Everything Has Changed



“You often meet your fate on the road you take to avoid it.” – Goldie Hawn


I always wanted to be a writer. Laura Ingalls Wilder was my first hero. I felt that God had given me something special; I was sure I had a gift that was going to make me a great writer someday.

I thought it was Fate.

Meant to be.

Then I grew up and realized that Fate wasn’t going to pay my bills. I took a detour that became a bigger detour, and then an even bigger detour. I got married, started a career, had a family, and decided that writing was a pipe dream. A cute little hobby. Something I might do again someday when I retired.

I barely missed it.

But Fate can be a real Bitch sometimes.

In my blog, I refer to my husband as The Big Guy because he is a tall, broad-shouldered man with a big heart and a capacity for greatness. When he became a volunteer firefighter in our small community, we very quickly became a part of the fire department family. He rose up through the ranks by doing the job well, not by campaigning or maneuvering for promotions.

So he was blindsided when small-town politics forced him to step down. He was hurt, as he should have been; those men and women were his brothers and sisters, and he felt betrayed. And while he is good at many things, forgiveness is not something he has ever mastered.

It was a bad time for everyone. We lost our friends, our extended family. He lost his sense of purpose, and I didn’t know what to do or how to help him. And in a town this small, there are always going to be rumors and ugliness when something like that happens.

Which is why I believe it was Fate that my car accident happened when and where it happened. One more mile, and I would have been in the next township. One more mile, and my life would have been in the hands of strangers, not his former “brothers.”

From underneath the maple tree, I recognized the chief’s voice right away, despite my head injury and pain. Of course I knew his voice. He’d gone through training with my husband, and they had served together for over a decade. He sounded calm, efficient, professional. The perfect chief.

When I called him by name, he got a funny look on his face.   He didn’t recognize me.

That was my first clue that it was bad.

“It’s Amy,” I told him. “Ken’s wife.”

His face changed then. He closed his eyes and lowered his head and said a few choice words that I don’t think I was supposed to hear. The calm, efficient professional fire chief was gone for a split second, and our friend –our family member – fought for control.

That was my first clue that it was really bad.

I learned later that when he turned away from me after that, he gathered his men and told them, “Everything has changed. It’s family.”

Everything has changed.

They would have saved anyone as efficiently as they saved me that night. They did their job, and they did it well. But I was their family. I was one of them, and I could see it on their faces.

One of the other guys, a Paramedic, told me later that he had been on a leave from the department while he debated quitting, but something told him to respond that night. When he saw my van with the tree on it, his first thought was, “Nobody survived that.” Then he noticed my skin tone and thought, “She’s nearly gone.” Then he looked at my face and thought, “Okay, God, I get it. I won’t quit.”

Everything has changed.

In the months following the accident, I tried to hug and thank every one of the men that responded that night. It was harder than you might think; it was nearly impossible for me to find a balance between thanking them for saving me and remembering that they hurt my husband. I didn’t want to betray him by letting them off the hook when he still hadn’t. Couldn’t.

While I healed, I started writing again. I wanted to write about what I had gone through, exorcise some of the fear and pain and sadness by using my God-given writing skills, but I just couldn’t.  Everything sounded melodramatic and overwrought. I tried to go back to my original dream of writing a Young Adult mystery series. I ended up writing fanfictions in which I put my favorite TV characters in cars and dropped trees on them.   I wrote poetry. I joined an online critic’s group and tried to feel like a writer.

Everything has changed.

I began to write a romance novel. The first thing I did was drop a tree on my heroine’s head and break her neck.

I started blogging. At first, I told funny, superficial stories about living in the country. Then I shared some more personal bits about myself. I talked about my accident, and my kids, and about losing my parents; I shared advice I had gotten from my Aunt Marian, and I even found a way to work in the phrase “whippoorwill’s ass.” I made people laugh and cry, and somewhere along the line, I started having fun again.

In an ironic twist of Fate, the Big Guy and I were falling out of love while the characters in my book were falling into love. He asked me for a divorce exactly three days after I typed “the end.”

Everything has changed.

“Her House Divided” is a dream come true for me. It is the culmination of my life’s dream of becoming a writer.  I did it; I wrote a book. I am proud of everything I put into it.

I can say that I am a writer.

And until yesterday, I wasn’t sure what to write next.   So of course, Fate just had to step in again.

Yesterday, at a time and place when I least expected it, I ended up face-to-face with the one firefighter I had not yet thanked. I hugged him, and he hugged me, and he told me about the chief’s words to his men that night: Everything has changed.

You know what?

He’s right.

Everything has changed.

I’m still a single mother and scared to death that I’m going to screw it up. I am still sad that my marriage failed, and I miss my husband. I’m scared of maple trees and thunderstorms, and I sometimes wake up screaming because I’ve seen the tree falling again in a dream.

I don’t know what’s going to happen next. But there are a few things I do know: I am a survivor. I am loved. I am stronger than I ever realized.

I know what to write next.

I have a story to tell, and I know how to tell it.

I’m ready to start the next chapter.




I think I was probably thirteen or fourteen years old when I went to the wedding of a family friend and heard the minister talk about true love.  He reminded all of us that Eve was created from Adam’s rib, and then went on to explain to the congregation that this means there is a perfect match for each of us. For every man, he said, there is a woman bearing his rib; for every man, there is a woman who makes him whole.

Let’s explore this a little, shall we?

So there is one perfect match for me.  Okay.  What if he lives in Timbuktu and I never meet him?  What if he died of Reye’s syndrome when he was eight years old?  Wait — maybe he’s alive and well and right here in Michigan, but he’s gay. That is the kind of luck I have.   Maybe I already met him when I was too young and too picky, and I never gave him a chance because he was short.  Maybe he is married to the wrong person.  Or maybe I met him and missed my chance because I was already married to the wrong person.

And really, who is to say that my husband was “the wrong person”?  We shared some good times along with the bad, and we made three incredible children together.  Maybe he was my perfect match but we were just too stupid and selfish to figure out how to stay married.

No, I don’t believe that there is only one perfect person for each of us.  Life just can’t be that cruel.

“The heart wants what the heart wants.” I’ve heard this saying so many times over recent weeks.  True romantics who get all misty-eyed and emotional, who gulp and sniffle while moaning that they couldn’t help themselves, couldn’t help falling in love because it was just bigger than they were, an irresistible need to be with a soul mate after eyes met across a crowded room.

Come on, let’s be honest with ourselves.  The only thing that meets across a crowded room is libido.  The only thing bigger than anyone is desire, and the mating that follows has nothing to do with anyone’s soul.  Rather than the heart wanting anything, it’s more along the lines of “the dick wants what the dick wants.”


Okay, so maybe I’m a little angrier than I realized.

I read romance novels.  I love movies like Somewhere in Time and Heart and Souls.  I sing along with Don Williams about believing in love.  I believe that I will fall in love again, and that I will someday be happy with a man who treats me the way I deserve to be treated.

I believe in love.

What I don’t believe in is fairy tales. Destiny.  Kismet.   In real life, Prince Charming became a bad guy on General Hospital.   Princess Buttercup married Sean Penn while Westley ended up playing a campy villain in the next generation’s fairy tale movie.


I had the whole eyes-across-a-crowded-room experience once.  It was my first relationship, and I was hopelessly immature about it; I cherish my memories of him, but it wasn’t the kind of love that lasts a lifetime.  He taught me about love and about sex, and about letting go when it was over.  He didn’t break my heart.  He woke it up.

There was no crowded room the night I met my husband.  It was just him and me, with his shy smile and the bluest of blue eyes.  We rode in his pickup truck to a hockey game, where he apologized for swearing in front of me when the Orlando Solar Bears scored on the Kalamazoo Wings.  We bumped into my sister and her family, and he didn’t know I heard him tell her that I was beautiful.

Me, beautiful.

I kept the ticket stub in my jewelry box.

We fit.  We laughed together so easily, and talked about past loves, past hurts.  We fell too fast.  Bought a decrepit old house to fix up and started making babies and for the briefest of moments it looked like all of our dreams were going to come true.  But somewhere along the line, we stopped laughing.  The renovations on the house never happened, and we fell out of love as easily as we fell into it.

I still believe in love.

I’m not going to make eye contact with some stranger across a crowded room and fall hopelessly in love.  Nor will I ever tumble head over heels because a man says I am beautiful. I know better.  I am not going to create impossible dreams of a glorious future with anyone.  I want reality.

I believe in reality.  And the reality is that there is nothing magical about true love.  No Kismet, no Destiny, no “meant to be”.  No perfect, mystical, once-in-a-lifetime, pre-destined match.

Love is just . . . love.  That’s all it is.

Believe it.