Sunday, August 30, 2009

World War Zucchini

"Squash never fail to reach maturity. You can spray them with acid, beat them with sticks and burn them; they love it."
- S.J. Perelman

I seemed to have lost the zucchini wars and had some to get rid of. So it was time to peruse though the weekend's reading material to find something to make with them, other than the usual recipes.
I didn't find anything in those (make note to self: check pond for zombies before swimming).

So the next step is the tried and true recipe cards. Here's a good one!


Zucchini Walnut Bars with Buttercream Frosting.

(click on photo to enlarge)
My Dad has a garden and as gardens grow, he usually has an abundance of zucchini. He and my stepmom did their best with the overabundance. But after zucchini bread, zucchini cake and zucchini margaritas (just kidding) it was time to give away the crop. This involved putting the veggies (with a few nice ripe tomatoes in as decoys) into a paper bag, leaving them on the porch of some poor Lutheran church member, ringing the doorbell and. . . . . RUN!!

Here's a way to make some disappear that even die hard "I hate zucchini, even zucchini bread!" people at the range snarfed up.

And I didn't even have to ring a doorbell. Though I did leave a small plate of them on the porch swing with a note for the Fed Ex guy who delivers my reloading stuff. They disappeared as well.

Friday, August 28, 2009

POINT AND SHOOT

Mal: "If anyone gets nosy, just...you know... shoot 'em."
Zoe: "Shoot 'em?"
Mal: "Politely."
-- -------------------------------------------Firefly

It's still a ways until whitetail season folks, but it IS bowling pin season, as we speak.
If you've not tried one it's time. You shoot the pins, but watch out. If they fall over with the small pointy end forward they're a bear to get off the table in the time and shots you have left.
Yes, that's Caleb from Gun Nuts Media at one of the state Fish and Game ranges. You know, there is more happening at your local fish and game or conservation range than just point and shoot. A number of them have bowling pin matches, putting your quick shoot skills against a line of bowling pins intent on standing up, in addition to great everyday, match and proficiency shooting opportunities, in an environment of safe gun handling and family oriented sportsmanship.

Take THAT, evil bowling pins!
Another fun way to spend the evening is the steel plate match.

Here's some photos from one, at Marion County Fish and Game (also check out Atlanta Conservation Club, north of Indy, a GREAT bunch of folks and an awesome range). These matches are typically held once a month, in the evening when the day is cooling and the winds have settled down. On this evening, here were 50 shooters, and five stages, some tactical, shooting around and through things, others plates in varying sizes, and some a combination of plates and tiny little Discworld Dwarf sized silhouettes. Here is Caleb, shooting from the tactical position.

But I did notice, other than my usual group, there were no women shooters, though one scorekeeper was female (and a redhead).

I know a number of women who own a weapon for self defense and all shoot for sport as well. There is a decided benefit to weapon ownership. And it's a benefit to others, who may not be armed themselves. For you see, those that want to harm you for wanton gratification, rage against life or your gender, or for profit, do not know who carries and who does not. Over time, they have the decided chance of accidentally attacking an armed person, male OR female. Even if you don't carry to resist evil, you still have some protection by protective mimicry, as in nature, when harmless animals resemble a more formidable foe, giving pause to even the most determined of predators. I think that predators that pick their victims based on their expected lack of resistance, size or ability to fight back will think twice if they believe their small target is carrying a gun. Especially one that has the ability to put a sizable hole in them.

But in order to carry with confidence, you need to not only have a weapon you are comfortable with, but you need to practice with it. Sitting in the drawer after a friend or loved one instructed you in it's use, with dim light in your room, your Adrenalin running, is not the time to be fumbling with your gun. The rapist/home intruder is not going to wait. Participating in some of the activities at the local range is one way to dust off your skills and have some fun and fellowship with fellow shooters. For concealed, during the summer when clothing is lighter, I usually carry something something a bit smaller in size, but what I fired at the match was a .45 caliber.

Some people say that a .22 caliber handgun is as strong as a woman can manage, and some men will actively discourage a woman from purchasing anything stronger. Unless you are weak from illness or have a motor or neurological problem that prevents you from holding onto something firmly, this is frankly not true. Women come in all sizes, but it's a rare woman who is so small or weak of grip that she could not fire a .45 with proper training and the right shooting stance.

But if someone tries to foist off a small caliber handgun on you, with "That's too big a gun for a girl," you need to talk with one some of the female shooters in the blog world, women who can tell you that a larger handgun is no problem. In sport shooting certainly it only ensures a bigger smile on the face, be it it a Ruger .357 M or a S & W 686.357M in your hand.

It's confidence and stance, not brawn.

The stance I believe I use is known as the modified Weaver (or Chapman stance) and might be a good alternative for most female shooters with a higher caliber weapon. In this stance the body is held similarly to the Weaver (at a 45 degree angle to your target with your dominant hand and foot back) but the gun hand is locked out straight (like a rifle stock), with the other arm slightly bent. The advantage with this, it reduces trembling in someone with reduced upper body strength and allows one to shoot even .357 rounds with few problems. The key is to maintain the "push-pull" nature of the grip. You'll still get good recoil, but not to where it upsets your next shot. If you are cross eye dominant, as I am, it's even better as it allows you to line up one eye with the opposite hand.

I wear my usual range wear, an over sized, loose weave, cotton shirt, to help keep me comfortable, temperature wise, and protect my arms from any &*# that's HOT, casings.
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Here's a little steel fun with a Volquartsen Barrel Ruger 10/22 with a C-More sight that the range officer for our group owned, and handed to me to try out. It was a 40 grain bullet and with the feet per second, it didn't "PING" the targets with a hit like the .45, but it was light and accurate. My AR15 it was not, but it was FUN!
video
One other thing I noticed at the match, that in addition to all range of skills, there were all ranges of ages, from the college crowd to the very old. If you've ever thought of taking up a shooting sport or learning to shoot for self defense, don't let age stop you. One is never to old to learn. One is never to old to take in their hand the instrument that for them, will be the perfect medium between the spiritual and the physical, the roaring blast of a dream, and the lingering echo of their strength. Big caliber, small caliber, it is what works best for you, but don't stay away from the range because you feel you are too old, too rusty in skills that went stale, or too fixed in your life. And definitely don't stay away because you worry about being the only female or the only beginner.

So try an outdoor pin match or steel plate match. Even if you've never done it before. Trust me, no one laughs even if it's one of those days you can't shoot your way out of a paper bag. I was pretty nervous on my first one, but everyone was so supportive and I had a blast. And you WILL have fun, an evening in the spirit of sportsmanship, liberty and the basic rights we should all bring out to the range table on more than the rare weekend.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Brown Sugar Bacon

“I’m never gonna get used to the 31st century. Caffeinated bacon? Baconated grapefruit? ADMIRAL Crunch?”
Fry, Futurama

Bacon is showing up in all kinds of things any more. When there's bacon beer I'll probably believe the trend has run it's course. I still experiment a bit, and with about 7 hours of sleep in three days, the concept of dinner was rather mundane. It could be breakfast, as I'm not sure WHAT time zone or century my body clock is in. At least I'm home.

But not just any breakfast. Bacon sprinkled with brown sugar and then baked til crispy and then stired into batter? Not just any waffle batter, but one that bakes up extra light and crispy. Did I mention there was maple syrup and leftover strawberries?

I'm not sure, but I think this is illegal in 14 states.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

And We

"A strong body makes the mind strong. As to the species of exercises, I advise the gun. While this gives moderate exercise to the body, it gives boldness, enterprise and independence to the mind. Games played with the ball, and others of that nature, are too violent for the body and stamp no character on the mind. Let your gun therefore be your constant companion of your walks."---
Thomas Jefferson to Peter Carr, 1785
. The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

"One loves to possess arms, though they hope never to have occasion for them." ---
Thomas Jefferson to George Washington, 1796.
The Writings of Thomas Jefferson, (Memorial Edition) Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

"We established however some, although not all its [self-government] important principles . The constitutions of most of our States assert, that all power is inherent in the people; that they may exercise it by themselves, in all cases to which they think themselves competent, (as in electing their functionaries executive and legislative, and deciding by a jury of themselves, in all judiciary cases in which any fact is involved,) or they may act by representatives, freely and equally chosen; that it is their right and duty to be at all times armed;" ---
Thomas Jefferson to John Cartwright, 1824. Memorial Edition 16:45, Lipscomb and Bergh, editors.

"No freeman shall ever be debarred the use of arms." ---Thomas Jefferson: Draft Virginia Constitution, 1776."The Constitution preserves the advantage of being armed which Americans possess over the people of almost every other nation...(where) the governments are afraid to trust the people with arms."---
James Madison,The Federalist Papers, No. 46.

"To suppose arms in the hands of citizens, to be used at individual discretion, except in private self-defense, or by partial orders of towns, countries or districts of a state, is to demolish every constitution, and lay the laws prostrate, so that liberty can be enjoyed by no man; it is a dissolution of the government. The fundamental law of the militia is, that it be created, directed and commanded by the laws, and ever for the support of the laws."---
John Adams, A Defence of the Constitutions of the United States 475 (1787-1788)

"Myself - I can just say. Who are the militia? If it is my home, my body, my freedom being threatened, then frankly, the militia is ME. The power of my weapon is not, at that moment in time, within the order of my life as it is lived at that moment, with the Government. Itis where it should be always be, God willing, in my hands, trained and ready to defend and protect." ---
Brigid- Home on the Range

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Internet Squirrel

You all saw that photo on the internet of the squirrel that made his way into the vacationing couple's photo. The shot, with the camera set on timer, was taken in Canada’s Banff National Park, while the couple was hiking back in May.

That is one popular squirrel.

He's EVERYWHERE!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Dinner is going to be WHAT??

Church Supper Chicken Dinner.

This is one of those recipes that is in probably every church cookbook I've ever seen. Probably because it's easy and good. I added a few Home on the Range touches, which made it even better.

Start by rubbing the chicken with Old Bay Seafood seasoning (yes, but just a little) then sauteing a Vidalia onion in a tiny bit of olive oil. I used fresh cut up leg and thigh pieces, but you can use skinless, boneless chicken breasts and just cook them about 15 minutes less. Ladle the caramelized onion over the rubbed chicken in a 13 x 9 inch pan. Mix up one glass bottle of country French dressing (not the chemical laden Catalina stuff), a small jar of farm fresh peach preserves (not jelly) and the obligatory packet of Lipton onion soup mix (even I'm not Martha Stewart enough to make my own) and pour over the chicken pieces.

Here's what it looks like going into the oven.
















For bone-in chicken, bake for an hour and a half, covered with foil, at 350 degrees, turning once or twice, then pop under the broiler for just less than a minute to fully glaze the chicken. Serve with fresh noodles (another post for another time, I promise, tomorrow is going to be a very long and late shift I'm afraid). Tonight's veggies? Fresh picked peas and mushrooms.

The Lutheran church ladies would be proud.
(click to enlarge)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dear Santa

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Amazon apparently has a "wish list" function where one can post things they want to buy or have their friends to buy for them.

None of the things I wanted are for sale on Amazon though. So I'll do my list the old fashioned way.

Just a few old pieces to keep the Mausers company, if any of these can be found any more.

Shiloh Sharps 1874 Long Range Rifle
Colt 1860 Army
Briswold & Gunnison 1860
Colt 1851 "U.S. Marshall
Colt 1862 Pocket Navy
Remington 1858 New Army
Thompson Center Arms Hawken Plains Rifle
Colt Dragoon 1848
Colt Walker 1847
Enfield 1863 Calvary Carbine

Stranger things have happened. It appears Santa reads my blog.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Red Fire Bar

I made the trek into the city to Whole Foods today and this fell into my basket.

RED FIRE BAR - 55% dark cacao Dark chocolate with Mexican ancho y chipotle chilies and Ceylon cinnamon.

Some Spanish priests during the 19th century were said to be wary of the passion inspired by chile peppers, assuming they were aphrodisiacs. A few preached sermons against indulgence in a food which they said was almost as "hot as hell's brimstone."

Avert your eyes, I'm going to take my chances.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Early birds

click photo to enlarge

I wake early around here, on work days often up at 3:30 or 4. Weekends, I sleep in til 6:30. Chores to do, four legged critters to feed, and two legged critters wishing for something other than a bowl of Raisin Bran. Best Drop Biscuits with Farm Raised Honey. You all go ahead and sleep in now. . . .

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Post Birthday Musings


Birthday Celebrations. Some people around me, in daily comings and goings, have grumbled on their birthdays, especially as they get older, that they have nothing to celebrate. A President they didn't vote for, a job that's either inadequate or absent, or the loss of things held dear.

Some even said "I prayed that things would be different this year!" How do you explain to someone that prayer is not a quick fix, an instant healing? Prayer is not asking, it is a longing of the soul. It is a daily admission of one's heart; it is giving words to that you seek answers for. I don't attend church on any regular basis, weekends are often on call or working. Life doesn't stop according to the calender, and disaster does not take a day of rest. But my faith is a quiet, deep stream and I talk to God daily. You can call it prayer if you want. I don't say a whole lot when I pray, but I know He hears, for isn't it better to have a heart without words, than words without a heart?

Hindsight is 20/20. I look back at many things that have happened to me, love, loss, illness, times of searing pain that have honed me into the person I am. I wake up too sometimes with dread for the direction I see our country headed, fearful in the things that concern all of us, yet I truly believe that life is good, each day an adventure. For there's a hope in me, a wonderment just to be alive. If some higher power could have kept me from feeling life's pain would I have asked for it? Of course. Yet I would not be who I am, without my experiences. I am a better person for my trials. Think of something that you wished for, and didn't get, that ended up being something completely unexpected, and even more wonderful.

I was a teenager and abandoned by my boyfriend when I first believed I was pregnant. Scared and angry as I first prayed "oh please don't let me be", I had not known, in my brief years, that life itself lay embedded in each lustrous moment. I had yet to grasp the science and wonder that changed amino acids into living cells or glimpse the miracle of spontaneous healing - forgiveness where once there was despair and anger. I had listened to a hundred old hymns as I grew up and loved the music, but had not dared hope that from my own flesh I would see the transcendent.

I am reminded daily that I am, we all are, destined to die—but just as surely to participate in our role in creation.And she was born. I had prayed that it would not happen. Now someone new and beautiful lay breathing, a soft deep breath of trust in life. I really didn't know how lacking in hope I had been until then. And the event that I had prayed would not take place became my greatest accomplishment and her small redheaded form, my biggest act of courage.

And on this MY birthday, she was alive and well, having a wonderful meal with her adoptive parents, followed perhaps by a call to her "other Mom", with their blessing. We could laugh and talk of many things, of books and movies, friends and dreams. We could giggle like long friends, and, for a moment, that ache of loss will be but a wisp of woodsmoke drawn up from my outdoor fireplace into the promising night.

For on my birthday and always, I am thankful for her and all she has brought to a wonderful family. So I'd have to say on this birthday that turned out much different than I'd planned a year ago - what we have, even if unplanned, was worth celebrating. The surprises in our life, when we think there are none left, are things to savor.





I'd also say our prayers are all answered; we just don't always get the answer we want. As much as you might wish it to be, you can't always measure the work of the universe with order and logic, any more than you can expect to have everything you ask for. For neither our government, or our God, are some sort of divine help-desk we can call for response to every monetary and physical need. But I do believe that with our God, that we are heard. So on this birthday I would continue to pray for family, for a small group of friends whom I love, and that great liberty of laughter and hope, still knocking on my door.

--Brigid

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Forget the Stock Market - Whitetail Futures - a Pictorial


I also want to go whitetail hunting. But they're not afraid of my knife.

They might be afraid of this. . . .

Mr. Whitetail. Meet Mr. Muzzleloader.

And the Bullet Brothers
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Barkley smells trouble brewing in the woods.
I smell Guinness Braised Bambi Brats.

Click to enlarge - come on, I know you want to.
And perhaps a new stuffed animal for the wall.
My first bow kill, not that large but I was a happy hunter that day.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Cornucopia

Frank W. James brought, as promised, a truck load of corn to the IND blog meet. It was a really good turn out, with the regulars, and a few new faces. The corn is incredible. But after prepping some for the freezer (Frank has great instructions on his sidebar for storing fresh corn), I had a cup or two left after prepping that there was no room in a freezer bag for. What to do with it?

An experiment in the kitchen to use up a couple things in the fridge before they went out of date. It started out as cornbread and went off the beaten path. The result? A thin, cake textured cornbread with some extra touches. One Jiffy cornbread mix, 4 Tablespoons of melted butter, a tablespoon of milk, half a cup of cottage cheese, a dash of sugar and a pinch of nutmeg, a handful of fresh corn blanched with sugar and salt (or you could use thawed corn from the freezer) and two beaten eggs, mixed all together in a bowl and then baked in a lightly buttered and pre-heated cast iron skillet at 400 degrees for about 22 minutes.

In the oven it didn't look all that exciting. It didn't rise very high and was just bumpy looking.
But it baked up light yet dense, with a crisp buttery edge to it, and a soft, not too sweet touch in the center. The cottage cheese just sort of melted into it, leaving just the bare trace of moist flavor. I grabbed a salad plate, just as the sun was setting on the horizon, dabbed on a bit of fresh butter and drizzled it with just a bit of pure maple syrup.

Supper on the deck.

click on the pic to enlarge. Hope you're not hungry.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

Great Range Day


Went to the conservation range, not the LEO one today and just got home. The truck was loaded up and there were lots of toys to play with. The first round drew blood, I still have a bright red mark where a shell from the pistol fired after a friends M1 Garand got me between the eyes. I have black powder on my shirt, a sunburn on my nose and I got stung by a Wasp Twice. WHAT A GREAT DAY!Then the tracker beam at Dairy Queen locked onto the car on the drive home. Oh NO!

More range report after the weekend. I've got friends coming down from up North for dinner and there's supper to be made.

The Early Bird Gets The . . . . .


QUISP?

You remember Quisp? The voice of Quisp on the commercials was Daws Butler, the voice of Yogi Bear, Quick Draw McGraw, Snagglepuss and Huckleberry Hound. It tastes like Captain Crunch but doesn't remove the roof of your mouth when you eat it. The slogan I remember as a kid in 1970. . . "it gives you Quazy energy".

Look folks, on range day, there's no time for gourmet, especially as it's going to be 90 degrees today and a number of LEO's will be wanting to use the range. Some sugar and carbs and I'm out the door.

Because I have Quazy Energy. . . . . And an AR15.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Can You Hear Me Now - A Reader Requested Re-Post


You know your social life is lacking when you meet up with a guy and he says "Did you bring protection?" and you know he's talking about eyes and ear.

I sometimes have to go weeks between shooting due to my schedule, work on the property or tending to my parents, but when I do go, I usually meet my friends at the local LEO range or at one of the Fish and Game or Conservation ranges. Most ranges won't allow shooters out unless they have both eye and ear protection, but I've encountered several shooters outdoors in the field, chasing birds or game, that wear nothing to protect against the dB's of shotgun blast.

The sound of gunfire is the most hazardous non-occupational noise to which adults are exposed and can be a cause of noise induced hearing loss. The damage happens to the microscopic hair cells found inside the cochlea. These cells respond to mechanical sound vibrations by sending an electrical signal to the auditory nerve. Different groups of hair cells are responsible for different frequencies (rate of vibrations). The healthy human ear can hear frequencies ranging from 20Hz to 20,000 Hz. Over time, the hair cell's hair-like stereocilia may get damaged or broken. If enough of them are damaged, hearing loss results. The high frequency area of the cochlea is often damaged by loud sound.

Sound pressure is measured in decibels (dB). Like a temperature scale, the decibel scale goes below zero. The average person can hear sounds down to about 0 dB, such as the level of rustling leaves, or someone out in the kitchen trying to sneak that last brownie out of the pan. Conversations run up to as much as 60 dB, still not enough for damage, even if of filibuster quality. If a sound reaches 85 dB (an idling bulldozer) or stronger, it can cause permanent damage to your hearing over time. The following is the peak sound pressure levels of typical pistols (from freehearingtest.com)
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What is so insidious about peak levels such as these is that a single shot experienced by an unprotected ear could lead to immediate and permanent hearing loss of some degree, often accompanied by ringing, hissing, or humming in the ears. Just because you might have shot without protection in the past, and without apparent hearing loss, does not mean you might not have damage incur the next time. Exposure to peaks sound pressures can be likened to accidentally dropping that glass Guinness bottle on the tile floor. It might break, and it might not, but you can't bet on that outcome.

Recreational firearm noise has been cited as a primary cause of hearing loss incurred during leisure activity. It is estimated that in the United States, well over 60 million Americans shoot firearms as part of recreational target practice or when hunting various wildlife. The use of firearms while hunting is of special concern because it has been reported that only about 1% of hunters use hearing protection devices. [1]

I'd suggest that even if you aren't a "regular" shooter, you invest in a good piece of hearing protection. Sure, many ranges offer a set free to use or will "rent" you a set for dollar or two charge. But frankly, the starting quality and wear from many heads larger than mine, rendered some so poor that I would have been better served taking my bra off, wrapping it around my head, and stuffing a cup in each ear.

It's not just quality of the dampening of sound, but comfort. Too loose, and you lose a large degree of the hearing protection. Too tight and you'll feel like you spent the morning with your ex spouse, not your favorite weapon. Grabbing a "free" pair at the range is not always the best way to go.

There are a lot of choices in high performance shooting hearing protection devices, many quite lightweight and comfortable. One newer offering is the Howard Leight Sport Earmuff. It's got a noise reduction rating of 22db and is VERY low profile, electronically enhanced it will amplify ambient low level noise (i.e. conversation) while truly muffling more dangerous sound. It is, however, around $60. Not cheap, but reasonable for the quality product you'll get.

Howard Leight has some excellent overall and inexpensive ear protection. The one I carry with me everywhere as a "spare" is the Leightning L3 muff. It's sleekly elegant in design and very economical. The seal is excellent with a slow-recovery soft foam, without sacrificing comfort. The headband is extra long and softly padded, with pivoting cups that fit like a custom headband at a very decent price. With an NRR of 30d dB, one of the highest rated for any earmuff it's my favorite. I noticed the cold that required a jacket but NOT my earmuffs this day. Not all online shooting supply vendors carries them. I found an expensive pair to have on hand as main wear, or spare, through another favorite, Midway USA, who has them for $24.99. This pair is 3 years old and still performs as well as new. That's my own choice. You'll have your favorites. Beretta has a good one for less than $30. And Cabellas always has an assortment of well reviewed ear protection in all price ranges.

You can go high end, spending several hundred dollars, but some of the fancier ones with
four high-frequency directional microphones and two-channel digital circuitry, adjustable frequency tuning to enhance sounds on specific frequencies, 50db amplification, adjustable headsets and muffs with antimicrobial treatment, frankly aren't as well reviewed as the more budget minded ear protection. For $370 I would want it to not just comfortably cancel noise, but take Barkley for a walk and give me a back rub.
One size fits all, well, doesn't. You can find a variety of adjustable muffs for less than $40. One I liked using when I was out of town shooting and borrowed some gear, was the Pro Ears with the Soft ProForm® leather ear seals (forms tightly to your head without binding too tightly) and ProTen® headband, that can be adjusted to fit all head sizes, from youth to overinflated Congressman. These are available in three NRR ratings: 26, 28, and 33.

The bottom line - some kind of hearing protection should always be worn when firing guns. Some will even choose to use dual protection because it reduces the sounds even further for greater protection, and for some, for better shooting as well (since the pulses are lower and the likelihood of flinching is reduced). If I'm shooting a big boomstick at an indoor LEO range, which I've done before, I'll wear both muffs and the washable E.A.R. ULTRA-FIT EAR PLUGS that you can find most places, and often for next to nothing.

I'm not trying to sell you a particular brand, or a particular vendor. I'm simply saying that there are many choices, and like your weapon and holster, you should pick one with good fit, comfort and protection. You may have a chance at that pheasant you missed on another day, but hearing lost in the field can't be regained. It's worth some messed up hair and a few dollars out of your pocket for quality equipment, to protect that.

For remember what the great
Red Green said - "What doesn't kill you, makes you hard of hearing".


(1) Kramer WL, Updike CD. Recreational shooters and their use of hearing protection. Presented at the Annual Meeting of the American Speech-Language-Hearing Association; November 1991; Seattle, Wash.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

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It came in the mail today like a letter bomb.

An invite to join AARP. I believe it will make a good target this Saturday. Next Wednesday is my birthday. They couldn't wait.

I feel about aging like William Saroyan said he felt about death "everybody has to do it, but I always believed an exception would be made in my case". All of my elderly relatives say they still feel like they were young, my Dad said nothing much changed after my Mom died and he edged into retirement other than all the names in his little black book ended in "M.D." Then in his 70's he fell in love again, hard, and remarried and he says that love late in life is still the sweet roller coaster that it was at 20.

Myself, I feel about 25, unless I haven't had my coffee in which case I feel 107. I never felt old when I turned 30. When I turned 40. When the occasional grocery store checker started calling me "ma'am". When I saw my old school lunch box in an "antique" store.

I got up early this morning and after opening up the curtains to the outside fields, I went in and looked in the mirror in the morning light - closely. Start with the body. OK, it's not 20 any more, there's those extra pounds that set up base camp somewhere low and safe and never hiked out, my knees make really funny noises if I run up too many miles and there's quite a few small scars - that time I fell off a ladder refueling a tanker, the tiny hairline one where, when rock climbing, I got beaned by some small stones tumbling down, the one on my knee where I had a mid air with a hurdle in high school track. Yet what is there serves me well, taking me where I want and need to go: flipping a sport airplane upside down with glee, to the grocery store, to the gun range, over seas and around the block, seeking out and finding adventure with friends who accept me as I am.

Now I look at my face. Thanks to good Scottish genes and sunscreen there's no wrinkles around my eyes unless I smile, but those are the best kind, those that map the laughter of good company. The few little wrinkles? Earned them. Every damn one of them. Finally I look at my eyes. Still sea green, edged with blue. The eyes can be serious. Like others who do what I do, I've seen a lot. Blood, senseless violence, and careless tragedy. I have learned the hard way that there is danger and dangerous souls in the world and I'm not one to shy away from it. My reaction to attack is to defend, not give in. It's not a cognitive thing, but a visceral reaction. Hit unawares, I have ducked, turned, and struck back, ending up tired, and emotionally bruised and wondering how I got there. But I do it, for to me there is hope in it, there is order. I never had the sense of clockwork conspiracies, or some kind of imposing order of evil. There's simply a sense of things falling apart. That's my sense of how these things happen, that it's not any kind of calculated evil driven by grand karma, but just control disintegrating. Most times, things fall apart and happen out of stupidity and carelessness, not anyone's personal jihad. And I'm there to either prevent it, or if I can't, pick up the pieces.

Sometimes I take it home with me. And though in my writing I can write of the nature of immortality and death, with an emotional mantra, in my work, in my daily life, I must strive to be unemotional, especially as a woman in a job that is seldom done by women. Yet looking in my eyes, at my stance, there is a sense of will, and a satisfaction for doing what I do.

These green eyes have seen a lot. They've seen birth, death, failure, loss, success, and dreams denied. They look the same as 30 years ago, yet are different. Like me. I am more myself and more at home in myself than I was at 25 or even 35. I'm content in that. I'm content with my life. On this quiet day, I sit in my library looking onto my garden surrounded by my recent book purchases. Heinlein, Ayn Rand, Stephen Ambrose, Louis L'Amour, James Hornfischer, Theodore Rex, Terry Pratchett. How I perceive my life can be glimpsed through the books I read, as if my selection offers a glimpse of my sense of self or a mirror, wit and honor and courage occasionally lost, then re found. Convictions of tangible choice that changed how I live and how I see the world.

No it's not youth, but it's a vast intangible strength we call "soul" that's going to persevere for a long time to come. I wouldn't trade that; exchange the sense of who I have become, the self that is secure in its structure, the self that is worthy of love, for any chance to be a firm, pert 20 year old again. So, content, I will finish my day as a singing bird erupts into sweet song in my back yard. What I know now; now that I am considered AARP material, is not how to be dead, which I know too well how to do from all I have witnessed, but how to be alive. Living and breathing and growing, as the trees in my garden and the liquid tranquility of a rushing stream or a mere small songbird, who truly believes that in this moment, he's eternal, and for an instant, may very well be.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Home Again - Dinner Fare

I made a trip to my parents recently and although I missed my place, sleeping in my childhood room, virtually unchanged, including the retro shag carpeting, was comforting. The rainbow? I wanted to liven up the plain walls when I was in about Sixth Grade. Dad said "OK, but you have to use paint we have already." Hence the very 70's pink, green and gold that had been out in the garage for a while. There's a full rainbow on the other wall. As tacky as it may be, Dad refuses to paint over it and just paints around it.I did get some things done around the place. Dad's little bathroom (the "boys" room it is called) was in serious need of some sprucing up. The walls hadn't been painted for years. There were just some beads on the window from the 70's and no personal things at all in the room. With some help from a brother with tools, we painted and fixed it all up, including decorative "stuff" from the craft store, a new cabinet which was painted, a home-made curtain to replace the beads, a railing to help older people get up and around, and a special sign from his favorite (and only) daughter. (click on photo to enlarge.) It was a wonderful visit, but I am glad to be home for a quiet Supper in my own kitchen. Guinness Shepherd's Pie is in the oven, made with fresh range beef, beef stock, Worcestershire sauce, Dijon, a blend of savory herbs, and a full bottle of Guinness, simmered long and slow, then baked briefly under a layer of mashed potatoes studded with Extra Sharp Irish Cheddar. The recipe is one that sort of evolved and I'm not even sure where it originally from so if any of you know, please post a link.

While it bakes I listen to something that makes me wistful, but brings a smile. I would guess that only a handful of my readers might recognize these musicians. But Schooner Fare is a big favorite of mine. This song is over 25 years and one that makes everyone in my family wistful, young and old alike.

Sort of like a comforting dinner of meat and potatoes with those memories of being loved.