Thursday, May 5, 2011

Priorities by Caroline Clemmons

My guest today is author Caroline Clemmons from Texas. Caroline writes contemporary and historical fiction. I've met Caroline online on the Wild Writers loop, a private loop of really not wild women but very sweet and caring friends. With weather of all sorts raging in the US this year, Caroline shares with us her own experiences and poses a fascinating question for all of us to ponder. She'd love to hear your comments!

PRIORITIES by Caroline Clemmons

One of my favorite movies is “Leap Year,” starring Amy Adams and Matthew Goode. In the movie, Goode’s character asks Adams, “If your home was on fire and you had 60 seconds to grab something, what would it be?” Great question. Decades ago my aunt’s home caught on fire and she grabbed the first things she saw as she ran from the house. Unfortunately, those happened to be a stack of magazines and a broom. Priorities?

Several years ago, grass fires reached within a quarter mile of our rural home. A quarter mile looks a very short distance when billowing smoke rolls toward you! In the unincorporated areas of a county, residents’ greatest fear is fire. There are no fire hydrants and a home’s well cannot generate enough water to make a difference.  At least, the wells in our area cannot. Volunteer firemen--once they get the call and get to the station (another problem)--race with a pumper truck of water to fight the blaze. At most, they can spray the home’s roof to prevent the spread of burning grass to the dwelling. A fire inside a home usually means a total loss. 

As we watched the fire’s progress years ago, my husband and I discussed what we would remove and how we’d pack. You’d be surprised how your priorities change when faced with a life and death situation. Who cares about furniture or knick-knacks or a wide screen TV? We planned to take pets, tax files, family information, one family painting, and photos. Oh, and a few clothes. No, we’re not clotheshorses by any means. ;-)  We strategized how we’d load the car and pickup, who’d take what, and estimated how long it would take--longer than sixty seconds, but we figured twenty minutes would work.
Recent weather disasters have once again opened discussion between my husband and me about what we could salvage should our home be threatened. Grass fires to the west of the Dallas/Fort Worth Metroplex sent ash raining on us. Hundreds of people lost homes, livestock, pets, and some lost their lives. Those not touched by the fire have allergies and sinus and respiratory infections from the ash and dust. Unpleasant, but nothing compared to total loss. 

Our priorities haven’t changed. As for loading? We’re slower now and it would probably take me twenty minutes just to capture our shy tabby from under the bed.

If you had 60 seconds to save just one thing, what would it be?

Here's what I'd save:

That's my husband and me in one of my favorite photos at a birthday party given him by friends.

Guest Bio: Caroline Clemmons writes romance and adventures—although her earliest made up adventures featured her saving the West with Roy Rogers. Her career has included stay-at-home mom (her favorite job), newspaper reporter and featured columnist, assistant to the managing editor of a psychology journal, and bookkeeper. She and her husband live in rural North Central Texas with a menagerie of rescued pets. When she’s not writing, she enjoys spending time with family, reading, travel, browsing antique malls and estate sales, and genealogy/family history. Her latest contemporary and historical romance releases in print and e-book include THE TEXAN’S IRISH BRIDE, OUT OF THE BLUE, a novella in the Civil War anthology NORTHERN ROSES AND SOUTHERN BELLES, and the upcoming July release, HOME SWEET TEXAS HOME. Her novella SAVE YOUR HEART FOR ME is available as a download only. Her backlist of contemporary and historical romance is now at Smashwords and Kindle. Read about her at or her blog at  She loves to hear from readers at 


  1. Such a thought provoking post. I'd do the same as Caroline----save my hubby, anyone else who happened to be in the house, and of course our pets. Only if I had time would I grab my laptop that holds the labor of my heart.

  2. Ah, Caroline, you made me cry. lol Wonderful post. Luckily we've never had to deal with that sort of thing, but what would I save? My husband, my kids and the dog. Everything else can be replaced.

  3. Hi Caroline and Elaine, I have been in that situation. It's teribly frightening. It was eight or nine in the morning, on Memorial Day. I was sick in bed with 102 of fever. My daughter (16)was in the shower, my son (20)sleeping in his room. My husband was out playing tennis. From my bed I saw the black smoke coming from the hall. I didn't react at first, then finally I got out of my bed in my t-shirt and realized it was heavy smoke. I banged on the bathroom door, and screamed: "House on fire. Get out." Son and daughter rushed out. We all climbed down the stairs to the front yard. As I had trouble breathing, I put my hand on my mouth and thought, that's how people die of smoke inhalation. We made it out.

    My son was in his underwear and daughter wet with a towel around her. He peeked inside and ran inside to grab his short, my pj and daughter's short and shirt, grabed the phone to click a preprogram 911. I tried to stop him and fell on my knees praying. He came out within a few seconds. The fire trucks came within five minutes. The house was saved. My husband arrived to find the street blocked and the neighbors told him your house is on fire. He almost had a heart attack.

    To answer your question. You don't take anything. Only your life and run.

  4. I would take a photo of my two daughters. Since one of them can never be photographed again, it would be my greatest treasure.

    Beautiful photo of you and your hubby.

    I like that movie, too, Caroline. The scenery is out of this world and the eye candy isn't too bad either. ;)

  5. Elaine and Carolyn,
    Enjoyed the post. What would I grab if I had 60 seconds? The pets and dh of course. And I'd have a dickens of a time getting the heavy parrot cage down from the hook it's attached to above the window, and the cat, who would be hiding under the bed, and corralling dh who would probably be looking for some important papers he wanted. It's good to think about these things.

  6. Caroline..I'm thrilled to find this new blog. I hope this author will continue her "Everyone's Story." She could have a real hit on her hands if the word gets around. I love the concept.

    So, if I had 60 seconds to save something in my house? My husband is so much more adept and healthy and stronger than I am, he'd be helping me.
    When I was a kid, I always kept my white Bible my Sunday School teacher gave me on my dresser, and if a tornado hit--we lived in Tornado Alley--I'd grab my Bible.
    Now? At my Age? I can find Bibles all over the place. I would grab my computer. I've told my husband, if our house is burning, GET MY COMPUTER!
    We do have everything backed up like crazy, and every month we Flash Drive his and mine and take it to the safety deposit box at the bank to switch out.
    We, too, Caroline, live in a rural area with a well like everyone else. I've told my husband and my friends...if my house catches on fire, let it burn to the ground.
    We, too, have had close calls, and one summer the sheriff came by and told us to evacuate. We didn't though...we felt it was uncalled for. We were right...that's going to be a long hot summer. Celia

  7. Caroline, first I get myself out. As I ran out the door I'd take as many family pictures as I could. Then my purse, then treasures from the grandkids.
    What a great picture of you and your hubby. You look just like Bea. Lucky lady.

    Your long time friend,


  8. I shudder to think of what I would do. Tornados ripped through a town close to me two weeks ago and one in early winter. As I looked at the devastation caused I realized there would be no time to save anything. However I can be prepared by being dressed and having on my shoes. After that I want my husband's hand in mine, and each of us hold in a ca IF they can be found.

  9. Because I think of these things for no good reason-the northeast doesn't get wild fires, the brunt of hurricanes, earthquakes, or other natural disasters-I doubt a tsunami will reach this far inland unless a comet hits the middle of the Atlantic, and I’m pretty sure that if a zombie apocalypse occurs, it won’t reach me immediately. These things either start in the middle of nowhere or in a major city.

    However, just in case one of the above happens, the fire being the most likely, I have all my pictures backed up on USB drives so I can quickly take them and not lose anything. Same goes for my stories. I'd take the dog of course, the small plastic filing bin of important papers, and toss some clothes & shoes into a suitcase and head on out.

    If it's a fire, definitely the USB drives and puppy. If I have more time, then as much crap as I can load up in the car and see how my Ford handles it all!

  10. Ladies, thanks for stopping by. Elaine does have a good idea, doesn't she?

  11. Great post, Caroline.
    Being in the military, my family always had preparedness plans for a variety of things including fire, tornadoes, break-ins and terror alerts. This was when I was a kid and the only one I ever enacted was the terror alert. At that time, the one thing I took was my stuffed monkey, Cheetah.
    Today, I would ensure my dog is okay then, if time allows, I would grab my laptop, which is always packed up in its back when not in use and my monkey, Cheetah.

  12. Great post, Caroline! I saw that movie as well and thought the same thing. Like others, I'd make sure all family members were out of the house first and then I'd grab my zip drives and any photos I could reach. :) Mary

  13. Ilona FridlMay 06, 2011

    Caroline, a very though provoking blog! I would make sure my husband was out and then, if there were time, I'd grab the computer. (All ways the writer)

  14. Elaine, congratulations on a wonderful blog.

    Hi Caroline, always good to see you. Mom-in-law is doing fine. She and sis-in-law evacuated to other sis-in-law's place during last fire you mentioned.

    Our neighbor was burning his irrigation ditches a couple weeks ago, wind picked up, and the fire got away from him. We helped him fight, joined by our volunteer fire department about 30 minutes later. It all turned out well, but it did make us think.

    So many people have lost so much in the last month or two. No one wants to start over again, but being alive to do that is the most important part.

  15. With only 60 seconds? It would have to be the family and the dog. There wouldn't be time for anything else. These kinds of natural disasters are just so heartbreaking.

  16. Our pets and maybe a photo album or two if I was lucky. Hmmm, like the special baby albums (1 per child) and our wedding album.

    That said, when I was ten, my best friend's house burned down and they were lucky to get out with their pajamas. The cat didn't make it.

  17. I remember my Dad frantically plowing a firebreak during the fire Mom mentioned. I would get the dogs, my negatives, and my computer.

  18. I'd grab the photographs of my kids and the precious things they made for me over the years. You're so right, it's amazing what matters to us when time counts. Thank you so much for this thought provoking question. You're an amazing person I'm blessed to call friend. Take care and I hope your Mother's Day is filled with blessings!

  19. Thanks friends for dropping by to comment on Caroline's fascinating post. I hope and pray that none of you, or those you love and know, will ever be touched by such disaster. If I were in such awful circumstances but was graced with a few seconds to grab something, after my husband and cat, I'd swoop up medications, address book, and laptop/zip drive.

    Please drop by again. . .soon and often :)

    In my next post I'll be featuring a very special interview with author Christine Lindsay.


  20. These comments just about took my breath away!
    What a wonderful guest and poignant responses.

    Hmmm. I am an empty nester for the first time in 23 years. Definitely my dog Laura.

  21. Thanks to everyone who stopped by to comment, especially those who shared their stories.


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