Saturday, September 26, 2009

Redefining Hot Pants

One of the new experiences I've had this year is learning how to shoot a handgun and all the responsibilities that come with gun ownership. I don't get to the range as much as I would like, but when I do go, I enjoy myself. I always select the same paper target: The life-size bad guy. He's clad in a baseball cap, flannel shirt, and sun glasses, and he's pointing a handgun at me. I stretegically place neon-orange target circles in various places on the bad guy to track my aim. As I slide the magazine into the gun and squeeze the trigger, I picture myself as one of Charlie's Angels - Kelly, if you really want to know - complete with bellbottom pants. Cheesy? Yes. Effective? Let's just say, my aim is pretty accurate. Bring it on, bad dude.

I consider myself well-versed in the gun safety. Always make sure the safety is on if the gun isn't being fired. Always make sure the firearm is pointed down range. Never point a gun at anyone, unless of course, you mean to use it. But there is one side effect of shooting a gun that I wasn't prepared for and that I can't really control: the spent shell casing. When a gun is fired, the ejected shell casings morph into scalding brass projectiles with no set path. I learned this the hard way: twice.

The first time was several weeks ago. I went to the range wearing a shirt with a modest v-neck. During one round, a shell casing popped straight back and chose my v-neck as it's target. Straight in. It took a few seconds before I felt the searing pain of burning flesh, but once I did I couldn't get the casing out fast enough, especially after it lodged itself in my bra. I tossed my firearm on the ledge of the stall - barrell pointing down range - and reached up my shirt to save my burning boobs from the burning brass. My husband looks at me and says, "You forgot to put the safety on." I looked at him and said, "Apparently, you've never had a hot shell casing stuck in your bra." 'Nuff said.

The second time it happened was yesterday. I chose to wear a white long-sleeved crew neck shirt. Alas, my shirt was no match for one rebel shell casing. This time, it went down my shirt, bypassed the bra, and got stuck between by innie/outie belly button and the waist of my belted jeans. It was stuck for several seconds. You know those westerns where one cowboy says to the other cowboy, "Dance" and starts firing his gun at his enemy's feet? Well, I was the enemy, and I was dancing fast. My jeans are too big in the waist, and my flailing caused the shell casing to dislodged and travel down my right leg. I was finally able to shake it out, but not before it created an anvil-shaped burn mark right below my innie/outie belly button and two striped burn marks on my upper right thigh. Talk about hot pants.

Life lesson: Expect the unexpected and protect your goodies at all times.

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

Off the Wagon

I must confess ... I've fallen off of the writing wagon and I can't get up. This is only my second post this month, and I haven't done any other writing outside of the blog (unless you count reports for my graduate course, which I do not). I haven't even looked at the fast and furious fifteen-minutes-a-day writing I did last month. What's up with that? What happened to my motivation? My mojo?

I've let life take over again. I often wonder if perhaps I'm not as into writing and being a writer as I thought I was. Maybe I'm trying to force something to be "my thing" that really isn't "my thing" any longer. If that's the case, then I'm scared because I don't have a back up "thing." It just seems to me that if Iwas passionate about writing, then I wouldn't always let life get in the way. It seems to me that I would carve out that writing time if I really wanted it. Maybe it's just not the right time for me to be writing. Then again, if not now, when? Life is such a handy excuse for neglecting something or someone, isn't it?

No pledges to do better. No promises that I'll hop right back up on the wagon with a "Yippee-Ki-Yay" and a "Giddy-up." I'm just gonna keep on keepin' on. Who knows? Maybe this "life" excuse will wind up as my Great American novel ...

Monday, September 7, 2009

To the Land of Oz and Back Again

Ha ha ha
Ho ho ho
And a couple of tra la las
That's how we laugh the day away
In the merry old land of Oz
Maybe we didn't laugh the entire day away, but we did enjoy our time in the merry old land of Oz (aka rural Kansas). But there is something so authentic about rural America that makes this trip rate as one of my top journeys.
Every two years, on the Sunday of Labor Day weekend, my mother's side of the family hosts a family reunion at the Rolling Prairie Senior Citizens Center in White City, Kansas. White City is somewhere south of Junction City. You take Skiddy Road due south, complete a bunch of loop-de-loops and, with any luck, wind up on MacKenzie St. (aka The Main Drag). Along the way, you encounter roadside dwellings that make you start humming the tune from the movie, "Deliverance." You know the one. You also pass dwellings that prompt your husband to utter, "I think the Texas Chainsaw Massacre guy lives there." As you continue driving, keeping your fingers and toes crossed that you are headed the right way, you find it necessary to concoct an exit strategy in case the car breaks down. Ours was to strap the peeps in their strollers and run as fast as we could the rest of the way to White City. The only assurances that you are indeed headed in the right direction are the randomly placed signs with "White City" and directional arrows. We made it to the reunion, and I had a great time catching up with aunts, uncles, and cousins and showing off my peeps.
Wamego, KS. We could have made it to White City and back home in one day, but Mark and I decided to create a mini-vacation and we left Saturday morning for Abilene, Kansas. As we drove west on I-70, we started noticing signs for the Oz Winery, located just off the interstate in Wamego, Kansas. The peeps are very much into "The Wizard of Oz" right now, and Mark and I are very much into wine, so a side trip was in order. Apparently, Wamego is considered by some to be the "Oz Capital of the World." Who knew? In addition to the winery (we picked up a bottle of "Run Toto Run") there is an Oz Museum that boasts an extensive collection of movie memorabilia. The chance to stretch our legs did everyone some good, and we hopped back into the car and headed farther west.
Abilene, KS. Abilene is my mother's hometown and it holds specific childhood memories for me, even though the time I spent there as a girl was limited. Abilene was, and in some ways, still is, a true cowboy town. It represents the end of the Chisholm Trail and once had Wild Bill Hickock as its sheriff. The school mascots are the Cowboys and Cowgirls. President Eisenhower was from Abilene, and the Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum is located there. As a young girl, I marveled at Old Abilene Town, a tourist attraction that offered Old West gun fights, Can Can girls dancing in a saloon, and authentic buildings from the 1800s that begged for exploration. Old Abilene Town still exists, though it's a shell of what I remember as a kid. We missed the Can Can girls, and the peeps didn't care for the crack of gunfire. But they did enjoy the C.W. Parker Carousel, a national landmark that features 24 hand-carved horses. The girls had the carousel all to themselves. Ruthie rode a black horse called "Dino Thunder." A Wurlitzer provided carnival music for their ride. The girls also enjoyed their time at Eisenhower Park. Before heading to White City Sunday morning, we stopped in at the Russell Stover Factory and Outlet store where we dropped $37 on discounted chocolate. My husband kept reminding me how much the actual cost of the chocolate would have been had we purchased it at full retail price.
Now that we're back, I can wax nostalgic about how perfect the trip was. But like most things in life, the trip was far from perfect. Meltdowns and squabbles - from adults and toddlers alike - are standard fare for any road trip taken in close quarters. The web site we relied upon for information was out of date, forcing us to move to Plan B, and sometimes Plan C more often that we would have liked. The spacious hotel room became a bit claustrophobic after the first hour. We were all happy to sleep in our beds last night.
Dorothy was right ... "There's no place like home."