Tuesday, September 30, 2008

A Glimpse at the Future - I like what I see

This past weekend was the first time RockCrawlinChef had spent the weekend at my house. Despite being engaged, we still maintain two separate households. Taking on an entire family can be daunting and I'd rather we ease into it as much as possible. Maybe "ease" isn't the right word after this weekend.

I scheduled a Drop-in Crop at the school for staff and students on Saturday, long before I knew it was Rocky's Homecoming, and, being the hostess, I couldn't ditch the crop to help out with the kids. I had asked RCC a few weeks ago if he would be willing to cook the kids' dinner rather than having them go out and he agreed readily. Not only did he cook dinner for Digger, Digger's girlfriend, and his friend, Haak, he took Monster to the skatepark and the mall, helped Ashee-butt with a last-minute dress adjustment and dropped the kids off at the dance. I've never had someone in my life so willing to help out and happy to spend time with the kids. It was good for all of us. In all fairness, my brother Junior was also a huge help; he picked up the kids and drove them all out to Ault to RCC's place for dinner. But Junior is my brother; until now, I always had to rely on my parents or siblings to help shuttle the kids around. It's an entirely new experience to have RCC embrace the role of step-dad so completely.

This weekend wasn't all roses, it had its ups and downs. Any household with three teenagers will have that, but Jay weathered it like a pro, and having him around was a stabilizing influence for me and the kids.

We're not married yet, and won't be for several months, but the kids have already started to refer to him as their step-dad and he proudly refers to them as his step-kids. After this weekend, any doubts I had about how well our "new" family would get along are gone. My biggest fear with merging our two households is not whether or not the kids and RCC will get along, but how well our dogs will get along...but that's a story for another time.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Sheepdogs

A couple of years ago, when I was working at the gun shop, one of my regular customers referenced something he had read concerning "sheep and wolves"; the jist being that the majority of the public are sheep who live in denial and are more than willing to be lead to their deaths and there are wolves who are more than willing to eat the sheep so calmly lead to slaughter - the sheepdogs are the stop-gap. I looked everywhere for that article and no matter who I asked, all I got was a blank stare - no one had a clue what I was talking about. I began to think I was crazy (and maybe I am, just a little).

Lynette, our amazing librarian, was looking for some books to add to the library collection and I suggested Gavin de Becker's series of books (The Gift of Fear, Protecting the Gift, and Fear Less), which are some of my all-time favorite books. Protecting the Gift is the book I give all new parents since it's got so many good, common-sense tips for protecting our children. When Lynette was ordering the books she came across a new book, Just 2 Seconds, by de Becker, et al. It was in this book that I finally found the reference to sheep and wolves that I'd been looking for so long ago.

It's called "On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs" by LTC (RET) Dave Grossman and after reading it, I realized that it is an exact description of the citizens of the U.S. I'm a Sheepdog, and, by God, I'm raising Sheepdogs!

This will be a long post, but I think it's important for everyone to read this article, so bear with me please...

On Sheep, Wolves, and Sheepdogs - Dave Grossman
By LTC (RET) Dave Grossman, author of "On Killing."

Honor never grows old, and honor rejoices the heart of age. It does so because honor is, finally, about defending those noble and worthy things that deserve defending, even if it comes at a high cost. In our time, that may mean social disapproval, public scorn, hardship, persecution, or as always, even death itself. The question remains: What is worth defending? What is worth dying for? What is worth living for? - William J. Bennett - in a lecture to the United States Naval Academy November 24, 1997
One Vietnam veteran, an old retired colonel, once said this to me:
"Most of the people in our society are sheep. They are kind, gentle, productive creatures who can only hurt one another by accident." This is true. Remember, the murder rate is six per 100,000 per year, and the aggravated assault rate is four per 1,000 per year. What this means is that the vast majority of Americans are not inclined to hurt one another. Some estimates say that two million Americans are victims of violent crimes every year, a tragic, staggering number, perhaps an all-time record rate of violent crime. But there are almost 300 million Americans, which means that the odds of being a victim of violent crime is considerably less than one in a hundred on any given year. Furthermore, since many violent crimes are committed by repeat offenders, the actual number of violent citizens is considerably less than two million.
Thus there is a paradox, and we must grasp both ends of the situation: We may well be in the most violent times in history, but violence is still remarkably rare. This is because most citizens are kind, decent people who are not capable of hurting each other, except by accident or under extreme provocation. They are sheep.
I mean nothing negative by calling them sheep. To me it is like the pretty, blue robin's egg. Inside it is soft and gooey but someday it will grow into something wonderful. But the egg cannot survive without its hard blue shell. Police officers, soldiers, and other warriors are like that shell, and someday the civilization they protect will grow into something wonderful.? For now, though, they need warriors to protect them from the predators.
"Then there are the wolves," the old war veteran said, "and the wolves feed on the sheep without mercy." Do you believe there are wolves out there who will feed on the flock without mercy? You better believe it. There are evil men in this world and they are capable of evil deeds. The moment you forget that or pretend it is not so, you become a sheep. There is no safety in denial.
"Then there are sheepdogs," he went on, "and I'm a sheepdog. I live to protect the flock and confront the wolf."
If you have no capacity for violence then you are a healthy productive citizen, a sheep. If you have a capacity for violence and no empathy for your fellow citizens, then you have defined an aggressive sociopath, a wolf. But what if you have a capacity for violence, and a deep love for your fellow citizens? What do you have then? A sheepdog, a warrior, someone who is walking the hero's path. Someone who can walk into the heart of darkness, into the universal human phobia, and walk out unscathed.
Let me expand on this old soldier's excellent model of the sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs. We know that the sheep live in denial, that is what makes them sheep. They do not want to believe that there is evil in the world. They can accept the fact that fires can happen, which is why they want fire extinguishers, fire sprinklers, fire alarms and fire exits throughout their kids' schools.
But many of them are outraged at the idea of putting an armed police officer in their kid's school. Our children are thousands of times more likely to be killed or seriously injured by school violence than fire, but the sheep's only response to the possibility of violence is denial. The idea of someone coming to kill or harm their child is just too hard, and so they chose the path of denial.
The sheep generally do not like the sheepdog. He looks a lot like the wolf. He has fangs and the capacity for violence. The difference, though, is that the sheepdog must not, can not and will not ever harm the sheep. Any sheep dog who intentionally harms the lowliest little lamb will be punished and removed. The world cannot work any other way, at least not in a representative democracy or a republic such as ours.
Still, the sheepdog disturbs the sheep. He is a constant reminder that there are wolves in the land. They would prefer that he didn't tell them where to go, or give them traffic tickets, or stand at the ready in our airports in camouflage fatigues holding an M-16. The sheep would much rather have the sheepdog cash in his fangs, spray paint himself white, and go, "Baa."
Until the wolf shows up. Then the entire flock tries desperately to hide behind one lonely sheepdog.
The students, the victims, at Columbine High School were big, tough high school students, and under ordinary circumstances they would not have had the time of day for a police officer. They were not bad kids; they just had nothing to say to a cop. When the school was under attack, however, and SWAT teams were clearing the rooms and hallways, the officers had to physically peel those clinging, sobbing kids off of them. This is how the little lambs feel about their sheepdog when the wolf is at the door.
Look at what happened after September 11, 2001 when the wolf pounded hard on the door. Remember how America, more than ever before, felt differently about their law enforcement officers and military personnel? Remember how many times you heard the word hero?
Understand that there is nothing morally superior about being a sheepdog; it is just what you choose to be. Also understand that a sheepdog is a funny critter: He is always sniffing around out on the perimeter, checking the breeze, barking at things that go bump in the night, and yearning for a righteous battle. That is, the young sheepdogs yearn for a righteous battle. The old sheepdogs are a little older and wiser, but they move to the sound of the guns when needed right along with the young ones.
Here is how the sheep and the sheepdog think differently. The sheep pretend the wolf will never come, but the sheepdog lives for that day. After the attacks on September 11, 2001, most of the sheep, that is, most citizens in America said, "Thank God I wasn't on one of those planes." The sheepdogs, the warriors, said, "Dear God, I wish I could have been on one of those planes. Maybe I could have made a difference." When you are truly transformed into a warrior and have truly invested yourself into warriorhood, you want to be there. You want to be able to make a difference.
There is nothing morally superior about the sheepdog, the warrior, but he does have one real advantage. Only one. And that is that he is able to survive and thrive in an environment that destroys 98 percent of the population. There was research conducted a few years ago with individuals convicted of violent crimes. These cons were in prison for serious, predatory crimes of violence: assaults, murders and killing law enforcement officers. The vast majority said that they specifically targeted victims by body language: slumped walk, passive behavior and lack of awareness. They chose their victims like big cats do in Africa, when they select one out of the herd that is least able to protect itself.
Some people may be destined to be sheep and others might be genetically primed to be wolves or sheepdogs. But I believe that most people can choose which one they want to be, and I'm proud to say that more and more Americans are choosing to become sheepdogs.
Seven months after the attack on September 11, 2001, Todd Beamer was honored in his hometown of Cranbury, New Jersey. Todd, as you recall, was the man on Flight 93 over Pennsylvania who called on his cell phone to alert an operator from United Airlines about the hijacking. When he learned of the other three passenger planes that had been used as weapons, Todd dropped his phone and uttered the words, "Let's roll," which authorities believe was a signal to the other passengers to confront the terrorist hijackers. In one hour, a transformation occurred among the passengers - athletes, business people and parents. -- from sheep to sheepdogs and together they fought the wolves, ultimately saving an unknown number of lives on the ground.

There is no safety for honest men except by believing all possible evil of evil men. - Edmund Burke

Here is the point I like to emphasize, especially to the thousands of police officers and soldiers I speak to each year. In nature the sheep, real sheep, are born as sheep. Sheepdogs are born that way, and so are wolves. They didn't have a choice. But you are not a critter. As a human being, you can be whatever you want to be. It is a conscious, moral decision.
If you want to be a sheep, then you can be a sheep and that is okay, but you must understand the price you pay. When the wolf comes, you and your loved ones are going to die if there is not a sheepdog there to protect you. If you want to be a wolf, you can be one, but the sheepdogs are going to hunt you down and you will never have rest, safety, trust or love. But if you want to be a sheepdog and walk the warrior's path, then you must make a conscious and moral decision every day to dedicate, equip and prepare yourself to thrive in that toxic, corrosive moment when the wolf comes knocking at the door.
For example, many officers carry their weapons in church.? They are well concealed in ankle holsters, shoulder holsters or inside-the-belt holsters tucked into the small of their backs.? Anytime you go to some form of religious service, there is a very good chance that a police officer in your congregation is carrying. You will never know if there is such an individual in your place of worship, until the wolf appears to massacre you and your loved ones.
I was training a group of police officers in Texas, and during the break, one officer asked his friend if he carried his weapon in church. The other cop replied, "I will never be caught without my gun in church." I asked why he felt so strongly about this, and he told me about a cop he knew who was at a church massacre in Ft. Worth, Texas in 1999. In that incident, a mentally deranged individual came into the church and opened fire, gunning down fourteen people. He said that officer believed he could have saved every life that day if he had been carrying his gun. His own son was shot, and all he could do was throw himself on the boy's body and wait to die. That cop looked me in the eye and said, "Do you have any idea how hard it would be to live with yourself after that?"
Some individuals would be horrified if they knew this police officer was carrying a weapon in church. They might call him paranoid and would probably scorn him. Yet these same individuals would be enraged and would call for "heads to roll" if they found out that the airbags in their cars were defective, or that the fire extinguisher and fire sprinklers in their kids' school did not work. They can accept the fact that fires and traffic accidents can happen and that there must be safeguards against them.
Their only response to the wolf, though, is denial, and all too often their response to the sheepdog is scorn and disdain. But the sheepdog quietly asks himself, "Do you have and idea how hard it would be to live with yourself if your loved ones attacked and killed, and you had to stand there helplessly because you were unprepared for that day?"
It is denial that turns people into sheep. Sheep are psychologically destroyed by combat because their only defense is denial, which is counterproductive and destructive, resulting in fear, helplessness and horror when the wolf shows up.
Denial kills you twice. It kills you once, at your moment of truth when you are not physically prepared: you didn't bring your gun, you didn't train. Your only defense was wishful thinking. Hope is not a strategy. Denial kills you a second time because even if you do physically survive, you are psychologically shattered by your fear helplessness and horror at your moment of truth.
Gavin de Becker puts it like this in Fear Less, his superb post-9/11 book, which should be required reading for anyone trying to come to terms with our current world situation: "...denial can be seductive, but it has an insidious side effect. For all the peace of mind deniers think they get by saying it isn't so, the fall they take when faced with new violence is all the more unsettling.
Denial is a save-now-pay-later scheme, a contract written entirely in small print, for in the long run, the denying person knows the truth on some level."
And so the warrior must strive to confront denial in all aspects of his life, and prepare himself for the day when evil comes. If you are warrior who is legally authorized to carry a weapon and you step outside without that weapon, then you become a sheep, pretending that the bad man will not come today. No one can be "on" 24/7, for a lifetime. Everyone needs down time. But if you are authorized to carry a weapon, and you walk outside without it, just take a deep breath, and say this to yourself...
"Baa."
This business of being a sheep or a sheep dog is not a yes-no dichotomy. It is not an all-or-nothing, either-or choice. It is a matter of degrees, a continuum. On one end is an abject, head-in-the-sand-sheep and on the other end is the ultimate warrior. Few people exist completely on one end or the other. Most of us live somewhere in between. Since 9-11 almost everyone in America took a step up that continuum, away from denial. The sheep took a few steps toward accepting and appreciating their warriors, and the warriors started taking their job more seriously. The degree to which you move up that continuum, away from sheephood and denial, is the degree to which you and your loved ones will survive, physically and psychologically at your moment of truth.

Sunday, September 7, 2008

Gunpowder Therapy



One of my favorite things in the world is Gunpowder Therapy...might have something to do with the nickname "GunDiva". There's nothing quite like the feeling of a controlled explosion in your hand to rid yourself of stress. For a long time, my favorite form of Gunpowder Therapy was the monthly defensive pistol matches at Northern Colorado Rod & Gun Club (http://www.ncrgc.org/). When I turned 32, my family pitched in and bought me a .40 cal Glock and I shot that thing for well over a year before getting a "big boys' gun", a Para-Ordnance LTC 1911 in .45 ACP. The monthly matches were "mine"; my way of blowing off steam and doing something that was just for me. Some women go to the spa for "me" time, I went to the gun range. Unfortunately, over the past year or so, finances dictated that I spend less and less time at the range. I still manage to make it out a couple of times a year to the matches, which makes my time at the range even more sacred.


In April of this year, I did something that surprised me - actually shook me to the core - I invited RockCrawlinChef to join me at the match. We'd only just met face-to-face two weeks before the match but hit it off well and before I knew it, it just popped out, "you should come shoot the match with me." WTF? I never intended to share "my" matches with anyone. They were mine - those six hours on the range with my shooting buddies were sacred and I had invited someone I had just met. I must have lost my mind. What shook me even more is that I loved it! I loved sharing something that was just mine with RCC...it should have been a sign.

I'm constantly surprised by the things that excite me and make me all sentimental-like (welcome to the softer side of the GunDiva). Things like getting ready for the match on Saturday night. Who would have thought that the mere act of cleaning our guns together would mean so much? It's silly, I know, but no one else has really been interested in my shooting; I was always the "expert" if I took anyone out, so I was the one cleaning the guns and getting everything ready. Saturday just illustrated to me what a great team we make and how much I do enjoy sharing my sacred matches with RCC.

The match on Sunday wasn't my best, and in all honesty, I haven't been shooting well in a while - it's a very perishable skill and without constant practice it's pretty easy to lose the edge. However, getting to shoot with RCC and spend the day outside blowing shit up (except those damn bowling pins) was so relaxing. By the time we were done with the match I was sunburned but happy. Those controlled explosions really do bleed stress and having someone to share it with - pure bliss.


Here's RCC shooting one of the stages. The instructions were to start with our toes and nose touching the wall (don't know what we did to deserve time-out) when the buzzer sounded we were to engage the targets on either side of the wall (two up close and two far away) without hitting the hostage, perform a mandatory reload with retention (don't drop the magazine), move to the door and shoot the bad guys on the way (no stopping), open the door and "slice the pie" (shoot the bad guys in the order you see them appear). All of this is timed and scored, so not only are you racing against the clock, but you must be accurate as well. video

New York Times' Best Seller!


My dear friend and fellow Gun Diva, Tara Janzen, just released her 9th book in the Steele Street (CRAZY/LOOSE) series, which debuted #33 on the New York Times' Best Seller List! Yay, Tara! Check out her website, http://www.tarajanzen.com/, for more on her books and the kick-ass shotgun she built (Skeeter's Shotgun).

Tara and I met a couple of years ago (about 6 books ago, I think) while I was helping teach a firearms class. We immediately hit it off and I absolutely adore her. Besides being an amazing human being, she's my favorite shooting buddy (sorry, RockCrawlinChef). Tara's one of the hardest working people I know and it's about time that she made the List! Honestly, she's one of the best authors around - she's got a way with words that I envy - and I'm so proud of her for this well-deserved honor.
Congratulations Tara - the Heathi and I love you!