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Archive for the ‘holidays’

Church

June 13, 2012 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Religion

In the mid 1980s I remember starting to attend a “Christian” church in Brentwood, PA. I went with my siblings and parents. This continued more or less for several years. Sometimes it felt like Sunday morning, this was what it was to do. Other times, I was way more into it. I would go to Sunday morning, Sunday evening, and then youth group other times. From about 12-16years old church youth group was my socialization. I met my first real girlfriend and my first crush there (not the same girl). I met a man, Jon Waters, who will still have a special place in my heart for my life even if we don’t actually talk (except FB stalking now)… he was my youth leader and later pastor. A few summers in a row we took a huge van to a youth camp in Coburg, Ontario, and I learned a lot about god, myself, other people at this camp. I learned scripture. I saw real miracles. The camp and experiences hold special places in my heart. Still.

For me, religion is a spiritual and private journey. My brother recently moved back to Pennsylvania and he’s been attending a great church near my parent’s home. This past Sunday he wanted me to attend, and I wondered if he expected me to make excuses why I couldn’t. Just because I do not attend church in AZ does not mean that I am not religious. So we went. It was very familiar. When I was young, I attended a church called Faith Community and this church also had that same name but the people and place were not the same. The music was similar but not the same songs. The friendliness was familiar. There were people there like me. There were people there that were like him. I enjoyed sharing that with him. I will return with him next Sunday and go while I am here on vacation.

Amsterdam Day 1, or look at the cute gay couples and their adopted daughters

October 03, 2010 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Travel

Landed at Schipol International Airport about 630am here in Amsterdam. I sat next to a quiet Dutch woman and tried to sleep quite a bit. I probably didn’t sleep more than three hours and I did watch Prince of Persia (I’d wanted to watch Karate Kid but I pushed the wrong channel). After a really easy trip through customs Dan and his daughters, Liliane (4) and Amelie (3), were waiting for me. We hopped into their Peugot wagon/mini-suv thingy and headed to their flat/apartment in south Amsterdam. Everyone got more ready for the day and we headed out to some old school seaport villages while Dan was off work for Sunday. (Madeline, his wife, is in Paris for the weekend and returns tomorrow).

Liliane and Amelie kept me busy and will help me get my little girl fix while I am away from Claire this weak. Our first stop was an ATM for me outside Hilton Amsterdam where John Lennon and Yoko Ono did their sleep-in before we headed to Marken, a small fishing village that originally was not connected to the main land at all. We walked the village, shot some photos like the boats below, and then walked back to the car.
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Next we stopped at Monnickedam just because they’d never been there. They had a great kid park and the girls got to play for as long as they wanted for a euro per person. I had a koffie and Dan drank thee while we wanted them play.
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It was fun listening to the girls speak good Dutch and good English. Then they’d throw in other words. I also learned that Pos Op means to watch out and Snell means to hurry. I figured they’d know some French (their mother is fluent) but they definitely know the other languages more.

On the way to Vondeldam sleep started to catch up with me and I was out. I woke up when we got there. It’s a small touristy town on the edge of the North Sea inlet. We ate kibberling (Cod) along the water while the girls filled my pockets with rocks they want me to take home to Claire. I also shot some windmills at Zaanse Schans and stopped at two different cheese and clog making shops.
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When we got back to the flat, Dan’s friend Oleg called and wanted to meet for beers so we grabbed the bikes and rode from Dan’s place into the city center (centrum). Dan left his mobile at the flat so we couldn’t even call Oleg when we arrived, but the bike ride alone was an adventure. They have four bikes and I chose the one without a kid carrier on it. It also has no bell so I could not warn people I was coming.
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After getting to Waterlooplein, we grabbed a beer and decided to do Thai food for dinner. After a scrumptious Pad Thai, Dan walked us through the Red Light District and, yes, Virginia, there are hookers in them thar windows. I had Liliane on my shoulders so I think they figured I wasn’t interested. Actually a few times Dan and I wondered if the tourists were thinking “oh look, Amsterdam is so liberal that an alternative gay family has their two daughters out for the day.)

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After our trek through the lights, we jumped back onto the bikes, Dan gave me lights to put on me and my bag, then we rode back to the flat for bed.

Pittsburgh Summer

August 07, 2010 By: nooccar Category: Adams, holidays, Pittsburgh, Travel

This summer I had the opportunity to spend a month in my hometown of Pittsburgh, PA. Claire was with me the entire time and spent a good deal of the month visiting our family. I expected more time sitting, watching movies I’ve not seen, and generally being a log lump while working on my lengthy to-do list. I didn’t expect to travel around as much as I did. For example, one week I drove to Lawrence County to visit with my mother’s cousin all day on Monday, road around with my cousin Brian another day to shoot our city, and the third day I went with a friend I’ve not seen in 15 years to photograph another part of the city. Friends surprised us by driving from Virginia for a long weekend, and people I didn’t think I’d see I spent a lot of time with.

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Auntie M & Claire on the John Deere in our parent’s backyard.

Claire and I fished at Trax Farm, my uncle and I had some good talks, I drove my mum back and forth to the train each day (so I could have the car), etc… My brother-in-law, Danny, and I installed lighting on my parent’s porch one day and another day we took Claire kayaking, after Donna arrived for two weeks in PA.

While there, we drove to Warren, PA for the fourth of July. I first made this trip 16 years ago with Donna when we first dated, and it was good to see so much of her family, including a cousin we’d not seen since our engagement party in 1999.

I shot many abandoned buildings and captured the history of Pittsburgh from the old farm homesteads out near Bridgeville to asylums in Scotts and New Castle to an old iron mill in Braddock. I also photographed the Strip District and Southside before turning the camera on the families.

I’d never live there again, but I know the true love I have for a city I once took for granted and now miss from time to time. A city that still holds my heart.

Christmas’ tattoos

January 03, 2010 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Pittsburgh

My uncle grew up working in his father’s Harley shop and when the father passed away, my uncle took over the shop. The biker culture always included tattoo art. My cousins grew up with this in their family and when my oldest became a man, he went and got a tattoo. The three brothers were then and are now artists, so Brian, the oldest, purchased a tattoo gun. He practiced on himself, his father and fruit at first. As he had tattoos done by others, I considered my own work. I too am an artist, and I considered getting a tattoo, also. At first I thought of silly things like cartoon characters (ok for some, but not me), and then I wanted the experience of doing this but not necessarily designing it. I chose two interlaced dragons on my right shoulder. Nothing too drastic, and we had my uncle’s friend do the ink. Part way through I felt a little ill, but the biting needles didn’t both me that much. As I left the tattoo shop, he said, “you’ll be back”. He explained that he knows a way large population of people who cannot get a single tattoo.

He was right. Within a year I was back in his shop. Even though I don’t run off to church weekly, I am religious. I wanted a fish that in part represented fisher of men, but I wanted it to be subtle. I had the letters of the fisher of men built into a koi’s scales, and I went back to same tattooist. That fish went on the inside of my left ankle. By this time my cousin was working on his tattooing more and more and he was cheaper than anyone since he was family. Over the next few years during college he tattooed a red and black tribal son on my left shoulder and a toe ring one weekend when were in Penn State and bored out of our minds. Then it was time for the biggest tattoo: my iguana. I got my iguana tattooed over the course of about five hours initially. I remember lying on my mum’s dining room table while my cousin worked on it. We listened to Toad the Wet Sprocket while he worked and I also took a nap. The tattoo is about 14″ and it’s on the back of my left leg. The final tattoo I got for a really long time was my dream catcher under my tribal sun. I got this as my wife and I began dating, and I’ve not had anything since. Not until now.

This past summer Donna and I traveled to Las Vegas with some friends, and we came very close to getting tattoos. This got me thinking of what I would get. I considered several different ideas; some of them were simpler and others really need to be designed well. It wasn’t the right time, not then.

As I began searching for a good idea this year for presents for my brother and sister, I knew I wanted to get my brother something that he could take with him wherever he went that would always remind him of me. The only thing that could be is a tattoo. It was time, but what would I get? I considered a few ideas and then it came down to something that had a raccoon or my daughter’s name. I wanted something that represented my child, and I highly considered getting her name tattooed across the inside of my left wrist. Donna, frankly, was less than thrilled with the idea. I knew I could cover the tattoo with my watch band when needed. That didn’t convince her.

I had a student design a raccoon tattoo for me that had a scorpion in the center, which I thought represented me well. But when I got home, it just wasn’t doing it for me. I didn’t feel it and I had to feel it. And at this point the only people who knew about the Christmas gift in my family was my wife and mother, and the only reason my mother knew was because she guessed it one morning.

As Christmas break began, I went looking online. I am never one (after tattoo #1) to just get a stock design but I knew I could find ideas online that I could develop and redesign into something. As I searched, Christmas morning arrived. I wrote a nice note in both their Christmas cards announcing my intentions of paying for tattoos for them both. Meghan was nervous but she has two tattoos already, and her tribal sun needed some work so she could be safe and do a touch up. Jaime, who’s always more reserved, didn’t have much to say. I told them I’d find time when we were available to go get a tattoo. I also began figuring out where to go. I emailed a few friends in Pittsburgh but since I didn’t live there in a decade, I wasn’t sure. I also went on Twitter and sent out a message. One person mentioned a tattoo shop in Bloomfield that I considered, but then @corpsefire wrote to me about Shannon Daley at Jester’s Court in Southside. Southside is my old stomping grounds for years so this felt right to me.

Now I needed a design and kept putting it off. Donna initially was getting ink with us, but then she backed out because (I assume) her design wasn’t ready. As I worked on my design and was frustrated, she suggested I just get them theirs and not worry about mine for now. This wasn’t how it would pan out. This was something I was doing with them. It had to be us all.

One problem I had with the raccoon design was that it was circular and there’s not a spot where I felt like it fit on my body. Then I found a really small drawing of a tribal raccoon online, and suddenly I had an idea. This worked for me, but now I needed it designed. I liked the shape and the body, but it needed work to be mine. I grabbed the body and enlarged it. Then began working on the tail that reminded me of the FireFox fox tail (which I thought was kind of cool), but it didn’t feel right to me. I was showing the initial design to my mother and had this circular area in the center that didn’t work. She suggested the @ sign (it’s called an asperand, if you must know), and I loved the idea! A large part of why I was getting the raccoon was because over the years it has become my online identity. Everywhere online I’ve been known as @nooccar now (including this blog), but something was still missing. As I designed, redrew, and worked on that tattoo I showed it to Donna again. She said the ringed design on the tattoo didn’t seem to work and why not go directly with the word “nooccar” built into the tail as the texture. I adored the idea and began working on it. By now I was running out of days in break, since it was December 30th. Over the course of the next four hours into the wee hours of the morning I designed and redesigned the tail. By about 3AM, it was done. I had “NOOCCAR” built into the tail and designed the asperand myself. Donna, her brother and her mother liked it. Suddenly this feeling came over me that this was the design I’d been waiting for and I was ready. I was giddy as I went to bed.

I called Shannon and set up an appointment for the afternoon of New Year’s Eve. All the while I kept asking my brother what he was going to get, and he just kept shrugging and telling me he’d be ready. He’s a man of few words so I had no idea. Meghan was scheduled to work until noon, so she would meet me and Jaime in Southside. When Jaime picked me up at my in-laws, he looked down at my design and said “that’s what I’m getting”. If I had any idea he was planning on getting the same tattoo as me, then I would’ve designed him a generic tattoo. I was completely touched that he wanted to get the same tattoo as me but the “@nooccar” built into it wouldn’t do it for him. I showed him the design closer and he agreed we needed to change that.

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Meghan arrived as Jaime and I walked into Jester’s Court to meet with Shannon Daley. I showed her my design and explained that we wanted change the tail. She agreed and went to draw up the patterns. At the eleventh hour Meghan decided a touchup wasn’t significant enough; this was a gift from me to her and she needed to do something special and new. Meghan had a Celtic swirling circle design that she came in with, and I asked her what that represented for her. She went on for several minutes explaining the significance, and I liked her ideas. It was time to begin and we made Meghan go first since she was the youngest. She wasn’t too thrilled.

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Shannon set up the workstation and got out a huge padded table out from behind a row of arcade machines. Meghan stripped off her boots and climbed onto the table. She was worried about the pain, but as Shannon began to tattoo the swirls onto Meghan’s leg Meghan was surprised by the lack of pain. She was ok with it. While we waited, Jaime played Galaga and I shot these and other photos. Meghan’s tattoo took about 90 minutes because the swirls were continual. When it was completed, Meghan was thrilled with Shannon’s work.

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Jaime wanted this tattoo on his left leg near where he had another tattoo from the artwork inside of L7’s Bricks are Heavy CD cover. I had suggested the right leg so we could get them in the same area, but he was set on the left. This later surprised me because we had Shannon put them in the same exact place but on balanced ankles, which worked well in the end. Jaime did very well and his work didn’t take long at all. Shannon explained that continual circles and clean lines of Meghan’s swirls. Jaime finished up and I loved the work she did on it.

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When I got to the tattoo shop, the smells came back to me. The ointment, the soaps, etc… and it all came back to me. When it was my turn I lay down and prepared my self. I remember the biting needles and the shading/coloring hurting a little more than the line art. I won’t lie, the bottom of my tattoo hurt near the top of my Achille’s Heel where it was more tender, but it wasn’t anything unbearable. Jaime’s tattoo and my tattoo both took half the time of Meghan’s because they weren’t symmetrical. Shannon went over the care instructions with the three of us, she finished my tattoo which turned out wonderful, and then we thanked her.

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Below are some of my favorite shots of the day.

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Meghan shot this photo as Shannon prepped my tattoo.

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I love the composition here of me, Meghan and Michael Patrick, another tattooist working that day.

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Shannon as she began my tattoo.

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Shannon finishing up Jaime’s tattoo.

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Shannon working on Meghan’s tattoo.

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Claire, the Wii fiend.

December 29, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, holidays, Parenthood, Pittsburgh

Last night my mother’s cousin and my father’s cousin both visited us and after spending some time in the kitchen around appetizers and drinks, we all moved into the living room where my sister turned on the Wii. My dad and his cousin played for awhile but then Claire wanted to play. They flipped from electronic darts to shuffleboard where you need to swing the remote to compete. Claire grabbed a remote and more or less challenged everyone in the room. She’d never played Wii before but quickly picked up the idea of how to play. Within an hour, she was beating everyone at Wii shuffle board and was ready to move onto Mario Kart.

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The adventures of a Crackberry addict

December 27, 2009 By: nooccar Category: holidays, Pittsburgh, Technology, Travel

The other evening I was “hanging” with my family while Donna and Claire were off at her parent’s, and my father was having his annual Christmas dinner for the girls in his office. Partners are strictly forbidden unless you are a part-owner and because of his own self-imposed rule, his own son wasn’t permitted to attend. I was with my mother in South Side near the restaurant already due to shopping but I wasn’t allowed because then the girls would bitch about their boyfriend/best friend/father of their child who couldn’t come along. I told my mother it was all ok, and that I was going to walk the streets of South Side since it was my old stomping grounds. She gave me her bus pass and sent me on my way. If you know South Side this next part’ll make sense. If not, that’s why Google made Street View.

I walked from the Hot Metal Bridge area near Cheese Cake Factory down to Primanti’s at 19th Street. Primanti’s is a staple of Pittsburgh, and I got my favorite Pastrami no tomatoe add egg extra cheese and a Yeungling. Yum! I wolfed down the food, pulled my hat over my ears and kept going. It was dark out, and I had called my sister to meet me after work near the mall by my parent’s where the trolley terminated. At 14th street I walked into The Beehive where I use to spend almost every evening when I was in grad school and some years in high school; it’s changed a bit since then, but it always has memories for me. I got a coffee to warm up, shot some photos of my DSLR shoved in my coat, and walked outside. I stopped across the street where there use to be a bank that was now a bar. After 20 minutes of waiting and tweeting from my phone to record my journey, the bus came. I flashed my mum’s pass and road down towards Station Square.

After jumping from the bus, I ran across East Carson to the trolley. I shot some photos while waiting 10 minutes for the trolley to the Village. Then I went to send another message, but no phone. Uh oh. No PHONE! I checked my pockets. Got my iTouch, point&shoot, wallet, bus pass, Canon, scraps of paper, gloves, and hat. NO PHONE! Trolley came. I didn’t get on. I let it pass by me, and I retraced my steps back across the busy road, looking for a smashed BlackBerry in the road. Nothing. I looked at everyone on a phone and wonderered. Then I walked back up the trolley ramp. The next one came. I got on. I’d given up. I sat down and waited for my stop 20 minutes later.

I HOPE THIS DOESN'T MEAN THERE ARE NO MIRACLES LEFT... !

Across the aisle was a lady chatting away on the phone about only God knows what, and when she hanged up I asked if I could use her phone to call my ride. She agreed but then her stop came up as it rang. I handed it back, and thanked her. I sat there wondering if my sister, Meghan, would be there to pick me up in the cold winter night. I finally walked to the front of the train and asked a man if I could use his BlackBerry; he agreed.

I called Meghan, she answered, and immediately said “they found your phone!” My heart lept. I told her I was close and almost there. She said she’d been waiting. I jumped from the trolley after wondering if I had to shell out hundreds for a new phone and climbed into her car. She told me the bus driver had my phone and it’d be at the Collier Garage after midnight. I asked where the hell the Collier Garage was. Meghan said it was in Bridgeville, which wasn’t far from my parent’s new place. I texted my mum from Meghan’s phone and since she use to live in the area, said she’d drive me later.

At 11:40pm we left for Bridgeville and I walked into the Port Authority Transit dispatch at midnight with my ID card. As the man handed over my phone, he said no one usually picked up lost and found that quickly and he wished me a Merry Christmas.

Yes Virigina, There still are nice people in this world.

Uncle Jaime’s reindeer hoofs

December 27, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Adams, Claire, holidays, Parenthood

Since my parents bought a new house and had more room and since we’d not spent Christmas Eve night at my parent’s in years, it was time. Earlier in the day Donna and Claire met us there while I pretended to help my sister cook dinner. Later after dinner, Claire didn’t want to go to bed. She was waiting for Santa, and all I was waiting for her was for her to fall asleep sdo I can drag a crapload of presents out of my parent’s basement to put around the tree. This is the first year where I had to keep two things in mind. 1) Claire would recognize if grandparent and Santa gifts came in the same wrapping paper, and 2) we cannot put any presents under the tree before she goes to sleep on Christmas Eve.

As I always expect with Claire, she never wants to go to sleep. And since it was Christmas Eve, she was even more excited than usual. By 11:00pm everyone was way sick of waiting for her to go down by herself and something had to be done. Uncle Jaime, my brother, decided to climb into the attic and take matters into his own hands.

Over the couch, through the roof, suddenly Santa and his reindeer were loudly walking around on the roof, preparing to come down one of my parent’s chimneys. (Yes, I know she’s smart, so I kept one chimney/fireplace free from a fire that night incase she asked!) Claire, sitting on the couch full dressed, looked towards the ceiling, looked around at her people and bolted to the bedroom. Donna followed her into the bedroom, as Claire grabbed her PJs and threw herself onto the bed.

“Mama, help me get changed! I need to go to sleep now! Santa’s here!” She screamed as she stripped her clothes before throwing herself into bed.

Thank you, Uncle Jaime.

Claire’s igloo

December 22, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, holidays, Parenthood, Pittsburgh

I always say my favorite part of the Christmas holiday is when the tires bounce down onto the Pittsburgh tarmac, and you know what? I didn’t even notice this time. No reason, really. It just wasn’t such a huge, relaxing deal. Maybe it’s because I have a million things on a list of things to do when I have time to do things. I don’t know.

Claire, after being shy girl lying on the airport floor, was glued to her Papa the first day in town, and we weren’t scheduled to see my family until Sunday. I told my mother to pick us up early so I could drop my MacBook Pro off at Apple for some minor repairs while I was on break and had access to other computers. She agreed and I went to bed Saturday evening in my brother-in-laws awesome Posture-pedic king size bed. Sunday morning came about 12 hours later as I really needed some sleep after last week.

Claire, her Uncle Danny and Papa were in the backyard in the 6+ inches of fresh powder, so I grabbed my camera, gloves, and ski pants before joining them for a short bit to shoot some photos before getting ready to see my family for the day.

Claire mentioned wanting an igloo, and I didn’t even know that she knew what an igloo was let alone that she wanted one. As I said, the snow was really powdery but anytime you tell Uncle Danny he can’t do something, he tries to do it. Especially when it involves jumping off cliffs and driving through rivers. This was no different. He wanted to build Claire an igloo so we go to work. We shoveled snow off the grass into a huge pile, scrapped it from the sidewalk, and filled recycle bins with snow from other parts of the yard to make it higher. Then Uncle Danny began to throw his weight against it while I suggested a watering can to make it wetter. We sprinkled water all over it, attached it like beached whales, and then began scooping it out. We got it to a point where Claire could get into it fully if she bent her legs, but of course she refused to do that. She did look up for a few photos, and then pulled herself from the igloo. She announced she was bored, hungry and cold. Papa immediately took her inside, while Uncle Danny and I admired our handiwork—two hours later and as my mother was scheduled to arrive.

Phx Zoo Lights

December 17, 2009 By: nooccar Category: Claire, Friends, holidays, Parenthood

Last night we took the kids to zoo lights but not before Claire was horsing around with Eli. I was sitting at the table waiting for Terrie to get ready when all of a sudden Eli shouts “Claire knocked my tooth out!” It was one of those moments were you freeze and wait for a giggling punch line and then there is none. I quickly began counting years on my fingers to see how old Eli was, and I realized I had no idea how old children are when they’re suppose to lose teeth. Suddenly the house erupted as his mothers became very excited about his losing his first tooth, and I as relieved that we were ok and not going to be thrown out of the house for destroying their son.

After the excitement of the tooth being yanked from his face, dropping it on the white tile, finding it, dropping it again, and finally putting it in a ziploc bag for the tooth fairy, we headed to the zoo. The Phoenix Zoo has “zoo lights” which is one of the largest outdoor light displays in our state.

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After Eli and Claire got out of their respective trucks, they took each other’s hand and Angelika and I rolled our eyes as they spent the next two hours inseparable, running through the zoo hand in hand, checking out all of the lights, looking for animals in the dark, and enjoying the evening.

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Christmas Dove

August 02, 2009 By: turtlegirl Category: Claire, Donna, holidays, Miscelany, Parenthood, Pets

This morning we Devon and I were busy in the kitchen, making breakfast and cleaning up. Claire had been playing in her little tent this week and pretending there were wolves and monsters and such around, requiring her to “hide” in the tent and play games.

Well, as I’m cooking I hear her scream bloody murder and run towards the kitchen. Knowing my kid and her standard volume, I barely flinched and continued my chore, concerned, but not panicked. Devon, however, caught on a bit sooner, shut off the faucet, and met her on the edge of the living room.

Claire screamed “there’s something in the cave!”. I’m thinking there is a bug and am still not too worried, but I take over hugging duty while Devon investigates the beast.

A moment later Devon exclaims “it’s a bird!”. A what?

I edge closer, still holding a hyperventilating Claire.

A dove, sitting on the other edge of our fireplace guard, calmly sits and looks over its surroundings. I pause, knowing that the flue was closed this winter, and wonder how this bird managed to get down the chimney and why it brought so much dirt into my house.

Then another thought occurred to me. How are we going to get this bird out???

I throw open the sliding glass doors as Devon removes the guard and I begin calling to this bird as though I speak the language.

It flaps wildly around the room.

So does Claire and Devon.

He runs to the garage. I run to the kitchen. I mean, I need to check on breakfast to – live goes on.

Then the bird comes into the kitchen and I scream. (It was aimed at my head, of course).

Devon charges in with a fishing net.

Seriously.

My screams panic the bird, who reroutes its course into my office. Drat! Why weren’t the other doors shut?

Devon chases after the bird; I reach for the camera.

The dove is released on the porch, flies away, and directly into our brick fence. It bounces off, lands on its back, feet in the air, and doesn’t move.

I grab a stick and flip it over, take a few pictures, leave it with a few parting thoughts, and return to the porch, happy the dog has been safely locked in the dog run…

After scrubbing our hands, eating breakfast, and going on about our day, Claire approaches me.

Mom?

Yes Claire?

I know what we can call the bird.

What?

Santa Claus!

[insert lightbulb above Donna’s head]

Why Claire, that’s a great idea.  You know what mama thinks?

What mom?

I think Santa sent the dove to be sure you were being a good little girl.

No, it’s not Christmas yet.

It’s halfway there Claire; this is when Santa checks on kids.

Ah, man…


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