The Most Important Thing of All

It’s easy, fun, smart to post happy news, positive outlooks, positive outcomes.
It’s difficult to post bad news.

But sometimes, shit happens.

My husband and I just returned home after five weeks in Costa Rica, five out of our planned eleven weeks. Our home was robbed while we were there, asleep. A home invasion.

We are safe, and we know that’s the most important thing of all, but I can truly say we were shaken to the core. The bad guys, “los hombres malos,” came into our bedroom and stole our iPads from our beside tables. Inches from our faces.

I wrote about it. I had to. The feelings, emotions, fear, they haven’t let go. Even now, almost a week later, as I type this, my throat tightens and my eyes well with tears because I realize how close I was to never coming home, never talking to my children again, never saying “I love you” again, to anyone. You may find this melodramatic, unless you’ve been violated or felt absolutely vulnerable to evil. Then you might remember how this feels.

Los Hombres Malos

Sound asleep, wake to a noise, the unmistakeable noise, of a person, an unknown person, 
a bad person, close.
“There’s someone in our kitchen.”
Try to wake up, stumble to the door, turn on a light, face to face with a masked man.
Shouting, anger, the fear and primal rage of two grown men—
one fueled to survive, the other to save his wife.
Protect ourselves; hide; find a weapon. 
Now wait. Let them leave.
Long enough? No, wait. Wait. Okay, ready? Ready.
Quiet preparation, caution, caution, exploration.
Are they gone? Gone?
Are we sure?
Grab shoes, phones, keys—now get out! Call the police. 
What? What’s that? Don’t you speak any English?
Anger, fear, frustration—unleashed.
Slowly, finally, help.
A foreign country, a foreign language, a foreign system.
A helpless, total realization of vulnerability.
Then the visions.
They were standing over us, over me, in the dark, while we slept.
Pillows, fluffy and white, and capable of death.
Or a knife, or a gloved hand against my throat.
Or worse.
All for an iPad, or two.
Then a guard, a man, another strange man, with a gun.
This one’s on our side. Right?
Try to sleep, in the dark, in the same bed.
A noise. A branch in the wind? A bird?
No more sleep.
Take an inventory, make a list. What’s missing?
This, that, those too.
Counting. Still counting. And more—how bizarre… soap?
But nothing rivals our peace of mind. It’s gone. All gone.
Moving on. Chopping vegetables while detectives roam the house, 
dusting for fingerprints, black dust.
Okay. We’re okay. We can do this. We can replace it all.
All except a sense of peace.
We can stay. Limp along. Make changes.
No. Why?
We’re better than this. We don’t have to endure.
This isn’t normal. This wasn’t our fault. We did everything right.
We have options. We’re in charge.
Not los hombres malos.
We are safe. We are smart. We are in charge.
We’re going home. We live in the United States. We’re okay.
But, what if?
What if panic, instinct, fear, surprise, madness took over?
What if “something went wrong”, “that wasn’t supposed to happen”?
Feel your neck.
Imagine someone else feeling your neck.
With their hands. With their knife.
Feel your heart.
Feel it stop.
Close your eyes.
Never open them.

What’s A Normal Family?

Ah, families. So much love, so much happiness, so much dysfunction.

I just spent a week with my husband and his ex-wife. Well, it was their daughter’s wedding, so it wasn’t just the three of us. More like a hundred of us. And you know what? It was wonderful.

When I was a little girl, my mother answered an ad in our local newspaper. A pollster was looking for a “normal” family to interview. She of course thought we were as normal as anyone, but we didn’t qualify because she was a single mother raising three kids. They wanted a married couple with children. No way could they get away with that today.

And nuclear family? Talk about a self-fulfilling prophecy. Get a group of only blood-relatives together, and it will explode like an atom bomb. Merry Christmas, loved ones.

I fully applaud and support gay marriage, and single men or women who want to raise kids on their own. And with the divorce rate what it is today, my husband and I realize that potentially 3 or 4 of our 7 kids might end up divorced. We hope not, we’re just being realistic. After all, if it weren’t for divorce, he and I wouldn’t be together—this is a second marriage for both of us. Divorce is a hell in which you either lose a lot of money or a lot of friends. And yet, sometimes, it’s still the best option.

So what is “normal” these days?

One of the reasons that people read books is to explore feelings they can relate to. When a writer can put into words exactly how YOU feel, and you can say “Yes, exactly!”, then, in one regard, the book is a success. But another reason people read is to explore worlds they are unfamiliar with—escapism, if you will. While mining ideas, emotions, scenarios and story lines, it’s important for us writers to remember that the definition of family is wide and varied, and to not stereotype or pigeonhole people. In fact, it’s a beautiful story when a “traditional” family evolves into a “modern” family—when people see love instead of prejudice. Yes, it’s been done (from Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner to The Kids Are All Right) because it works, and it’s beautiful.

With any luck, we writers can help erase the stereotypes and pigeonholes for the definition of family. Hello, Webster’s? Are you listening?