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Safety first. Wild "Bonnie and Clyde" fantasies second.
Safety first. Wild "Bonnie and Clyde" fantasies second.

I want to shoot a gun

I grew up on Milwaukee’s East Side, in a community of hippies and academics, so toy guns were a big no-no. I never even owned a squirt gun. In fact, when I asked my mother for one, she said "we don’t like guns" and bought me a baton instead. I learned to twirl, but I always wanted to give shooting a whirl.

About five years ago, I spent time at a family member’s cottage on Washington Island and, while my kids napped, we shot soda cans with a BB gun. It was incredibly fun, and surprisingly, felt quite satisfying. Turns out, my aim ain’t too bad, either.

Although I have no intention of joining the NRA or packing on a regular basis, I am interested in shooting responsibly at a range and I’m wondering where I should go. Any suggestions for locations or tips for a novice?

Don't worry, Mom. I'll be careful.

A good whistle is all about hand placement.
A good whistle is all about hand placement.

The family whistle

My husband is a great whistler. He has a variety of whistling styles, including a couple that involve fingers-to-mouth and a couple that do not. I have tried to improve my whistling for years now, but apparently, I’m missing the whistler’s gene. I think I’m more of a snapper and clapper, but that’s another blog.

His whistling comes in handy for all sorts of things, like dog herding and cab hailing, but most of all, for rounding up the family. Without discussion, he’s invented a distinct, low whistle for when he cannot find me at, say, Target. And another whistle -- higher-pitched and longer -- that’s perfect for trying to get my attention from, say, across a waterpark.

Honestly, before I had kids, I don’t think I would have been OK with being whistled at like this, but since we became parents, so much of our yammering is completely condensed because with the responsiblities of two little people, there’s no time for excess language. A few extra adjectives and someone could end up electrocuted.

Hence, a 10-minute discussion about finances is now settled with a few sentences, chatty phone conversations are three-worded texts and the word-free whistle tops the efficient communicado list.

It's like we're playing a version of the old game show "Name That Tune" where two people competed against each other to name a song on the piano in the least number of notes. We need to communicate volumes in the least possible words. I  might be able to plan a vacation in two e-mails, but he can unite the family from the far corners of Wal-Mart with a single mouth tweet.

Until I master telepathic communication, the whistler wins.

Was your yard flower bombed this weekend?
Was your yard flower bombed this weekend?

Attack of the guerrilla gardeners

In February, a friend and I went to see "Handmade Nation," a documentary by Milwaukee’s Faythe Levine about the indie craft movement, and I was deeply inspired in many ways. At one point, the film chronicles a group of knitters who "tag" lampposts and streets signs with knit cuffs as a form of public art. I love this idea, and it reminded of something I had always wanted to do: guerrilla gardening.

After the film, my friend and I went out for drinks at Paddy’s Pub, where I told her about my idea: to covertly plant sunflowers in ugly and barren spaces in our neighborhood to create beauty. I thought sunflowers were ideal because they are hardy flowers that could grow with little maintenance.

My friend was enthusiastic about the idea, and we decided to do it. We sent out e-mails, scouted out areas where we would plant and discussed at great length whether or not we could get in trouble for planting flowers on public and private property. We decided that we were at peace with whatever happened.

Last weekend, a bunch of friends and their kids got together with wagons, watering cans, shovels and seeds and "flower bombed" numerous ugly spaces in our neighborhood that, in our opinion, were screaming for sunflowers.

I really love to garden -- it’s a hobby and environmental responsibility that I hope my kids will value for their entire lives -- however, it turns out, the real "message" of our guerrilla gardening expedition had little to do with flowers.

My son, who is way more structured than I, kept asking me why we were doing this. "Is it a special day?" he asked, needing a reason for our gardening, like perhaps we were participating in a nationally recognized holiday.

"No," I told him. "We’re dong this just for fun. We’re doing this to make our neighborhood prettier."

Later, he asked me about the public greenspace where we were planting. "Whose yard is this?" he asked, slightly suspiciously.

I explained to him that the "yard" belonged…

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I was told that "cougars" like Victor's, 1230 N. Van Buren St.
I was told that "cougars" like Victor's, 1230 N. Van Buren St.

At what age does a woman become a "cougar?"

Last week, I celebrated a birthday and, although I am still in my 30s, I was jokingly referred to as "almost of cougar age." This, of course, led to a debate about what age a woman must be before she falls into the cougar category.

I think a woman has to be 45 or older to join the cougar club, but a friend insisted any gal over the age of 40 is eligible for membership. Another friend, however, said 50 was the gateway to cougar-dom.

For the record, I wasn't a big fan of this label, which refers to an older woman who dates younger men, but it’s an unavoidable pop culture term that many women have embraced. So, OK.

Here’s an article I wrote last year if you want more information about local cougar dens.