I got myself and the kids ready in the morning, took the big kids to school, took the little kids on a massive Trader Joe's run. Corey boarded a plane for Florida for two days worth of meetings.
I pulled back into our driveway around 11:30, eager to unload the groceries and lay a sleeping Kieran in his bed. I jumped out of the car, popped inside to turn off the alarm before unbuckling the sleeping baby when: "WARNING! WARNING ALARM HISTORY! ALARM HISTORY!"
The words flashing at me from the monitor made no sense. Alarm history? What alarm history? Everything looked just as I had left it, three hours earlier. I punched a few buttons. "SUNROOM DOOR! ZONE 1 MOTION DETECTOR! FRONT DOOR! ALARM HISTORY!"
Completely befuddled, I walked a few steps from the mudroom so I could see the sunroom door -- and I saw it open. Deadbolt extended. Wood trim on the floor. Pieces of pink insulation thrown around the room.
Lightning adrenaline seared through every vein in my body. I turned around, got back into my still running car, backed down the driveway and shut the garage door in one fluid motion. My hands were shaking as I dialed 911.
"What's going on, Mommy?" Teyla asked.
I have no idea, I thought to myself.
Three minutes later, a sheriff's deputy pulled in our driveway. I stayed in my car, as instructed. He went around the back of the house. A few minutes later, a second squad car showed up. I rolled down my window to hear, "I see footsteps going in, but none coming out."
I involuntarily drew my breath. Up to that point, I wasn't convinced we had suffered a break-in. It just didn't make sense. Except for the sunroom, everything had looked so normal. The breakfast dishes were still in the sink. Our Christmas tree shone brightly from its corner. A few Little People lay on the floor. This can't be happening.
But it was. The officers came out the front door 10 minutes later. "We've gone through the house. No one is inside. But we'll need you to come in with us and tell us what's missing."
Only the master bedroom had been touched. The top drawers were all open and rifled through. I looked in our closet.
"My jewelry box is gone," I said, picking up the lonely lid from what had been a three layer box.
The sheriff made notes. I walked back out and then, "Oh! My laptop! My laptop is missing!"
The empty spot on my desk hadn't initially registered. I often move my laptop around the house; a bare desk strewn with deserted power cords was a common sight.
But this time, it wasn't me who had moved my laptop. It was someone else.
The deputies were kind but focused. Our house was the fourth break-in in our area that morning. "Someone's out Christmas shopping," one of them said wryly. They took me out back and showed me where the thief had cut our phone line. So that's why the security system didn't notify the police.
And just like that, they were gone, leaving behind a business card and a case number. "Call if you notice anything else missing."
Ummmm. How about my sense of safety? My bubble of control?
I called Corey, who had just landed in Fort Lauderdale. He barely made it out of the airport before he was back inside, calling Delta and buying a ticket on the next direct flight back to Minneapolis.
The next few hours were a blur. My in-laws arrived; we had planned for them to come over Tuesday afternoon to watch Teyla and Kieran so I could do a few hours of Christmas shopping alone. Providence. Thanks to them, I was able to call Comcast about the phone line, call our favorite carpenter to repair the door, call the security company to have someone come out and reset our monitors and then race to our local library to change all my online passwords.
Miraculously, by that evening, the house was back to normal - full strength, as they say in hockey. Our carpenter friend came before dinner and not only repaired the door, but strengthened the deadbolt. Comcast upped our repair to an emergency status and had a tech to our place by nightfall. Corey got home by 5:00, ragged and weary. The kids and I were so glad to see him. His presence took the crazy level down five notches.
With help from the security company, we learned our thief was probably a pro. He cut our phone lines before he even attempted to get into our house. He used a crowbar to pop open our sunroom door. He went right to the master bedroom, the place where most people store their jewels, guns and extra money. (Or, in our case, our costume jewelry, our Bibles and our socks.)
But. He apparently didn't count on our alarm siren going on - even with a cut phone line. Because our monitors show he entered the sunroom at 9:03 and left via the front door at 9:04. And he left in a hurry, too. I found one earring and an shell bracelet scattered on our front sidewalk later that afternoon. So the air-raid siren that terrifies my children (we've set it off numerous times accidentally, potentially scarring Connor for life) also freaks out the bad guys. Good to know.
Initially, I was more upset about losing my laptop. My precious. But in the days since the break-in, I have become far more poignant about the loss of my jewelry.
Besides a pair of diamond earrings that Corey bought me a few Christmases back, I had nothing valuable. It was all glass and plastic, nothing worthwhile to resell or pawn. But to me, it was all priceless. The earrings I wore on my wedding day. The green-and-blue-glass bracelet I bought at the flea market up north. All my Mercy House jewelry. The silver hoops so big they were dubbed "the dog hoops" during my internships at KARE-11. All the holiday pins my parents gave me when I was a little girl: the beaded red heart for Valentine's Day, the wooden shamrock, the smiling Santa, the red-cheeked cupid. The brooches my mom "loaned me" in the 80s so I could pin them on my top shirt button and look cool. The chunky aquamarine shell and stone necklace Corey bought for me in Indonesia, when he went to help with tsunami relief.
Turns out, my jewelry box didn't just hold pretty baubles. It held memories.
My laptop held memories too, of course. But a few hours after my laptop was stolen, I was able to confirm - to my great relief - that my files had been backed up to my external hard drive just a few day prior. So I lost virtually no information, except the latest copy of my To Do List. Eleven years of pictures and video -- safe. Whew.
And then Corey agreed that I could replace my Dell laptop with a Mac and ... well, let's just say I suddenly saw the silver lining of the break-in.
1. A security system isn't a guarantee (obviously), but it's worth the money - especially if you live in a more secluded area like we do. We have neighbors, but our lots are big, and the houses are set back from the road. It makes sense for us - especially since Corey travels. Even if the system was partially thwarted this time, the fact that it cut short the time the thief spent in our home earned it its keep.
2. That said, this was another gentle reminder that God alone is my true refuge. If I didn't have that bedrock beneath my feet, I doubt I would have regained my sense of well-being as quickly as I did. He is my ultimate security. If I believe Him and His promises to me, I have nothing to fear.
3. If you don't already, back up your computer. This story would be vastly different if I didn't have my files backed up. I used an HP Simple Save external hard drive. It's super easy - just plug it in to your computer, and it will instantly create a backup of your hard drive. Best part: it will back up every 5 min thereafter. So you don't have to do anything to stay current. I didn't leave mine plugged in all the time, since I had a laptop that got moved all over the house all day. But I tried to plug it in at least once we a week, and for sure every time I downloaded pictures from my camera. That's your PSA for the day. Just do it.
4. Macs rule. (More on that in a future post.)
Thank you for your thoughts, prayers and well wishes the last week. Your outrage on our behalf and warm words of support wrapped me in peace and comfort.