Lessons Learned from a Break-In by Cassiel Knight

Writing a blog post is agony for me. I have a hard time thinking of what I should write. I like my industry interviews ’cause that takes the pressure of me to compete with Nancy’s snark and Susan’s enthusiasm. I figure I’m somewhere in the middle. Well, last week provided me with a post for today. This is called making lemonade out of lemons.

Last Thursday, I got home from work around 5:45 p.m. to discover that my house had been broken into. I can’t even begin to describe the unsettling feelings I had walking into the house and discovering this horrible violation of my husband and my personal life. Now, in a move reminiscent of the TSTL (too stupid to live) heroines we all love so much, I walked through the house, my three little dogs trotting at my heels (no, they were not burglary deterrents at all but I’m sure the thieves thought they were adorable) until I reached our bedroom. And then, I saw stuff that made my heart stop.

In the center of the floor was as sledge-hammer. Scary, sure, but worse, there was a light on in the closet and afterward I got to thinking that I could have walked right into actual burglary in process. So, Lesson #1 – don’t do that! Call 9-1-1. Seriously. Curiosity in a potential threatening situation is so not a good idea.

Luckily, they’d gone. I thank God ever day for the timing.

What did they take? Well, they took my laptop and our spare laptop. They took my husband’s gun, a jewelry box and my husband’s valet. They took some Canadian money (I don’t know – maybe they are planning a trip? It sure isn’t worth much in the US) and we learned yesterday, they took a nice pair of binoculars. They trashed our bedroom and shuffled through another room. The biggest damage was to our front door. Apparently, our thieves don’t come with this own tools because they kicked in the door to our barn and used our sledge-hammer to break into OUR house. Is that ironic or what?

More than my laptop (upsetting but my most precious things are on a thumb drive I keep with me) and a few pieces of jewelry that were gifts from husband and family or sentimental, they took peace of mind. I think I was in shock Thursday night. After the initial panic, I was fairly calm when I talked to my husband and spoke to the police officer. I slept okay. Well, Friday, not so good. The reality had struck that people had broken into OUR home and stolen OUR stuff and upset OUR dogs. They had no right to be there. No right to take things from us – things we worked hard on and in taking our peace of mind, they did more damage than anything they took (thank God they left my girls alone and closed the doors when they left. I can’t even imagine…)

Anyway, my goal in sharing this was not to get sympathy for my story. Others have had worse. It could have been worse. I thought about some things I’ve learned from this that I’d like to share.

Lesson #2 – Our society is really in a tough place right now. This was an in/out operation targeting things they could easily move or pawn. While this is nothing new the fact it happened in a less populated area makes me wonder just how desperate people are now.

Lesson #3 – Never think it won’t or can’t happen to you.

Lesson #4 – Expect spouse/significant other to freak out worse than you. At least, he did in this case. We went shopping the day after. Short of breaking glass, they ain’t getting in again. In this case, husband does not believe in overkill.

Lesson #5 – Reset all your passwords – for everything. You never know what they can get into after they’ve taken your computer. The lesson should be don’t allow passwords and log-on information to be saved but really, that’s not going to happen. So, just make sure you change them.

Lesson #6 – Shih Tzus, while adorable and cuddly, do not make good watch dogs. 

Lesson #7 – Protect the things important to you. I mean other stuff too but mostly I mean my writing stuff. If I hadn’t begun living my life on my thumb drive I would have lost EVERYTHING. My books, promo, stories in progress and so much more. Think of this what you will, but that would have devastated me. So, while I have my thumb drive, I’ve also learned to back things up. I have a Skydrive (http://www.Skydrive.com – have free storage and low cost) account and all my important stuff is now there. Including the things on my thumb drive.

Lesson #8 – Remember, this too will pass. It’s horrible, a violation and very unsettling (the first two nights I woke up my husband gasping ’cause I dreamt we were being broken into) but, again, it could have been much worse.

Bottom line is I’m good. I have a brand new laptop (got the very next day), I still have my writing and editing work and all that stuff. Peace of mind will come with time, and extra security, but we are okay.

What I’d like you to take from this mostly is #7. Is your writing protected? Do you have a back up? Is it stored in the cloud? What are you doing to protect your writing profession assets?

I hope you are doing more than I did. If not, I hope my tale will inspire you.

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Posted on May 9, 2012, in General and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 19 Comments.

  1. Bastards. I’ve only had things taken from the yard and porch, and that’s bad enough. Thanks for turning your unpleasant experience into usefulness. You are a creative force in the universe.

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  2. Hi, I also am sorry this happened to you. It is awful. I would like to put something out there if you don’t mind. I was a 911 operator for several years before I started writing. What the police would like for you to do is when you notice something like this the very instant you realize something is wrong get back in your car and drive away from the house even if it’s just a little ways, then call 911 and wait for the police to show. I used to have people call and the immediate response will be to get you out and away from the house. It also clears the scene for the officiers. They can imake entry without worrying about your safety. You were very lucky, I have taken calls where people have indeed came across the burglars and calls where the responding officiers ran across the burglars as well. It is always a crap shoot if someone is going to get hurt. I had several callers apologize for not staying in the house or finding out what was going on first. Don’t do that, you are always the priority. Please keep yourself safe, everything else is just stuff, it can be replaced you all cant. The hardest thing for me to do was get people to leave thier pets inside while they called. Honestly, most burglars will steal you blind but unless your animals are activley attacking them they typically leave animals alone. Critters are somehow sacred most (not all) of the time. If you come up on your house and it’s quiet your animals are probably safe or beyond you helping them. So call 911 let the police take care of it. I have even had cases where the police were able to catch the guys in the act. Life is precious, each and every one of you is precious, take care all keep it in perspective.

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  3. I never thought it would happen to us, either. It did, and fortunately no one wanted my computer. They wanted cash, cameras and a couple of interesting souvenirs. My computer was too big, and too old. I used to keep a CD stored at my sis’ place with all my completed manuscripts and unfinished stuff on it, in case of fire (never thought of break-in). I’d update it every year or so. It wasn’t complete but it did provide me with a baseline for starting again. Nowadays offsite “storage” is available on e-mail and other sites at the click of a mouse. Thanks for the advice! Your experience was certainly a lot scarier than mine!

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  4. Thank you all for the outpouring of sympathy!

    I’ve had personal emails asking if I’m okay. I truly am. We are coping and as I can tell from reading your comments, we are certainly not the only ones to experience this. It’s just another life lesson, I think. And while painful, we do learn from them. Putting aside worst case scenario, it was the potential loss of who I am as an author that really disturbed me. That I could have lost so much. And I can see from the comments that you all understand that. It’s why I love associating with writers – we get each other. 😀

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  5. So sorry you had such a horrible experience. Last night I realized that someone had tried to break in through our back door. They pried off the window screen, pried the framing off from around the door, sprayed some kind of stuff into both locks, and left a huge footprint on the door when they tried to kick it in. The police officer said that something must have scared the burglar/s off. But I’ve had the creeps just from knowing someone was trying to get in. I will take that as a wake-up call, and am thinking a security system might be a good investment. Thank you so much for passing on all that good advice. Wishing you peace of mind.

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  6. Kim! I’m sorry this happened to you. Your take away is heard. I’m pretty good about backing up, but I will get better.

    Enthusiasm? You’re sweet 🙂

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  7. As a writer with my soul in my computer, I really appreciate the reminder to protect my assets! Kim, bless your heart. What a scary experience!

    Sabrina

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  8. Maggie Jaimeson

    Ouch! Ouch! Ouch! Kim. All I can say is #$&*##@. You get the idea. I’m glad you and your dogs are safe. All of your ideas about preparing for the worst are right on target. I learned long ago about offsite backups just because computers break, hackers abound, and yes there are still people who think nothing of breaking into your car, home, life and taking for themselves.

    Extra hugs for you!!!

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  9. Wow, this is so scary I didn’t want to read it. Talk about denial. I hate all of this for you. Thank goodness you and your husband were not harmed although peace of mind once stolen is hard to restore.

    Thanks for sharing and the backup advice. I’m doing it now and it’s long over due.

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  10. Kim – I’m so sorry to hear this happened to you but I’m so glad that everyone is alright.

    My mother was recently robbed and all the family jewelry is gone. All the jewelry I used to play with my grandmother as a child and hoped to be able to give to my kids one day is just gone. The sentimental value far outweighs the financial value of the items. Although I’m glad my mother is alright, the whole thing just sucks!

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  11. This is great advice, Kim. I admire you immensely for being able to share the experience and re-frame it so helpfully for others, especially so soon after the event. Thank goodness you, your hubby, and dogs are all safe and that you had the foresight before this event to save your writing data in some alternate format than on your laptop hard drive. Still, your reminder about doing this is something I (and others too) probably needed to hear again. Thank you!

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  12. What a trial! I’m so sorry this happened to you and your husband. At least the dogs didn’t seem too traumatized, and thank the stars for your thumbdrive.

    Burglars attempted to break into my son’s and DIL’s house earlier this year, but were scared off when they realized the family was home. All the damage was a broken door and frame, but the house was brand new–less than a month old. And it scared the daylights out of my DIL. It’s just such an invasion into your private space. Most people have no idea how that affects you.

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  13. Gina Fluharty

    Three years ago, our house was burgled three times by the skinny heroin addict that lived across the street. He came in through the doggy door. He’d been in once in October that we didn’t know about. Second time (we thought the first) was in November. We got a security system. The motion sensor caught him as he was stealing more DVDs (he never took anything he couldn’t get out through the doggy door). Then he held up a coffee hut down the street at knife point. That’s when I told GPD to look at him and they found that he had pawned my jewelry. I got some stuff back but I’ve truly never gotten my absolute peace of mind back, even in a new house in a new city with the security system. Get a security system and don’t go in the house next time. HUGS!!!

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  14. Wow. Good lessons and I think the TSTL response is what we all do in a situation that’s totally out of our control. It takes a while for us to process the reality. I’m impressed this is already becoming count-your-blessings experience for you. Hugs!

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  15. I’m so sorry this happened to you. It is very disconcerting and you do have to be careful. I’m really glad they were gone when you got home.

    There is nothing like the feeling violated. I had my backpack stolen in college. I got it back minus the valuable stuff inside, but i didn’t want it anymore. It didn’t feel safe. Then someone tried to break into our house during the day, but the neighbor drove up and stood outside with her cellphone until they went away. We ended up getting dog, a mean looking one with big teeth even though she’s a total sweetheart. We’ve had no problems since.

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  16. Nancy? Snark? This break-in left you delusional. I am always sweetness and light – but don’t read Friday’s post where I’ve moved snark to a new level.

    I am truly sorry to hear about this. I know it has left you shaken. It would all of us. And I totally agree with you that it is a sign of the times.

    I had an employer long ago who wore a great deal of expensive jewelry and I asked her one day what would happen if someone robbed her. She mimicked stripping the jewelry from her body and whipping out her checkbook to ask, “Would you like a check?” While we all laughed, she came home soon after to a burglary in progress. What did she do? Whip off her jewelry? No. Offer a check? No. She jumped on the burglar’s back (who I might mention had a tire iron in his hand) to stop him.

    While we understand what we are supposed to do in a crises, we very seldom do it. We re-act and not always with the best consequences. My friend went to the hospital, but she lived to tell the story. I’m not sure everybody would

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  17. Having your home broken into is horrifying, not to mention the lingering unease, the grief over stolen items and the pure violation of the act you are left to deal with. I know from first hand experience. Your advice is excellent and I plan to start backing up all my writing a little more carefully. I am sorry you had to experience this.

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  18. Great advice here. I think we’re all prone to the ‘it won’t happen to me’ line of thought. I know I am. Thanks for sharing, I’m going to start making some changes in data storage right away.

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