Friday, September 20, 2013

The One Where the Bleeding-Heart Liberal Goes to the Target Range

Several years ago, I wrote about my bucket list. I'm too lazy to link to it and it probably wasn't very well-written anyway, so just try to remember.

One of the items on it was...firing a weapon. As of yesterday, I can cross that sucker right off the list.

It was a big day. I first met my sister to sign off on the final paperwork to close my mother's estate. (The holdup after the sale of the house? A final $8 water bill and a misfiled IRS form. Incompetence for the win!) And then I just, I don't know...felt the desire to shoot something.

No, it wasn't that sudden a decision. A dear friend offered to help me put this one in the "Done" column weeks ago. It just worked out that I was able to celebrate life moving on (by holding a deadly weapon) after closing that particularly painful chapter of my life.

I was thrilled that the range we went to had zombie targets. So instead of refining my aim on a figure modeled after a living human, I could pump lead into something modeled after a theoretical dead human. This actually made it easier. Point a weapon at a real live man, even if he has broken into my home? Scary for me. Point a weapon at Osama bin Zombie? All in an evening's entertainment.

The first shot left me completely overwhelmed and frightened by the power I held in my hands. The sound and kickback were nearly enough to make me put down the firearm and walk away for good. This was not a toy. This was not a game. This was not a TV show or movie. This was a deadly weapon. Made for one purpose--killing. I felt neither worthy nor qualified to be responsible for an object and action with that kind of power. I am not sure what I expected. But it looks so easy in fiction.

The truth is that it takes intent to squeeze the trigger of a firearm. It took physical and mental focus and a fight against my most base human instinct--do no harm. That might have just been a paper zombie I was pointing a gun towards. But looking down the barrel, lining it up with his body, aiming, firing...I knew that whatever I did in that moment was irreversible. Destructive.


I am exactly as good a shot as you would expect. Which is to say I'm not a good shot at all. Against an extremely slow-moving Walking Dead zombie who hasn't fed in a while, I might be able to save my life. Provided ammo is plentiful and I get multiple tries and he eventually just stands still about five feet away from me. You know, as hungry zombies are wont to do. Against a 28 Days Later zombie, I'm still going to need a shooting partner with terrific aim and an infinity clip or I'll be lunch.

And against a living person who may or may not also be armed himself...yeah, I'd be a goner.

I did improve after going through a crap load of my friend's ammunition. And it wasn't so scary after the first few reloads. It became more comfortable, more natural.

Which, come to think of it, might be the most unsettling part.

Some other observations from this experience--

We shared the range with several people firing guns of the variety where you don't really need to aim and squeeze so much as point and spray.

"You got him 4 times in the chest that time, babe!" I heard a guy tell his girlfriend.

Seeing as how you fired about 100 rounds in that thing's general direction, I should hope so, I said. But only in my head. Because that gun was SCARY.

I guess I thought we'd all be separated from each other in some secure, concrete fashion, seeing as how we were all in a room with only one way out, trapped with a bunch of complete strangers holding guns and ammo. That was not the case. I worried, sincerely, that I was either going to accidentally shoot someone or get purposefully shot myself, because again, POOR AIM. I was a terrific target for any crazy who maybe decided blue paper forms were a little boring and not nearly bloody enough for true shooting practice that day. It's a miracle that there's not a daily headline along the lines of, "MURDER AND ACCIDENTAL SHOOTING AT LOCAL FIRING RANGE. AGAIN."

Also, gunpowder smells. Two showers and multiple hand washings later, and I still think I smell it on my hands. I worry for the respiratory health of anyone who practices regularly at the range, especially if that's part of their job. But I guess if you have that job, you kinda have bigger job hazards. Like death. Law-enforcement-type people--I respect you more than ever.

After all this, will I do this again? Or was this a one-and-done? Would you judge me if I said I would like a second shot (!) at it?

Because I think I might.

Because of the zombies.

Thursday, September 12, 2013


Another young life lost. Eff you, cancer.

A girl I went to school with, who kicked my ass at track practice during my short tenure in that sport, who fought with everything she had, who leaves behind children too young to be without their mom, died from breast cancer this week.

It's made me sad. And then angry. Because I just don't understand why cancer has to take the good ones. Why can't cancer take out the assholes and let the rest of us be?

God knows there are enough of them.

Seriously, can you imagine a world where Osama bin Laden died a slow, painful death from anal cancer shortly before his 38th birthday? We'd live in a better place, wouldn't we?

Instead, cancer takes the good people. Our mothers and fathers. Our sisters and brothers. Our spouses, in the prime of their lives. Children. Those we love. Those we need.

Life's not fair. I know this. I've said this to my own daughter. But that's cold comfort when someone dies before their time, and the only thing they're guilty of is cell division gone amok.

Meanwhile, there are murderers and rapists and sociopaths and genocidal maniacs who live to be old.

Go pick on them a while, cancer. Do the world a favor.

But leave the rest of us alone.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Swim Mom Boot Camp

If you wonder where I went this summer, and why I didn't post, it's because I went to Swim Mom Boot Camp.

I started this season as a proud but reasonable human being who swore that we would not let swimming take over our family and our lives, that we would do the bare minimum to meet the requirements of the kid's team and her dreams of moderate success. I ended the season more animal than woman, a creature subsisting on tumblers full of Starbucks and the tears of other swim clubs' children. I screamed "GO! GO! GOOOOOOOO!" from crowded and overheated bleachers until my voice gave out. I wore team colors and spirit wear. Hell, I even bought a team coffee mug perfect for carrying spiked coffee to Saturday night finals.

I sold out. I drank the Kool-Aid. I made small talk with other swim parents who were one click to the right of being complete strangers. Small talk! I don't do that.

I even (gasp!) bought my daugher a fast suit.

When I look in the mirror, I barely recognize my own tired face. This could be because the humidity inside heated natatoriums steams the mirrors. But I'm going with the whole fatigue and shock-and- awe thing.

I was willing to do all this because I believed that Ainsley's success this season would be the last success she'd see for a couple of years. The plan was that we would devote ourselves wholeheartedly to swim for her last season in the 10-and-under age group, for once she aged up to the 11-12 group, things would be harder. She wouldn't be expected to make cuts and finals. We could, as we had done in previous seasons, allow ourselves to fade into the background.

But funny things happen when you play the game. You rise from obscurity and make yourself known. Sometimes it's impossible to just fade back into apathy and mediocrity once you've shown coach-type people your potential as both an athlete and an athletic supporter. (Ba-dum-dum.) So instead of going back to being bleacher wallpaper and middle-of-the-packers in the first year of this new age group, the kid done got herself, and by proxy, us, promoted to the performance group. Where the kids are expected to truly compete. And the parents to participate. And not miss practices, and swim in every meet. And sign our names in blood on the dotted lines.

I kid you not--the invitation to join this group actually said, "If you accept this invitation, you are putting swim above all other activities." It's worded like a fricking commandment. Thou shalt have no other gods before swim.

It's intense. And stressful. And time-consuming. There were days this summer that I looked at my husband and said, "I can't do this anymore. I need my life back."

And yet.

There is unspeakable joy in watching a child celebrate an unexpected top-10 finish. Ainsley was not one of her team's superstars who always won everything, so her underdog and most-improved status made every trip to finals all the sweeter. I got to watch my kid's team win state. I saw the pride on Ainsley's face when she told me that her coach singled her out for praise during an extremely difficult practice set. I stood breathless on the shore of a lake as my only child swam a kilometer in open water, with the kid telling me after that it was both the hardest and best thing she's ever done.

It was a lot of work for her. And for us. But never in my life have I had more concrete proof that hard work pays off.

It all started over again last week as Ainsley had her first practice in her new age group. She was thrilled, and ready for a new challenge, and committed to being the best swimmer she can be. I was mostly overwhelmed.

But I've been to camp. I've got this.