Gratitude and Moving Forward


Hempe computer. I whisper just before climbing from of bed. The shaman return-to-me energy I’ve put out in the universe everyday since December 17th. D-day at my house. The morning three robbers hurled a cinder block through a living room window and entered our home with the Baron and I upstairs, no longer asleep in bed. Five-thirty AM, my blurred vision read from the alarm clock as glass shattered, furniture tumbled and harried footsteps scrambled, to what I assumed was the sound of intruders rummaging through our personal belongings. Thud, thud, thud…Barely three minutes passed and an erie silence hushed over the lower level. How lucky we are. Nearly as fast as they entered, the thieves were gone.

Shortly after, the police arrived and once the lower level was cleared by the four officers, I came downstairs and followed a trail of glass, dirt and debris left like bread crumbs, angling towards the living room. Shuddering, I turned the corner, groggy, dizzy, as if still trapped in an impossible dream. See an open hole where our window once was, the drapes billowing in the icy pre-holiday breeze. Anything on my writing desk beside the hole in the wall, was scattered amongst glass shards, cinder block pieces, mud, twigs and rocks. My laptop gone, a cinema display with it, not to mention boxes that held external hard drives, two sole document back-ups. Across the room, I hear my husband inventorying other stolen items–overcoat, purse, wallet, phones, two additional computers and his iPad. But as he rattled off our valuables I couldn’t tear from the space under the decimated work station. My books, was all I could think even though driver’s licenses, cash and credit cards had also been taken. Laptop and both back-up drives. I blink and check again to be certain. In less time than it takes to jump a fence and run four blocks, all three copies of my novels were whisked away.

Over the next few months, I planted myself at the genius bar and became much more savvy in off-sight digital storage. For example, I learned that it isn’t enough to be attached to the “clouds”, any device must also be specifically set to back-up. Some even need to be connected to a power source and locked in order to transfer data. Emailing documents to yourself is not always a surefire thing either. If your primary email account, i.e. Cox or Comcast is downloaded to a third party application–iMail or Outlook–they no longer are required and likely do not archive past emails. (Who knew?)

On a positive note, Carbonite, my new administrative assistant, automatically backs up my entire computer at the end of each day if connected to the internet. And now when I finish an edit, I make sure to make a Drop Box deposit. With my new data recovery plan in place, I finally pulled up stakes, left the techies ibuprofen for their migraines and vacated the Apple Store.

Locked and loaded electronically, I thought I’d feel better. After all, hadn’t I done everything to protect myself? Alleviated the chance of making the same leave-all-copies of-your-book-in-the-same-ten-foot-square-space mistake? On the way home in the car, however, a heaviness persisted. Seat jamming to Bruno Mars didn’t even help. (As a huge Sting fan, I usually can’t resist a funky calypso beat.) Using an old Jedi trick, I searched my feelings and realized all I felt was prepared. Protected from another inadvertent laptop theft.

Back at the ranch, I passed through the front door apprehensively and slowly shuffled into the living room. The window had been replaced and furniture turned upright. A series of divots on the floor remained; the chunk of cinder still sitting where it was thrown. Exhausted, I collapsed on the couch, my head throbbing as if a layer of emotional bricks were stacked on my shoulders. Staring at the ceiling, I wondered what it might take to lift the looming load from my back.

Suddenly my cell rings. Although it was the last thing I wanted to do, for some reason I answered. The official voice on the other side of the line belonged to a detective from the burglary division of Tulsa Police Department. Right on time. I thought but didn’t say. Despite the uncomfortable place I laid, still, I knew that whatever I need is always provided. And it was.

The detective and sargeant assigned to our case were unrelenting. Lucky for us, because over the next few weeks we had three additional break-ins. The detectives tracked all potential leads, came to the house and reviewed every step of each crime and after hours of tireless investigation, they made two arrests. Their professionalism and initiative impressed me far past where the horizon stretches over the ends of the earth. As you might expect, my mood lightened.

After the arrests, I decided to move on. Let go of trying to figure the whys and what purpose did stealing serve. Yes, I had lost six or so months of work, but as time marched on, I considered that maybe the edits made during that stretch were not going in the right direction. Feeling light as a summer breeze, I drifted forward.

On the verge of finishing my third story, the sequel to the young adult thriller I’d written last year, I received another call. “I found your computer,” my detective said calmly as if finding lost things is an every day occurrence for her. My instinct was to say, “How,” or “I can’t believe it.” But somewhere deep inside I always knew the stolen property would come back to me. What I wasn’t prepared for, however,  was what I would feel when it did.

With what I considered my life-line in hand, I wasted no time lifting the lid and pressing the power button, anxious to see if, by chance, any data remained. When the home screen lit, a caricature of a stranger appeared, beneath it, a prompt to enter a password. Not my password of course, someone’s who had bought a bootleg computer. Squish. My neck compressed, likely from the weight of emotional bricks returning to my head. Quickly, I punched the off switch, well aware of the fact the robbers did a factory reset. Phone a friend. I thwarted the inclination to slide into an all out funk. Dialed an acquaintance who had connections with a forensic recovery service.

“Good news.” The technical wizard said. Apparently reaching out was a good decision. At this moment I have to admit, I was more than a little hopeful I’d get all my hard work back. With some recovered data in hand, I eagerly plugged the back-up drive into my new laptop. Documents. Scanned the screen until my eyes settled on the digital folder. Fingers flew over the mouse and in an instant, the screen filled with unlabeled files. Here we go. I opened the first file and out of nowhere a gooey layer of invisible mortar slaps on top of my shoulders. Clicked on a second, the third…and then a dozen or so more. All the while my body shrinking.

Few of the files were mine, in fact many were in a foreign language. I closed my eyes, inhaled and spewed an exasperated breath. When my eyes opened again, I knew exactly what had to be done. Let go. For real this time.

Closing the opened files, I ejected the external drive, returned it to the box and then put it on a shelf in the study. As I left the room a thought occurred. Perhaps the reason my computer came back was not for me to retrieve what was lost, but to teach a valuable lesson. I’m not the same writer I was eight months ago and if on the right track, my work is certain to have progressed. So any edits I made could quite possibly be dated and not a good representation of where I currently sit creatively. Quite possibly even a crutch. Allowing this line of thinking to play out, I came to understand that what I need to take away from this whole experience is that I can never go back. Even if it seems easier or that valuable time has been wasted. No, reality is if I choose that path, my work would most definitely suffer. Strange as it may sound, the load fell easily from my back. Curing mortar cracked and bricks tumbled away. The peace that comes from knowing our lives go exactly as they should.

Thanks again to the dedicated detectives and sergeants of the Tulsa Police Department. With their permission, I hope to someday use their names for characters in my future books. Also to Tom, Steve, Jillian, Bruce and all my friends and neighbors I’m forever grateful for the support while I walked this walk.

E.L. Chappel author of Risk/Spirit Dance/Storm Chasers

Hanging back to see how it all hashes out.

aka The Glamorous Wife

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