Saturday, February 23, 2008

Emotional Duress?

I feel bad saying this, but I've always thought that people who sue for emotional duress are full of baloney. How can emotional duress be quantified? And how can it be proven?

I still feel that way, but I have to say that after my accident the other night, I do suddenly understand the term. I've had trouble sleeping since Wednesday, and I find myself awake in the wee hours of the morning trying to figure out how the accident played out (it's eight, and I've been up since three). I sit down to write and the stupid accident plays over in my head again and again. Like a bad movie that can't be turned off. I think because I only saw the police car a second before it hit me, I can't wrap my mind around what happened. Where was the police car while I was pulling up to the intersection? Not in a normal lane of traffic, because those were occupied by cars stopped at the red light. Did he stop at the red light? Did he slow a little or a lot? Did he try to swerve, or did he not have time? What influenced his decision to run the red? Was he in pursuit of someone? Rushing to a crime in progress? Or was he simply going to the scene of a fender bender?

It will be easier to put it all behind me once the on-duty officers from that night are back and I can speak to one of them. I'm praying they are forthcoming with the information. While I refuse to accept blame for what happened, I'm not angry or bitter or wanting to get the guy who hit me in trouble. I just want answers. Of course, if one of my kids had been seriously hurt or killed, I would want more than answers.

A dear friend of mine said, "Shirlee, it was an accident. Accidents happen."

I know this is true, but I will maintain forever that an emergency vehicle has a responsibility to make sure the intersection is clear before going through it, that stopping for ten seconds wastes a lot less time than is saved by going through. At the kind of intersection I was going through, there a many variables. A reasonable motorist would understand that views of oncoming cars are limited, that running a red light even if the intersection appeared clear could be dangerous. If a reasonable motorist understood this. That reasonable motorist would then slow enough to be able to stop quickly if necessary. The assumption that every motorist will hear and see emergency lights is a poor answer to this. My view of the intersection was completely blocked, and modern cars are so well insulated from noise, that is often impossible to hear sirens until the emergency vehicle is very close.

Yeah, it was an accident. Yeah, I understand how it happened.

Do I think it could have been a prevented? Yes.

Do I think I could have prevented it? No.

So, that is where I stand on responsibility for what happened. And that is the last I'm going to say about my horrible Wednesday night!

On the upside, my husband, kids and I are going car shopping today. Since poor Old Faithful is dead, I need a new ride. Or, at least, one that doesn't have the bumper completely torn from it!

Stay safe!

And if you think about it, pray for the officer who hit me. I'm sure this is as trying a time for him as it is for me.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

And On It Goes

Just as an aside, because I can't stop thinking about the stupid accident. I realized after I thought back over what happened, that I was probably at a standstill when I was hit. There were two police cars entering the intersection. I saw the one that was further away (and therefore not in the blindspot created by the car next to me). I slammed on my brakes to avoid him and then saw the police car that hit me. I'm 100% sure this is what happened because the damage to my car is really odd. The front bumper is peeled away from the car, as if the police car were moving by me and just caught my bumper as he flew past.

An interesting aside - none of the police officers who were on the scene last night are working for the next THREE days. Three days? How can that be?

My husband was trying to get information about the case and none of the officers were around.

By the Grace of God

This morning, I'm watching the sun rise above the hill across from my house. The sky is lilac and pale blue, the ground dusted with snow. It's quite beautiful. I can see my husband's truck sitting in the driveway, see the fire hydrant that is across the street from our house. What I can't see is my mini van. My poor, faithful old car. The car I have had for eleven years. The one I was driving home from church last night when I was hit by a police car.

Yes, you read that correctly. Last night, I was hit by a police car.

How it happened is still a mystery to me. I'm the most careful and cautious driver in the world. In the years I've been driving, I've never been pulled over for speeding. I never race through yellow lights or speed to make it through a green. I'm conscientious about pulling over and out of the way when I see emergency vehicles, and have lectured my kids on the importance of doing so over and over again. I'm the annoying driver you get behind when you're in a hurry. The one that is driving the speed limit and slowing when she sees yellow lights.

Yet, somehow I was hit by a police car.

If you're interested in the story, here is how it goes - I was sitting at a red light at a huge intersection less than five miles from my house. Picture two three-lane roads bisected by two lanes of traffic. I was on the two lane road heading west. There was a truck or SUV next to me in the right lane. As per usual, when the light turned, I looked to my left which is the direction cross-traffic would be coming from as I crossed. Everyone had stopped, so I proceeded across the first three lane road, under the light and toward the next three lane road I had to go across. The cross-traffic on this road would be coming from the right, but (of course) was stopped because of the red light. The car to my right was slightly ahead of me (probably due to the fact that I'm a slow driver) and actually sort of above me because we were going up a hill. I pulled up beside him (I only realize now that he was slowing down because he saw a police car speeding toward the intersection), passed him at about ten miles an hour, started into the intersection and saw a police car with flashing lights coming toward me.

The rest, as they say, is history.

By the grace of God my four kids were unscathed. Not a nick, cut or bruise among them. We'll talk about psychological ramifications later.

Anyhow, I swerved and put on my brakes as soon as I saw the police lights. That was when I FINALLY (too little too late) heard sirens. The police car hit the front passenger bumper of my car and carried it (yes, I mean that literally) as it skidded and (according to my son) spun one or two times. I never saw that. My car came rather gently to a stop in the south bound lane of the road I'd been crossing. I asked my kids if they were okay, and then I pulled over to the side and spent about ten minutes looking for my hazard lights.

It seemed like forever that I sat there wondering what to do and thinking, "Oh my goodness! I just got hit by a police car. My kids could have been killed!"

Suddenly, a police officer was at my window. He asked if we were alright and I said, "Yes. It was a green light, wasn't it? I did have a green light?"

I think I must have been in shock. So he says, "Yes, but I'm more concerned about whether or not everyone is okay. ARE YOU OKAY?"

Which in retrospect seems kind of weird. I've been in another accident years ago, and I remember being asked what happened once it was determined that we were fine. Not this time. The next thing I new, police cars were everywhere. Someone was taking pictures of my car, and I was just sitting there wondering what I was supposed to do. I called my husband, but he was in school and didn't get my message. The same officer who'd first approached me handed me a paper that said (in part), "You have the right to remain silent. You have a right not to incriminate yourself."

So, I start thinking, "Am I in trouble? Did I do something wrong? I was coming across at a green light. I never saw or heard the police car. How can this be my fault?"

I called my husband again. Frantic this time because I didn't know if I should fill out and sign the form I'd been given. Then, when I still couldn't reach him, I called my parents, hoping they could give me some insight into what to do (they live about three miles from where the accident happened.). Our phone call was cut short when the officer approached again. He wanted the form, but I told him I wasn't sure what it was for. He said it was a form they always give out after an accident. Which isn't true. Maybe they give them out after an accident involving a police car. It felt to me like he was being snippy about it, but maybe that was my perception because (as I stated before) I was in SHOCK.

Long story short, the police officer in the car that hit me is fine. I'm fine. My kids are fine. My car is totaled. I'm anxious and upset and feel guilty even though I didn't do anything wrong. As I think always happens after something like this, I keep thinking about all the ways I could have prevented it from happening. After tossing and turning for hours, I realized there was absolutely nothing I could have done to keep the accident from happening. I guess, this is as close to a real accident as anything can be.

I've been told the police officer slowed as he approached the intersection. I don't know what he did. I'm sure he didn't mean to plow into my van, but I keep thinking - "how could he not have gone more carefully through that intersection? How could he not have stopped completely before going through such a big intersection?" By the time I saw him, he was going at a pretty good clip, so if he slowed....

Well, I just don't know.

What I do know is that my poor old car is dead, but we are fine. Purely by the grace of God.

And despite everything else, I have that to be truly grateful for.

Saturday, February 16, 2008


To Sabrina's blog. I'm not sure why I can never get this to work.

Uniquely You

I was catching up on some blog reading (read that as avoiding writing, laundry, dishes), and visited my friend Sabrina's blog. Mixed in among book reviews was a post from December where she described her son's experience at basketball practice. Let me try to post a link to her blog -

Her description of her son made me smile. I have a quirky kid, too. Of my four, he's the one most likely to come up with interesting ideas, understand deep things of God, explore the world with wonder and enthusiasm. Less mature than my other kids, he lacks some of the gifts that come so easily to them. While my other three thrive at musical endeavors, my second son struggles to feel beat and rhythm. While my other kids are gregarious and active, my second born is quieter, more introspective and given to deep thinking. While the other three run, jump and leap, my dear second child trips, falls and limps.

Is he to be pitied because he marches to his own beat, lives in his own world, enjoys things in a different way than 90% of kids his age?

Do we look back and pity Einstein or Edison? Do we feel sorry for Ansel Adams?

Of course we don't.

Those men (and so many men and women just like them) struggled in school, struggled at home, struggled with life, but their experiments, their drive, their unique way of looking at the world led to advancement in thinking, design and concept.

I remember when #2 was four. I brought him to get his eyes checked and learned that his vision was 20/425. According to the eye doctor, #2 had never seen the world clearly. A few months later, I brought all the kids back so that my oldest and youngest sons could get their eyes checked. When we came out of the doctor's office, my youngest son said:

"Do I need glasses?"

I said, "No, your eyes are 20/20."

He said, "What does that mean?"

I said, "It means your eyes are just the way God intended them to be."

To which my quirky second son replied, "So are mine, Mom. Just because I need glasses doesn't mean my eyes aren't the way God intended them to be. I'm exactly how He wants me to be."

He was FOUR.

I'm pretty sure my quirky guy saw (and still sees) the world much more clearly than the rest of us.

My point?

Whatever your strengths and weakness, whatever your dreams and aspirations, they are uniquely yours. God-given, they are the foundation of who you are, where you'll go, and what you will become. The Bible says we are knit together in our mother's wombs. In my mind, I see the Master creator, crafting the very fiber of who we are. Not by accident, not without reason, but because He wants us uniquely suited for His purpose.

As a quirky day dreamer who has become a teacher and author, I can honestly say that the things that set me apart from others are the things that make me able to do what I do. Determination, stubbornness, an unfortunate laid-back attitude toward housework, a huge imagination, the ability to create stories in my head and then transfer those images and thoughts into words, those are what help me walk the tightrope that is my life. Balanced precariously between my role as wife and mother and my role as author, I use the unique qualities God gave me to live the life He always intended I would have.

Don't be afraid to be uniquely you. Whatever your strengths and weakness, they are exactly what God intended!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Good Intentions

It seems I always start the week with big plans regarding things like how much cleaning will get done, how much writing I'll do, how much more organized I'll be. Inevitably, I wake up on Thursday morning and think - where in the world is the week going and why haven't I accomplished more during it?!

What I'm beginning to realize is that I am only one person (yes, I know it seems obvious, but I so want to be everything to everyone). I have limited time. I can't be two (or three or four) places at once. Therefore, no matter how much I want to do everything for everyone, I simply can't.

Of course, realizing this doesn't make me any less anxious to accomplish what I feel I should.

Interestingly enough, when I was in college I wrote a paper focused on the idea that the more modern advances women have, the more time (rather than less time) they spend devoted to cleaning, cooking, etc. I think that idea is more true than any of us realize. All I have to do is watch television and I'm bombarded with commercials for equipment that I can use to (pick your poison) have whiter whites, brighter brights, shinier floors, more sanitary toilets, smaller onion slices, air tight frozen foods, even MORE airtight frozen foods, tighter abs, stronger thighs, clearer skin, more luxurious hair. The ideal woman, then, must have a spotless house, a perfect figure and timeless beauty.

Of course, by the time that perfect woman is done using every new product on the market to make her house sparkle and her laundry immaculate, and by the time she's done running and lunging and lifting and stretching, exfoliated and scrubbing, washing and rubbing, that poor perfect woman is a tired old hag who can barely lift her head to give her kids a kiss goodnight!

So, dear friends, I have not reached Thursday with my to-do list done. However, I am happy to report that I have plenty of energy to dole out hugs and kisses!

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Writing Challenges

One of the things aspiring authors don't often think about are the challenges that arise after the first contract is attained. While it may seem that getting published is the ultimate goal when it comes to being an author, I'd argue that the true test of a person's dedication to his or her craft lies in the ability to continue after the first book is sold. Case in point - during the months preceding my first sale, I congratulated three other new authors on the sales of their first manuscripts. As far as I've been able to tell, none of them ever sold another book.


Simply put, achieving publication is a wonderful, exciting and fantastic time in a writer's life. When we get THE call, we dance and scream and rejoice (as we should). Finally, after (sometimes) years of effort and countless rejection, we've been validated. We really are AUTHORS. However, writing isn't just an art. It's a job. It's not just a craft. It's a career. Being successful at it means pushing ourselves to continue past that first sale to the second and third and fourth. It means facing rejection again. It means working with people who have different ideas about our stories and writing styles. It means opening ourselves up to criticism and disappointment.

Perhaps even more than that, it means sacrifice- Sleep, free time, relaxation. We may have full-time careers apart from writing. We may be busy moms and wives; husbands and fathers. We may be homeschooling our kids or hosting Bible studies at our houses. Whatever the case, we all have lives outside of our writing careers. At least we should. Maintaining those things that are important in our lives while pursuing our God-given passion and talent for writing can be a draining (though fulfilling)endeavor. When the reality of the work sets in (revisions, copy edits, line edits, hours in front of a computer trying to make another story work), some authors decide the returns aren't worth the effort.

To be successful at what we do, we must accept early in our careers that it takes time to make money writing, that not everyone is going to love (or even like) our work and that sometimes the people closest to us won't understand the drive to complete the next story, sell the next book, continue the journey. Perhaps those closest to us don't understand that crafting a story is work. Perhaps they see our writing as a hobby - one that pulls us away from more important things (them!).

Whatever the case, to be successful as authors we must anticipate, acknowledge and accept the challenges that come our way. As with any journey God puts us on, we are not promised an easy path. We are only promised comfort and companionship along the way.

I guess my point is - being an author is one of the most fantastic jobs a person can have, but it requires a great deal of self motivation, self confidence and faith. Is it worth it? Of course! Is it easy? No. However, if it is your passion and your gift, what choice do you have but to push forward and strive to achieve all your goals and dreams?

Keep writing!

Friday, February 08, 2008


Do you ever wonder what life would be like if....

you'd taken that job opportunity that you were afraid to pursue?

you'd moved rather than stayed?

you'd had a child then rather than waiting until the money was there?

you'd stepped out in faith a little sooner?

you'd shared a little more of who you were or what you have?

you'd said you were sorry one more time?

Lately I've been thinking a lot about 'if only' and how those two little words can keep us frozen in place, afraid to move forward, afraid to look back. In my April release, Lakeview Protector, the heroine often wonders....what if...what if...what if. That question haunts her as she tries to move forward and live life in the wake of a horrible tragedy.

As I wrote the book, I found myself caught up in her struggle and wondering how a person could live with a descion that seemed to have completely altered her life. How do you go on when you feel one choice, one moment might have created a different outcome? A better one?

Of course, life is about moving forward and accepting that the past is just that - past. Still, do you ever wonder?