Michael is 18 months old
What are your favorite activities in Stamford?
We love going for long walks and getting our cups of coffee from the Starbucks on Summer Street. Walking through Stamford Downtown is fun especially because Oso my Rottweiler gets a lot of attention there and loves that. We also love going to the Stamford Museum and Nature Center but Oso is not allowed.
You grew up in Stamford, why did you decide to also raise your family here?
I arrived here as a teenager from Peru back in 1998; Stamford was very different city and it has grown tremendously. Stamford is very diverse and I love the closeness to New York City. It is very important to me that my family’s exposed to a diverse community and Stamford definitely offers that. Family is very important to me and I want to raise my child to be close to our family.
Your career has taken many turns. Start by telling us about your time in the U.S. Army and as a Greenwich Police Officer.
I joined the US Army in 2004 right in the middle of a chaotic war. Leaving my mom, my sister and my nephew was not easy but I felt that it was necessary. I trained in Fort Jackson (South Carolina) and Fort Lee (Virginia) it was the latter where I met Kyle, my future husband. Training was not easy but I made great friends and great memories. I was stationed with the 94th BSB 10th MT Div. in Fort Polk Louisiana. One of our missions was of humanitarian aid to the people of New Orleans after the devastation of Hurricane Katrina. We trained every year for deployment but while I was enlisted, we never deployed as a unit.
I came back to my hometown in late 2007 and resumed my studies. I came back alone because my husband was deployed to Iraq. I applied to the Stamford PD first but they were not hiring and eventually ended up getting hired in Greenwich. The hiring process was long, almost a year, but I was glad I did it.
As a police officer I had a chance to interact with children and love talking to them. I dealt with cases of domestic violence, many involving children. As a child who grew up with domestic violence I know how traumatic of an experience it can be. Police officers are strangers to these children and many times it could further traumatized them. Especially when they see these strangers taking one of their parents away. I made a commitment to myself that I help lessen the stress of seeing police officers in their house. I spend time talking to them asking about school and any plans for the day. I often gave them little gifts I carried with me in my patrol bag.
Tell us a bit about your battle with depression and how you have overcome that.
Depression was something I never thought I’d experience. I always felt like I’ve dealt with worse things in my life and that I was prepared for anything. I was wrong. Depression is very real and scary because it doesn’t allow your thoughts to be clear. Looking back, my thoughts made no sense but at the time they seem perfectly reasonable. I still get the chills thinking that I truly believed that my family would be better off with out me. I couldn’t see that I was the person that held our family together. As a strong, independent woman I felt like I shouldn’t let anyone know about my deepest fears and pains but I realized that silence is your worse enemy. I never wanted my mom to see as being weak but it was finally when I broke down and told what I was feeling that she was able to help me. If I feel sad I tell my family about it and with their help and support I’m able to see a better future. I love running and sometimes I take my 120lb Rottweiler with me. We both love going out for runs around downtown and running is a great stress reliever for me.
How did you become a children’s book author?
I’m a very spiritual person and often pray to God asking for direction but I felt like I wasn’t getting any. It was during a day where I felt like I hit rock bottom that my prayers were answered. My silly Oso gave me inspiration to start my career as a children’s book author. He is obsessed with fruits and veggies and makes drool puddles every time he sees me eating. He literally runs knocking things over to the sound of an apple being cut or a banana being peeled. He loves to eat so much that I figured children would love to read about a hungry Rottweiler who loves fruits and veggies. At first I wasn’t too excited about writing a book featuring a breed who is often portrayed as aggressive but my husband introduced me to Carl the Rottweiler children’s books. I realized then that I had found my calling.
What do you hope families get out of your books?
I hope families use my books as another tool to teach their children about healthy eating. It sure has helped me teach my 18 month old to love veggies. Most importantly, I would love for parents to use my books to teach children about dogs and how breeds such as Oso’s are not born “aggressive”. It breaks my heart when I see parents pulling their children away from Oso without giving him a chance. His big head might make him look intimidating but he’s truly a big teddy bear who loves children and eating healthy.
Do you have any plans for future books?
Oso’s Tails is a series of picture books and I’m currently working on the second one; Crunchy Broccoli. Crunchy Broccoli is due to be released by late summer. I always want to give back so 30% of my books’ proceeds go to charity. Cooling Off With a Cucumber is my first book. It benefited three different charities and Crunchy Broccoli will benefit a Rottweiler Rescue. There is more detailed information on my website!
What’s the best piece of advice you’ve gotten from another mother?
My mother gave me the best piece of advice. She told me not to be too hard on myself and never compare myself to other moms. That every mom is unique and each one of them does what’s best for their family.
For more information about Shirley’s books and to purchase, head to her website, here!