An Interview with Police Wives of America
Forever thankful to the national organization, Police Wives of America, for taking the time to read and share The Invisible Line with all of their followers! It was a pleasure to chat with Alyssa about my own experiences as a LEO’s wife for the past 26 years. It was also a sobering moment to realize that my husband’s retirement is in the very near future. Where our life’s path may lead, we do not yet know. But it is well with my soul, knowing that our devotional is being shared with those who thought they were alone on their own lives’ paths. In the end, we are all on the same journey, experiencing and sharing our stories and encouragement.
I’ve included the interview from their website. Check it out and visit the rest of their pages! They are truly a wonderful resource for any officer’s families and those who love them.
BOOK INTERVIEWS FOR LAW ENFORCEMENT RELATED READING
Tell our followers a little bit about yourself, your book The Invisible Line, and your journey as a police wife:
I grew up surrounded by books. My parents owned the local bookstore when I was in high school and college, so I was never without something to read. I started writing short stories and fairy tales of my own when I was in grade school, so it came as no surprise that I received my English degree and ultimately became an English/Family Literacy Instructor at a local university. Because of health issues, I no longer teach in the classroom, but I can now focus full-time on my writing. My two sons are grown, at 18 and 21, but they were only 14 and 17 when I wrote this devotional. They were around the same age that I was when I met my husband, at age 15. We started dating the following year, and we will be celebrating our 25th wedding anniversary next month.
I also write modern-day fairy tales, recently publishing two books of a trilogy. But while planning these tales, there was a whisper that I could not quite hear, an itch I couldn’t quite reach. And one day, I felt the nagging just a bit more— to write a book about our family’s journey— our journey as a police family.
After surviving severe sepsis in 2016, I looked back at this point in my life and realized that my faith gave me the strength to survive that ordeal. For that, I knew that I needed to tell the world how God was, and always will be, there in our lives. So I wrote this devotional for the wives and the family and friends of an officer. The title, The Invisible Line, comes from the concept of the Thin Blue Line that most people are aware of; it is a visible image of the line officers stand on each day. But we, the wives and families of those officers, stand in front of this line. No one sees us; we protect our blue line with sacrifice and anonymity.
I took the photo for the cover using our wedding bands and my husband’s badge. This book is undoubtedly our labor of love.
I was in college while Ken attended the police academy and worked on his college degree. We got engaged while he was working part-time for three separate departments. He was hired full-time in our very own hometown ONE month before our wedding! So I have been the cadet’s girlfriend, the rookie’s fiancee, the new hire’s bride, and will now soon be the retiree’s wife. It’s been an amazing journey!
What made you decide to write a book?
I spent childhood summers sitting on a bridge that spanned across a creek that ran through my backyard. Story after story after story, but no one ever read anything I wrote. I was so afraid of the idea of rejection. What if someone didn’t like what I created? I carried this attitude into adulthood, teaching others the art of writing instead of creating my own. It was only after the sepsis scare that I looked at my life as a second chance. Ken never doubted my ambition to write this book at this time in my life after I told him I was setting aside my fairy tale novel to work on this particular devotional.
It was not only the first time someone, besides my mother and grandmother, would read something I created (outside of college newspaper articles). It was the first time I laid out and published a book. I’ve learned more about page and chapter layout since then, but I will never change one word that I have written inside this book.
I loved that at the end of every chapter there was an “idea for the day”. It gave me time to think about what I had read and apply it directly to my life. I think often as mothers and wives we are so busy with everything going on, it is very rare to find time to just sit and have some introspection. This book was a little different than others that I’ve read in that every topic didn’t necessarily have to do with us being a LE family and I love that! It’s a part of our lives, but not fully who we are, it’s just a small snippet of us. Did you have a method for choosing the topics you wrote about in each chapter?
Before writing even one word, I brainstormed an entire list of feelings, situations, calls, etc., that our family had seen in twenty-plus years. It was a long list! But it made me realize that there was also so much more to our family than Ken’s badge. It was a mighty giant and essential part, but we could not lose focus that there was so much more to us than his job. Each of us played a role in supporting our police officer. So I took each of our positions, our personalities, and even our struggles and joys, found the Bible verses that spoke to me, and researched to create the best learning lessons I could. When I went to layout the book, it just didn’t feel complete. I felt like I left readers asking, well, now what? So I once again made lists, researched, and dug back into our past activities, coming up with the concept of Ideas for the Day. I didn’t want it to become a workbook of questions and answers, rather a book of ideas to lift up and restore the readers.
You mention how Police Life is a calling, not just for the LEO but also for the families. What would be your advice for a wife that may be struggling with coming to terms with her spouse’s profession if she herself isn’t feeling peace with that calling?
I’ve mentioned that I’ve been alongside my officer on this wild ride since the academy days, but I recognize that many of my readers might not have joined the group until later in her spouse’s career. So no matter where a wife jumps onto the ride, she will soon realize that this path is nothing like she could have prepared for; Day One’s verse hopefully reassures police families that they all have unique paths in life. An officer’s course is full of brambles and obstacles. “Who would not fear the broken pieces of humanity that lay in front of them? Who would not want to back away from ridicule and evil?” A wife’s path will soon become similar to her husband’s, with its own set of obstacles. I still need to find compassion when Ken misses my son’s concert because he’s stuck on an arrest, and I still get frustrated over uniforms strewn across the bedroom floor. My advice for those who lose, or can’t even find, the feeling of peace with your spouse’s calling is to grab hold of each other. Hold onto him. Vow never to let go of this person you love because you will ultimately catch each other on life’s inevitable rocky path. You know him more intimately than anyone else on this earth, as he knows you. Remind each other of your strength and resiliency and that you are on this wild ride together.
One thing you touched on that really took my breath away….trust is something our families have a hard time with, especially in regards to our spouse and our kids’ safety. What are some practical things you might recommend for those that struggle with giving it up to God?
This question is so relevant to all of us right now; this last year of COVID-19 has taken all of us out of our comfort zone. And I admit, it’s been hard to give it all up to God. Despair has been knocking at our doors for such a long time now. I could rely on my go-to of trying to control everything around me every second of the day, or I could spend my day pleading with God to cover my family in bubble wrap. I have learned to ask God not for bubble wrap (even though I fight that urge some days) but for strength. I always found it interesting that my grandmother would say, “God, give me strength,” when things took a wrong turn, or a task seemed too large to accomplish. I did not understand her prayer as a child. It did not even sound like a prayer to my young ears. Now I catch myself uttering those exact words as I try to give up control and give it up to God. Strength to let go of control and find peace in His decisions. Not always easy to do daily, and it takes practice to call out to God to give you the strength to accept His answer. It is something I work into my vocabulary every day.
In chapter 4 you say, “Sometimes it is just really hard to find gratitude and love that Christians strive to have.” Wow, isn’t that the truth! We do indeed almost become callous by association. It is hard watching your spouse take beatdown after beatdown from all sides and not just go into self-defense mode. What are some ways you have dealt with and overcome these feelings in the past?
To help our loved ones focus on gratitude rather than building up a wall of callousness, we must find peace in our hearts first. Easier said than done, right? Especially nowadays. I recently started to focus on the little things in our everyday lives to find gratitude in everything else. I’ve told my kids we have to start celebrating every milestone. Why save up the little hurrahs until we have enough to celebrate one big huzzah? Celebrate each and everything, each and every day. You know the saying, why save the good china for only holidays? Yeah, that feeling. The Danish people have been doing this for ages. So much so, they gave it a name. Hygge. It means creating a contented and comfortable environment, anything that brings a feeling of happiness or well-being. It could be a cup of hot chocolate before bed, a well-loved quilt, or a glass of iced tea while sitting under the shade tree. Whatever brings you happiness. I promise you. It will help you and your spouse refocus on the best of society.
“When we lose the peace in our hearts, it is hard to have peace with those around us….I cannot always choose what happens to me or what changes my best-laid plans, but I can choose how I feel about it.” These quotes struck me deep after this year. We can’t do a thing about what happens around us, but we can control our fear, worries, and peace (or lack thereof) by how we react on the outside and the inside. How long did it take you to adopt this outlook, and did you ever really struggle with it?
I am indeed a work in progress when it comes to the idea of the what-ifs. It was something that I really had a hard time dealing with as a new wife and a new mother. It truly wasn’t until I started writing on a full-time basis that I began to feel at peace with the what-ifs in my life. I think it’s because I surrounded myself with not only God’s words but the things that brought peace to my heart, mind, and soul.
I’ll admit, chapter 15 was hard for me to swallow. “Bless those who curse you, do good to those who hate you, and pray for those who despitefully use you.” This is some hard truth, especially after the hate we have endured in unprecedented longevity. What an abundance of opportunity we have had to do this! I recently saw another wife say each time she read a comment hating on cops, she would say a prayer for that person. What is something of that nature that you have learned to do?
Oh, I do agree with you! The past few years, I’ve seen an unparalleled uptick in the severity and aggressiveness of my husband’s calls and confrontations in even our small town and surrounding jurisdictions. I’ve tried to create a calming environment here at home, but sometimes I am drawn into my one weak spot— Social Media! My tendency to read the multitude of comments following random posts and articles is my downfall. I catch myself reading the rude, hostile, and sometimes wholly false remarks and internalize all of the hate, venom, and bile. It’s at that point that I remember the word mercy. Pope Francis said that “mercy is the heart of God… tenderness and forgiveness for all.” That’s a beautiful thing to pray for; I pray for God to remind me that I am no better than the commenters by thinking so horribly about them. I ask Him to grant mercy and peace to all of us.
Chapter 17 was filled with the sad reality that sometimes our LEOs just aren’t allowed to be human in public. They aren’t allowed to weep or rejoice with those they encounter; they have to be human later in private for things that deeply affected them. As a wife this makes me sad because I know this man I love, I know what his intentions are, most other wives would feel the same way. How do you encourage your husband through this sad reality?
He leaves the most gruesome, gory, and graphic scene only to come home to a house full of friends and family singing happy birthday to your two-year-old son. He got held up roping off an accident, hoping to find remnants of tire marks in the gravel. His uniform smells like gasoline, and there’s dried blood on his arms. He hurries to wash up, change clothes, grab the camera and help pass out the slices of cake.
Society expects our officers to jump from not only incident to incident but on-duty to off-duty life in a snap of a finger, with the ability to switch emotions just as quickly. But sometimes, the officer begins to believe this too. The badge is a symbol of calm amidst chaos, reason among emotion. Sometimes I see Ken carry his badge into the most private moments, unsure how to let go of it after so many years of holding back the most basic human emotions. It was at my father-in-law’s funeral only eight years ago that I realized that I needed to remind Ken that it was okay to grieve, raw and honest, after seeing him repeatedly try to wear the mask of stoicism. As I say in this chapter, our loved ones feel like they cannot show their true selves in public. Sometimes though, as his partner in life, he needs to be permitted to be human, and I can reassure him that it’s okay to laugh or cry with those whom he loves.
Your book is filled with so many great quotes. So much great advice and confirmation for what we know to be true, it feeds the soul of those who read it. “Trials will come, we are meant to endure them.” You speak on your struggle of enduring cancer and other health issues. How did you focus on staying positive in a negative world and what advice do you have for other women who are facing their own challenges?
Simply put, I have learned from examples. My mother was diagnosed with breast cancer the month of my wedding, as her mother had been nearly twenty years earlier. Both women went onto survive extremely aggressive surgeries and treatment. Through it all, my mother stressed that attitude was everything. When people heard of the stem cell transplant and experimental therapy she received, they asked how she could bear going through it. Her reply was simple—”Because I had no other choice.” Mom, just like Grandma, refused to even think of any other alternative besides conquering her cancer. They wanted to move on with the rest of her life. She had too much to look forward to, holding onto her father’s favorite phrase, This too shall pass. Being diagnosed with a fair share of autoimmune disease and having numerous surgeries, one to remove a softball-sized benign tumor, I adopted the exact phrase, the same fighting attitude, and the same answer of “because I have no other choice.” It’s not always easy to keep that frame of mind, but I only have to picture these two women who taught me how to fight because, like them, I refuse to sink when the waters rise high.
There was a chapter where you spoke of a struggling teen that your husband attempted to reach but, in the end, he wasn’t able to. How do you support your husband well during times like this where life and even memories from the past can weigh them down?
This chapter was the hardest and easiest chapter to write. It was the easiest to write because the incident was still so new that the feelings of anguish were still brimming at the top of my mind. It was the hardest chapter to write because I watched the pure desperation in my husband’s eyes continue to haunt him. I write about a local teen who got mixed up in bad company, even as Ken tried to pull him from it with advice, check-ins, and reassurances. As I say in the passage, the boy found trouble one more time and never made it home. I think the hardest part of being a LEOW is seeing that haunting look of helplessness in your husband’s eyes, and you know there is nothing you can do to take that feeling away from him. Even years later, I catch a glimpse of that look when we see old newspaper articles detailing the event or realize that someone was missing from that year’s graduation class. It makes my heart ache, even more, knowing that our feelings cannot be compared to the teen’s mother’s loss. Silence and stoicism have become the officer’s norm as far as emotion; we’ve touched on that. In situations like this, I can only ask him to talk to me when he’s ready. I don’t ask or prod for details, yell when he shuts down, or hound him to hug it out. I have learned to be ready to listen—whether it’s in the middle of the night, during a car ride to the grocery store, or while watching a movie. It may be a nudge in bed to see if you’re awake or a click of the pause button on the remote. It’s in these odd times that he will be ready to talk, and you will have an open ear.
What were some of your favorite chapters to write about and why?
The chapter entitled Are You a Martha or Mary was one of my favorites simply because I enjoyed researching these two women. I was fascinated with finding out how people welcomed friends into homes during the Biblical times and how a house was cared for by the families. In the same way, I loved researching and writing the chapter entitled, She is My Mama. Once again, I was excited to investigate where Mary, mother of Jesus, traveled after Christ’s ascension. My favorite one to write was A Whisper because I wrote it to myself as a reminder to be still and listen to the silence in this busy, chaotic world.
What would be some good advice you have for a new wife starting out?
Wow, there are so many that come to mind. The ones I’ve listed below are the most important to me because I’ve experienced all of them at one point or another, some of them several times. I might have let some of them get to me at first, but they were all learning lessons along the way.
Do not lose yourself—your talents, goals, hobbies, etc.
Do not lose your friends—they will be your sounding board, your support system, even if they don’t fully understand the call of your position.
Do not lose your sense of humor—you will need it.
Invest in good quality laundry detergent and try to iron along the creases—or let your husband iron them as I do.
Learn to pray with your husband—it will bring you both closer together.
Remember that you WILL be stood up for dinner, even if you’re already seated at a table in a fancy restaurant, and it is your anniversary—he will mean well, believe me; he’d rather be at dinner with you than on another call.
You may have to celebrate Christmas Morning after lunchtime—plans may have to change at the drop of a hat; learn to go with the flow.
You may have to attend weddings, funerals, family reunions, birthdays, etc., without your Plus One—it’s never easy showing up at his cousin’s wedding without him, but the family will understand.
Never forget that God united you with this man, for better or worse, and He will see you both through every up and each down in life—He always has us in the palm of His hand.
What are some of the biggest lessons you have learned in your journey of being a police wife?
See above. Plus, I have found the following.
Burnout exists, and it can affect both of us.
I try to never go to bed angry, or if he works a midnight shift, never let him leave angry. No one will sleep that night.
I will always say I love you.
Lately, I have been working on finding ways to bring calm into our home—Hygge!
I write his work schedule on the calendar in pencil—it will never stay the same.
I have worked on my anxiety to attend events on my own.
I’ve learned that when people are at their worst, he will need me the most.
Anne Marie, I have so enjoyed reading your book and feel I am a better person for it. We are so blessed being able to have resources like yours that help us feel a little less alone in this world! I wish you all the best in all your future endeavors!
– Alyssa J.