A Close Call…Lessons Learned


I live in the Reno, NV area and we were fear-struck by a “serial killer” on the loose. There were four murders in a matter of two weeks which is unheard of for these parts. They have since arrested a suspect but people are still on edge and gun sales are the highest I’ve ever seen them here. Everyone is a bit on edge but that being said, life goes on. My activities haven’t changes but my level of awareness is a little higher though I am usually fairly vigilant anyway.

So last night about 9:15pm, my teenage daughter and I went to our gym. This isn’t a public gym but one that is part of a private housing community. It’s gated and requires multiple levels of badge access to get into the gym itself.  That’s better security than most facilities but not fool-proof my any means.

We had finished our workout, leaving one other woman in the weights area to continue her night. We went to the locker-room preparing to leave. Suddenly a loud male voice yells out on the main gym floor.  Neither of us could make out what he said but it was alarming. Immediately, we grabbed the pepper spray and knife I keep in my gym bag.  I didn’t have my handgun with me, I had left it in the truck. A decision I immediately regretted and have since remedied.

Alarmed, my daughter and I immediately constructed a plan. The locker-room only had one exit and it led directly into the area the voice came from. Being trapped without an alternate exit was not ideal. We decided that I would take the weapons and take point leaving the area with her within an arm’s reach behind me. Intentionally, I flung my gym bag over my left shoulder and put the knife in my left hand, pepper-spray in my right. I am right-handed and I train to not carry things on my dominate side because of the grasp-reflex that often prevents us from dropping a held object when we are ambushed thus I had the less effective weapons on my left.

We began to make our way toward the main exit, cautiously checking each section using the gym mirrors to gain greater vantage before proceeding to the next section. We made our way to the exit door which led to a well-lit walkway, still inside a gated section of the community. As we exited, from a darkened area about 15 yards away, the same male voice yelled “Goodnight!” with a tone of anger and contempt.

I knew we were steps away from turning a corner that would afford us cover and a directly line to the exit gate. So we quickly proceeded to round the corner and ran for the gate, to my truck parked nearby. We safely got in the truck and drove away.

Here are some of my after-action thoughts on the event.

1 – I am incredibly grateful that I have invested resources in training for my daughter. She’s skilled with a firearm, pepper-spray, edged weapons and is a hell-cat if physically attacked. More than that she remained calm, she took action and operated with intention. She recognized that there was a potential situation developing and she worked as a team to move to safety.

2 – I am grateful that I had a couple tools at my disposal but realize I can do more to prepare in the future. There are also times when we can’t have any weapons but we can improvise and we need a plan for that.

3 – Being aware of your exits, physical location and options is critical in developing a plan quickly. Using the mirrors and positions of advantage (angles and concealment matter). I am confident that this mindset saved my life during the Route 91 mass-shooting.

4 – I was aware that another woman was potentially in danger. However, my goal was to get my daughter and myself to safety.  In many of the classes I teach, I admonish students to be clear about their own personal rules of engagement prior to a critical incident.  For me, it’s a bit of a hierarchy and may vary depending on the scenario.  Last night, my daughter and I were my priority.  The other woman was on her own until I knew what was happening.  If I had walked out and found her being assaulted, I am confident that my daughter and I would likely have intervened on her behalf.  But that wasn’t the case and my priority was to move to a position of safety as quickly as possible.

Overall, it was a good learning experience and I’m pleased with how things turned out. You never know how you will truly react until you are put a situation like that.  I was very grateful that the training I’ve done over the years have given me tools that I wouldn’t have had otherwise. Panic happens when you feel helpless, presence of mind comes from preparedness.

There is no way of knowing what was really happening last night or if we were actually in danger. As an instructor I like to say “You win 100% of the fights you aren’t in”. I consider last night a win.

Are you prepared for situations like this? I want to hear what you would have done.  Share your thoughts!


I taught you what? A lesson in parenting

 Whether you are a parent or not, you influence people every day. The question is - What are they learning from you?Have you ever wondered what your kids really hear when you tell them something? As a parent, we do everything we can to keep our kids safe.  Teach them to look both ways before crossing the street.  Fire is hot. Drugs are bad. But do we teach them to listen to their gut? To set healthy boundaries?  When to say No? Recently I learned my parental score in a few of these areas.

Scene 1

When my middle-school age daughter comes home she will often Skype with her friends and talk about their day.  Yesterday was no exception.  She was sitting at the kitchen counter chatting away with her friend, when I walked in.  Her friend was telling her that a boy in her class was asking her VERY inappropriate questions.  Graphic sexual questions.  “Would you ever…” questions.

I pretended not to hear what was being said and quickly retreated out of sight to observe how my daughter was going to handle the situation.  Yes, I continued to unapologetically eavesdrop. That’s part of my job as a parent.

As I listened silently, my daughter emphatically told her friend that she needed to block this boy online and avoid him in the halls.  If he approached her, she should confront him directly about how inappropriate his questions were.

Scene 2

Later that night, my daughter, husband and I were watching a TV show called Catfish.  It’s a show about online relationships where one person is often not who or what they appear and the host brings the two parties together to reveal the truth.  In this episode, a young man was essentially stalking a girl and being very obsessive. During the confrontation scene the young man was very socially awkward.  His mannerisms and body language made everyone on the show very uncomfortable. I closely watched my daughter’s reactions.  She winced and recoiled in places.  She was wide-eyed in others.

At the commercial break, my husband asked her what she thought of the whole interaction. Her response surprised me.

She recounted the young man’s behavior.

  • He didn’t read any clues about the girl’s refusal to meet him
  • He seemed clingy and didn’t read social cues
  • He would wring his hands and dart his eyes erratically
  • He was awkward and made everyone uncomfortable

After recounting all the reasons she was repulsed by this guy, she looked at me and said “You taught me how to see all that” with a “duh” tone that every teen girl has perfected.  I was taken aback. I don’t ever remember teaching her to look for those things specifically but she was certain that I had.

The conscience of children is formed by the influences that surround them; their notions of good and evil are the result of the moral atmosphere they breathe. – John Paul Richter

The Conclusion

As a mother of a daughter, I worry constantly about all the traps that young women fall into. Wanting attention, wanting to fit in, not speaking up for themselves, not setting healthy boundaries, etc. I have never sat down and said “here’s a list of behaviors to look for” but I have always tried to help her recognize how she feels in response to things. To be aware of her surroundings and things that didn’t look or feel right. Apparently she was paying attention.

Twice in one day, I saw my daughter respond in the way I had hoped.  She recognized inappropriate and uncomfortable behavior, then responded accordingly.  It’s moments like this, the trial runs, which help her to practice for the bigger events later in life. Refining these skills and testing her boundaries now will pay off later.  My hope is that these moments will help her recognize the erratic man who means her harm, the obsessive boyfriend or date that is too aggressive. I hope it gives her strength to ask for what she needs and walk away from things that aren’t healthy.

We can teach kids the obvious stuff but it’s the fuzzy stuff that’s harder.  Some of it is definable, some is more instinctual. Intentional instruction is more than a conversation. It’s not a list of do’s and don’ts.  It’s woven into everyday events.  It’s practicing a skill and building confidence. Teaching my daughter situational awareness or setting healthy boundaries is a series of conversations – every day.  It’s setting an example for her in my own behavior – sometimes, what NOT to do and admitting my failures.

Whether you are a parent or not, you influence people every day. The question is – What are they learning from you?

Nothing is so potent as the silent influence of a good example. – James Kent