For the past few months, Andy and I have attended the Rowlett Citizens Police Academy with thirty others. We've learned about traffic stops, active shooter situations, Crime Watch, Volunteers in Policing, patrol procedures, crime scene investigations, DWI procedures, use of TASER, mental health and crisis assistance and other topics.
Last Saturday was an all-day session. We drove patrol cars through an obstacle course in the morning. I think I may have earned the "cone killer" award for running over so many. In the afternoon, things got really interesting when we went to the gun range. Instructors filled us in on the weapons used and protocols.
I donned a Kevlar vest and ear protection, then went to the front of the range with an instructor. He stapled a paper "bad guy" target to a board. Then the officer taught me the correct stance, how to grip a 9mm Glock, how to line up a shot and finally pull the trigger. I fired the weapon from five feet, ten feet and 15 feet away, putting nine slugs in the "chest" of the bad guy. The instructor was rather impressed and I was pretty thrilled that I did so well.
I had not fired a weapon since high school when my dad took me and my boyfriend to the Adams Conservation Club to plink cans and shoot at targets. However, I'm not a gun fan by any stretch and would never have a weapon in the house. This most likely puts me in the minority in the Lone Star State where open carry is legal.
There's a good reason that I feel this way. More than 40 years ago in Denver, I was settling my toddler daughter in front of cartoons so I could take a quick shower. Suddenly, a guy in a ski mask flew out of the corner of the bedroom and grabbed me around the mouth. I screamed, told him I was pregnant (true) and had cancer (not true). I continued to scream in his face while he made a lame excuse about being at the wrong house and trying to scare his sister's friend. Then I screamed some more and pushed him out the front door and locked it. I immediately called the police and Andy. The intruder was long gone by that time, of course.
My dad, who owned quite a few weapons, insisted that I get a gun and I said absolutely not. With a curious toddler in the house, I would have had to store the unloaded gun and ammo separately in a safe place. There is no way that I could have gotten to a weapon in this circumstance. Gunshot wounds put an average of 8,300 kids in the hospital each year. Six percent of them die. I'm not willing to take that risk with my precious grandchildren.
Early voting in Texas started yesterday, so Andy and I went off to the City Hall Annex to exercise our right as American citizens. On the lawn outside was a veritable forest of campaign signs for everything from U.S. Senate to Constable and other elected positions. We bypassed a couple of candidates doing some last-minute campaigning outside the polling place and were soon greeted by a huge line snaking down on side of the long hall and up the other to where you entered to vote. Along with other residents, we shuffled a few feet at a time to get to our destination past a display of paintings and photographs entered in a local art competition.
I was struck by the diversity of people standing in line. White, black, Asian, Hispanic and Middle Eastern voters were waiting with us. There were voters who looked young enough that it might have been their first opportunity to cast a ballot, as well as senior citizens and everyone in between. Two folks came with their service dogs. A father stood with his fussy baby and apparently asked his fellow voters to hold his place in line while he retrieved a bottle of formula from the car.
Finally we reached the door and were checked in by some nice volunteers who examined our drivers licenses and voting cards. Voting (my first experience with an electronic ballot) went quickly and we were out the door, passing a line which had grown even longer. It kind of restored my faith in our American electoral process that so many people in our community thought it important to vote.
I won't state my position here, but Andy and I are at opposite ends of the political spectrum. In order to keep our respective blood pressure readings in check, we never discuss politics, elections or candidates at our house. I remember when I voted in my first election. My dad, never short of political opinions, demanded to know who I had voted for in a presidential election. I replied that the last time I checked they didn't build voting booths for two, so I would keep that information to myself. Not well received.
When I picked the kids up from school, they saw my I Voted Today sticker and wanted to know whether we voted for president. Not this time around, guys.
So I'm finally over the flu after about four weeks (first two the worst, second two with a lingering cough). I call the doctor's office to see when it would be best to finally get my flu shot. I plan to go in a day or two, but wake up with a sore throat, cough and congestion, so off I go to the doctor's office to get it checked out. No, I don't have the flu again, but I do have post-viral bronchitis. Steroid shot - check. Antibiotic injection - check. Prescription for oral antibiotics - check. A few sessions with a nebulizer - check.
The next day, Andy complains of not feeling well. I know he's in rough shape because he actually lets me drive him to the doctor's office. In spite of getting a flu shot a while back, he now apparently has a different strain of the flu, complete with fatigue and a deep rough cough. So it's Tamiflu and an antibiotic for the slight wheeze in his chest. Sigh.
OK God, are we about done with this? How much can two senior citizens take?
Adding to our general malaise is the fact that it has rained for many days, accumulating more than two feet in the last six weeks or so and giving us days and days of overcast, grey skies. The high temperatures of a few weeks ago have plunged and bone-chilling dampness has taken its place. Every body of water in the area has overflowed its banks. Our yard is a spongy swamp and the dog is reluctant to get his delicate paws wet. Poor Noah had his much-anticipated trip to the pumpkin patch postponed, as well.
The sun finally came out today, lifting our spirits and drying the yard. We look forward to sunny, healthier days ahead.
The big-league Boys of October may be vying for a playoff spot, but we're enjoying the all-American sport on a whole different level: watching our two grandsons play baseball. Four-year-old Noah is playing Blastball for the Rebels. These little guys hit the baseball off a batting tee with fat foam-covered bats, getting several tries. If they get lucky enough to send a ball into the field, a large group of dads are out there ready to guide them around the bases. Truth is, the ballplayers don't have a clue and they set off running to the pitcher's mound or in other directions until an adult catches them and corrects their path. No one keeps score and the games last only a merciful 30 minutes. Oh well, I guess you have to start somewhere.
Booker, age 10, is playing on a Little League team. His coaches have told him he's the only player that can successfully make a throw across the field, so they're teaching him to pitch. Unfortunately, every game and most practices since they began the season have been rained out, to his great disappointment. Finally we got to see him play on Saturday evening. It was a pleasant night and each player brought along a retinue of parents, grandparents, siblings and even dogs as cheering sections. These young players are a little more skilled and knowledgeable about the rules of the game. We noticed that some of them even emulate the style of big-league pitchers and batters. When Booker has his second at-bat, he gets whacked in the elbow by a pitch. It raised a significant bump, so he was benched with a cold gel-pack on his throbbing extremity. Nothing was broken, thank goodness. If both of them stick with it, we look forward to watching them develop as players. That remains to be seen, but in the meantime, we're enjoying the game.
I'm Chris Barabasz, retired from a 35-year career managing communications for health care development (that's fundraising for you civilians). I'm a wife, mother, grandmother and freelance writer. My husband Andy and I moved from Delaware to Texas to be closer to our daughters and three adorable grandchildren.