Small town girl. Joins Navy. Sees the world. Flies in planes. Hunts submarines. Gets out of military and has 3 kids. Rejoins Air National Guard as an "old lady" of 38.

A humorous compilation of stories and lessons learned. Usually the hard way.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Crossing the Line

This week I was prompted by Red Writing Hood to write about a time someone crossed the line.  This is a piece about a time I did just that.  Literally.

I had an hour left on my 12-hour shift with 2 flight schedules left to deliver.  It was New Years Eve in Keflavik and most people had already begun their drunken rendezvous.  How I longed to be one of them instead of Duty Driver.

I decided to take a shortcut across the backside of the flight line since it was empty of taxiing aircraft due to the holiday and the hour. I was cruising along, jamming to the only American station that came in- elated to hear English.  It had been too long.

Suddenly flashes of red and blue lights from a base security vehicle cascaded in my mirror and blinded my eyes.  Alarmed, I immediately stopped the van.  Instants later, muffled shouts came from my window.  I glanced in their direction and my gaze was met by the muzzle of an M-16.


I was paralyzed.  Surely this was a mistake.  I was in uniform, driving a government vehicle.

“SHOW ME YOUR ID- NOW!”  I snapped out of my trance and obeyed.  The dark figure in uniform escorted me in front of the van- directly in the beam of the headlights.

Other vehicles soon surrounded us. 

“On your knees, hands behind your head!”

This has got to be a bad dream.

My American aggressor trudged through the snow away from me and began talking on a scratchy hand-held radio.  This forced him to remove the rifle from my face.  It was nice of him.  The ice began melting under my knees.  I thought of the two flight schedules I had left to deliver.

“Please, what is going on?”  I pleaded to one of the other guys walking over.  I glanced back at our hangar a few hundred feet behind me, wondering if anyone in my squadron could see the chaos.

“Do you know what a ‘red line’ is?”

I stared at him blankly as if it were a trick question.  Of course I knew what a red line was.  They surrounded all of the places that were off limits.  I had been warned extensively.  My legs were going numb from the cold and my nose began to run.

Just then, Mr. Rifle Man came back.  “What are you doing on the flight line?” he asked sounding more like an accusation than a question.
“I was... delivering... flight schedules."

“Are you aware that you have crossed over a point of no-entry?”
“I did?  Where?”  I was confused.  I had driven here before- without a rifle shoved in my face.

“That is where you came from.” He pointed.  "The point of entry is approximately 20 feet to the left.” 
I squinted out into the blackness, straining to see my tracks.  Maybe it was the darkness, or the endless snowdrifts, but I saw no such red line.  Still, I nodded.

“Stand up,” he commanded.   “You're gonna have to come with us.”

“Please- my squadron- my SDO is right over there.”  That day the SDO was my 3P (third pilot) affectionately called “Sweet Pea” because of his cherub-like face.  I pointed to the hangar that was a good baseball’s throw length away.  By a professional player that is.

Oh, I was done.  I could see it now.  I’d been in this squadron barely over a month now and already in a dire predicament.  I began shaking.  Partly from the cold, and partly due to the anxiety that began welling up inside me.

Mr. Rifle Man began talking on his radio again.  The guy next to me tried to talk.  In that moment he could have told me that he enjoyed licking spotted frogs and I would not have remembered.  All that I could think about was what was going to happen to me.

Then, in the small light from the hangar, I could make out the SDO trudging down the snowy flight line.  I was flooded with relief upon the sight of a familiar face.  As he approached I shot him the best I’m-so-sorry-please-don’t-be-mad face I could muster.  He simply shook his head.
I don’t know what he said to Rifle Man, but soon after, they released me to him.  We drove back to the duty office in silence. 

At last, I broke it by saying the only thing I could.  “I’m so sorry, Sir.”  My voice wavered.  Don’t do it.  Don’t get emotional.

“Airman Maki, stop.” There was a long pause.  Then in a business-like tone he continued. “I trust you will be more careful around the red lines from now on.”

“Yes, Sir.”

And true to my word, I avoided red lines like the plague.

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Finding Contentment

I had been growing restless.  I couldn’t recall how long it had been since I had been on an “adventure”. 
I had a problem with contentment and always was searching for the next big thing.  Perhaps that’s why the Navy was good for me.  Flying on old planes was an adventure in itself.  Wings fell off.  Engine caught on fire.  The planes were old.  Oil leaks were a reassuring sign- an indication that the engine still had oil.  There was always a chance of getting shot at.  It was wonderful.

Aside from the Navy, if there was a cliff to dive off, a black diamond to ski down, a car to ride on top of, or a motorcycle to speed down a freeway on, I was the first to volunteer.  Yes, I had this weird thing with riding on top of cars.

Dumb?  Sure.  Did I care?  Not really.  I was invincible.  I had nothing to lose.  My bucket list had only began.
Why did I feel the need to constantly challenge myself?  I didn’t know.

10 years and 3 kids later...  

 I conquered childbirth.  What’s next? 

On a whim, I applied and was accepted into the FBI Special Agent program.

“Congratulations, you have successfully completed the Special Agent tests and interviews.  You may want to start making preparations for Quantico for the next 7 months and eventual relocation.”

It was the opportunity of a lifetime.  FBI. Special. Agent.  The best of the best.


At dinnertime, I was dreaming about going undercover and investigating dangerous crimes.  

“Mommy,” I suddenly snapped back into reality.   My 9 year old daughter sat in front of her dinner plate next to me.  She shifted her food back and forth on her plate with her fork.


“Shaylen told me today she doesn’t want to be my friend anymore...  and I don’t have any friends left.”  She hardly could speak the words.  Her head was still down, but I could see her huge brown eyes as they began to well up.

Oh the wickedness of preteen girls. I knew it was a normal growing pain- but oh, how dare they hurt my baby.  

I remembered it all too well myself- thinking back to a time when I was 9.  My friends and I had wretched Jack Sparrow-like duels.  Why were girls so mean?

I wanted to squeeze her and tell her none of this mattered.  It would pass and someday she would realize how ridiculous it was.

But to her, in that moment, it was her world.  And it was crashing down.

I glanced across the table at my sweet cherub-faced preschooler .  She was so innocent with her golden locks and expressive blue eyes.  Next to her sat her brother with a look of deep concentration on his face.  No doubt the weight of the world on his shoulders, as kindergarten had already presented new challenges for him too.  It was only the beginning.

It was then that I knew where I had to be.   

I was in the middle of the biggest adventure yet.  And I was needed right where I was.

“It’ll be okay, sweetheart.  I promise.”  I whispered. 

And at last, I found contentment.

*Defining moments occur when our past and our present or our future clash. The previous was written for this week’s Write on Edge prompt, write a memoir post describing such a time and the results.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

I Need a Coyote.

(photo courtesy of

What kills cats? I pondered aloud over a sip of coffee among a table of my girls.

It was supposed to be my Friday off- my sweet succulent day of selfish indulgence that I had every-other Friday.  The children were gleefully kissed atop their heads and sent off to school, lunchboxes swinging as they skipped into the school.  I had a grand total of 3 hours every 14 days of complete and utter solitude.  Free time in which I had the option to contemplate the meaning of life, or to write the next great American novel should my heart so desire.  The world was my oyster.  [insert funny oyster joke here]

More often than not, Starbucks with my best girlfriends won out.  Though I'm sure I'll pump out the great American novel one of these free three hours.  Whatever it was that filled the time- I held onto these few moments and cherished them like a king holds close his jewels.

This morning though, was different.  I was not in my state of kid-free bliss.  I was tense and disheveled.  There was a Cat-astrophes (of which I will spare the details) that had all ready erupted in my perfect Scarlet O'Hara vision of a morning.  I didn't know how much longer I could go on like this.

"Hmmm.  Fox?" Someone suggested or perhaps it was a question.  Do fox, in fact, eat cats? I thought to myself, and twisted my right earring between my fingertips.

"Coyotes," Christy answered, always sure of herself.  Though nearly the size of a leprechaun, she was a blond, untamed ball of fire that was not to be provoked.  She certainly knew what ate cats.

And somewhere in that moment, the thought of a coyote sounded completely appealing to me.

I grew up in woods that contained a trace of at least every wild animal known to North America.  Wolves?  In abundance.  Bears?  Crawling out of the dumpsters.  Coyotes?  Without a doubt.

Coyotes were often spotted on the back gravel roads that wound like woven yarn through Minnesota.  Car lights would catch them in their night scurry.  They would pause for a moment and stare into the headlights, without blinking, daring you to come closer.   Their yellow eyes peered deep into your soul.  They weighted a mix of malevolence and guilt as if they knew in a few minutes you'd arrive home to discover all of your chickens had disappeared without a trace except for a few feathers and a mangled fence.  Nay did they back down but merely followed your car with their head as you passed ever so slowly- knowing you were safe as long as your car did not break down.

Yes, I'm sure they would make great pets.

Yes, the fact that I was considering actually getting a coyote slapped me in the face back to reality- telling me just how crazy I had become.  I was the crazy cat woman.  Four cats in one house was enough to drive an English nun to drink.

I never planned on having 4 cats, it just kind of... happened.  Like when you buy a shot-glass in a different state.  Soon everyone thinks you love shot-glasses and buys them for you.  Eventually you have a china cabinet that's full of shot-glasses instead of china. People call you a shot-glass hoarder when they think you're out of earshot.  It's terribly awkward.

I didn't need anymore shot-glasses.  And I certainly did not need any more cats.

Yes, a coyote would no doubt politely extinguish my cat problem.

Oh, it would all be innocent enough.  I found it on the side of the road, I would say.  I couldn't leave a stray behind out in the dark all alone.  It looked hungry.  And then... soon enough, nature would solve all of my problems- mostly on its own.

Some would say I could simply return the cats or bring them to the shelter.  No, no.  I had made a commitment.  To fail my obligation would be cruel and inhumane.  And so, I decided with much conviction, I would get a coyote.

I smiled to myself and sipped my coffee.  Yes.   And they all thought I was crazy.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Out of Despair

“Above-normal snowfall in central and eastern North Dakota during the winter of 1996-97 and a blizzard on April 5-6, 1997, caused the worst flooding in the Red River of the North and Missouri River Basins in more than 100 years”*
“…A large fire started in Grand Forks, engulfing eleven buildings and sixty apartment units before being extinguished.”**

As if the floods weren’t enough.  Then came the fires.  How does one extinguish fires through streets that are completely encompassed by a river?  


Yesterday, my biggest concern was finding the perfect prom dress.
Suddenly the world looked very different.

It was my senior year.  As a teenager, we spoke of making a difference someday.  We were young and tragic news stories were only reported from half way around the world.   

When the request came, some went because they needed community service on their scholarships applications.  Some went to get out of school.  The idea of helping seemed nice.  No one knew of the impact the day would bring. 

“Alright kids,” the lady from the Red Cross began.  “We appreciate you volunteering here today.  We really can use the help.  There are a few things we need to go over first.  We need help unloading.  We are receiving donations from all over the country.  A semi-truck full of supplies just arrived from a Mormon church all the way from Salt Lake City!  The outpouring of help has been extraordinary. 
We need help stocking.  However, one of the biggest things we need are volunteers to individually go around and “shop” with the flood survivors.  We are discovering that they are not taking enough of what they need.  They want to save enough for someone else who may have lost more than them.  

“Encourage them.  Listen to them.”

So we listened.  

Everyone had a story.

“We were lucky,” they would begin. “We lost our home, but escaped right before the rush of waters overtook us.  We lost everything, but we are alive.”  It was the resounding theme.

Some felt fortunate, relieved.  Others, lost and dazed.  All were pained.  I wondered if they felt obligated to feel lucky.  It wasn’t lucky to be a flood victim.

A lady with a sleeping baby in her arms loaded her basket with only formula.  I told her she needed to take some food for herself.  She wept and nodded, as if she had forgotten.  I hugged her.  I wasn’t sure if it was against the rules.  I wanted to take her home with me.

Most took less than they needed of the supplies.  They were hardworking Midwesterners and were too proud. 

Despair echoed throughout the city’s destruction.  It had been described as looking like a war-zone.
Then, as they saw the donations fill the warehouses and arenas to the ceilings, something in their eyes changed.  Suddenly there was a trace of hope.  Disbelief.  Tears.

Out of despair came hope.  

Hope is what they drew on for strength to survive the worst of circumstances. It's what kept them going and gave them a reason to wake up another day.  “Out of the ashes we rise…”

And they did.

~Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul - and sings the tunes without the words - and never stops at all.
Emily Dickinson

Here is a shot of a few of us before we left that day.  I'm the one in the back right.  And yes, I thought I was extremely stylish at the time- can't you tell?  Poor Anna below me is showing off her thumb she slammed in a car door.  She's smooth like that.

Some facts on the flood of 1997:
  • Flood crest: 54.4 feet. (Flood stage: 28 feet)
  • Water flow: 140,000 cubic feet/second. (780 is normal)
  • 46,000 people evacuated in Grand Forks (90% of population)
  • 8600 homes with damage (75% of total) and 1616 apartments damaged (28% of total)
  • Almost two billion dollars in damage (Grand Forks and East Grand Forks)
  • 60,000 tons of debris removed.
  • 13 days without running water, 23 days without drinkable water.
  • No lives lost to the flood. 

Sorlie Bridge in East Grand Forks on April 17, 1997. Army Corps of Engineers picture.

*Quote and photo credits:  Perry, C.A., 2005, Summary of Significant Floods in the United States and Puerto Rico, 1994 Through 1998 Water Years: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2005-5194, 327p.

**Shelby, Ashley (2003). Red River Rising. United States: Borealis Books. ISBN 0-87351-500-5.

For more information:

Written as a prompt from Write on Edge, "A true story about hope, illustrated through your experiences.

Friday, March 16, 2012

Who is this Saint You Speak Of?

Happy St. Urho’s Day!
St. Who- you may ask if you are not from northern wooded Minnesota. You know- St. Urho. (Spoken by ‘rolling’ the ‘r’ on your tongue like an exotic linguist.) He's that guy that drove the grasshoppers out of Finland, thus saving the grape crops and joining sainthood.  Oh yes, he’s right up there with Peter, Paul, and Mary and comes marching in with the rest of them.

A Little Background

Ever since I was a wee lass, they taught us all about St. Urho back in the good ol' King Elementary School.  (aka- the only elementary school in Deer River)  We would all wear purple the day before everyone else in the country wore green.  As legend has it- it is speculated that St. Urho's Day was invented in attempt for the Finlanders to get a jump on the drinking before the Irish did on St. Patty's Day.  [Darn Irish bar-hogs!] Of course this key note was left out of our elementary school's teachings.

And So the Legend Goes...
(After a bit of research- I found this rendition to be my favorite, courtesy of

"Once upon a time, many many years ago in Finland they say (they being geologists and such) there used to be wild grapes growing all over.  How do they know this?  From studying the remains of bears in that area.

Well, one season a bunch of grasshoppers (i.e. locust) with a voracious appetite for grapes happen to hop into Finland.  What to do?

Enter our Finnish Hero, St. Urho!  Waving his pitchfork and chanting "Heinäsirkka, heinäsirkka, mene täältä hiiteen" (roughly translated: "Grasshopper, grasshopper, go to Hell!") he drove the grasshoppers out of the vineyards.  Now, I'm sure everyone in Minnesota wished that getting rid of mosquitoes could be that easy!

The Finnish grape farmers (viners?) were very protective of their fields because they didn't have much of a growing season.  (Note:  It isn't exactly like the Italian or French vineyards up there.)  So, rumor has it that they injected Vodka into their grapes to give them a bigger alcohol content.  I guess this is an early version of "organic farming" regarding pest control?

Feeling so happy and grateful to Urho, they declared him a saint.  He did this on March 16, the day before St. Patrick's Day.

Every year since then, the Finnish people celebrated St. Urho's Day on March 16.  The official colors are purple to represent the grapes and green to represent the vines (or the dead grasshoppers-- depending on whose version you hear).

The St. Urho's day ceremony begins at sunrise.  The celebration includes singing, dancing polkas and drinking wine, grape juice,for those underage and having Mojakkaa (fish soup pronounced like "moy-yah-kah") which is what St. Urho ate to give him his strength to fight grasshoppers. [or that was just what our grandparents told us so we'd eat the wretched-smelling treat]

The city of Menahga, MN actually has a stature of St. Urho in the town.  [See picture above] The original statue was carved in 1982 with a chainsaw from a 2000 lb oak block.  Since then, it's been replaced with a fiberglass replica to deal with the harsh Minnesota weather."

And finally, I'll close with my favorite poem in which the essence of a true Finlander is captured along with their beautifully seductive accent: [Frenchmen be jealous!]

Ode to St. Urho
By Gene McCavic

Written in Finnish dialect
(original location at the Iron World Museum, Chisholm, MN)

Ooksie kookise coolama vee
Santia Urho is ta poy for me!
He sase out ta hoppers as pig as birds
Neffer peefor haff I hurd does words!
He reely told does pugs of kreen
Braaffest finn I effer seen!
Some celebrate for St. Pat unt hiss nakes
Putt Urho poyka kot what it takes.
He got tall and trong from feelia sour
Unt ate culla moyakka effery hour.
Tat's why day guy could sase does peetle
What crew as thick as chack bine needles.
So lets give a cheer in hower pest way
On this 16th of March, St. Urho's Tay!

[You must read aloud for full effect.  I like to pretend I'm talking like my grandpa or great uncle.]

And now, you may consider yourself more educated.  Have a fabulous day and don't forget to get your purple beer on!!

For more info visit:

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

I Wish You Would've Written Star Wars.

(photo courtesy of  

“A squeaky wheel gets oiled!”  I’ve heard that line now a dozen times in the past two weeks from everyone including family, friends, and marketing representative.  And so, I got squeaky and set up a meeting.  I met with the only bookstore owner within a 50-mile radius- the only bookstore that hadn’t shut down yet as a result of our haggard economy.

I told her I was local and vainly hoped that would be enough.  The truth was, I really didn’t know what I was doing.  It was all new.  I was simply proud of making it up to 187,420 for a day on the Amazon Bestsellers list. I was “moving on up” even if it was at the speed of Molasses.

The silver-haired store owner sat across the table from me.  She picked up my book and inspected it. Then she gently sat it back down on the table and patted the top of it.  I held my breath, waiting. 

“Honestly," she began. "I’d really wished you would’ve written Star Wars.  I can sell Star Wars.”  Hmmm.  I wasn't quite sure what to say to that. I wished I would’ve written Star Wars too?! 

But alas, my book was not Star Wars.

She was a sweet, little grandma.  She was kind, but set in her ways.  And because of her age, she could get away with telling me I sucked without batting an eyelash.  I couldn’t argue with a grandma. Come to think of it, I'm sure many people wouldn't have a problem telling someone they are not good enough.
I patiently listened to her for an hour about why she liked the books that she did. Then, for reasons I'll never know, I somehow convinced her to give me a shot.  I'd host a signing in her store, because really, what did she have to lose?

Reluctantly, she agreed- though suggested I write a pop-up book next time, or something of more value.

The day came and I was stunned at the outpouring of people.  I was elated- especially when I realized there were others there besides just my friends and family (as they would have kindly supported me if I had written a story about moldy cheese). I sold more books than I expected.  But even better than that- I met people that genuinely liked my book.  Other veterans (especially women veterans) thanked me for writing a book about them- as there were not other books like it.

That day I realized I would never be George Lucas.  I may never even be a best seller.  (I mean, I can still hope!) However, I wrote a story I felt passionate about.  I had a message I felt compelled to tell.  In the aftermath of the first signing I promised myself I would remember the joy that creating a story brings to me.  I would hope to always remember why I’m really writing.

*This piece was written as a prompt from Write on Edge:  "Write about a time you compared yourself, unfavorably, with someone else."

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


(Photo courtesy of stock.xchng)

They say you’ll never forget your boot camp bunk-mate, and I can attest that a true statement.  Her name was Sheila.  Though we never stayed in touch, she taught me many lessons during the longest nine weeks of my life.

She was the first African-American I’d ever met.  Sure, I’d seen black people before on TV and when we’d drive down to The Cities.  I wasn’t racist because I had no reason to be.  I never had to fight the white/black wars.  If anything, Sheila was a novelty.  I marveled at her gorgeous cocoa-colored skin.  I wanted to touch it- to feel if it really was different.

We became good friends during those transforming nine weeks.  We depended on each other, and looked out for each other,  and I did eventually touch her skin.  I held her ankles during sit-ups, helping her up from the ground.  It really didn’t feel any different, and after a while I didn’t even notice that it was a different color.

However, there was another difference.  I never realized how different African-American hair was from mine.  I had no idea that many of those long, beautiful braids people had were often fake hair.  Not until the day our RDC broke Sheila.

She had beautiful, classy-looking braids in her hair that ended up growing just a little bit below collar.  Collar-length was our limit.  One day, the RDC came by and said she had better have them pinned up at all times.  Most times she did, but after marching in the heat all day long, a few would slip out.
Catching them like that one day, the RDC ordered her to remove them all.

Reluctantly doing as she was instructed, Sheila began struggling to unbraid these perfect strands of shiny, coal-colored hair.  She began to cry.  One by one they began to fall into a pile on the floor, leaving just about 2 inches of untamed, frizzy hair.  At first I was shocked and panicked, wondering why her hair was falling out.  Soon, two other black girls came by to help her begin the tedious task of unbraiding them all.  I quickly joined, learning as I watched.

Tears continued to stream down Sheila’s face and she watched her beautiful strands fall.  It was plain heart wrenching.  Her beauty, and femininity was being slowly stripped away.  I guess that was the point.  There was no pride here- not unless it was Navy pride.

I wiped away her tears, promising that when this was all over, we’d get it fixed together.    When we finished, her hair was coarse and unmanageable.  It stuck up in every direction and was completely unruly.

And she was beautiful.

The previous is a piece from "What They Don't Teach You in Deer River" and was written in response to Write On Edge's prompt:  "write about a time when something was irrecoverably broken and the ensuing scramble."

Sunday, March 4, 2012

Old Milwaukee and BB Guns

Excitement built up in my chest like a geyser eruption, planting a perma-grin on my face as I pulled up the driveway in my flashy chrisom red rental car.  The screen door burst open with a painful screech and I instantly recognized the genuine smile I had known all my life.  His eyes sparkled when he looked at me. 

Before my dad could even take a step forward, Hersh, the old brown Chesapeake retriever, dashed towards me in chunky leaps and bounds.  My muscles tensed and I braced myself against the car and tried to shield my yellow sundress against the inevitable.  Her tongue hung lazily out of her mouth and a trail of saliva slithered off slowly and flung free in the air as she ran.  She was dirty, smelled of swamp, and her heart was full as she nearly trampled me to the ground.

“Hersh!  Down!” My dad politely disciplined her, halfheartedly, attempting to cover his amusement.  I knew how his mind worked.  A little dirt was good for me.  It reminded me of who I was.

The heels from my strappy sandals sunk down into gravel of the driveway.  I knew it was a dumb idea to wear them up north, but I couldn’t resist.  They just matched too perfectly-  an irrelevant concept on the farm.  My dad would tell me the dogs and horses don’t care if you match or not as he wore his thin gray t-shirt that was about as weathered as his rosy cheekbones.

Dad worked from sunrise to sunset everyday.  We, his children all had a list of chores that had to be done every night when we got home from school before we were allowed to do anything else.  One of my daily chores was to carry in a wheelbarrow full of firewood every night to the basement.  It was always expected and dad wasn't any easier on his three girls than he would have if he had boys. As his age began to catch up with him, I speculated his bones were probably weaker than mine, yet he now insisted on carrying in my belongings.    For some reason, my dad now felt it was his duty to make things easier for me now that I was older.  I couldn’t help but think how backwards this seemed.

He rested my bags at the door and like a small child, he could not wait to show me all his new toys. 

First it was a loop around the house on the three-wheeler so I could check out how good she was running.  He pointed out some of the work that had been done on the dock after a storm had blown through and ripped a few pieces off.

Then we went out to the back deck where I was handed an Old Milwaukee in a can and some smoked fish as we talked about how he had net the fish under the ice the past winter.  I knew Dad would think I was being ridiculous if I asked for a glass to pour the beer in.  So I drank it out of the can- like I used to.  I wondered at what point did I become so girly?  Had I always been?

Finally the afternoon was topped off as my dad handed me the BB gun he kept around the corner- loaded and close enough to reach to ward off any varmints that got to close to the house.  We were taught from the age we began crawling to respect guns- and not to touch them unsupervised.  So it was not strange to me that he left them around the house in various corners.

Then, as the breeze brushed the fresh smell of the northern waters past my nose, I clenched the BB gun and tucked it neatly into my shoulder.  It was somewhere in that moment as I squinted my eye through the sight and shot off the deck at a pop can in the backyard, a wave of comfort swept over me.  I fired a shot, snapping the can into the air.  The loons called back from the lake, complaining of the gunshot noise.  I had forgotten how amazing it felt to shoot- even if it was a little BB gun.  I knew we'd get to the 'bigger stuff' later.  It was required.  I surveyed the scene, smiling, and taking it all in.

I knew I was home.