The Evil Eye in My Living Room

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The Evil Eye

 

My husband, endlessly keen on electronic gadgetry, came home from Best Buy with a Nest Cam the other day. He had been talking about getting one for a couple months, and each time he brought it up I rolled my eyes and ignored him. His reason for purchasing the remote video camera was that he would use it to check on the dog while we were out. He explained that the Nest Cam has a speaker so you can talk to whoever or whatever you see on the camera once it is in place. He fantasized that he would be able to yell at the dog if he caught her napping on one of our new library chairs, a decidedly verboten location for four-legged, shedding fur babies. While I could see where he was going with his idea, I told him that he doesn’t understand that she is a border collie. Border collies are a bit smarter than your average dog (and, given our current political situation, they may actually be quite a bit smarter than many average US voters).

I’ll be honest. The main reason I didn’t want him to buy the camera had little to do with its price tag and everything to do with his being able to check in on me during the day. Between the hours of 8:15 a.m. and 2:45 p.m., my house is Vegas, baby. What goes on here stays here. If I walk around in my underwear all damn day, that is my private business. If I am unshowered and sans make up and dancing 80’s style to Depeche Mode while I vacuum furniture, that is not your concern either. And if, on some off chance, I am eating popcorn and binge watching episodes of Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, the last thing I want is my husband yelling at me through the speaker to get off the sofa like I am his dog. I have personal space issues. Those issues are that I need it. While the government may have photos of me that I hope will never come to light when I run for City Council, in my own world I like to imagine I am at least somewhat stealthy and secure in my personal space at home.

As proof of this, I offer Exhibit A.

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I am great at not sharing.

Yesterday, my son’s phone was accidentally taken home by another student. Concerned son asked me to use the Find iPhone app to locate it. While I was checking on its whereabouts for him, I used the app to illustrate my privacy issues for my husband. All three of my Apple devices are always and famously not sharing location for the exact reason stated above. Rest assured that if I go missing in the Colorado wilderness and the bloodhounds can’t track me, you should just write me off as eaten by a mountain lion because you won’t be tracking me using a Find iPhone app that I voluntarily engaged. Not. Ever.

But, I digress. Yesterday hubby set up the Nest Cam while enduring my vigorous and wordy protests. He tried to reassure me that he had zero plans on spying on me. He told me he would set it up so that the only time it was activated was in my absence. He reminded me of the house security system and its camera, which he pointed out had never been abused to stalk me. I consequently reminded him this is mainly because I made him mount it in the garage because my home is Vegas, baby. He had me stand in the living room while he tested the audio capabilities. Then he asked me if I noticed what he had named it. He named it Hal after the sentient computer in 2001: A Space Odyssey. I told him he wasn’t funny. If you haven’t seen the movie, let me elucidate; Hal is a little smarter than you would want your computer to be. He’s nosey, sneaky, and he’s creepy as hell. Steve was doing little to further his case. I started imagining terrible things accidentally befalling Hal during a routine dusting task. A smack on the back of its little black head with a baseball bat, perhaps?

Later, an email message came in for Steve from Hal. He saw it, began laughing, and forwarded it to me. It reinforced my concerns.

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Damn you, Hal!

Hal had tracked me to my own living room at 8:17 p.m. There I am looking down at my iPhone, probably right after I got an alert that Hal spotted something in my living room, namely me. The level of creepiness just got upped. All I needed was Hal’s soft and calm voice saying something like, “I’m sorry, Justine. I’m afraid you can’t do that,” and I would lose my shit. I told hubby that I hate Hal. Secretly, though, I hoped Hal hadn’t heard me because I know what he is capable of.

I went to sleep last night not exactly sure where we would eventually land on this whole Hal development. I kind of hoped hubby would return the stupid thing, but he seemed pretty hell bent on using it on the dog as planned.

Today he got his opportunity. While I was out at an appointment, Ruby did indeed help herself to a comfy seat on her preferred library chair near the picture window. Upon receiving notification of movement in the living room, Steve panned Hal around to check the chair. And there she was. Vindication would soon be his. Steve pressed the microphone button on the Nest Cam app and proceeded to chide Ruby loudly to scare her from the furniture. She didn’t budge. He tried again while people in his quiet office silently wondered what the hell he was shouting from his cubby. Ruby lifted her head but remained steadfast. She had seen through Steve’s little charade and she was having none of it. She put her head back down and went right back to sleep. She’s border collie smart.

When I got home, I had to scold her for sleeping in the chair, but I apologized later. She may not be the best behaved dog ever, but she was on my side about Hal. We females have to stick together. The camera is going back. Our house is still Vegas, baby!

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High five from my furry soul sister

 

 

My Anne Lamott Dilemma

Image“You own everything that ever happened to you. Tell your stories. If people wanted you to write warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” ~Anne Lamott

I came upon this quote last year while reading Anne Lamott’s book about writing, Bird for Bird. It’s been traversing in and out of my head since then. It’s bold, brash, and unapologetic, like so many things Anne Lamott writes. Sadly, I am not Anne Lamott. And, as much as I love this statement, I’m paralyzed by it. It she actually suggesting that I write whatever I want without any concern about whom I might hurt in the process? To be honest, I’m not entirely sure if I’m that brazen yet. I’ve always been careful not to burn any bridges until I’m certain I don’t want to go back, and I don’t often find myself 100% certain about anything.

If my sister does something that irks me, is it honestly okay for me to blog about and then post to Facebook her transgression? I think I would hate it if tables were turned and my sister were the writer. I’d be scared to say or do anything around her for fear that I would end up as the next diatribe or anecdote in her blog. My sons already beg me not to write about things they’ve done. On a few occasions my husband, who is wholeheartedly supportive of my writing, requested I not share something he’s done. When does my right to tell my story outrank their right not to be lampooned on the World Wide Web?

Anne is right. These are my stories, and I should be able to tell them because as much as they belong to the others involved they also belong to me. I’ll be honest. I have a lot of kooky stories I could blog if I threw caution to the wind and ratted on the people in my life because my tribe is freaking crazy. I mean, of course they are. I am one of them. But just because they’re nutty doesn’t mean their privacy should be squandered.

So, I ask you. What is a writer to do? Am I honest and true to myself, my stories, my craft or am I fair and kind to my family and friends? If you’re a writer, how do you handle this? If you’re an unfortunate relative of a writer, how would you feel having your quirks and frailties littered across the internet?

I hope someday to be audacious enough to tell my stories. All of them. I guess between now and then I’ll have to figure out a way to do it without alienating people who matter. Or I’ll have to become such a skilled writer that I can craft a story so well that no one would dare dream of being offended by it.

The Tell-Tale Cry of Nothing

Little monsters
Little monsters

I was standing in our sons’ bedroom tonight as they were settling in for the night and I was struck with a memory from our recent past. When they were younger, on occasion I would hear a bang, crash, thump, or some other oddly loud sound coming from where they were. Before I could even inquire about the noise, one would holler to me at the top of his lungs to stop the impending investigation.

“NOTHING.”

That was it. No explanation. No apology. Sometimes it was repeated rapidly several times in the same way to reinforce the complete and utter nothingness of the nothing. It still makes me laugh to think about it. I always figured that if no one was crying and the house wasn’t suddenly filled with smoke and the ceiling hadn’t caved in and there was no water cascading in a flash flood down the stairs, all was well. Or at least well enough. I’d find out soon enough what mischief they’d been up to.

When I was growing up, I wasn’t supposed to have secrets. I kept a journal, and I knew it was read despite my best efforts to hide it. I would set it a certain way before I left and sometimes when I returned I could tell it had been moved. I guess I don’t blame my mom for snooping. Parents have to look out for their kids. I suppose my journal was as close as she was going to get to finding out what was going on in my head. Still, my lack of privacy growing up deeply influenced how much respect I have for my sons’ right to keep some things to themselves. Not everything, but some things.

So far, I’ve been lucky. Most of the time, they do admit when things go awry. They fess up when they mess up. Maybe not without prompting, but they don’t persist in a lie for no reason. I learned a lesson from my youth. The more my parents pried, the more I clammed up. In response, with my own children I’ve decided not to sweat the little things because I want them to trust me when the big things pop up. And I know they will.

I don’t often hear the tell-tale cry of NOTHING these days. Perhaps it’s because they’re older and spend more time playing on electronics than wrestling. Perhaps it’s because they’re better at covering things up. Or perhaps it’s because they’ve accepted that I know they’re good kids and there’s nothing they could do that would make me love them less.

Nothing.

 

Thank God My Son Is A Geek

Sample of a text message I received from my son
Sample text message from my son

The other day I was talking to my sister about Joe and how he’s growing up. I told her that he’s now texting his friends from his iPad. Personally, I find the whole thing reasonably amusing. Joe is not exactly the world’s greatest speller and when he texts me I often have a hard time deciphering what he’s trying to say. I imagine the process is even more difficult for a 5th grader who has less experience with the English language and with Joe’s spelling missteps than I do. My sister is more of a worrier than I am, so her mind immediately went worst-case-scenario on me.

“Who does he text?” she inquired.

“A few of his classmates,” I replied.

“Boys or girls?”

“Some of both, I think.”

“What do they talk about?” she wondered.

“I don’t know,” I answered, surprised at the question.

“Well, don’t you read his texts?”

I have to admit this threw me. Honestly, the thought never occurred to me to infringe upon Joe’s privacy. Maybe it’s naive of me, but I simply don’t see my nearly 12 year old son becoming involved in anything nefarious or sordid via text messaging at this point. First off, he’s barely one step off thinking girls have cooties. Secondly, when Joe texts me he sends me little emoticons of elephants (my favorite animal) and chickens (which he labels as “Kauai Super Chicken). Lastly, he’s the most forthright kid on earth. On the few occasions he’s been dishonest, overcome with self-inflicted, internal, gut-wrenching guilt he has confessed before I even suspected he had lied. And why would I have to read his messages when he tells me what he and his friends talk about all the time?

“No. I don’t read his texts. I have no reason to,” I said confidently, certain that my boy was sweet as seventy pounds of pure cane sugar.

“Well, don’t you want to know what’s going on with him?” she chided.

“Ummm….honestly, no. I don’t really need to read about who has a crush on whom and what episode of My Little Pony has them cracking up.”

“Huh,” my sister replied, somewhat judgmentally. “I’d just want to know more about his life, I guess.”

“Well,” I said, “I guess that I want him to know that we trust him and because I have no reason not to I’m going to let him have some privacy.”

The conversation ended there and we moved onto another subject to avoid a potential argument. But after our call I started to wonder if I was being too idealistic in my approach to Joe’s texting. I mean, I suppose he could be having conversations I might not approve of. He is getting older. They did just have “the talk” at school. He’s a shy, sensitive kid, but those are sometimes the ones you have to watch out for the most. After discussing it with hubby, we decided to take a quick look at the last texts Joe sent. The conversation was with a female classmate and it went exactly like this:

Friend: What are you talking about?

Joe: The realm of gondor

Friend: Ok??

Joe: Middle Earth

Friend: Ok??

Joe: Next to the realm of mordor where mt doom is where the ring was forged

Friend: Is this the lord of the rings?

Joe: Yes. It’s ausome (sic)

Upon reading this little tidbit, I wanted to run to my sister and tell her that I was right. I have nothing to worry about with Joe and his text messaging…at least not yet. He is just a sweet, innocent kid who deserves some trust. But I didn’t do that. Truth is I felt dirty and downright shameful for not sticking with my original instinct. I had been right to trust him in this instance and knowing that I’d violated his right to a private conversation with a friend when I had no cause for suspicion made me feel lower than a downward-facing mole on an express elevator to Hell. (And although I would not hesitate to do some snooping on my son if I did ever suspect something was seriously amiss, I have no plans to make a regular habit out of sticking my nose where it does not belong.) I still feel rotten about it. And that’s certainly not anything to call up my sister and brag about.

If there’s a plus side to this whole experience, though, it’s this…given the substance of this conversation between Joe and a female classmate, I doubt he’s going to be having any unseemly conversations with members of the opposite sex for quite some time. Unless Joe happens upon a preteen girl who obsesses more about The Lord of the Rings, sharks, and Marvel superheroes than she does about make up and the cutest member of One Direction, I likely won’t have to check his texts for at least a few more years.