During my l960’s grade school graduation ceremony, the girls in line ahead of me described aspirations to become teachers, nurses or mommies. I was uncertain how, or even whether, to explain my dream. When my turn came, I rose on tiptoes to the microphone, paused, and slowly over-enunciated “I want to be an author.” It got a few laughs.
After graduate training, my career settled into a mild-mannered psychology practice in an Oregon suburb, and teaching at a quaint university on a bluff overlooking the Willamette. Also a busy mother of three, I appeased my author self by writing parenting manuals. I also served as editor of a professional organization’s newsletter.
One day as we were sitting around at a board meeting, someone pointed out that when the Big One hits—the major earthquake expected someday for this region—authorities would likely look to mental health organizations for help with the inevitable chaos. Did any of us have an idea of what we might do with a massive inundation of freshly traumatized survivors? Not really. In 1990, disaster mental health, as well as the field of trauma psychology, was not much more than a glimmer in the eyes of a select few.
Collaboration with the local chapter of the American Red Cross eventually got our group included into their first disaster mental health training in Oregon. After it was over with, we sat back and breathed a collective sigh of relief, assured we were as ready as we could be for our Big One.
Soon afterwards came the 1993 Midwest catastrophic flooding. Relief agencies quickly depleted the meager stores of trained mental health responders. After multiple requests to consider deploying cross-country, some of us decided to give it a shot. Myself included.
It only took once. I was hooked.
It brought with it a troubling dilemma: how do you keep classes and a private practice going if you’re repeatedly required to ride off into the sunset at a moment’s notice? The eventual solution was cutting back on teaching commitments, and allowing the private practice to close. My author self made good use of the sporadic and unpredictable spans of free time with textbook writing.
Getting in on the ground floor of my field eventually got me hearing myself referred to as an “old sage.” When some annoying health issues got in the way of continuing with fieldwork, I took up administration and program development, with both the American Red Cross and government agencies. Technical writing gigs kept my author self busy—policy and practice, field manuals, trainings, disaster handouts, and the like.
Thus disaster mental health and my author self evolved in tandem, a fanciful dance that now delivers me to my retirement career: disaster fiction. I am finally satisfying that half-century-old itch to be a storyteller, and it is a joy.
My thrillers envelope those tender nuggets of human understanding I’ve gathered up along the unique footpath that brought me here: our vulnerabilities yet resilience, recovery in spite of tragedy, overwhelming frustration but successes in thinking outside the box, and the incredible vitality that fuels us all when we must roll up our sleeves and address the impossible—which we only encounter in the face of the unthinkable.
Yes, disaster happens.
Healing and growth are out there in abundance, as well.
I hope you enjoy these fictional renditions of my glimpses into workings of the human spirit, and find the material I share on this website useful. Perhaps—just perhaps—you’ll chance upon a serviceable pathway through a lingering conundrum of your own, as you walk alongside my characters’ journeys through mystery and recovery.