me on that if you’d like!  Well, I’m taking a page from her book:  10 Things that Delight Me (on Tuesday). 

  • I’m delighted with my current job.  I’m working in the aid room at the Massanutten Ski Slopes, and frankly I’m as happy as a clam.  I get to walk around wearing a radio harness, and I get to use my emergency and wilderness medical training.

    You know your job is awesome when you get to look like this.


  • I’m delighted that I choose my clothing each morning based on two things: a) the weather, and b) my best guess about how cold it will be to ride the snowmobile at work.  That’s right!  I get to ride a snowmobile at work.  Now that’s fun.  Its hard to have a bad day at work when the work day begins with a snowmobile ride.  I also get to wear underwear to work every day (you laugh, but remember, I worked a job where I wore swim trunks every day), and I don’t have to worry about the possible adverse health effects of standing up to my middle in heavily chlorinated water every day.
  • I’m delighted that my unborn baby Bean is so darn active all the time.  Everytime we go to the doctor’s office for a checkup, the midwives are always surprised at how active Bean is.  Also, Bean has really become a kicker.  I think this means that Bean will also be a really good climber.
  • I’m delighted that I’ll be starting a job in April that will get me outdoors every day.  I think I’m going to have a lot of fun in my Field Instructor position; I mean, when your job description includes leading rock climbing, canoeing, backpacking, hiking, low and high ropes, caving, and environmental ed., what’s not to like?
  • I’m delighted with my coffee machine.  Perhaps a bit petty, but its true.  I’ve had this coffee machine since I was a junior in college, when my friend Daniel and I were rooming together.  Its still going strong, and is unfailingly faithful in providing me with my morning fix. 
  • I’m delighted that I’ve finally started getting my copy of Ski Patrol in the mail.  Ski Patrol is the magazine published by the National Ski Patrol.  I’ve finally started receiving mine.  Its a cool magazine, lots of pretty pictures and cool articles. 
  • I’m delighted with day care centers.  Specifically, I’m delighted with the daycare center that recently hired Melissa.  Its stressful being the only one providing a paycheck (particularly when I only make $8.71/hr; and I’m not saying its her fault either!).  This has taken a lot of pressure off.
  • I’m delighted with my coworkers.  I used to work at a place where I did not feel valued by my coworkers (there were some who did; they made work bearable).  I got the feeling that it really didn’t matter that much whether I was there or not.  Now, I walk into the patrol room and everybody is happy to see me.  I’m greeted by name, and its clear that my contribution is valued.  I love that my coworkers are awesome like that, and I look up to and respect all of them.  They’ve taught me a lot, and I can’t think of a group of people I’d rather work with. 
  • I’m delighted that I have a car that dosen’t scare the living crap out of me.  Our last car was a ’95 Hyundai Elantra.  I really liked that car, but near the end it scared the crap out of me.  I was never sure if I’d make it to work or not.  Now, we’re driving a Dodge Caravan.  It’s huge, blocky, and inhales gas, but it hasn’t let me down, and I know it will get me from point A to point B (even if I have to pass through point C on the way). 
  • I’m delighted with the skiing season.  Somehow we have managed to keep limping along.  Today, it was about 60 degrees outside.  However, the snow crew (all of whom deserve medals) blew enough snow back when it was cold so that we are still skiing.  Quite frankly I didn’t think we’d make it to January, let alone almost February.  But here we are.  It looks like we may make it to March yet…

There you have it!

Winter Reading and Watching

Lets face it; this winter has been a bit disappointing.  Not only has it been unseasonably warm, but on the days when it is warm enough to go climbing, I’ve had to work.  Hopefully this explains why posts about my adventures have been a bit slim.

I’ve, therefore, been reduced to writing about other people’s adventures.  For this post, I’m going to take a page from my friend The Suburban Mountaineer’s book, and make some suggestions for winter reading and watching you may enjoy. 

1.  Jimmy Chin’s Blog:

Several months ago there was an article in National Geographic Magazine about rock climbing in Yosemite.  The article featured beautiful photos of stunning scenery and climbing.  The man behind those photos was sponsored North Face athlete and all around incredible photographer Jimmy Chin.  I found his website online then; its, and it is very well worth the visit.  Speaking of those photos, I’ve embedded a great video about how Chin got those incredible shots. 

2.  Colin Haley’s Blog Skagit Alpinism:  This was one of The Suburban Mountaineer’s favorites, and after drooling over the pictures for the past several days, I have to say I agree.  absolutely stunning photographs of bold lines in Patagonia and elsewhere.  I could spend hours just looking at pictures from this site!  Check it out here at Skagit Alpinism.

3.  The Suburban Mountaineer:  Mr. Szalay, writing from the peakless expanse of Washington DC brings a level of intellectualism to alpinism that isn’t frequently encountered in climbing and mountaineering.  If you want information about good books to read in the outdoor exploration genre, or if you are looking for well-considered essays on risk and climbing ethics, or if you just want the latest on what’s new in the worldwide climbing circles, this is the place to go.  Check it out at The Suburban Mountaineer.

4.  The Climbing Bum:  With a tagline like “Broke and Stoked,” what’s not to like?  I just stumbled on this blog today, and I have to say, its pretty cool.  The author, named Kyle Simmons, is based in California and gets to spend most of his time in Yosemite (the lucky dog).  A great read about the climbing lifestyle we all long for, generously illustrated with great photos and videos.  Check it out at The Climbing Bum

5.  Another Header:  An amateur photographer with a will to travel and an adventurous streak.  I really enjoy going through the pictures of his recent trip to Mt. St. Helens and also his mountain biking exploits.  If you ever just want to soak in the joy of looking at excellent pictures of larger-than-life destinations, this blog is for you.  Check it out at Another Header

6.  Hiking Virginia:  Another blog that I just discovered today, and from the look of the site, pretty new to the blogosphere.  Still, I foresee great things based on what I see now.  I’m looking forward to reading about future adventures!  Check it out at Hiking Virginia.

A Different Level of Climbing

From time to time, I mention Mark and Janelle Smiley, a couple from Colorado that are attempting to become the first people to climb all 50 climbs in the classic climber’s tome 50 Classic Climbs of North America.  If you like, you can follow their exploits at the Committed website.  For each climb, they produce a very nice, HD video of the experience.

The Smileys recently released the video they produced while climbing The Nose on El Capitan.  This is probably the most well-known climb in North America, and the video is awesome.  Watch and be amazed; this is a whole different level of climbing.  For best results, maximize the video to full-screen.

Bean Update #2

It is time for the second bean update.  I wrote the first Bean Update over Thanksgiving; It’s now January 3, 2012 (how crazy is that!  It’s 2012!), which means its very much time for more information.

Melissa is doing very well.  The morning sickness has stopped, and she has gained her appetite back (as I type, she is sitting nearby eating strawberry-banana yogurt and crackers).  She’s moved into maternity pants, and thinks that her be-band (which allows her to wear her per-pregnancy jeans) is the best thing ever.

Bean has also become quite active; she started feeling light kicks about three weeks ago, and they have increased to the point that I can feel the kicks now too.  At this point, we know that as soon as Melissa sits or lays down and gets relaxed, Bean will wake up and start to play.

But, the real reason I am posting this update is that we got our ultrasound this morning!  So, I’ve posted the first REAL photos of Bean that have ever been taken!  Say hello to Bean Zook!

In profile.

We couldn't get a great picture of the face, because Bean was shy and kept hiding behind his/her elbow.

Bean's hands! Someday he/she will be a great rock climber, I can tell!

Bean's feet!

We still don’t know the sex; we’re going to keep it a surprise.  We’ve been finding a lot of clothing with animals on it, so we’re avoiding the whole “Daddy’s Girl” or “Daddy’s Little Guy” stuff at this point (even though its really cute…).




Happy New Year!

Happy New Year from Melissa, Bean, and I!  We are very thankful for all of our friends and family, and hope that 2012 will be a happy and exciting year for all!  Don’t worry so much about that Mayan thing…

Here’s to a 2012 filled with adventure, fun, friendship, and just the right amount of challenges to help us grow as people!

Oh, and there will be an IMPORTANT BEAN UPDATE this week!