Friday, June 22, 2012

7 Quickish Takes, Volume 47


We spent a wonderful Father's Day at my in-laws' in Williamsburg.  Did you know that my mother-in-law is the gardening queen?  When Joe was growing up they ate fresh vegetables from their garden every summer.  (This is why he won't touch beets today.  He had too many of them when he was a kid).  When Joe and I met, Queen MIL (aka "Grandma B") had a pretty extensive herb garden, which is somewhat scaled back these days.  But her flowers--wow.  Recently her housing development hosted its own Garden Week tours, and hers was one of the featured gardens.  Here's why:

And we played several rounds of Cornhole, (Otherwise known as Beanbag Toss.  Did you know there is an official Cornhole Association, and that they have an annual tournament in Nashville?) and I ended up beating the pants off everybody most of the time.  I declared myself the Cornhole Queen. Hmm, I haven't been to Nashville in a long time...

(For more photos of Grandma B's garden, click here.)


I'm still figuring out how to use my new DROID 4 phone, and a few of things I discovered this past week about the camera feature are 1. There is a forward-facing option.  Sweet!  I did not know this when I bought it. 2.  There are different settings on it, like for taking black-and white photos and giving them a negative effect (I haven't tried these yet). 3.  I had my flash turned off for the first two weeks that I had my new phone.  DOH!!  Had I known, well, THIS...

...could have been an AWESOME picture of Gavin DeGraw.  SIGH... Ah, well.  Next time, Gavin... next time.

(For more blurry pictures of Gavin, click here.)


Not long ago I made Gavin DeGraw's song "Chariot" my phone's ringtone (for my old phone AND my new one), and I even set it to be my alarm when I wake up in the morning.  Well, after seeing Gavin in concert I had such a case of Gavin Fever that I even put up a photo of his Sweeter album cover as my wallpaper.  

On a recent morning when I went to check my messages and such, I heard myself say, "Good morning, Gavin."  That was when I decided it was time for new wallpaper.  Now I have this:

And guess what?  I like it better.  I think I'm slowly returning to normal.   (I still have my "Chariot" ringtone.  I think I'll keep that one for a while.)

(YouTube must randomly pick stills from videos when you embed them in your post.  This shot of Gavin is even worse than my too-dark one from Take #2.)


In an earlier post, I posted this photo of a mama bird sitting on her nest, right above our front door.  

Last week, here's what we found:

I haven't seen any activity since I climbed up on a stepladder to take that photo; I hope I didn't scare the mother away from her babies.  Other critters I've seen recently in my yard:

(This cat was trying real hard to get me to like it.)

(I know some of you don't like spiders; I think they're fascinating, as long as they're OUTSIDE.)


Today is the feast day of St. John Fisher and St. Thomas More, and that means...Let the Fortnight for Freedom Begin!!  Hooray for the United States bishops for speaking out for religious liberty.  I honestly don't think many people realize that our rights as Americans to practice our faith in our daily lives is threatened, and that if we don't do something about it, it's only going to get worse.  When President Obama and Secretary Sebelius stuck their fingers in our faces and told us that EVERYONE would have to pay for other people's birth control pills and morning-after pills because THEY SAID SO, to hell with your Church's teaching, that woke a lot of people up, I think.  Now Catholic institutions are in danger of either providing something that violates Church teaching or be forced to shut down (or only hire and serve practicing Catholics--which ALSO goes against Church principles).  The government thinks it knows right for us better than we do.  If people want to use contraceptives, fine, but don't make us pay for them.  Next they will be forcing Catholic institutions to recognize and endorse same-sex marriage, or to provide and pay for abortions (we're already paying for them anyway, as long as we keep throwing money at Planned Parenthood).  Who is to say America won't go the way of China and enforce a one- or two-child policy?  Freedom of religion means the freedom to follow the teachings of our religion.  This is what we must fight for.

Last night our parish kicked off Fortnight for Freedom with a holy hour and prayed the Liturgy of the Hours.  There was a Mass at the Basilica of the Assumption in Baltimore (which I forgot to record, dang it), and at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington DC, there will be a concluding Mass on July 4.  (I want to go to this.  Joe wants to go to the Nationals game.  Or we might just stay home and relax with friends and family like we usually do on the Fourth of July.  I'll let you know where we end up.)  Our parish will pray a novena for religious liberty starting next week.  As for me I'm going to try to attend at least some daily Masses (missed it today), pray the Rosary and read scripture every day; and I hope to check out lots of resources online about life issues and religious freedom and Church teaching, and maybe share some of them with you and with my Facebook friends and Twitter followers.  I want to try and be more Christ-like, to look for opportunities to serve others and to love my neighbor.  This is a good opportunity for us to fast and pray for our country and for each other, and to give ourselves for the good of others.

If you want to know how your parish and your diocese is participating in the Fortnight for Freedom, and for lots of prayer and study resources, click here.


You know I have another blog, right?  It's called Cooking Nick's Books.  Hardly anyone reads it.  That's all right, because I have a lot of fun preparing dishes from Nicholas Sparks' bestselling novels; plus it gives me an excuse to read his books over and over.  I've posted some fabulous recipes there: most recently, a DELICIOUS molasses oatmeal bread that Joe's mom used to make for him, and when we married it was REQUIRED that I learned to make it; plus a yummy custard-style ice cream that I've never tried before but turned out amazing.  Inspired by Nicholas' book The Lucky One; I'm sure you've heard of it since it's a movie and know, the one with Zac Efron... Head on over and check it out, you won't regret it. *SMILE*

Oh, and last week, I published a "7 Quick Takes" there that involves mussels, ribs, and Dancing With the Stars.  (Yes, Gavin too, but only slightly;  AND, a certain race car driver who can dance the quickstep like nobody's business.)  You can take a peek at that one too, if you want... *wink-wink*


Because I seem to have a knack for remembering dates, especially birthdays (Gavin's is February 4, in case you were wondering...You weren't?  Oh.), I can't leave without mentioning that the racing legend Dan Wheldon would have turned thirty-four today.  Dan will forever be thirty-three; he was tragically killed in a horrible racing accident in Las Vegas last October 16 (John Mayer's birthday; and ironically, the day I published this silly birthday post, and the day we cooked these shrimp kebobs).  I can't imagine what his family must be feeling right now; instead of celebrating his birthday, they're mourning his death.  I posted some photos and thoughts and memories about racing and about Dan the night after he died; you can find that post here.

Dan smiled at me once...sort of.

We miss you, Dan.  Happy Birthday.

Have a wonderful weekend, and be sure to visit Jen's Conversion Diary blog for more Quick Takes!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Books and Life Journeys and Finding Oneself: Oprah's Wild New Book Club Pick

I was so excited when I learned via Twitter that Oprah had restarted her book club.  I think that was my first real dive into social media, and I loved taking part in the online discussions of Anna Karenina, As I Lay Dying, East of Eden, and others.  I read books I never thought I would read.  Oprah helped me appreciate classical literature, and to read many other classics on my own, like The Count of Monte Cristo, A Tale of Two Cities,  and Jane Eyre.  All of these books are high up on my list of all-time favorites.  Sometimes when I'm looking for a new book to read, if it has the "Oprah's Book Club" seal, I choose it just for that reason.  Without it I might have never read The Pillars of the Earth or The Poisonwood Bible (by the way, when is that one going to be made into a movie already??)  And I dug my copy of Icy Sparks out of a box in my attic the other day, and downloaded Say You're One of Them onto my e-reader.  Hopefully I'll read those books this summer.

As soon as I found out about Oprah's re-"kindle"d book club--yes, pun intended, ha ha--I downloaded her latest pick, Wild by Cheryl Strayed, onto my iPad's Kindle App.  (And now that I have a brand-new DROID 4G smartphone with a Kindle app included, I can read all my books on that, too.  Woot!)  When I read the synopsis--Girl Goes on Long Hike on Pacific Crest Trail to Overcome Troubled Past and Tragic Death of her Mother and Emerges as New Woman--I thought, OK, sounds interesting.  Kind of like a cross between Bill Bryson's A Walk in the Woods, a riveting and funny memoir of the author's adventures hiking the Appalachian Trail, and Eat, Pray, Love, Elizabeth Gilbert's around-the-world quest to "find herself."  (Which, by the way, was another Oprah's Book Club selection.  Do I sense a theme here?) Reading Wild, I couldn't help but wonder if maybe Cheryl tried a little bit too hard to make it like both of those books, because it kind of was, except not as much fun to read.

I'll give Cheryl credit for doing what she did; I know I never would have been brave enough to set out on a long solo hike like that.  She tells us about her childhood; growing up without her father, living in a house with no electricity or running water with a mother who loved her children deeply and a stepfather who cherished them as he would his own children; about getting married too young and cheating on her husband and taking up with a heroin addict, ultimately becoming a user herself and getting pregnant and having an abortion.  (What bothered me most about that was not that she aborted her baby, which is tragic enough; she didn't seem to have any second thoughts about it.  Even later in the book when she recalls that nine months after her abortion she thought, "Gee, if I didn't have an abortion I'd be having a baby right about now.  Isn't that something."  I wonder if she ever thinks about that child who is blatantly missing from this story.)

And Cheryl is a talented writer and storyteller, that's for sure.  I enjoyed the accounts of her adventures on the trail, the friends she made along the way, and was moved by the tragic stories of her past--her mother's death, her divorce, the early years when her father abused her mother.  I found the story of how she and her younger brother made the decision to shoot their old horse that they loved particularly poignant.  But is this a book I would read again?  Not likely.  Despite her brave attempt to inspire us with her own story of Finding Herself, frankly it kind of falls flat.  And Cheryl (who I've never met and I'm sure is a very nice person) comes across as kind of selfish.  "Yay me!  I walked a bajillion miles all by myself!  And I met lots of cool people, and I even got laid!!  Woo-hoo!"  (Oh, and she makes sure she tells us that when she and her siblings were preparing to spread her mother's ashes in a garden they had planted, she took a couple of the bigger chunks and swallowed them.  Ohhh, Kaaayyy...)

What I don't understand--in addition to her bizarre compulsion to swallow her mother, ew--is why she needed to hike the Pacific Crest Trail to "find herself."  Maybe that's because I never had time to do anything that adventurous, and that I've "found myself" just by living my life.  The decisions I've made and the paths I've taken along the way.  Earlier in my life I was all gung-ho to join the Peace Corps, and thought that somehow two years of living in a remote village in Africa would be just what I needed to Find Myself.  After almost getting in, almost getting sent to someplace in South America (they wanted me to be a teacher trainer.  What a joke.  I had no teaching experience at the time.), I ran across a couple of brick walls and my application stalled.  At which time I met my future husband, and was faced with a choice whether to persevere with this Peace Corps thing or find out where my new relationship with this amazing man was headed.  I chose the man.  (Later I realized that finding oneself is the wrong reason to join the Peace Corps.  It ought to be a selfless act for the good of others.  Duh.)  I married him, became a Catholic, started my family, et cetera; and here I am.  That was all I needed to do to find myself, and do you know what?  I'm still Finding Myself.  Sure, I've made some mistakes along the way; who hasn't? I'm sure I'll make many more.  My journey here won't be over until they put me in the ground.

I enjoyed Wild, and I'm glad I had a chance to read it.  Someday perhaps I'll get to hike parts of the Pacific Crest Trail (my husband and my sons walking with me, of course).  Yes, I'm looking forward to seeing what Oprah chooses as her next book club selection.  And yes, I'll probably read it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Friendship. Loss. Rock and Roll. Gavin DeGraw. And Rick Springfield.

A friend recently posted a quote on Facebook that said, "I may be old, but I've seen all the good bands."

I've seen some good bands in my time, and some bad ones, and some pretty awesome solo acts, too.  When I was a teenager my mother took me and some of my friends to see Rick Springfield in concert, and God love her, she was miserable.  She sat still in her seat staring in disbelief at the spectacle on stage, shaking her head at the hysterical teenagers all around her--us included--jumping up and down and screaming Rick's name and singing the songs with him at the tops of our lungs.  One of my friends, Becky was her name, was wheelchair bound and we had seats on an aisle so she could have a clear view of the stage.  My mother--my fabulous, rock-and-roll-hating mother, made sure that nobody, nobody, was allowed to block Becky's view of Rick.  She had many a dirty look thrown her way from girls who were repeatedly told to sit down because there was a girl here who was handicapped and couldn't stand.  (Looking back I suppose my other friends and I should have stayed in our seats, too; but hey, we were fifteen, and anyway Becky was in front of us and we weren't blocking her view.)  At my house that night Becky told me this had been the best night of her entire life.

Becky had a tough life.  She was born with spina bifida, when her mother was sixteen.  Her mom married Becky's father but eventually they were divorced, and she went from one bad relationship to another.  Becky's mom did the best she could to raise her but sometimes the drama in her life was so overwhelming that Becky had to rely on other people for emotional support.  Unfortunately some of the people she turned to weren't exactly the best role models.  She got in trouble at school once in seventh or eighth grade because one of her so-called "friends" had promised her some favor if she would bring beer and cigarettes to school to give him.  She hadn't really learned what it meant to have a true friendship, a relationship in which people care for each other and mutually support and look out for the good of each other.  So when Becky said that to me that night after the Rick Springfield concert, it wasn't just about getting to see Rick.  It was that we were all there together, sharing the gift that he was offering to us that night.  It was my mother going with us even though she hated the music (oh, and was it ever loud), and making sure Becky would have a good seat, daring anyone to get in Becky's line of vision and ruin it for her; and then bringing us all home late, late at night.  It was Becky and I staying up until the wee hours talking about what we'd seen and heard, knowing we would never forget it.

That's what music does, doesn't it?  It brings people together.  I've been to a lot of concerts since that night with Rick.  What I remember most about them isn't the music (although I still vividly remember the shiny bright-red leather pants the lead singer of Loverboy was wearing, and the bandanna in his lovely curly hair--like in this video), but how much fun it was to be with people I cared about.  My brother and I arriving super-early to a Richard Marx concert to be the first ones through the doors when they were opened, and sprinting ahead of the rest of the crowd to grab front-row seats.  Being pregnant with Larry at a Jimmy Buffett concert, with a couple he went to college with, and her being pregnant too and us girls wishing we could have the juice-pouch margaritas they were serving; and Jimmy running down the aisle past us and high-fiving people, and giving one to Joe, and him turning around, grinning from ear to ear and high-fiving the rest of us.  And just last Saturday, with Colbie Caillat and Gavin DeGraw and a Hawaiian folk singer named Justin Young (who, it so happens, is Colbie's beau--or possibly her husband...?  I don't really know--but when they sang one of her songs together I think half the audience swooned.)  The music was fabulous, and I was so close to Gavin at one point I could almost have reached out and touched him; but the best part is that now I have a new set of memories to share with my sister-in-law Jenn and my friends Barbara and Mauri.

I told the boys on Sunday they would have enjoyed the show, especially Colbie, who was fantastic.  But they might have been embarrassed to be seen with this crazy old lady who, like all the other teenagers and middle-aged women and kids and tattooed couples who were there, was jumping up and down and singing Gavin's songs with him and yelling his name and snapping blurry pictures with her phone.  And the woman who, when after the show when Gavin came back to sign autographs for fans who had stuck around long enough, literally ran to the stage just to see him up close, to hear his actual voice not coming through a radio or a television or a loudspeaker, to take more photos, to join the crowd of (mostly younger) women waving their tickets and programs and begging him to sign them.  I felt like a teenager again, and as I let myself get lost in the excitement and the music that would soon be a distant memory, I knew what would remain was the memory of spending these few hours with people I loved.  I thought of all the other friends and family members who I wished could have been with us; and I'll tell you right now if Gavin ever comes around again I want to call up everyone I can think of and bring a party with me, including--hopefully--Joe and the boys this time.  (My only regret?  Not getting a T-shirt.)

(Smiling for someone else's camera...but I caught it!!!)

Now Gavin DeGraw is no longer just the wonderfully talented singer and songwriter who only recently got my attention on Dancing With the Stars.  He's not just the person with the amazing voice and crooked smile who makes his audiences cheer and swoon when he sings "Chariot" and "I'm In Love With a Girl" and "Sweeter," or the guy who learned to dance the rumba on national television, and cried when the show's host asked him how it felt to have his mom and dad in the audience cheering him on.  Now when I listen to his CDs I won't only think about those things, or how much I like this or that song; he will also be the person who shared his gift of music with me and my friends, the person who inspired me to take them on a girls' night out we won't soon forget.  The person who helped me feel sixteen again, just for a little while.   My friend Mauri said she thought Gavin and Colbie were the most personable performers she'd seen, the way they interacted with the audience, thanking us for coming and for singing along with them, and showing genuine appreciation for the gift we had given them just by being there.  Not too many big-name performers will come out after a show and sign autographs; Gavin did.  (No, I didn't get one.  Maybe someday I will.)  And Colbie Caillat?  She's not just a voice I'm vaguely aware of on the radio anymore.  She's amazingly talented and lovely and fun to watch onstage.  I hope I have a chance to bring the boys to one of her shows, because I know they would love it.  There are new memories to be made.

(Colbie Caillat.  She rocks.)

OK.  Normally I try not to use other people's photos on my blog,'s one that Gavin posted on his Twitter page, and I just HAD to share it with you because if you look all the way to the left of the picture, between Gavin and the first post and just a little lower, there we are.  Sorry to steal your photo, Gavin... ;)

I quickly lost touch with Becky after high school.  We saw each other a few times in the years I was in college and shortly after, but by the time I was in my mid-twenties (to make a long story short) there really was no friendship left.  I gave myself a lot of reasons why, but mostly it was because the drama in her life was difficult for me to deal with at the time.  Like many others had done, I cast her aside.  A few years ago I got an email from a former high school classmate, who had contacted everyone in our graduating class to let us know that Becky had died.  I was shocked and saddened by the news, and felt some regrets, too; mostly that I didn't work harder to keep our friendship alive.  Perhaps if I knew she would die so young I would have.  I think she had gotten married; I hope her husband was able to provide the kind of self-giving love she so needed, and that her last years were happy ones.  I've been thinking about Becky a lot these last few days; I know she would have loved Gavin DeGraw.

I'll leave you with a video I found on YouTube that someone took at the concert on Saturday.  (Back in the 1980s and 1990s we didn't have YouTube.  I would love to have a video of that Rick Springfield concert back in 1983.)   The band Foreigner is coming to my little town in a couple of months.  I am so there.  Rock on, my friends!  Now to listen to that new Colbie Caillat CD I just bought...

(UPDATE, September 2013:  Labor Day Weekend of this year I managed to drag my family to another Gavin DeGraw concert, and guess what?  They loved it!  It wasn't too hard to convince them to go, because there was a baseball game beforehand.  I posted a few pictures on my new blog, Eating Slowly; I hope you'll stop by there and take a look!)

Thursday, June 7, 2012

7 Quick Takes, Volume 46


When Joe read my most recent blog post, he told me it was the strangest one ever.   He found the reference to geocaching especially bizarre, and, well, kinda icky.  I got a couple of very nice comments (Thank you Gardenia and Therese!  You ladies rock!) but now I'm wondering if other people found it a little wacko and just didn't say anything.  Joe teased me about it a little bit--in a nice way, of course--and the fact that he finds my love of certain chores pleasurable just a wee bit crazy doesn't bother me.  In fact, he and the boys are perfectly happy to let me do it so they won't have to.  So take a gander at this and be honest:  Am I weird?  (You won't hurt my feelings, I promise.  As long as you keep reading my blog, you can think whatever you want about me! Hah! *smiley face*)


Behold the final picture I took with my old Droid phone:

I had my windshield replaced last week, and on Friday when we had a hard rain, it leaked something awful.  Water was pouring into my car.  I don't know what possessed me to take my phone out of its safe dry spot in my center console, snap a picture, and post it on Facebook; but shortly thereafter I stuck my phone into its usual spot under the dash.  Where unbeknownst to me, there was a pool of water hiding.  (No, I was NOT driving while snapping or uploading the picture.)  On Sunday, after having spent the weekend giving my poor soggy phone rice baths and sauna treatments in the oven, I finally had to admit it was toast.  Now I have a new phone, a way cooler one (DROID 4), and it has an 8 megapixel camera.  This would mean it should take even better photos than my last one, which had 5, although I haven't taken many pictures with it yet and the ones I have aren't really any better than the old ones to tell you the truth...

Old phone

New phone

Meh.  I'm sure I'll be snapping lots of pictures with it, and perhaps I'll discover that the camera really is better.

BUT it's 4G, which means it has much faster Internet connection, and I can watch Netflix from anywhere as long as there is coverage.  Plus it has a bigger screen and better resolution and better apps for Facebook and Twitter.  And I didn't lose any of my contacts OR my photos!  


Since I was phone-less for several days, I had to rely on other means of communication, like *gasp* talking to people face-to-face.  The other day when I needed to be home to greet the auto glass company so they could fix my windshield AGAIN, I wanted to ask my neighbor who I carpool with if she could pick up the kids from school the next afternoon.  I didn't know her cell number, and she's hard to reach on her land-line phone (mainly because her kids usually answer the phone, and you know how reliable kids are about relaying phone messages to their parents...).  I had sent her a message on Facebook, and when I dropped Larry off at swim practice I decided to wander around the pool deck to see if she happened to be there since her kids are on the swim team too.  I found her, we worked out a carpool plan, and I had a chance to shoot the breeze with her about other things as well, and she introduced me to a couple of friends she was with.  I will say that while I'm happy to have a (NEW!!) phone again, and I appreciate the value of a quick text message, I enjoyed those fifteen or so minutes just chatting with my friend.


 On Sunday we returned from church to find this:

Someone had run off the road, destroyed our mailbox, gotten his car stuck in the grass, and after much cursing and wheel-spinning, drove off.  Fortunately a neighbor saw the whole thing, and reported it to the police.  They have a description of the vehicle but not a tag number.  On Monday Joe put in a new (cheap) mailbox and stand; hopefully one of these days we'll get one made out of bricks.   They may or may not catch the guy, but it's wonderful to have neighbors who look after one another!


The other day while I performed the activity described in this post, I spotted these things:

Tadpoles in our perpetual puddle.  I hope they'll eat all the mosquito larvae...

Do you still think I'm nuts?  I might need to make it a habit to carry my camera with me while I'm scooping poop.  I don't care what the neighbors might think; after almost fifteen years they ought to know I can be a little batty sometimes.


Over the weekend Moe asked to borrow my camera and telephoto lens.  He spent the better part of an hour walking around snapping photos.  Here are some of the great shots he took (mind you, these are unedited):

He's eleven.  I think I have a budding photographer in my house.


I am OFFICIALLY on my summer vacation now, and to celebrate I'm having a GIRLS NIGHT OUT on Saturday with my sister-in-law and two other friends.  We're heading to Wolf Trap Performing ArtsCenter to see GAVIN DEGRAW LIVE IN CONCERT!!   I'm super-excited.  Thanks to Dancing With the Stars (which Gavin didn't last very long on because...well...he sings much better than he dances) I'm now a super-crazy Gavin fan.  I bought all of the CDs I could get my hands on and when I saw this concert opportunity I jumped at the chance.  Mostly I'm looking forward to spending the evening with some of my BFF's! 

I won't be taking my clunky "fancy" camera with me, but maybe I'll try to sneak a few photos with my new phone...maybe.  Meanwhile here's a taste of what I'm hoping will be a fabulous night:

He can't dance, but he sure can ROCK!!   Have a wonderful weekend!

Friday, June 1, 2012

The Marvelous Gift of...well...

Do you know what household chore is my favorite?  The one I actually enjoy doing?

You're going to think I'm crazy.

Poop patrol.  Yes, you read that right.  Walking around my yard, plastic bags in hand, looking for dog turds and scooping them up.  When I was a kid, I HATED that chore.  Ick!  Well, after becoming a mom and changing I don't know how many thousands of dirty diapers and potty accidents, I got over that real quick.  OK, it's not the actual picking up of the turds that I enjoy; and if I miss one and it ends up on the bottom of my shoe, I am VERY annoyed.  It's the quiet solitude I love, the slow stroll around the yard; guilt-free because I'm actually doing something useful.  I have to move slowly so as not to miss any (of course, I always do; if I were smart I would scoop it up as soon as it leaves my dog's butt and I wouldn't have that problem) and look carefully at the ground around me.  I notice things I might not see otherwise.

The time of year doesn't matter all that much (although on really cold days the poop has a tendency to freeze to the ground, in which case I'm forced to abandon my task until a later time).  In the winter I admire the frost on the ground and the way the dirt crystallizes into tiny little stalactites (or would that be stalagmites?  I can never remember the difference).  If I'm lucky I might see or hear a bird or two flitting around in the bare branches. Most likely there will be crows cawing to each other from the tops of the trees.  

In the spring and summer I listen to the birds twittering and the wind whispering through the leaves, and admire the blooms on trees and shrubs. 

The fall is trickier; if I don't stay on top of it the leaves tend to hide the "treasures" I'm supposed to be finding. 

And I think when I'm searching for turds. (Sometimes I call it poop-caching--like geocaching for poop.)  Joggers say they think best and work out their problems when they're running.  I get into that zone when I'm making my way back and forth across my yard, eyes on the ground.  Sometimes I pray.  Occasionally I'll plug in my earbuds and listen to music, but usually I prefer to hear the nature sounds-- albeit against the constant buzz of traffic noise.

Yesterday there was a wood thrush singing right above my head.  I don't know if you've ever heardthe song of a wood thrush; it's a beautiful melodic sound.  Wood thrushes like to sit high up in the trees among the foliage, and they are difficult to spot; and when one is singing near you its song surrounds you and it's sometimes hard to pinpoint exactly where it's coming from.  It seems to be coming from everywhere.  

Even when one is singing off in the distance you can't help but stop and listen.  No wonder it's my dad's favorite bird.  When I worked at a summer camp I would wake up in the morning to their beautiful song, and go to sleep at night to the rhythmicsound of katydids.  Ever since then, those have been my two favorite sounds of summer.  (And ocean waves.  That makes three.  Oh, and when we were in Bermuda a few years back we were treated at night to the call of a tree frog that sounds like bells ringing.  I would move to Bermuda just to get to hear that every night.)

I remember one friend telling me how much she enjoyed the walk around her yard, picking up her dog's poop, and how relaxing it was.  When I realized that she wasn't joking, I felt...relieved.  I must not be so crazy after all.  So yesterday, as I scooped up droppings and deposited them into my plastic grocery bag, with the soft moss underneath my feet and the song of the thrush in my ears, I couldn't help but thank God for the gift of poop patrol.  

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