August 13, 2007


I took both my kids to school today.


First time in TEN YEARS I have a WHOLE DAY with had no baby/toddler/pre-schooler in the house alternately crying and nursing/trying to eat poison/seeing what happens if you jam a fork in the electrical outlet. I got ten pages drafted and am about to go hit the elliptical for 45 minutes and then clean out my closet and I am so FREE and NOT HAVING TO MULTI TASK and the day stretches before me long and luxurious with HOURS before car pool and so naturally I can’t stop bursting into teeny flurries of weep every fifteen minutes.


Signing up for motherhood is like AGREEING to cheerfully become a complete loon for the rest of your span on earth.

But I am not dwelling. *PAUSES TO SOB INTO HANDS FOR 20 SECONDS* Oh no, not at all.

I think I should get a kitten.

My dad and my brother are taking me to shoot LONG GUNS later in the month, but I have already been out with my brother to shoot pistols. Oh MY. I looked at this big box of assorted pistols Bobby had gathered, and I was kinda…terrified of it.

My brother made me sit down before we began for a safety lesson. We basically had to go to a room, alone, with the box of guns. We sat down and waited until a quiet had settled around us and he could see he had my full attention. He picked up one of the guns.

Bobby: Okay. See this hole? At this end? Don’t ever. Ever. EVER. point this hole at anything you do not want to see utterly destroyed.

I nodded solemnly.
That was the end of the safety lesson.

We took 2 liter bottles full of water out to a field behind a friend’s farm. The field is empty and low, a small valley, so our targets were set up low down by the rise of a hill. Our bullets would go through (or past) the bottles and bury themselves harmlessly in the earth. We put in ear plugs and shot and shot and shot. When I picked up the first gun, I felt like I was holding some sort of awful alive cool reptile thing that might turn and bite me. Then we started. When I set down the last gun, I felt like I was setting this warm alive and mighty creature who did my bidding. I found the hot after-smell very pleasing, tangy and metallic. I liked the ghost of kick I could still feel in my palm.

I want to go shoot MORE things.

First I shot with my brother’s Saturday Night Special, a little .22 which he said is useful only to terrorize clerks at the convenience store you are trying to rob. POP, it said, and it jammed every third bullet. Bobby said it is NOT a good gun for actually killing people--- even IF you managed to hit someone, you would likely just make them angry.

Then we shot an ANCIENT revolver that belonged to my grandfather. It was missing a pin, so the barrel would plop into my palm whenever I released it to reload. No safety. You load the thing and you are ready. I LOVED this gun. LOVED it. My character will have a gun like this. We shot it until the barrel got too hot to reload from all the shooting.

The 2 litre bottles began to have a bad time.

Then we shot my dad’s .45 automatic pistol and HOLY COW but that black beast has a kick. I loved to just point it and go BAMBAMBAMBAMBAM. I did pretty well, though I tended to hit MORE when I actually AIMED. Go figure. One bullet blasted a huge visible crater right through the center of Coca-Cola Classic. Then Bobby shot Fresca in the neck, and his head popped off and sailed away over our heads.

No soda bottles survived to tell the tale.

Here’s a quick weird little thing I noticed – you may draw your own conclusions

The night before my brother took me shooting, Karen and I went to a book event in the middle of Birmingham and then out to have a drink with a buncha folks we like from the Alabama Booksmith. I told several people that I was going shooting the next day. These were all urban folks who live in downtown and midtown.

They all gave me the same quizzical look overlayed by faint shades of either horror or disbelief and asked WHY I was going to go shoot guns.

“Research,” I would say, “for the book I am working on.”
And their faces would clear and they would not, satisfied. It made sense to them, and we clearly had good reason to do this dangerous, slightly distasteful thing.

I went and picked up my brother at his office way out in the green hills of Alabama, far from the city. He works for himself, sculpting, as you may remember, but he rents a small office at his church so he can escape his children/television/phone/neighbors and actually put his head down and WORK. We ambled around the church gathering all the 2 liters we could find in the recycling bins and having coffee and meeting people who worked there or went to church there. Local folks, all.

We would tell them we were leaving to spend the lunch hour shooting things.
They would just nod,as if we had said, “We are going to the mall.” I couldn’t figure it out. Why wouldn’t they ask WHY we were shooting things. WHY would they not ask? Then on the way out, we told the last guy who asked where we were heading and he looked at us wistfully. “Oh. I wish I could go with you. Have fun…”

Posted by joshilyn at August 13, 2007 12:16 PM

When my husband asked my Daddy for my hand in marriage, after Daddy gave his approval, the first thing he did was give my husband a .22 rifle. He was officially part of the family--no nuptuals said.

My husband is from (and we live in) metropolitan Houston, but he had been around my country parents long enough to realize that the handing over of a fire arm as a gift was as much an honor as the handing over of one's daughter.

Posted by: Roxanne at August 13, 2007 12:26 PM

AND, AND, AND. . .

Loved this from you.

"Signing up for motherhood is like AGREEING to cheerfully become a complete loon for the rest of your span on earth."

Cuz if you do it right, that is a totally true statement.

Congrats on an empty house. A virtual pat, pat, pat on the arm for an empty nest.

Posted by: Roxanne at August 13, 2007 12:28 PM

It's different in the country.

Posted by: Autumn at August 13, 2007 12:28 PM

Our youngest is 17, our oldest is 24 (and newly engaged to a LOVELY lady, yay!), and there are times when I want them ALL in our home where I can keep a close eye on them!

Of course there are times when I'm glad the older is/are four states away and the youngest is at work.

Total loon, for the rest of our lives. Neither Lillian nor I would change this for anything!

Congratulations on the shooting! I know, it sounds odd. But we both grew up on farms, and shooting is just a way of life. We don't have guns in the house now - lots of knives but no guns - but I suspect we'll have one once we move back into the country.

Enjoy your new skills, Peach.

Posted by: Fran at August 13, 2007 12:54 PM

When you grow up in the south, especially in the country, you just grow up around guns. Although I will say that now that I have kids I'm terrified to have them in the house. The guns, not the kids. Heh.

My mother has permanent hearing loss in one of her ears from the time my dad took us shooting. We didn't think of the ear plugs until it was too late.

Posted by: Leandra at August 13, 2007 1:07 PM

I just sent my firstborn off this morning for her first day of Kindergarten. It's past one o'clock, and I still feel like my heart is on the outside of my body. I wish I could see how she's doing! I'm sure she's fine, but it would be reassuring to know. Why didn't I think of putting a camera on her headband so I could see? LOL Please tell me it gets better!

Posted by: Jessalyn at August 13, 2007 1:08 PM

Ha! See, that is what I love about living in Texas. I would get those same two reactions to the shooting thing, but all within like a 10 mile radius of my house. In Austin proper, I would be met with horror. Five miles outside the city, wistful nods.

I heart Texas.

I do not heart school, but my kids are beyond ready to go back. Too bad they have to wait two more weeks.

Posted by: Badger at August 13, 2007 1:09 PM

I would have been in the first group. Growing up, all I saw of guns were on the news where they had obviously hurt someone or as part of gun safety, which, where I come from is "if you see a gun, back slowly out of the room, DON'T TOUCH IT, tell an adult". My perception of guns were that they had a job to do and that job was to kill and guns WANTED to do their job and WOULD do it by hook or by crook (quite literally). All it needed was a hand to fire it. Really, the impression I had was of a demon looking for a body.

When I got older, I did shoot with my husband and while I liked the target part, I am still afraid of the guns. We are in a different situation than I was as a kid so my kids are getting a somewhat different view of guns as a "tool" in Daddys job (but its still locked up high and tight and away from little hands). I wonder what perception they will grown up with.

Congrats on your kid free house. My kids both went to school last year so I had another baby. I don't care for cats ;-)

Posted by: Em at August 13, 2007 3:58 PM

When they all go off to school it's like you join a new universe and the world says, "Where the hell have you been?" The one thing having kids will teach you is time management. You put a group of mothers of grade school children together, and by GOD they could balance the national budget. They come in look at watches, divide up work and race like hell to the finish, all the while cooking a meal during the meeting. I DEFY any politician to put mothers on their staff. Politicians couldn't handle it.

Speaking of kids, wait until they go off to college. I have two years to go. Please GOD let me get there and survive the raising of the PRINCESS DAUGHTER.

You do join the loon group when you have kids, but you know what happens? They eventually look at you and realize you know more than just how to turn on the stove. Enjoy your time off. You can now tackle the world!

Posted by: gin at August 13, 2007 4:16 PM

I too grew up around guns. Married a man who loved guns and hunting. He handed over two of his prized shotguns to our sons at Christmas. They were surprised, thrilled and honored. One son sent me a picture via cell phone of his new .32 handgun. We all have permits to carry concealed weapons. One of our best friends has a federal firearms license and privileged to all that entails. (I don't know what all but it's evidentily impressive)

Also, hubby, oldest son and myself, are past TN state champion indoor archers. This was back in 1989. That was fun. I've never heard of anyone accidentally shooting someone with a compound bow because they didn't know it was loaded! :)

Enjoy your days of kids in school. You'll be amazed how you will get used to it and when Christmas break comes, you'll be looking really forward to school starting back in January '08! THose of us who are old, will romanticize the past. But if we had to do what mothers of pre-&grade school children do, we'd be crying our eyes out in 24 hours! It's hard work and that's why God lets young people have children. I love grandchildren that go home after a few hours - couple of days at longest!

Posted by: Rhonda at August 13, 2007 4:59 PM

I love how you do research! I was a hippie-pacificst during my children's early years, and I forbade the use of any kind of guns, even water guns! (That doesn't work, of course, because children are creative and any ole stick will do.) So, here I am, approaching my oldest son's 30th birthday (God, I'm old!)and remembering a phone call I got from him when he was still at Ft Rucker learning to fly helicopters for the Army. Typical phone call from grown son to mother, right? Hardly. "Hi, Mom. Guess what I did today? I flew my Kiowa and blew things up! It was so cool." Before you panic, it was a practice run! I keep thinking I'll include a helicopter ride in a book one day, and you can bet I'll be wanting my son to take me for a ride ... for research! Can't wait to read your next book!

Posted by: Susan Cushman at August 13, 2007 5:35 PM

I used to find firing so relaxing and theraputic. I fired my first rifle when i was no older than Bug, due to to the threat of wildlife where i lived.
Both of my parents were target shooters (that is how they met) and so rifles were just a part of growing up. When i was a "grown-up" i moved on to teaching cadets weapons. I loved teaching girls how to fire. It was very empowering for them to watch their older brothers, and then realize that i (a fellow girl) was going to teach them to do the same thing. Many of the kids my husband and i taught went on to travel on the national team.

Enjoy the firing...but remember SAFETY first......hard to write if you are missing a finger.

Posted by: kim at August 13, 2007 6:42 PM

I think you need to learn to shoot the big rifle my dad had. I am not actually sure it was a rifle. More like an illegal and oversized revolver. It was shiny and had a black pump... and the end was rounded so that it looked like a J with no top on it. Kinda looked like something Arnie would have used before he was the Governator.

And it had a heck of a kick!

Posted by: Heather Cook at August 13, 2007 9:09 PM

Both of my kids start school, together, at the SAME school on Wednesday. Joy and fear. Freedom and panic. I'm with you.

I grew up in Atlanta but bunches of my cousins live in nowhere South Georgia, so I understand exactly what you're talking about.

Posted by: Edgy Mama at August 13, 2007 9:48 PM

I have to say, that was quite some segue. Not. I'm still chuckling. "I think I need a, talking about guns....." I had forgotten about you needing to know about guns for your story but even if I had, it wasn't an obvious leap. "I let William spend the night at a friend's house..... I think I'll go blow something up with some cherry bombs." See?

As for the entering into days with child free zones in them. I understand the weeping and giddiness all rolled into one. All I can say is, wait until you're packing them up for college. WAIL. But, one adjusts. By the fifth child, I'm now planning on what to do with William's room when he leaves. And he's only starting his sophomore year in high school next week. And I kinda like having him around. Not that I'm in a hurry for him to finish growing up. But I've learned that we all adapt. Just saying.

As for the city folks/country folks thing, yep. We live in the country and if you'd said "We're going out shooting", people would have just nodded, or perhaps asked where you were going to shoot and offered suggestions on other locations. When I mention things like guns and mudflaps and deer season and logging trucks, all my citified friends look slightly embarrassed at the conversation.

Posted by: laume at August 14, 2007 12:27 AM

My husband is in the army, and being a girl from the country a little bit myself I'm a little jealous that he gets to shoot guns more than I do. But coming up we're having a wives day where all the ladies get to dress up in hardcore airborne gear and run through the mud screaming and shoot guns and tackle people!


Ok, it will probably be the powder puff version, but still. Guns will be shot.

Posted by: aka nik at August 14, 2007 1:24 AM

:::Passing tissues::: My son starts kindergarten next week. I'm in that odd state of Between, Joy & Sadness. It's late, that is the best joke I could make at this time LOL.

My only reason for having anxiety over this is his food allergies. But they took good care of him last year in PK, and his teacher this year has a child w/ food allergies. We allergy moms stick together.

Uh, have fun with your guns and shooting stuff? ;)

Posted by: Angel at August 14, 2007 3:17 AM

emmmmmm...must say that coming from switzerland all these conversations about guns seems a bit strange. You americans realllllly have another bond with firearms. I personnally thinks it's kind of scary but on the other hand, I've never shot anything myself so maybe if I tried I might like it...or not!
Have fun researching and...come back alive ;-)

Posted by: Marie at August 14, 2007 3:56 AM

I like seeing a non-U.S. perspective, maybe we'll see more!

I haven't shot anything since dad showed me a few times when I was a kid, but it was fun. I put my experience (as long as safety is FIRST!) in the same class as lighting fires (in a fireplace or grill, sillies), blowing up small fireworks, or going on a rampage of destruction on an entire rock face of icicles. It gets my evil little inner-demon off in a safe manner.

Posted by: Brigitte at August 14, 2007 7:10 AM

I just wanted to say THANKYOUTHANKYOUTHANKYOU for sort of letting us "be part of" your writing process. I mean, not that WE ourselves are doing anything but listening (errr, reading, rather...), but it just means when the book comes out and I flip open the cover to devour as much of it as possible between the cash register and the car after having stood in a HUGE Potter-esque line to get my copy (because I'm sure this will be the case) that I will feel like SUCH the insider because, "Oooh, I know why that character has that gun because JOSS HERSELF told me!"

And then my husband will pat my head in a placating manner while simultaneously rolling his eyes. But *I* will be HAPPY.

Posted by: Casey at August 14, 2007 7:14 AM

Yup, we dropped off our little girl for her first day of kindergarden.

After droppinng her off at school I spent the morning wondering what ever happened to my father's old revolver. It's a lovely pistol from the 50's I think, but is in excellent condition. We blew up soda cans in the woods with it once when I was in high school.

My little girl has been in school with little boys for less than 24 hours and I'm already considering getting a permit and finding that gun. Coincidence?

Posted by: Mr. Husband at August 14, 2007 8:45 AM

And Annie Oakley was born.

Find out if Bobby or your dad knows anyone who has a skeet set up. Skeet shooting is wonderful fun.

Posted by: Cele at August 14, 2007 12:28 PM

I shot skeet!


Okay. Fine. I shot a skeet.

It was in England and it was the first and only time I've ever handled a gun, and a woman from Texas whispered in my ear that I should aim six inches in front of the skeet since it was traveling so fast, so I did, and I blew it up, and all the gentlemen who had been skeet shooting their whole lives were terrifically impressed, so I decided to leave it that way and quit while I was ahead.

Joss, you need that kitten. Hedgehogs really aren't as good cuddled up against you in bed.

Posted by: Sara at August 14, 2007 2:17 PM

About 18 months ago I realized my "baby" would be going to all-day school in the fall. So I got pregnant. Now I have an 11 year old, a 7 year old, and an almost-6-month old. Crazy, but happy. So happy.

Posted by: Jill at August 14, 2007 5:38 PM

I used to help my step dad make bullets for his shot gun and his .357 Magnum. I'd help melt down the lead. I'd help pack in the gun powder and crimp the edges of the bullet.
I was, like, 9. Making bullets. With lead. And gunpowder. Looking back now, I'd never let my kids make bullets, with anyone, ever. But it's so not a big deal in the south.

Posted by: timmi at August 14, 2007 6:59 PM

I so feel your pain. All three of my boys are in school now. It was hardest last week on the first day when the two oldest walked Colby into his classroom. The WORST, WORST, WORST part was that the oldest DROVE us there! Work is just something I am doing between the time that they all go to school and they all are released each day.

Colby says to please tell Maisy Jane hello and that Kindergarten is way cool but not nearly as fun as when he was in PreK with Maisy.

Posted by: Melissa Black at August 15, 2007 6:56 AM

This, also, is the difference between me and many of my friends. My very best friend in the world would sooner bite the head off a live (or at least freshly dead) bat before she'd pick up a gun. Her ex-military husband is forbidden to even bring such a thing in the house.

My husband and I, on the other hand, both grew up shooting. In fact, my dad gave both of us shotguns for Christmas. Mine was my grandmother's refurbished Sears & Roebuck shotgun, and my husband's was a handsome affair that my father had gotten in trade for an ancient, ailing John Deere tractor.

Posted by: jessica at August 16, 2007 11:18 PM