This post may not be appreciated by some people. But this is a part of who I am, too. Please give this a read, and some contemplation. So, as many of my friends know, I belong to a wonderful organization, “The Well Armed Woman.” This group has taught me more than I ever thought I should know, about protecting myself. All by myself. And it has also given me the confidence to protect myself, all by myself.
A little over two years ago, even after noticing them on Facebook and other places, I was invited to attend a TWAW meeting. It changed my life. I met women who have become good friends of mine. I was enthralled by the lessons. But I did not shoot a gun. Don’t get me wrong, I love shooting. I grew up with weapons in the house. My dad hunted. I was comfortable around long guns. For my 40th birthday, my husband bought me a shotgun and some perfume! LOL. We owned hunting dogs and regularly went bird hunting with friends and family. So I have been around the culture of guns and hunting my entire life. But self-defense and handguns, when carried on your person, were a completely different ballgame.
I wanted to learn how I could protect myself. It came to roost, in a serious way, one day when I was walking to the grocery store with my elderly mother. We had parked our car a ways out, because the lot was packed. As we were walking to the storefront, I noticed this man heading right towards us. He looked like he was high on drugs and he had a menacing air about him. One of the amazing things about the sessions at TWAW meetings was that I had been taught about “situational awareness” – always keeping your eye on your surroundings, so you do not become a victim. And we also were taught to carry ourselves confidently, so we didn’t look like victims. I squared my shoulders and looked at this man, straight in the eye. I placed my hand in my purse, signaling to him I was armed. As he approached me, I said, “Don’t even think about it.” And he literally turned right and walked away. And I realized I was all that stood between me and my mom. I was her sole protector. (She is 89 and has Alzheimer’s, and is 4′ 10″ and 120 lbs. on a good day). And I did not even know how to protect myself. (Other than how I project myself).
I decided I really did need to learn how to shoot and how to carry a weapon – safely. I had shot handguns in the past, but I did not feel like I knew much about them. I had been joking around that I wanted a pretty “Tiffany” gun – all silvery and blue and fancy and looking cute for my purse. But when it came down to it, I chose to purchase a black, simple, gun that felt good in my hands and that I could really use. My personal choice was a Smith & Wesson M&P Pro and I really like it. It is big, but there is no recoil. It fits my little, arthritic fingers and it does not hurt to shoot. It took me more than a year to choose a weapon, trying everything my instructors shared with me. And having hours and hours of discussions about which weapon would work for me.The instructors at TWAW (who have since become dear friends) never lost their patience with me, but were so positive and encouraging. Never did they push me to do anything other than what I was comfortable doing. And that even included taking more than 1 year to choose a gun to own! (You know who you are – and I thank you for that).
In the year I have had this weapon, I have become more and more comfortable with it. I have also been eyeing other brands and styles, for different reasons. They do say once the bug bites, you want more and more guns to shoot with. For anyone who is afraid to shoot a gun, there is a TWAW chapter near you. And they instruct you and inform you and help you grow in confidence and expertise. It is amazing. And the camaraderie of shooting with a group of women is something I cannot really explain. You just have to try it. And their color is purple! Who doesn’t love purple, right???
It is winter. Darkness comes about 3:30pm. This sort of total darkness. The sun in winter does not mess around with pretty sunsets…it is just gone! LOL! And this week, I am home alone. My husband is business traveling and our youngest son, who is a firefighter, was called to some shifts at the station. So it is me and our 13-year-old Springer, Poca. Last night, as I was getting ready for bed, I heard this banging sound. It sounded like someone was trying to get into our garage from the side of the house. I realized I was totally alone. So I went to get my weapon. It was in its bag, empty. Surrounded by empty ammo boxes. I had been lazy and not cleaned my gun, neither had I removed it from its range bag and refilled any of the magazines. My gun was empty and I did not see any rounds. Well, my husband shoots, too. He is in a sharp-shooting course with our eldest son and he shoots with him every Thursday. I dove into his range bag. No ammo. So I went to where we keep our ammo and found out we just had some really pretty Winchester Full Metal Jacket rounds. So I grabbed a box and went to load my magazines. I hear “bang-bang-bang” on the walls again. So I hurry and look for my loader. Not in my bag. It was in hubby’s bag (guess what Santa is bringing him this year???). I started loading. I realized that by this time, I should be dead, if this was an intruder. So I loaded my weapon, cleared it, and had one in the chamber. And I set out to clear every room in the house, as I made my way towards the sound. Now, we live in Alaska. There are big animals here who wander around at will – like moose and bears. So I am thinking perhaps a moose or bear was dipping into our trashcan outside the garage. I am making my way towards that side of the house when I see our dog, Poca, chomping away on a new bone. “Bang-bang-bang” as she flips the bone over and it hits the floors. Yep; it was the dog the whole time. LOL. (That is her below, chomping on a bone on her bed by the fireplace).
I learned something from this. I realized I depended on my husband to be the protector in our home. Not me. And I realized I had no idea how to unlock his gun safe (I know now – a day later). And I also realized that I am enough. I can protect myself. Once my gun was loaded and that round was in the chamber, I relaxed. I respected my weapon and I also felt confident that I could protect myself using it. Because it is the bad guy, or it is me. And I realized last night that I am not ready for it to be me. I still have a lot of living left to do.
So, if you feel frightened in your own home, that is not a good feeling. It is the one place we need to feel safe. When our doors are closed and locked, and we are inside, we should not have to fear intruders. They have no right to be in our homes if they are not invited inside. And last night I realized that through the past two-plus years of attending The Well Armed Woman courses and events, that I had been lectured to. I had been instructed. But I had never been called upon to use any of what I had learned. Up until last night. And I am so pleased and proud to say I can take care of myself, no problem. It felt really good to take control of my environment. (Whether or not I hit the target is for another post, but I know I could save my own life). And as an older woman, alone, it feels pretty darn good. In addition, I am less fearful of carrying concealed (I already have my CC permit, having taken the course and passed the tests) because I realized that when something frightened me, I was up to the task of protecting myself. As I get more prepared, I feel better and better. I am planning to continue my education in firearm use and safety, as well as learning more and more through The Well Armed Woman. If you haven’t considered it, as a woman, I think you should! It is so much fun; the camaraderie is fulfilling; and the experiences are priceless. It truly is an amazing organization. Below is a photo of me, heading out to the range for a day of learning and shooting, in my TWAW purple! And if you decide you want to learn more, please find a TWAW Chapter near you. I promise you will be glad you did!!!