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Personal Security and Security Cameras

Personal Security and Security Cameras

Security cameras have never been high on my list of priorities for our home. I simply never saw the need for them. We live in a low-crime area, there is someone at our home a vast majority of the time and security cameras are expensive. They are a pain. They are unnecessary.

Right?

Well, now we have them. And I can’t see myself going back to not having them any time soon.

The decision to get cameras was mine and mine alone. I have been traveling a lot of late and my children are spending more time with sitters. Not more time than what they spend with me or their father but more time in general. I am uncomfortable being away from my children and not being able to see or hear them or even know if something is happening to them.

I’ve also watched way too many videos of people finding out their pets or children are being abused via security camera to dismiss the idea that people can seem perfectly reasonable and trustworthy until they think you aren’t watching them.

I have trust issues.

So, I bought and installed security cameras in our home primarily for the purpose of being able to check in on my children and home at any time, day or night, when I’m not there.

When I started looking for cameras I was both unsurprised but amazed at how far the technology has come. Of course, like anything else, I could have gone super cheap and limited such as limited, low-quality video only to super expensive and sophisticated with pan and zoom, HD video with sound and recording capabilities. For less than $100 I got two cameras that have the capability of taking video and sound, day or night (via IR) that transmits via our wireless network in our home.

I got the cameras on a Friday and had them set up in a few hours. I also learned these puppies have some cool features I wasn’t expecting such as motion and sound detection that can be set by sensitivity and location. I also learned that with an app on my cell phone I could get notifications of movement and sound anywhere I had a cell signal.

Figuring out where to put the cameras was an interesting chore.

My poor husband had exceptional patience with me as I took each camera, connected to an extra-long extension cord and had him follow me around the house with my laptop so I could see at what angles I had the most coverage of the most lived rooms in the house.

We got them set and I started fiddling with the features.

Since we have pets, motion detection, I thought, was going to be a drag. Until I learned that I could narrow the scope of the area to report motion detection to select areas of the camera’s view including up, off the floor. I narrowed in the motion to areas of entrance to our house so that I wouldn’t get notifications for my cat jumping on the couch or the kids watching tv. For the most part it works very well.

I do get false motion detection notifications from time to time but not on such a regular basis that it keeps me from checking them.

For sound detection, I was able to set the decibel level to be alerted to for each camera but I eventually turned that off because, with kids, the decibels are all over the place. I can remotely turn it on and off if we are out of the house or schedule it for certain hours.

Which leads me to the moment I realized that these camera things have a lot more potential for home and personal security than just checking in on my kids and home while I’m away.

It all started while I was at swimming lessons with my kids. My phone alerted me that one of the cameras had detected movement. I touched the notification while sitting beside the pool and was immediately shown live video feed of my home where I saw the figure of a man entering my house. I looked at the time and noticed it was early to be my husband but within moments the man came into view and I saw that it was, indeed, my husband.

“How cool!” I thought. I sent my husband a text message, “Welcome home!” to which he responded by telling me how creepy it was to know I was watching him.

Knowing that I would be alerted to anyone being in my home before they could even get through my door was a pretty cool feeling which led me to my next big personal security revelation.

A few days later, after parking in the garage, I picked up my phone and did a quick remote scan of the house before deciding to go in. While there are certainly blind spots that the cameras don’t see I liked the idea of being able to visually check where I was going before I went there, a luxury we rarely get.

When the time came to leave our children with a sitter, with the help of the sound and motion alerts I was able to check in from time to time and see them being played with, fed and kindly cared for in my absence. Everything a concerned parent wants.

I admit to being a total feed-viewing junkie for the first few days which lead to my husband’s sigh and a hopeful, “When the novelty wears off, I hope you stop going all NSA on us.”

My remote viewing has certainly died down quite a bit, but I still enjoy watching him scurry around the house to clean when I message him to tell him I’m on my way home (not that it’s required of him, but that he does that out of love for me) or even getting short bursts of play that I’m missing while at a class or an event.

I go back and forth between feeling paranoid and relieved and even though my husband doesn’t particularly like the cameras he’s been happy with my reports of feeling positive for buying them.

“$100 is a small price to pay for peace of mind,” he tells me and he’s right. There is a certain amount of peace-of-mind that comes with them where a big question mark was before.

We’ve even decided to add a few more and to enable recording to eliminate the few blind spots we have.

So far, all we’ve caught is a lot of play, love, some jumping on the couches and cat baths. Let’s hope it stays that way.

Thank You, John Lauer

Thank You, John Lauer

John Lauer is my husband.

If I made enough money to put someone on payroll, he would be my first employee. Not in the “I’m your boss” sense of the word either, more like, “You’re a valuable asset that deserves payment for your services.”

Point of fact, I could not do what I do without John.

I would not be who I am without John.

He started this whole thing with asking me two of the most important questions of my life:
1. “What do you think of getting your concealed carry permit”
2. “Are you ready to kill another human being to save your own life?”

He’s asked me some other really important questions (like, “Will you marry me?” and “Have you ever seen ‘Big Trouble In Little China?'”) but we’ll keep this relevant to self defense.

John doesn’t like attention.

He’s a quiet man who, when pressed to take a more open role in how instrumental he is to this operation, responds with, “That’s your thing.” But its not just my thing. It’s our thing and he needs to be recognized for his part.

Like when I’m in the middle of writing an article and almost inaudibly say, “Hmm, who’s the guy who makes those holsters that we bought for my 1911 like 5 years ago?” and before I can even begin to research to that end he puts a tablet on my desk next to me with the website open and model of holster selected and while I’m reading up he goes and digs it out of the holster bin and puts it on the other side of my desk or reminds me that we sold it to that one guy we met four years ago.

I can say, “I want to take a class on room clearing,” and in the morning I will have a list of four instructors who do room clearing work, why they are worth considering and their schedules and his schedule so I can cross reference and decide when I want to go.

Every. Single. Day. Without fail, he is there, supporting me. ALWAYS two steps ahead of me and anticipating what he can do to help me.

Even though we have a very honest and communicative relationship and he’s well versed in the complexities of my past, he still has to read about them from time to time as I share them and as uncomfortable as it is for outsiders to read about some of the sordid details of my past, I know it’s harder for him. He never tells me to stop and he never tries to sensor what I write. He’s also been there in the darkest times, supporting me, loving me and helping me through sorting out how to heal, forgive and love as a survivor.

John’s knowledge about firearms, in general, astounds me.

He has a memory for all things firearms that I could only dream of and he is my first resource when I have a question or I’m confused about a make or model of anything with a trigger. He’s just as good with knives, training classes or anything else self defense related as well.

He’s pretty much the guy I hope I can one-day be… except I don’t really want to be a guy. You know what I mean.

John loves guns and training just as much as I do yet these days you won’t often see him at the same training events I’m attending. This isn’t because he doesn’t want to be there, it’s because he’s at home, taking care of our children so that I can attend. His sacrifices to take off work and stay home with the kids so that I can go and do something he would love to do always moves me and moves me deeply.

john4No sentiment on any card or any gift can ever show him how much I appreciate him for that. I could also go on about what a great Dad he is but that’s getting too personal. It should be said though because my comfort in leaving my children to train and instruct is only founded in a deep trust and confidence in who is caring for them. He has the hearts and respect of his children and wife and that says so much about the character of a man.

Most of all, the key to magic of our marriage is his patience with me. I’m erratic and a little too adventurous at times. I get ideas and want to act on them immediately and he neither hampers my creativity or lets me run too wild.

He understands passion but also restraint and he’s really good at gently helping me find balance between the two. He’s really good at grounding me or welcoming me home when I’ve been somewhere on cloud nine a little too long. He’s also really good at letting me go with a smile when I want another adventure, hobby or skill. He’s never judged me for who I am, what I want, how I feel or where I want to go.

Our honesty policy is unlike any relationship I’ve never experienced and that has made for a unique personal and working relationship. He’s never been afraid to tell me the hard things. He stands up for himself and never lets me make him feel bad for his honesty, even though I sometimes fight him on his opinions.

I think of myself as very independent. Sometimes, I want to believe a partnership was not for me at all. My honesty makes me admit, however, that I’d be a wreck without him because I desperately want a man like him in my life. And it’s the people you want in your life that you also seem to need the most.

For every gun under the Christmas tree; for every holster, knife, bag, or random piece of gear that showed up unexpected with my name on it; for every, “You need to register for this class,” “I’ll get off work so you can go,” and “Tell me how I can help you,” … Thank you, John.

I love you.

Thank You, Kathy Jackson

Thank You, Kathy Jackson

I don’t remember the first time I heard of Kathy Jackson but I’m sure I know the context. When I started looking at the possibility of carrying a gun for self defense I joined a gun forum my husband frequented called Combat Carry (later morphed into Defensive Carry). Any woman who joins any gun forum could ask the color of the sky and as a response get, “Have you been to CorneredCat.com?”

Men, in an attempts to be helpful and sometimes feeling intimidated by the prospect of dealing with female issues routinely shoo women over to Kathy’s website and for good reason.

In addition to be the woman to literally wrote the book on concealed carry for women, she’s wise, articulate, and has the experience to back up her opinions.

Over the years, Kathy and I exchanged the occasional email and maybe ran across each other on forums but it wasn’t until 2014 that I really got to know this woman that I can now call my good friend.

In 2013 I had decided that I wanted to take all of this gun knowledge and training and do something with it. My goal shifted from being a consumer of training to a producer but I wasn’t sure how to do that and do it in a professional way. My husband pointed me toward Rangemaster and their programs and on the list of “must attend” events was a Rangemaster Tactical Conference. Kathy Jackson would be there and speaking on women’s issues.

Very selfishly, I determined I must get some one-on-one time with her. Weeks before the conference I emailed her asking for a dinner date. She agreed. I felt like I’d nabbed a coveted gold nugget and I’m pretty sure I annoyed my husband for the next few weeks leading up to the conference by dancing around the house and randomly breaking into song to the tune of “na-na-na-na-boo-boo” with lyrics like, “I’m having dinner with Kathy! I’m having dinner with Kathy.”

The conference arrived and less than a few minutes into it I met one of my many idols face to face. Not only was she adorable–dressed in the cutest hat, blazer and blouse, with a gentle, wise face and ready smile–but she was about my height! Instead of pressing her hand out for a traditional greeting, she wrapped her arms around me and pulled me in for a hug like an old friend who was truly happy to see me.

I loved this woman, immediately.

Then I sat in on her “What Women Want” lecture and whatever respect I already had for the woman multiplied itself by ten. I had honestly considered not attending her lecture because I thought, “Well, I’m a woman and I know what I want so do I really need to hear about it from Kathy?”

I’m so glad I sometimes don’t listen to myself.

Her lecture was exceptionally well-researched, direct and insightful. She drew parallels from other industries where women are commonly under-represented and the whole time I kept taking notes feeling a little creeped out that this woman got inside my head without so much as a phone call.

I was putting arrows next to her points that especially resonated with me until I realized my page was filling up with arrows!

That evening we met for barbeque and for the next two hours I felt honored to get to know her on a personal and professional level. She laid down some real practical steps for me to take on my journey to becoming a professional-level instructor and we parted ways as friends.

That conference and meeting changed our relationship and I am honored to call Kathy my friend.

We’ve spent hours and hours and hours (and hours) on the phone since that day and I always take notes. She’s a fountain of wisdom who is both understanding and kind but uplifting. She’s also a natural teacher who never lets me get away from a conversation without teaching me a lesson through a phrase that starts something like, “Now, Melody, let me ask you this…”

When I have a strange or interesting day teaching, she’s the first person I want to call because I know she’ll have been there before and can give me insight. When I’m not sure about a particular way I handled a student or staff of a range personnel, I find myself shooting a message to Kathy asking her opinion. Not only does she have the experience working those scenarios before but she has the experience working them as a woman. And we women instructors have some interesting hurtles even some male instructors may not understand.

On top of all of that, when I reached out to my fellow instructors for guidance on the Families With Firearms Conference she was one of the first to throw her full support behind it.

Her generosity with her wisdom, knowledge and time continue to touch me on an almost daily basis.

I cannot thank her enough and I will never be able to repay her. Which, when I told her as much, in her very honest and blunt way (which I LOVE) she said, “So pay it forward.

Yes, ma’am.

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

The Value of Training in Dollars and Sense

This blog post isn’t for you. It’s for me. If you happen to take this ride with me you may or may not learn something. If you do learn something, tell me what it is. This isn’t a vent or rant. It’s just something that I’ve been discussing with several of my instructor friends and something I wanted to get onto the proverbial paper.

What does it take to attend quality firearms training and why would someone do it?

This year is going to be my most intensive training year to date.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Escaping from zip ties from behind using a paracord saw in the Unthinkable class.

Already this year I have been to Ohio for Unthinkable and down to Memphis for the Tactical Conference. In June I’m off to Washington State for an Instructor Development Course with Kathy Jackson and in July I’m sitting in on another instructor Development course in Iowa. Then it’s down to Virginia in September for Advanced Tactical Handgun with Ernest Langdon and the very next week I’m off to Oklahoma to attend an Advanced Instructor course with Tom Givens. Then, I have another defensive pistol class in November? Somewhere in all that I have to reserve our spots in next years’ Tactical Conference before all the tickets sell out and start reserving my places in next years training events.

I’m super thrilled. I’m also freaking out. How am I going to pay for all of this?

No lie. I’m running on faith a little here.

I think I’ve had people assume that just because I take my training seriously and attend training we’re somehow wealthy.

Yes, we have a training budget but that budget is usually maxed at about 2-3 classes. In case you weren’t keeping count, I’m scheduled for five more classes in addition to the two I’ve already attended this year. 

The fact of the matter is we are solidly middle class Americans who aren’t as wealthy as we are lucky and creative. We have the same considerations any other family has to face. Childcare, travel expenses, time. 

To go to Ohio we had to pull in some favors and do some bartering for time and money particularly where child care is concerned.

The hoops we’ve jumped through already to get to the Tactical Conference are pretty crazy when you think of them from a purely economical stand point including driving a total of 300 miles out of our way and adding two days on to our trip to find a care provider for our kids. Yes, there was the added benefit of spending some time with some great friends and they greatly lightened the burden of the expenses by putting us up for two nights and watching our kids.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

Shooting bowling pins at 30 yards at Partner Tactics.

I’ve enjoyed other help along the way that leaves me struggling to express my gratitude.

I’m graciously at the mercy of strangers who will be picking me up from airports, allowing me to room with them in hotels to split costs or even crash on their couches.

Right now I’m sitting down to amend our budget again for any and every last drop.

Why?

Because some time in 2012 I decided I wanted to earn my way to a place  where I could give back in some way. Knowledgeable, experienced instructors (particularly female) are getting harder to find and are becoming diluted amongst the deluge of inexperienced and not-so-knowledgeable instructors.

That isn’t a slam to anyone, just a fact.

I’ve set my goal to being a Vicki Farnam or Kathy Jackson or Lynn Givens. The problem has become that this investment seems to demand so much sometimes with no return in sight.

Not when people say things like, “That costs too much,” or “I wish it were closer.”

It may be easy to assume that people in the training industry only push training because they want to fill their classes and make money. I have yet to meet a single instructor who feels that way. Of cours the money would be nice but the people I know in the training industry commonly undersell their classes, give way too much of their time, donate hours upon hours, spend weeks away from their families all for the singular goal of preparing people to defend themselves.

They do anything they can to make it accessible to the common man or woman only to be rejected.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Shooting an attack target in IDPA.

Very few instructors actually make a living from the training they provide.

“Come to Virginia!”

“I have a class in Lynchburg on the 23rd.”

“That’s an hour away. I can’t attend.” “I can’t find a babysitter.” “I’ve never been away from my children that long.” “Saturday is our family day and I don’t want to take that time away from them.”  “That costs too much.”

It’s often not considered that the people providing training are taking time away from their families, possibly finding babysitters, traveling just as far or farther than you and making next to nothing for their efforts.

Like I said, this isn’t a rant. or a vent. It’s just the way it is and it’s not going to change. Not any time soon at least. And not without a realignment in what a majority of people think about training.

Instead of thinking of it as an investment or a need or a priority it’s often thought of as a box to check, a luxury or a recreation.

Make no mistake about it, training can be fun but sometimes it’s not. Sometimes it’s frustrating or embarrassing, exhausting and hard work. Many times it does nothing more than highlight how much more training you need.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

Shooting from unusual positions in Extreme Close Quarters.

In my “other job” I’m an EMT. That job requires so many hours of continuing education in order to stay certified. The complaints I hear at medical symposium and classes are the same I hear in regards to firearms training with a select difference. The people in the medical classes have to be there. The consequence in not attending is forfeiting their licenses. They gripe about having to find babysitters, they whine about how much they’d rather be mowing their lawn or attending a barbecue but they are more invested in being able to recertify than they are in their free time. Magically, they find a way to attend. They drive the hours, they get the hotel rooms, they make it work. Because they have to.

I don’t believe in requiring people to take firearms training but I do believe that people should set themselves the same standards and think of training as something they must do rather than something that is optional.

I’m looking at my training schedule and my investment and wondering if I’ll ever see a return on it in the financial sense of the word. Probably not. But that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for a security return from my students.

From a consumer standpoint I’m investing in my ability to effectively defend myself in a time of need. That’s something I must do. The stakes are too high.

And because I must do it I will find a way to pay for it. I’ll go over my budget again and find a way. I will compromise my own comfort and free time to attend. I will spend a month pumping milk for my son so I can leave him with a babysitter. It’s not something I want to do (well, not entirely. No lie. There’s some want). It’s something I must do.

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

Force on Force at the Tactical Conference

Lima Goes to Hollywood and The Power of the Grey Man

Amidst all the media attention surrounding my Babywearing and Carrying class was a call from CBS’s show, “The Doctors.” They thought my class was interesting and wanted to fly me out to California to talk about it. It took me a few days to get to the place where I decided to take the trip. I said yes on Tuesday, had a travel itinerary on Wednesday night and was on a plane on Thursday.

This is the first solo trip I’ve taken in a very long time to a destination that doesn’t include rendezvousing with friends or family or a firearms class.

No lie, the idea of two days in Hollywood by myself was very appealing though the reminders to be careful started in earnest along with concerns of, “Aren’t you nervous to be traveling by yourself?”

I don’t subscribe to that kind of worry and fear. Lots of people travel by themselves. Lots of females travel by themselves. I’m a pretty secure and confident individual who enjoys doing new things and new experiences.

I was not even worried that I had to leave my gun at home. I don’t have reciprocity in California and while I contemplated bringing my firearm anyway I figured it would be more trouble than it was worth seeing as how I couldn’t carry it (not legally, anyway).

I arrived in downtown Hollywood at around 7 pm local time. I noticed something immediately. I was tragically underdressed. Jeans, t-shirt and flats are as out of costume for Hollywood Blv as if I were dressed in a towel. I was establishing my baseline and already I was not fitting in as a “grey man.”

The head-to-toe glances of the natives made it obvious they recognized me as an outsider.

I was scheduled to go on television the next day so I spent the evening organizing and preparing myself in my hotel room and went to bed at a reasonable time.

The next morning I was up with the sunrise and out to breakfast at 7:30. The diner I chose was right on the Blv and allowed me to watch the people coming and going. In other words, to keep establishing my baseline.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

My hotel is on the right. The Chinese Theater on the left.

The tourists were easy to spot. They got distracted by the names of the stars on the sidewalk, they took pictures of everything. The people who seemed to be local ignored the tourist attractions entirely or pushed the entirety of their belongings around in plastic tubs and shopping carts muttering to themselves.

The blv was practically empty at such an early hour aside from businesses polishing store fronts and setting up kiosks, vagrants milling around, the occasional jogger and hurried individuals dressed business casual, checking cell phones as they hurried off to what I can assume was work. I took that moment to do my tourist thing. Still dressed in flats, jeans and a tank top with no makeup and my hair in a ponytail, armed with hot tea, a knife and pepper spray I walked around taking pictures of the things I found interesting, enjoying the gorgeous weather and being slightly annoyed that absolutely nothing opened before 9 am.

I wasn’t scheduled for pick up until 11:30 so I had lots of time. I looked like a tourist and I knew it. But it was okay. I was a tourist.

When 9 am hit it was like an eruption that spewed people and cars onto the street. They were, literally, bussed in by the dozens. In the course of a half an hour it went from ghost town to shoulder-to-shoulder. With the tourists dressed in t-shirt and jeans and tennis shoes, came the street vendors selling maps and actors dressed like actors trying to entice tourists to tip for pictures.

My status as a tourist was so obvious I was accosted by both a Thor and a spiderman. Vendors hounded me to buy maps and trinkets and take pictures and give hugs. One man followed me for a block telling me I was beautiful and that he had to know “the beautiful redhead.” I found it interesting that he kept asking where I was from. It was clear to him that I was not a native. I fought my way through the crowds to get back to the hotel to get ready for the show.

I spent any time I had left by the hotel pool relaxing. I had been put up in an expensive hotel right on the blv that would not have been common for your average tourist. This allowed me to observe the people who “belonged.” None of them were dressed casually. Even at the pool the women were dressed in heels, their hair and makeup was done and they wore jewelry. Laying out to relax was more of a carefully orchestrated display than resting.

I took note and went off to the show. More on that later.

Even at the studio I took careful note of the staff–the people one could easily peg as local. The males could easily be described as “hipster.” Skinny jeans, graphic t-shirts, wild hair, random piercings and leather jewelry and an occasional hat that never seemed to fit in any form of function. The females, on the other hand, were all wearing heels, dresses and jewelry. There was no one dressed practically despite the hustle.

Upon arriving back at the hotel I wanted to go out again but not be subject to the endless requests to buy or take pictures or answer questions as to where I was from. I wanted to blend in, to be the grey man. My hair and makeup were already done so before leaving I made two very important changes to my wardrobe. I added a pair of comfortable heels and a string of pearls. The things that many would assume would attract more attention.

Heading out for my "grey man" experiment.

Heading out for my “grey man” experiment.

On the contrary. It made me invisible.

Having done all of the picture taking and sight seeing I was also no longer distracted by the sights which freed me to walk directly to and from my destinations with the determination of seasoned locals.

For the next hour of walking on the blv I was left entirely alone. Not a single street vendor or actor-of-actors bothered me. They looked right past me. It was as if I didn’t exist. Even going back to the hotel, the up-and-down glances I’d received when I first arrived were replaced with a passive indifference to my existence simply by changing my shoes and putting on a necklace and not washing my face. Even when I went out to the hotel bar for some more time to relax by the pool with a drink, I was completely ignored.

To continue this social experience, the next day I wore heels and jewelry and did my hair and makeup for my trip home.

In Long Beach I continued to enjoy my new found camouflage. Arriving home to a place where practicality in dress prevails above all things and the only women you see in heels and full makeup on a Saturday are those going to weddings, made me the odd woman out again. The up-and-down glances returned and people stared at me from corner booths wondering who I thought I was being so dressed up.

I live and run in particular circles where practical dress and weaponry are expected. Cover garments, practical shoes and “blending in” mean 5.11 gear and a whole lot of khaki. Women are admonished to wear practical shoes and leave jewelry home that might attract attention. I can no longer say, however, that we can paint a clear picture of what blending in may mean based upon one costume. I’m pretty sure I would consider divorcing my husband if he ever tried to wear skinny jeans and an impractical hat just for the sake of blending in but if putting on a pair of loafers instead of tennis shoes or a graphic t-shirt instead of a button up makes you go from “look at that outsider” to invisible, it may be worth it.

Being an outsider (even if that outsider is practical) draws attention to you and being a grey man may mean balancing a different wardrobe than your used to to keep that attention at bay. Yes, there will be times when you won’t be able to blend in no matter what you do. Race, language, accents, overt cultural differences, limited time to establish norms, can all combine to make it impossible to blend in to some environments. It may also be impractical to completely change your wardrobe by purchasing clothing and items you wouldn’t normally wear for a brief stay. In which case you must accept your outsider status and what comes with that.

Heckling, unwanted attention and even violence can be bestowed on the outsider. Decide for yourself how much you need to change to blend in and whether or not it’s worth it to try. At very least, you may be able to avoid being hugged by Thor.

Melody Lauer

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