RIP Kurt

I haven’t know him that many years. In fact, only 17 years and even those were somewhat sporadic given geographic location and life situation.

My step-father passed away on Thursday, March 27th. The call came when sis and I were out and about enjoying some lovely bonding time during my weeklong visit to Northern Virginia. The news was not altogether unexpected; his health had been declining in recent months and we felt certain that something would happen this year. Still, we were in shock. Sis immediately burst into tears. I did not. This wasn’t due to lack of love, I can assure you. We all process grief differently. I knew mine would come and it did though not quite the way I expected. But that’s the funny thing about life. There is, for the most part, no one sure thing about anything. Tsunamis or gentle waves…up and down…right and left…dark and light…and everything in-between…..there are seemingly endless variations on a theme to the emotions that lie within each of us. Understanding them, managing them, accepting them….learning from them….and continuing on because of, and in spite of, them….it’s all part of the journey.

Now begins the next challenge and a huge one it is for all of us. My head is exploding just thinking about what has to be done, the changes that must be made….the sacrifices. In short, there is a great deal of work that lies ahead.

I know the days, weeks and months ahead will be a hell of a roller-coaster ride and I know too that the only way to get through it will be one day at a time, one foot in front of the other and one, deep full breath at a time.

In the meantime, I will always remember my step-father with fondness and love. He was at times an impossible curmudgeon, but he was also a teddy bear at heart. He loved to travel and he was a gourmand at heart (though not given terribly to excess) and, of course it follows that he was an excellent chef. The delicious meals he lovingly prepared for us will always make me smile (and my mouth water). He loved working in his garden and tending to the flocks of quail that landed on the large “bird patio” he had constructed for them. His life’s work was architecture; designing and building beautiful structures and furniture. When I met him, he had long since retired as an architect but, never one to let moss grow under his feet, he kept busy on projects in his hobby room.

We are going to miss our teddy bear but our hearts feel lighter knowing that he is out of pain and peacefully, eternally resting.

He is for us now another angel in heaven.

RIP Kurt.

20140330-140624.jpg

Stupid Bird

The saga continues with Mr. Harold Headbanger.  His daily, unrelenting attack of his would-be nemesis begins anew…just when I thought I had outsmarted him with a fake red cardinal staked in the ground by the window he seems to love head-butting the best.

This fake cardinal did not "slay the dragon."

This fake cardinal did not “slay the dragon.”

I found the fake bird while at Home Depot the other day.  We were there confirming the details of our purchase for a replacement front door for our home.  Imagine having to replace the front door on a home that is just four years old?!  It’s a lovely wood door which has warped enough to make it impossible to fix.   It irks me to no end!

But I digress….

On our way out of the store we passed the garden area.  It’s beginning to fill up with items which suggests Spring is near.  That’s a hard concept to grasp because it’s currently 22 degrees outside.  Anyhow, that’s when I saw the cardinal lawn ornament.

Hmm.  The wheels are spinning inside my head…..

My dear friend “Cookie” brilliantly suggested affixing something to the window (like a pin wheel or whirligig of some sort) to scare off Harold.  I had been looking for something along those lines and had so far come up empty.   Perhaps a shiny red fake cardinal would do the trick…and it was only $3.97.  Perfect…especially after throwing down a boatload of money for a damn front door!

Once home I immediately staked it in the ground.  I noted that even a little breeze made the fake cardinal move–swaying back and forth, and side to side.  Even better,  I reasoned….it looks more like the real thing.  This should work! 

I didn’t hear Harold head-butting the windows for two days. Pure bliss, let me tell you!  I knew he was in the area because I could hear him singing (also blissful).  I called my sis and essentially told her that I’d “slayed the dragon.”  “I think I found a solution to keep Harold from head-butting the window!” I excitedly told her.

Folks, I’ll admit I was feeling mighty pleased with myself–and less agitated too since the poodle was not spending the better part of the morning barking.

That is…until this morning.

Harold’s back at it.  Stupid bird.  He’s been attacking the window since 8 a.m., flying right past the fake cardinal whose shiny wings are gently flapping in the wind.

At this point I cannot imagine why any self-respecting female would want Harold.

Don’t be fooled by his pretty song, I think to myself as I’m out in the yard with the poodle watching Mr. Harold Headbanger flit from tree to tree.   Harold is not getting the message …ergo…he is not too bright!

The search continues for something to affix to the window.

Learn Something New Everyday….

I’m out early this morning getting a four-mile power walk in….sans poodle.  It’s poodle’s play day and he’s spending part of the day at Paradise Pet Resort (doggie day care).  Much as a adore my four-legged best friend, I cherish the break from him now and then …much as a mother does from the demands of a toddler….or a snarky teenager.  On this walk I am able to walk as fast as my cranky legs will take me without stopping for poodle to smell –and mark– every other tree or mailbox.   It’s a beautiful morning; the sun is shining and the air is crisp-cool.  Another morning without having to wear winter gloves and a coat…spring is just around the corner!

A good half-hour into my walk I get a call on my iPhone, interrupting not only my Spotify mood buster playlist of upbeat, happy songs but also thoughts about my ailing parents.

It’s the pest control guy; he’s calling to ask if he can schedule the monthly service for this morning.  Though the drawl is southern, I note a different voice; it’s a different fellow than my normal serviceman, Shaun. 

“Shaun won’t be servicing your home.  He’s got a new job working for his father-in-law,” says Jeff.  “I’m your new service provider and don’t worry,” he adds… “Shaun left a detailed list about the customers in his service area.  I know that I have to spray inside your home as well as the perimeter on every service call.”

I tell Jeff I imagine Shaun filled him in about the “crazy lady from California.”  He chuckles and responds that he’ll be able to meet me in an hour’s time. 

When Jeff arrived at the front door promptly an hour later I greeted him with a hand shake.  I figure he’s in his early thirties (Shaun was just out of college).  Dark haired, short in stature and wearing glasses Jeff seems like a friendly enough guy.  I tell him where I want him to spray and that I want him to cover an additional room (a storage/attic room) as well.  “It’s full of huge spider webs,”  I tell him.   I lead him upstairs, all the while telling him just a little about myself and that I am not too keen on the bugs and snakes here in Northern Alabama …or “middle earth” as I affectionately refer to my new (temporary) home.  Jeff laughs at my synopsis of my 18 months here so far and then says “Well, let me tell you a little about my background.”

Black Widow

Black Widow

“I love insects.  In fact my undergrad degree is in Biology and my masters is in Entomology.”  Impressive…I think to myself.  This is good. He really knows bugs.  He then adds that he raises black widow spiders.  Say what?!
 
Me:  (Incredulous) You actually raise spiders? 

Jeff: Yes. (Clearly he is enjoying my reaction)

Me:  Umm…should I spray YOU before you enter into my house?!

Jeff:  Laughing.  HA HA….that’s pretty funny.  No; It’s OK ma’am.  (actually, I’m thinking this is not a bad idea…no telling what this guy will drag into my house.)

Me:  Um…so  you love spiders and you raise black widows…. so…um…. just why are you in the pest control business?  (Truthfully, now I am a bit skeptical that he’s going to do a good job of killing insects and other creepy, crawly things in my house.  If I turn my back on him for a few seconds will he turn off the insecticide wand and simply pretend he’s killing in order to save an insect life?  I’m just asking…..). 

I think I’ve got to talk to Shaun.  Who wants to work for their father-in-law anyway?

Jeff goes on to say that he has a lab in his home.  “I actually study spiders and snakes,” he says.  “I have a snake…so much to learn from snakes too… (OH GOD) ….and I am studying spiders to learn more about their venom and their cancer curing properties.

“A cure for cancer….from spiders?” I ask. I’m starting to think this guy is borderline creepy and I wish I had my poodle at my side.

“Yes,” says Jeff.  I am interested in black widows because there is something unusual in their DNA; I am trying to investigate why black widows are always black and they always have the red hour-glass.  They never mutate; not even in the slightest variation…they always look the same.  We don’t know much about their molecules or their evolution.  They never change unlike other arachnids and crustaceans.  He then goes on for a time about spider’s webs and spider silk and developing technology to make use of their webs for surgical purposes or use in military apparel.  “Spider silk is stronger than Kevlar,” he says.

Wow.

Honestly folks…my eyes started glazing over; I zoned-out, I’m afraid but I snapped out of it when he said something about owning a patent for something spider-related that he is working on.  He’s hoping that it will lead him down the path to riches and (I’m quoting here)….”I’ll be living in a house on the same block as Bill Gates one day.”

“Oh my.”  Well, well….this is all mighty impressive,” I say.  “I certainly wish you luck in your studies…but in the meantime, I hate to tell you….I absolutely loathe these spiders and other weird Alabama insects so I’d just love it if you’d see to it that you keep them away from this house.  Oh…and feel free to take captives if that helps in your research.”

I later look up his cancer cure claim on-line.  I select one site and wouldn’t you know….

Spider venom has been studied as possible treatments for many diseases. It was found that solutions of very small spider venom could inhibit cell proliferation of lung cancer. black widow spider venom was found to contain a peptide that could be used to treat Alzheimer’s disease. In Australia, research conducted in the venom of the spider Funnel Web is considered one of the most deadly spider man, such as pain relievers. The poison of a spider from South America are studied as a possible tool to help prevent heart fibrillation, which often leads to death when a person suffers a problem with the heart.
Read more: http://healthmad.com/conditions-and-diseases/spider-venom-to-treat-cancer-and-other-diseases/#ixzz2thQcoH8w

In addition, I note an excerpt from a biology professor at the University of Massachusetts(Lowell).  She is also studying black widows:  http://www.uml.edu/News/stories/2010-11/garb_spider_venom.aspx

Wowza.  Well, it’s good to learn something new everyday.  Still folks. Have no fear.  I’ve no intentions of mounting a Save The Black Widow crusade any time soon.

Harold…It’s time to get out of Dodge!

I’m about ready to take a firearm to Mr. Harold Headbanger and I don’t even know how to use one….yet!    You’ll recall from a previous post that a beautiful, male, Northern Cardinal has taken up residence in my yard.  I was so smitten with him that I gave him a name.   At first I was mesmerized by his brilliant red color and his beautiful song.  I’d sit outside on my back patio in the frigid cold for as long as I could stand it, watching him flit from tree to tree around the yard listening to his happy, soul-mate searching song.  On a grey winter’s day this was my entertainment (you can see that there isn’t a lot to do in middle-earth!).

But Mr. Harold Headbanger is wearing out his welcome here on Little Mountain…or more specifically, in my yard.  It’s been a month now.  Every single day beginning around 8 a.m., for the better part of the morning and part of the afternoon as well, he head-butts the windows in the kitchen and family room.  Folks around here in middle earth call the family room the “keeping room.”  It’s a term I absolutely refuse to use by the way.  Point in fact, here’s a recent conversation with a middle-earthling:

Me:  I’d like to get a new rug for my family room.

Middle-earthling:  Oh, you mean your “keeping” room?

Me (as I grit my teeth…sophomoric, I know):  No…the family room.

Even “great room” is a better term (and I often use it) than “keeping room”.  And for inquiring minds, apparently the term “keeping room” dates back to Colonial times when the entire family would sleep in that area– just off the kitchen– as the rest of the house was often very cold. Since the keeping room area could be heated by the kitchen stove or fireplace, it often provided the only heated place in the house.

But I digress.

As I was saying, Mr. Harold Headbanger is getting on my nerves in a big way.  In fact, I’d like for him to leave…as in “Get outta Dodge” as the saying goes..because I’m coming THIS close to making things mighty uncomfortable for you!   Go Harold…and today isn’t soon enough!  Either that or find a pretty little mate and move on.  OK, so females do look a bit drab Harold, but get over it!  Fly off into the sunset …or to another house down the street….and live out your Cardinal days together….Just PLEASE not in my yard.

Why on earth do I want to rid my yard of such a beautiful bird?

The head-butting, body slamming behavior that goes on repeatedly is making the poodle go mad.  Poodle is constantly barking.  He sees Mr. Harold Headbanger clinging to the screen on one window and he goes nuts.  Then moments later Harold has moved to another window that doesn’t have a screen which means he can easily perch on the sill and peck away on the glass.  Tap, Tap, Tap…in syncopated rhythm Harold goes, attacking his would-be nemesis.  This causes the poodle to go absolutely bananas, barking like crazy and jumping up to reach the window.  And….this quite naturally turns me into a purple minion, á la Despicable 2, the movie. My sis was the first to tell me about the purple minion “phenomenon” saying it was an “absolute must” to see the movie.   This was not a problem for me; any time spent with my adorable nephew is a delightful treat.  After I saw the movie with Alexandre-the-Greatest I understood what my sis was saying!  There are just some days that no matter how hard I try to use a calming, mindful breath in a difficult or unpleasant situation, in a flash I can turn from calm, cool and collected Cristina into a screeching, demonic purple little monster.  There is no pride in this people….it just is.  I’m half-Italian…it’s my only defense!  And yes, the journey towards greater enlightenment continues!

Purple Minion

Purple Minion

Of course folks… there is a solution other than resorting to any violence on my part. 

I don’t need a firearm to get rid of the problem.  I can simply pull the window shades down and voilà, no more head butts to the window.  All is calm.  Poodle is tranquil and so am I.

Well…almost.

The problem is now the rooms are darker, not a lot mind you, but enough to make me feel closed-in, almost claustrophobic, in my home.   I have these large, lovely windows and with the shades pulled down I cannot see out into the yard and admire the sun and, like this morning, the beautiful blue sky…nor can I keep track of poodle when he’s out.

I wonder just how long Mr. Harold Headbanger plans on staying.  Isn’t he going to move on at some point so that I can let the light back in?

Otherwise folks….

Well, you can imagine the Middle-Earth headlines, I’m sure…..

“It’s a Song…It’s an Assault…It’s a Dance,” Says Harold

Mr. Harold Headbanger contemplating another run at the window....

Mr. Harold Headbanger contemplating another run at the window….

It’s been the better part of two weeks now that one lone bird has been flying, almost kamikaze-style, into the windows of my kitchen area and great room.  At first I thought there was some nest nearby.  A glance around the outside area of the windows yields nothing out of the ordinary to attract birds. At least, that is what I think.  And yet every morning for the past two weeks this one brilliantly colored red bird, a Northern Cardinal I believe, face-plants (or would that be “beak-plants?”) himself into our windows…not just once or twice, but countless times over the course of the day.  Frankly, it’s a wonder he’s still alive.

Mr. Harold Headbanger or Peeping Harold?

Mr. Harold Headbanger or Peeping Harold?

This morning we had sunshine.  We haven’t seen the sun in well over a week; it’s a most welcome lift to my soul.  I’m standing at the kitchen counter cleaning up the breakfast dishes when I hear the now familiar thump, thump on the window.  The poodle, who was sleeping peacefully in his bed near a window, is awake in a flash and barking too.

“It’s Mr. Harold Headbanger again,”  I say to my barking poodle. It occurs to me just for a moment I should have told my sis about this bird; she’s inclined to name many things (objects, plants, animals…even cars) and she most likely would have come up with a far better name than Mr. Harold Headbanger.

I now see the bird pecking at the window in the family room; he seems to be hopping up and down on the window sill as if trying to get a good look into what’s going on inside the house.  Maybe I should call him “Peeping Harold” I muse.    A second later he’s attached himself to the window screen of another window, head facing down and tail feathers flared resembling a lovely silk red Chinese fan.  He’s almost furiously pecking away at the screen.   Perhaps he wants to come inside?  He flies off before I can blink twice and then chooses another window, one in the kitchen area.  Thump, thump... again.  The poodle continues to bark which quickly grows mighty annoying.

After a moment or two Mr. Harold Headbanger flies off and all is blessedly quiet again.  I decide to do a quick search on my iPad.  I’m intrigued about this head-banging, body slamming behavior.  In my cursory search on a National Geographic site, I learn that in a cardinal’s world it’s the male that must protect and defend its territory.  Harold is doing a bang-up job of it, I’d say!  In addition, a male cardinal can fight with its reflection for hours if he comes across his reflection in a mirror.  If you ask me, I didn’t think my windows were clean enough to qualify as mirrors.  Mr. Harold Headbanger sure has endurance too….he stays at it for some time.  He is clearly launching an all-out assault against what he perceives is an offending male.

Later, once the temperature warmed up to toasty 32 degrees I decide to go out into the back yard in hopes of giving the poodle a little exercise.  I start throwing his ball and he happily chases after it.  Despite the cold the sun feels wonderful.  As I am throwing the ball I see Mr. Harold Headbanger.  He is perched high up in a tree and he is singing. How gloriously happy he sounds (though I later learn his song is for two purposes: to attract a mate and to warn other male cardinals off… as in, Yo…dude…this is my ‘hood!).  For a moment I remain as still as a statue watching the bird. Even with the dog nearby, running around in the yard, Mr. Harold Headbanger keeps swooping down from his high perch to fly, head first, into the windows. Now I know….it’s a song, an assault, and a dance of sorts... not necessarily meant for my pleasure!  Still I’m enjoying every minute of it and I’m wondering too where the females are!

I leave the poodle to play in the yard and run inside to grab my camera.  I wish my sis were here.  Sis is fabulously talented at taking photos (it’s part of her creativity DNA).  Hoping to channel some of that, I am determined to snap a photo of this bird…that is, if he stands still long enough!  Miraculously, Mr. Harold Headbanger is still around when I return with camera in hand.  Poodle is understandably perplexed that I’m not throwing the ball but sits patiently waiting for my attention.

I snap a few photos and enjoy a good ten minutes of Mr. Harold Headbanger’s song and window dance before giving my poodle my full attention.  Poodle is happy, Mr. Harold Headbanger is happy, and I’m happy too…thankful to have seized the moment and with it some photos as well.

Northern Cardinal

Northern Cardinal

Wimpy Poodles….not allowed!

You know it’s very cold outside when the poodle refuses to go out.

I awake early.  Most mornings I am out of bed before 5:30.  This morning I was out of bed earlier, for no reason in particular, drinking my espresso by 4:45 a.m.  Apparently, the poodle decided to sleep in; he did not follow me out of the bedroom nor did he seek me out asking to go out for his morning business.  He appears a half-hour later though, just after I have finished reading sections of The Wall Street Journal and after my second cup of espresso.

I greet him with an enthusiastic “ Good morning” and a pat to the head and then I open the door for him to go out.  A blast of frigid air greets us both.  Oh my God….it is COLD!  The poodle stands in the doorway with his nose in the air sniffing;  he is conducting a quick assessment of the outside environment.

“Go…Go,” I say shivering (I am still in my robe and pajamas, mind you).  Poodle is not budging.  Anthropomorphically speaking, he gives me this look that suggests: Are you nuts? You try doing your business in these arctic conditions!

“Are you kidding me?” I say in exasperation.  I try to nudge him with my foot.  “Go…now” I say again with a more authoritative voice.  Nothing doing.  He stubbornly stands in the open doorway.  I try a ruse that works nearly every time I use it when he’s being stubborn about going out when I want him to:  “Squirrel…Brando!  Go get the squirrel.”  He does not move.

You can’t fool me this time, his expression suggests.

“Oh for heaven’s sake!” I say as I wrap my robe tightly about me and head outside.  Normally, he follows me.  Instead what does he do?  He sits inside the doorway.  “No way!” I almost yell.   I’m freezing my derriere while this poodle is standing in the doorway refusing to go out in the cold.  Incredible.

I think for an instant of the team of standard poodles who completed the grueling 1,100-mile Anchorage to Nome Alaska Iditarod sled dog race.   My poodle cannot be a namby-pamby wimp!  Besides, he is sporting his longer winter coat precisely for colder conditions.

COME…NOW,”  I say in an oddly satanic-sounding voice.    AH…now the poodle steps out of the doorway, but still, does not go out into the yard.    Pointing out into the yard, again in my satanic voice, I say: “GO… PEE…NOW.”

There was probably only a second or two of hesitation on the poodle’s part (though standing there in the freezing cold it may as well have been minutes), but finally he complies.

He makes a running bee-line to his spot and in two blinks of an eye he has accomplished his morning ritual and is running back to the door.  No sniffing around the bushes in the yard in his customary fashion and no hunting for squirrels or birds. He’s one smart poodle.   “Bravo Brando,” I say hugging him once he is back inside.

I then check the temperature on my iPhone.  No wonder.  It’s five degrees outside.  The high for today may get to 29 degrees.  Folks in Alabama aren’t used to these cold temperatures.  An early morning news report states the area’s power grid is being severely strained; the power company is asking people to cut back on their usage as there are already sporadic accounts of power outages.  This is not difficult for me. I prefer cooler temperatures in the house and sleeping in a cold bedroom, under the warmth of a down comforter.  There are health benefits to keeping a cooler house after all, not to mention savings on the monthly utility bill.  Last month our utility bill was almost $500…that’s incentive enough for me to turn down the thermostat!    I’ve got the house thermostat set to 65 degrees and I’m wearing my cashmere wrap around my shoulders for extra warmth.  Rocket-man isn’t too happy.  It’s too cold in the house for him.  “Go put on a sweater,” I say.

“….and besides,” I add…”shivering burns more calories.”

For your entertainment, here’s a Johnny Carson YouTube clip about poodles in the Iditarod.  If I were ever to move to Alaska…. (OK….THAT IS NOT HAPPENING) …I’d be inclined to try this with my poodle.

The Wishy-Washy World of a Libra

There was a time when I was interested in other-worldly, woo-wooey stuff like astrology and numerology (cue the Twilight Zone music about now).  In my defense, it was the late 90’s and I was headed for divorce and going through a hugely turbulent time in my life.  I was grasping at anything, short of eye-of-newt, to make sense of it all and get me through the worst of it.  In retrospect, two things got me through that period: long-distance running and the love of one very special couple in my life (H & M).  OK, full disclosure here.  H & M’s love and support wasn’t the only thing that saved me.  I count many, many bottles of red wine and enough chips and salsa to feed an army as part of the healing process.  I often thought some years later that Brittany Spears could have done much better for her body and her sanity if she’d had followed my healing regimen!

Back then, nearly every day I’d read my Libra horoscope dissecting it apart in hopes of finding true meaning in the vague and often generic words.  And, for added measure, I’d even pull up the Chinese horoscope web site as well.  What’s going on with the Rooster today? Pretty pathetic, eh?

Over a period of years I tried a palm reading session (unremarkable); I went to a woman who gave lectures and conducted Ouija board readings (bizarre); I went to confession, spilling my guts to a priest, face-to-face (never again), and I went to an astrologer and had my chart done.  The latter turned out to be, scarily, the most accurate assessment of me and my world at the time.  After that session, I was essentially scared-straight. I stuck to my long runs, baring my soul to God during many long runs, and spilling what was left over chips and salsa with H & M.

All woo-wooey things aside, there are many decent qualities associated with being born under the 7th sign of the zodiac.  The Latin, Libra (plural Librae), was an ancient Roman pound. And, in Latin, Libra literally means weighing scales.   I like the symbol of the scales.  It signifies balance–a fundamental part of most aspects of my life, long before I knew anything about this sign of the zodiac.  Balance in all things.  If I were to have a headstone at my grave, that’s what it would say!     And, interestingly enough, Libra is the only zodiac sign that does not symbolize a living animal or creature.  With my propensity to fear creepy, crawly things (animals and insects alike),  I like that.

Libra is also associated with law, fairness and civility.  Ever the diplomat;  I’d walk through fire to avoid confrontation with anyone, though with age, I’m getting a tad better at not being a shrinking violet.  Nothing earth shattering mind you…I’ve got a long way to go.  Sometimes I do square off with Rocket-man over the most mundane of things; he takes it on the chin and loves me still.  I used to be able to blame it on hormones.  Now? Perhaps it’s the lack of them!   Still, I can attest to spending the better part of my life trying NOT to rock the boat. To a fault, I’m the peacekeeper, compromising my own needs and desires to make peace and happiness with others.   I see all points of view–left, right and in-between which is often thoroughly frustrating, let me tell you.  It makes it incredibly difficult to make a decision!  I can agonize over the most trivial matters (should I buy the green shirt or the blue?).  So much wasted time folks!

So what brings up the zodiac issue?  I was taking a brisk walk yesterday with the poodle trying to keep warm in the brutally cold wind.  My mind wandered for a moment thinking about hot button issues in the news: Gay marriage, Obama-Care, and pot smoking just to name a few.  I have views of course…based on life experiences and other inexplicably visceral feelings… but I realized that some of my views keep swinging like a pendulum….making me appear quite wishy-washy…unable to pick and stick to a side at times.  I blame it on being a Libra.

Take guns.

It’s a sadly violent world we live in, with so many innocent lives lost due to gun violence.  I abhor violence.  I can’t even sit through films with too much of it preferring comedies and romance.  Point in fact:  I watched Mary Poppins last night!

I’ve generally got a bad feeling about guns, partly because I am scared to death of them.   I still remember, almost in vivid detail, my father, holed up with a rifle in his study, threatening to end his life one afternoon.  I’ve no doubt he was on the brink and we were all gripped with agonizing fear that day.   Fortunately, he did not follow through.  Then there was a beloved family relative deciding to exit this life on his terms after years of chronic pain due to illness.  My heart ached for days when I heard the news.  It still does.

Yes, I have mercifully (so far) been spared the horror, pain, and heartbreak over loosing a loved one at the hands of a deranged gunman.  When I hear of an innocent child dying by a bullet, I am seized with incredible sadness but anger too.  It is after all a senseless act at the hands of another human being or, as happens so often, an accident at the hands of an irresponsible gun owner.

Despite the swell of vitriol towards responsible gun owners in this country (not to mention my aversion to violence) I am picking a side….an unpopular one.

I’m opposed to über left-wing liberals that want to eradicate “assault weapons.”  I realize the term itself is up to considerable debate.  One could argue (and I do) that all guns are assault weapons but so is a 200-pound man beating on a waif of a person with his bare hands. So is a knife…a bat to the head….drugs…a plethora of other items!  Simply put, there are very bad people on every corner of this earth.  I’d prefer not to wait for someone else to protect me in a time of dire emergency, especially being alone much of the time.  I’m ALL for certain gun controls (who needs a Uzi to protect oneself from a house intruder?) but nonetheless,  I don’t want my constitutional right to responsible gun ownership taken away, which is what many anti-gun activists aim to accomplish.

And so in an effort to put “responsible ownership” into my life’s equation I want to learn how to handle and shoot a gun and legally own one (the operative word here is ONE).  I think of my ex-husband.  His hobby was collecting guns.  He bought and sold so many of them during our seventeen year marriage, he could have opened his own shop.  I’ll admit to being terribly uncomfortable with so many of them in the house. However, the ex (who grew up on a working ranch and dairy farm) was extremely diligent with handling, safety, and storage.  It’s part of his DNA.

Anyhow.  Here is where my sis’s eyes grow wide in disbelief.

“Why on earth do you want a gun,” she recently asked.  “It’s a lethal weapon,” she added.

Yes.  So are knives, cars, baseball bats, bombs, lamps over the head in a fit of rage….and being forced to listen to Mettalica’s head-banging  music.  You get the idea.

I try to tell sis that it’s just a skill I want to learn.  I want to be able to safely handle a gun and, in the process, alleviate my fear of them.  And, God forbid, I might find myself in a situation whereby I’ll need to protect myself or someone I love.  Knowledge is power.  

Sis still wasn’t comfortable.  I completely understand this.  I tried to use a car as an analogy:  What if you find yourself in a situation where you have to drive your kid to the emergency room.  It’s a life or death situation and nothing else is at your disposal except a car with a manual transmission.  You’d want to be skilled at driving a stick-shift, wouldn’t you?   OK…maybe that is not the best example.

beretta1Before the month is out I’ll be heading to a shooting range to start my learning process.  And like the wishy-washy Libra that I am I may decide the whole gun-learning thing is madness….or not.