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Thursday, September 24, 2015

When in Rome (Georgia)

Back to blogging with my talented friends!  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, mostly.  Sometimes?  Don’t judge me.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Merryland Girl           
            This week, Froggie chose the topic, and she said:  I would have never imagined . . .   Here’s my take:

            A few weeks ago – and for the first time in my entire life – I fired a gun.  A .22 caliber semi-automatic handgun, to be exact.  I fired that gun 50 times, shooting at a paper target posted on a board at a shooting range nestled among the gentle hills of Middle Tennessee. 

            Before that day, I’d never touched a loaded gun, let alone fired one.  I grew up with a gun in the house; after all, my Dad was a Chicago Police sergeant and, as such, he owned a service revolver.  But I never actually touched the gun.  I rarely saw it; Dad did a phenomenal job of keeping “work” separate from “home.”  But I knew the revolver was there.  I knew where it was kept, and I knew that location was securely locked.  I also knew to go nowhere near the gun, to respect it, to see it for what it was:  part of my Dad’s job – and a deadly weapon, too.

            That latter fact was firmly and sadly reinforced for me during my childhood when a neighborhood boy (someone just a few years older than I) accidentally shot and killed another neighborhood boy while showing off his dad’s gun.  I knew both boys only slightly, but it didn’t matter.  My fear of guns was set.  What had been indifference and a healthy respect morphed into full-on terror. 

            And that fear remained strong throughout my life.  Living mainly in Chicago and Northern Illinois, guns were not much of a “thing” in my life.  The bulk of my friends (unless police officers) didn’t own any firearms, and they didn’t go hunting or to the shooting range.  Until quite recently, one could not legally conceal and carry a gun within the city limits of Chicago (and then the Supreme Court stepped in and pointed out the violation of the 2nd Amendment and the unconstitutional statute went away).  The change of the law meant little to me.  I didn’t know anyone who rushed out to purchase a weapon (if any did, they didn’t talk to me about it).  Other than noticing the “no guns allowed” emblems that began appearing absolutely everywhere, I didn’t give guns too much thought.  I had no reason to do so.

            I didn’t think much about guns when we moved to the South, either, at least not at first.  My fear of guns didn’t change, even as I met people who grew up hunting and shooting and owning multiple weapons.  I didn’t want a gun, didn’t want to be around one.  Although I sensed I was more completely surrounded by firearms than I had been in Illinois, I put it out of my mind – except when I shopped at Walmart and walked past the Sporting Goods section, where rifles hung prominently.  I just kept on walking. 

            It was during another walk in Tennessee when I began to think about guns.

            My friend Kym and I were taking one of our morning power strolls through our subdivision, when Kym casually mentioned that her moms’ group from church was going to take a handgun safety class, and would I like to join them? 

            I’ll be honest:  my first thought was, “What did she just say?”  My second thought involved what seemed to me to be the irony of church moms firing guns.  And then, quickly, without much more processing, I thought, “Perhaps it’s time. 

            As we walked the cul de sacs near our subdivision’s main pool, I considered the reasons not to take the class:  My fear.  My lack of desire to own a gun.  I didn’t want a handgun, so the class seemed unnecessary.  And “fun” didn’t seem like the right adjective for a day at a handgun training class, either:  how could spending the day around guns be fun?  But then I thought about the reasons to take the class.  Guns are everywhere, particularly where I live.  What if I stumbled across a gun someday?  I had no idea how to hold one or fire one or load one, no idea how to operate a safety, to check whether the gun was loaded, no idea how to stay safe around a gun.  Might that information be helpful?  Perhaps.

            I thought more about my fear.  I don’t like being afraid of anything; no one does.  But here I had a chance to confront a fear, safely and in a controlled environment.  I could take the class, hang out with Kym, face my apprehension, and maybe learn something in the process.  So I told Kym, “Yes,” and I filled out the (extensive) paperwork and wrote my check.

            Had I ever imagined I’d do these things?  No.  But here’s my real “I would have never imagined” moment:  I?  Enjoyed the class.  I enjoyed firing the gun.  I?  Had fun.  I never, ever, ever would have imagined I’d ever feel – or admit – to such a thing.

            I’ve struggled articulating why I so enjoyed the experience.  Part of it involves the instructor, Dennis, a man who focused us on safety but who did so with humor and patience.  Then, too, there was my class, an all-female group of twenty.  It heartened me to see women supporting and encouraging and cheering and congratulating each other.  (That’s too rare, in my experience.)  And there’s also the fact of how I began the day knowing absolutely nothing about guns, but by the end of the day, I felt completely comfortable loading and handling and aiming a gun and shooting at a paper target.  In fact, when I finished my fifty rounds, I’d wanted to fire fifty more.  The word that came to mind was empowered.  Not in the “look-out-I-have-a-loaded-gun-gansta” way, but in the “yay-me-I-just-learned-a-new-skill” way. 

            Maybe most of all, I felt stronger, because I’d started the day very much afraid of something, and ended the day feeling in control of that fear.  Does that mean I want to be on the wrong end of a firearm?  Of course not.  I’d still be terrified – that won’t ever change.  But it does mean that I want to learn more, to take more classes and to get to the range and become even more comfortable with my grip and my stance and my aim.  It means I want the legal right to carry a gun, should I so choose (and should I pass the TBI background check).

            When I posted my target photo on Facebook, more than one friend said to me, “I can’t picture you firing a gun.”  I couldn’t disagree – until I actually did fire a gun.  Now, I can easily picture doing it again, and I look forward to the chance. 

            In the meantime, I take an occasional glance at the paper target, the one now hanging on the bulletin board on the back of my pantry door, and I feel gratitude for Kym’s invitation (and her friendship!) and pride that something that once scared me now empowers me. 

            The fact my newly learned skill makes my husband sleep with one eye open is really just a bonus, I swear.



Thursday, September 17, 2015

If at First You Don't Succeed . . . Meh, Never Mind

Back to blogging with my talented friends!  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, mostly.  Sometimes?  Dont judge me.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

Moma Rock
            This week, Merryland Girl chose the topic, and she asked:  What are FIVE movies that should never, ever, EVER be re-made?  Talk about why for each of them.  Here’s my take:

            If you know me, you know I am not a “movie person.”  I struggle to sit through an entire movie (adult-onset ADD, anyone?) and going to the movies is a punishment for me (a topic for another post, perhaps, but it involves mouth noises).  But, of course, I have a list of movies I truly love and would never, ever want to see re-made.

            But as I thought about those movies, I realized my post would be very short, as my reasons for not wanting those movies re-made would be the same for each:  they got it perfectly right the first time.  Right casting, right script, right direction, right right right.  Sixteen Candles?  Don’t even think of touching it.  Zoolander?  Absolute brilliance.  Casablanca?  The Usual Suspects?  The King and I?  Done completely right the first time.

            And, so, I decided to “flip the script” (ha!) and do the opposite of what Merryland Girl asked.  I’m putting forth a list of five movies I wish would be re-made and the reasons why.  And here we go:

(1)            Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil:  One of my top ten favorite books EVER . . . and an abomination of a movie.  Clint Eastwood should have been arrested, convicted, and imprisoned for what he did to that gem of a book.  The casting?  Horrific.  John Cusack?  Really?  I love John Cusack, but he always plays the same character (even when that character isn’t the one written).  John Berendt, the narrator of Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil is worldly and rather smooth.  John Cusack?  Is not.  Berendt skillfully inserted himself into the Savannah social scene and didn’t play sides.  Cusack’s character?  Did not.  Worse, Eastwood cast his daughter, Allison, as the “heroine,” but (a) she could not for the life of her consistently retain a Southern accent throughout the film; and (b) THERE IS NO HEROINE IN THE BOOK!  The only reason I watched the entire movie was (a) Kevin Spacey was fan-flippin’-tastic as Jim Williams; and (b) the stupid videotape got stuck in the VCR and would not let me either fast forward or eject until it reached the end.  I so wish someone would re-make this movie in a manner true to the book and to the beauty and quirk that is Savannah.  But only if Kevin Spacey reprises his role.

(2)            The Natural:  Yes, another book-turned-film that made me cry for all the wrong reasons.  I read Bernard Malamud’s classic novel in high school and absolutely loved it.  The story is dark and compelling, the hero is no hero.  And then along comes director Barry Levinson and actor Robert Redford and suddenly we have a movie meant to give us the feels, complete with a classic hero running bases in a shower of exploding field lights.  Gag.  Had Levinson or Redford read the actual novel, they would have realized the title was meant to be ironic, as Roy Hobbs is both inherently talented and greatly flawed.  I cannot argue that the cinematography was beautiful, and I enjoyed the soundtrack a great deal.  But someone needs to make a film out of the actual book.  Please.

(3)            Little Shop of Horrors:  I can hear Merryland Girl’s head exploding from here.  She loves this movie (it may even be on her list of movies not to re-make).  I wanted to love this movie, I really did.  I mean, it starred Rick Moranis!  It featured Steve Martin (one of my all-time fave actors/writers/comedians) as a sadistic dentist!  I don’t remember what, exactly, I hated, but I remember feeling the hate and I remember not liking anything but Steve Martin.  I stayed to the end only because I was with a group and didn’t have another ride home.  I cannot honestly say I want this movie to be re-made, but I hold out hope that perhaps someone can create a version that doesn’t make me want to poke out my own eyes with the straw from my giant movie soda.

(4)            Joe vs. The Volcano:  See #3, above.  Wanted to like it, thought it was ridiculously stupid, stayed only because I was with other people (and cell phones didn’t exist back then, so I couldn’t go in the lobby and complain about it on Facebook while I waited).  To me, when you combine Tom Hanks and Meg Ryan, magic should happen.  But it did not.  Stupid, stupid film.  You know what, don’t bother re-making this one, Hollywood!  I don’t think even Kevin Spacey or Steve Martin could save it.

(5)            Shortcuts:  So, esteemed author Raymond Carver authored nine short stories and collected them under the name Shortcuts.  And then esteemed director Robert Altman took said collection and dragged it out into the WORLD’S LONGEST MOVIE EVER.  Oh my gosh, it was actually painful.  This time, I did leave the theater because I could not sit still and process my excessive anger.  The movie dragged on and on and on, and though I do not remember much about the film, I remember disliking every single character and every single plot line.  Funny thing:  I had not read the short story collection prior to viewing, but I read it after – and I liked it!  Thus, Mr. Altman should be verbally berated for this film, and someone else should give it a shot.  (Humble suggestion to anyone who tries:  cut the film off before the three-hour mark.  Thank you.)

So, there you have it.  Curious to hear which movies, if any, you, my Five Loyal Readers would love to see re-made and why.  Perhaps I hated them, too.  Or maybe I can give them a whirl and see how long I last before I throw the remote at the TV and call it a night. 

Thursday, September 10, 2015

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

Back to blogging with my talented friends!  Each week, one of us chooses a topic and we all post a blog entry on that topic, usually on Thursdays.  (Usually we are on time.  Usually.  Ok, sometimes.)

Here are the links to the other fabulous blogs:

            As you, my Five Loyal Readers, know, my fellow bloggers and I took a summer hiatus from blogging to focus on some other areas of our lives.  Blogging is fun, and I’ve been grateful for the opportunity to write alongside my talented co-bloggers, but it’s also a commitment, complete with a deadline.  I will admit I didn’t miss the deadline, even though I did miss the writing. (Some of my co-bloggers did post during this time, and you can see those posts on their respective blogs.)

            But we are back, and this week, Moma Rock asked us to write about what we did while we were on our break. 

            I had lofty goals, I did.  I mentioned a few before we signed off all those months ago.  I even completed a few.  I reviewed my friend Tommy’s book chapter and gave him some feedback.  I took the 11 for an occupational therapy evaluation and found a time for her appointments (I’ve yet to figure out how I will fit these appointments alongside swimming and her other therapy, but I will. ).  I met with two members of the middle school staff and talked about the 11’s IEP (and then the 11 threw me a curve ball and decided to stay in the elementary school .  . . but I got it done!).  We sent the eldest daughter off to Berlin (though I never did read the info packet – am I a bad parent?).  I managed to mail some of those greeting cards; of course, most were late (progress not perfection!) and I’ve completely blown my September mailings to date.  I did some house cleaning, though that has always been, still remains, and always will be an uphill struggle.  I cleaned house in other ways, too:  I finally got a Tennessee driver’s license, turning in my Illinois card without a look back.  I feel like an official resident of the Great State of Tennessee. 

            I did finish my book reviews and then did a few more.  I also accepted a wonderful invitation to become a full-fledged reviewer at Chick Lit Central, so I’ve read a lot and have another pile of reviews to write.  Along those lines, I joined a neighborhood book club, one that meets once a month.  I’ve also started to do other activities with some of the neighborhood women, so I’ve been getting out more, something both necessary and good.

            One friend and I have taken to walking every weekday, a nice five-mile trip through our subdivision.  I also walk at least one weekend morning, usually a slightly longer walk past the middle and high schools.  I regularly hit the Nashville Flea Market (third weekend of the month), and one in Shelbyville, too. 

            And then there were the things I did not plan but which happened, both bad and good.  My beloved cat Uncle Jesse died (I don’t want to talk about it), and so I spent a large chunk of my summer grieving (and I’m not done).  To ease the pain, we adopted a kitten, one who looks frighteningly similar to Nikki Sixx.  We’ve been calling her Squee because she doesn’t meow but instead squeaks.  She’s sweet and naughty and she’s helped distract me, but I still miss my Jesse.  (Also, a kitten?  Not at all helpful with keeping the house clean.)  On the much happier flipside, I’ve also become a fragrance consultant for Gold Canyon Candles, something I never intended when I accepted an invitation to attend a candle mixer at a friend’s home.  I love love love home décor and a nice-smelling (if untidy) home, and I thought, “Why not?”  I hosted my launch mixer this week and had a great time, and I look forward to hosting many more.

            And, of course, I took some time to think and reflect and make sure I wanted to keep writing the blog, because life has become quite full in so many ways.  My blogging girls and I kept in touch during our hiatus because, underneath it all, we have become friends, and that won’t change, regardless of whether we write together.  But we want to, and we will.  And here we are.

            I suppose if I learned any lesson from our break, it’s that we make plans and the Universe laughs.  I started my break with the loftiest of goals.  I achieved some, but not all, and to assume I’d check off every box was a bit naïve of me.  Life is never so neat (kinda like my house). 

            All of which is to say that I’m glad to be back, but I’m sure I will still have weeks where I post late or not at all, or where my post is “meh” at best.  My house will be messy (though it will smell great!), I’ll forget to sign a field trip form, I’ll finally have the emotional energy to find a spot for Jesse’s ashes.  And I’ll get around to editing my book, I will.  All in good time.

            In the meantime, I’ll light a candle for Jesse . . . and then try to keep the kitten from knocking it off the table, grateful for my messy life and for having this forum in which to share it.