The Last Ride Down the Hudson


 

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It was as if Lawrie had only two children.

Two, instead of four.

The time was last April, and we were in Albany.  My children, who are much better Christians than I, insisted that we attended the funeral of Lawrie Lierheimer, my late husband’s mother. She had led a long and fruitful life, passing away of age-related illnesses at 87. I had my doubts as to whether or not Chris’s remaining siblings would even notify me, relational pathology  can have lifelong grip.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that Chris’s father, Lawrie’s husband, was an imprisoned pedophile. He was ‘outed’ in 1986, and in those less enlightened times, spent a mere ninety days in jail as punishment for the hundreds of little boys lives that he wounded. (He spent it in solitary confinement, as even prisoners have a code, and child molesters are hated uniformly. It was feared he would lose his life at their hands.)

As the decades rolled by, both Chis and I lived lives reflecting the idea that hard times and poor choices aren’t minimized by hiding them. Chris was perpetrated on by his father, and the impact of this overshadowed his entire life. He struggled to live well, and made no bones about the fact that his father made that very difficult. Chris led groups of other male survivors of profound childhood sexual abuse, spoke to police academy trainings, and mentored other men in the same position. All of this did not sit well with the brother and the sister, who would have rathered he kept his experience secret, and  have him join them in the same, shameful closet.

It was not to be, and I supported my husband wholeheartedly. I had earned the appellations ‘religious freak’ and ‘bad influence’ from them- which, in my better moments made me laugh. In my less generous ones,  made me want to lacerate them verbally, over and over again.

But his family had notified me. The spirit of God can soften even a hardened heart like mine. After thirty years of backstabbing, ugly, relentless mistreatment from them I couldn’t find it in mine not to consent to join them in mourning their mother. Besides, Lawrie had been topically kind to my children, and on the whole, they had pleasant memories.

So, we went. The church was one of those cold, stained-glass, barely attended Episcopalian edifices, filled with grey heads and well-meaning East Coast intellectuals.

My children and I ghosted through the requisite ‘family’ obligations, genuinely happy to meet with a few of the more remote Lierheimer family branches. The immediate family met the usual hateful performance standards, with one  befurred aunt making a nasty comment about one of my daughter’s brownie consumption. (She herself, known for a lifelong eating disorder).

We sat through the reception of local guests, the service in the drafty, cold church, and clattered down the uneven, stony steps. The basement of the church had been bedecked with artifacts of Lawrie’s life. Books, her diplomas, travel mementoes, all graced the tables for viewers to see. Everywhere one looked, there were pictures of Lawrie and two of her children. Two. The living ones. An older brother, his family, and Lawrie. The younger sister, her dogs, and Lawrie.

Not one photograph of her oldest child who died tragically of Acute Lymphocytic Leukemia at the age of seven. Even more telling, not one of her middle son Chris, my husband, who died of colon cancer at 44. No photos of his prolific career, none of Chris and his mother in significant childhood events, none of her holding Chris as a baby. None. I couldn’t believe it.

“Mom, it’s like they erased him.”

“Mom, where  are the pictures of Dad?”

“It’s like he never existed.”

My children were are as stunned as I.

Visitors, it’s dismaying to me how the word ‘triggered’ has been co-opted. It’s really a very useful psychological concept. When a bullet is ‘triggered’, a hammer hits the explosive side of the metallic cartridge, and the resulting explosion sends a harmful metallic slug into the target, causing all sorts of damage, and perhaps, preventing more.

I was ‘triggered’.

I turned, wrathful, to one of my more peaceful daughters, who had tears in her eyes. Seeing that, I simply had to take a breath and unclench my jaw. I had a choice- make a scene, verbally berate these people in the presence of their scantily-attended service attendees, or swallow my wrath for the sake of my wounded children. These people so richly deserved it. They so abundantly deserved heaping helpings of my very articulate, cutting ire. It would be so satisfying. It would also add another wound to my children who had already been hurt by these people, yet again.

I elected instead, to speak to the brother privately. I pulled him aside- What gives? I inquired. Where’s Chris? Talk to the sister, he said.

So I did. I pulled the sister to a quiet corner. Where’s Chris? I asked.

The torrent of self-righteous, indignant nastiness shouldn’t have surprised me. I had been subjected to decades of this, after all. Who was I? What right did I have? How can I be so critical? And on the day of her mother’s funeral? Watching this woman’s face curl into a mask of defensive nastiness I felt nothing but disgust-for myself.

When would I learn? Good grief. Three decades of abuse, and here I was expecting them to be kind to me, even rational? We had taken the time and expense to travel from Denver to Albany, surely that merited consideration?

Nonsense. I sighed inwardly, weary. I was 54, first subjected to their nastiness at a mere 19. I was hopelessly slow. They would never change, I could never influence them, their best place was in the hands of a compassionate God, to which I confined them forever.

At the end of the day, we gathered our belongings and went to the train station to catch the 617 train out of Albany, arriving at Penn Station about two hours later. The Empire service is a beautiful route. It runs beside the Hudson river, passing picturesque, historical towns with names like Rhinecliff and Croton- Harmon. Chris and I had taken that route often, chatting about the historical paths of American explorers, and admiring the foliage and atmosphere of the small towns racing past.  We had adventure after adventure, saving our hard-won cash for museum admissions and half price theater tickets to be found in kiosks in Times Square. There’s nothing like a trip to New York, it’s simply alive.

My adult children were asleep in the lounge cars, the emotional wear of the day had worn them out. So I sat, and as the miles clicked by, I felt an ebbing away of a lonely past. A past that had been filled with joy and adventure, and marked by a separation caused by crime and violation.

I had been loved by my husband, and mutually treasured by the four children we had produced. I would never, ever be accepted or loved by his family, and I needed to stop caring.

I watched the Hudson flow by, watched the familiar trees and scenery  rush past my vision, and felt the past slipping, permanently, away. As I sat with this, I realized with a dawning sense of the grace of God, that it was OK.

Life, for now, was simply great. My children were healthy. They were making good choices. My mother was with her Redeemer, I got to spend every Sunday with my dad. I had good friends, enough food, a roof over my head, and endless possibilities.

They were just far, far west of the Hudson.

With much love,

Victoria

 

 

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Comfort Care in the Age of Opioid Abuse (Or “What Happened in the ER the Day I Broke My Face”)


Sometimes, enduring a bad time is about pain reduction, not elimination.

So, Visitors, I have these two little dogs that we rescued about a year after Chris died. My children were bereft at the loss of their father to cancer, and at the beginning of Year Two, I decided that they needed something else to love. Enter Mia and Gigi, a bonded pair we rescued from the local shelter. For dog lovers, Mia is an Italian Greyhound, and Gigi is a dachsund/IG mix. She’s an odd-looking little thing, sort of like a dachshund on stilts.

28827662_1102195246588464_7382364662412004232_o      I have this routine where I clip their little retractable leads to the support columns on the outside deck for short periods of time before I start my day. Being nervous little things, they often get entangled around the posts and each others’ leads.  That morning I squatted to untangle the mess, and had a lead in each hand. Unbeknownst to me, I had left about a four-foot portion of the tiny, threadlike, nearly invisible lead strung up between two of the support posts, about three inches off the deck.

This makes for a very effective tripwire. Boom! Down I went like a felled tree, catching myself with my face. I lay there stunned, face down,  as a pool of blood collected beneath my head on the deck.

As awareness returned, I realized I was very badly injured as I hadn’t braced myself with my hands. I staggered upright, hazily trying to locate my phone, blood gushing everywhere. I found my phone, and called the nearest daughter for help. She dropped everything, and headed over. I then called the paramedics and bled a trail out to the front of the driveway where I waited for them to arrive.

Now, here’s where it gets interesting, Visitors. For those of you who don’t have a lot of experience with trauma or illness, I want to tell you there is a great deal of MENTAL activity that is influenced by the PHYSICAL past and present, and vice versa. What happened next is also pretty bloody and descriptive, so be warned.

Before I called for help, I blearily tried to assess the extent of the damage in the bathroom mirror. To my dismay, I could see the outline of my teeth through the split in my lip. Instantly, I was catapulted back to the day in October where I helped a young boy through an automobile trauma that involved a massive hand-sized piece of flesh that had been stripped from his exposed skull. (See “On the Short, Sweet Life of Liesl Wiebe” in the search bar above”. ) The tear in my lip was that deep, and the triggering flashback was completely paralyzing for several minutes. Classic PTSD response.

After that waned, the wash of pain that flooded over me was simply dizzying. I grabbed a hand towel to press to my face as I went outside to wait for the paramedics, weeping uncontrollably. I tried to control my breathing, knowing that if I tensed up and made the pain worse, I would likely lose consciousness and fall again.

One first responder  arrived in his own car, and through tears I got out what happened.

“I am so sorry this happened to you!” he said, as he proceeded with the exam.

“Me too!” I wailed.

The next set of paramedics arrived in an ambulance truck. I repeated the story through the bloody towel.

“Good grief,” said a burly one, who seemed in charge. “Well, your nose is likely broken, which is painful as hell, and that lip needs quite a few stitches.  I’m so sorry!”

“Thank you.” I said. I could feel a bit of mental clarity returning.

“What’s your pain number now, dear?” said another as he pressed my neck and spine.

“An eight.” I said, muffled through the  blood-soaked towel. “Unaided childbirth was a nine.”

“Ohhhhh, shit! ” he muttered.

I laughed just a little, wincing through streaming blood. I could feel my body unclench a  bit with that tiny bit of empathy, and a voice in my head assured me that this will end, I will feel better in the not-too-distant future. I was certain I was headed for a cascade of ‘the good drugs’ if I could just hold it together a little longer. Opioid Heaven, here I come.

The men gave my daughter detailed instructions for the ER, and informed her that since I didn’t lose consciousness, an ambulance ride wasn’t merited. I was happy enough to ride in with her, and was loaded into a wheelchair when we got to the ER.

When I got assigned to a room, a friendly nurse bustled in and performed his assessment.

“Well, that looks like shit and must hurt like the devil. I’m so sorry! Let me tell you about my aunt who got tangled up in HER dog’s lead and broke her hip!”

He compassionately related a similar story of injury, concluding with his aunt’s bouncing return to good health. I could feel myself relaxing a tiny bit more. This will end.

“So you think I’ll live? They can stitch me up soon, right?”

“We see stuff like this all the time, hon. These doctors are good.” I could breathe a little easier.

So I waited, and shortly a red-haired, competent PA came in and did his assessment.

“OK, here’s the plan. We get you stitched up and we will take several scans to look at your head and neck to make sure that’s OK”.

OK. So, what followed was pretty gruesome. He injected several doses of lidocaine into the wound, and I crushed my compassionate daughter’s fingers into a powder during that.  She chattered away and held my hand until the medicine took effect.  Then, he gave me two internal stitches for the inside of the lip, and six to stitch up the outside.

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After that horrible procedure, I started to feel a little more like a human being again, instead of a walking mass of pain.

I then saw two sets of imaging technicians, one for CAT scans and one for X-Ray. Each had a compassionate story to tell that involved freakish accidents with pets. I smiled at each one, grateful for the diversion. I felt a little more at ease with each one.

Finally, six hours after the stitches were in place, I realized that the lidocaine was wearing off, and a big bass drum was beginning to play in my head.

“Nurse, may I please have some pain relief?  This is getting bad.”

“Of course.” He promptly scanned my bracelet and dispensed 500 mgs of naproxen, and over the counter anti inflammatory drug, and a single Norco, one of the slightly weaker opioids.

Oh my, I thought. This will be an experiment in trust. I didn’t think that was anywhere close to enough to mitigate the chaos starting in my head.

I downed the drugs, and in less than an hour the pain began to ebb. The capable nurse came in again, and gave me the wonderful news that incredibly, my nose wasn’t broken!

Visitors, what can I say. I like to cook, I like to eat. The prospect of not tasting my food for months until my broken nose was healed was depressing. This whole freakish episode threatened to plummet me into incredible depression. The news that my nose wasn’t broken was welcome indeed. Then my boyfriend arrived – code name, Stockholm- hugged me and held my hand some more. I relaxed a little more.

Eight hours after those whole interlude began, the PA came back to my room. My nose wasn’t broken, my neck and spine looked normal, and I had one upper lip again instead of two.

Oddly, I discovered that all of the compassion and kindness had helped. The single Norco and naproxen had reduced the pain from a shriek to a dull roar, and with so many people around determined to help me, I discovered that I could handle this mess with a minimal amount of chemical intervention. It’s almost as if people are good medicine.

Go figure.

American Visitors, I’m sure all of you know someone, or of someone, who has been touched by this opioid epidemic.

MY particular set of problems that day produced an amazing amount of excruciating pain. The gentle touch, the encouraging word, the capable presence of professionals and friends, all of these things helped to de-escalate the pain to a point where a minimal amount of pain-relieving medicine was necessary. Isn’t that interesting?

I can handle this, as a group of pop philosophers once said,”with a little help from my friends”, and much less help from the opioid bottle than I thought.

The takeaway from this terrible day? Get messy. Call your friends. Offer to help. Go to the hospital. Hold a hand. Use swear words, feel for your friends, be sorry for them, you just might influence a positive  outcome much more than you think.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

Death in the Back Country- The Wrenching Loss of Sam Failla


“Hey Sam! How’s it going?”

It was the end of November, and the ski season at Vail was just starting for me. Nearly two years ago two of my daughters had decided to become preschool ski instructors at Vail, Colorado. The training was pretty grueling, eight days of in class and on snow instruction, capped by several days of ‘auditing’-watching other instructors, before you were given a class of little ones to teach to ski.

My daughters came home with romping tales of little ones of all nationalities and encouraged me to join them the next year. Why not? I thought. Since their father’s death, if my children ever asked me to do something athletic or adventurous, or anything that brought us together, I would move heaven and earth to make it happen.

Sam Failla’s tousled head bent over the pizza he was currently inhaling. Two little boys sat in front of him at the cafeteria table, gazing up at Sam adoringly.

“Great, Victoria! You working?”

“Nope! Just getting my skis. How was your summer?”

“Epic! I took this awesome trip to Asia!” Sam regaled me with a hilarious account of a journey he and several other ski instructors had taken to interesting spots in Thailand, Cambodia and other engaging spots on the Far East. I listened with interest, and marveled at the youthful energy Sam exuded. The world truly was his oyster.

Sam Failla was another reason why I did this part time job at Vail. The money wasn’t great, to be sure, though the skiing was unmatched. Teaching at Vail attracts an invigorating crowd of risk-takers, boundary pushers who step outside their comfort zones. Most times, these were post graduate gap-year takers, either high school or college age.  This gang was free-wheeling and inclusive, and a lot of fun to be around.  Often, there were middle aged part timers like me, striving mightily to hide the fact that our rickety knees could usually stand up to three or four days in a row, before having to go home to ice and Advil. (God forbid the twenty-ish types should get a glimpse of THAT!)

Sam Failla was a great representation of this group.  Sam was 24, I was 53, old enough to be Sam’s mother. In the rest of the non-ski teacher world, these athletic, accomplished kids were too cool to have much to say to a different generation. Not so with Sam and his peers. Sam, in particular, was loud, jolly and energetic. He was a full timer at Vail, and jumped into his work with overflowing alacrity. I’d see him patiently encouraging kids on the smallest bunny hill, and leading a group of little ones to a mountain class, all with a giant smile under that messy hair.

We’d interact casually in the crowded lunch room, offering to watch each other’s table so the other could use the restroom, comparing notes on the snow, chuckling about the behavior of some of kids in attendance that day.

What encouraged me about Sam was his utter ease with all sorts of people on the mountain. He always had a funny word for his peers, and treated me exactly the same as his post-collegiate buddies. It was delightful to be around Sam, and frankly, gave me hope for the supposedly spoiled millennial generation. Sam was a kind and generous soul, and was truly going places. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

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Rest in peace, Sam Failla.

https://www.gofundme.com/db6kw-bringsamhome

 

On the short, sweet life of Liesl Wiebe


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“Liesl, hol deine haube, es ist Zeit zu gehen!”

(Liesl, get your bonnet, it’s time to go! )

Liesl Wiebe grabbed her flower covered bonnet and tied it around her chin. The charming seven year old scampered across the gravel covered driveway and jumped into the buggy.

“Mutter, kann ich das Baby halten?”

(Mother, can I hold the baby?)

The sturdy Mennonite family fit snugly into the buggy as Poppa Tobias hitched up the horse. It was a sunny morning in Montcalm County, and the Wiebe family was going to church.

Baby Hannah fussed as mother Wiebe adjusted her cheerful pinafore and scolded four year old Luther for unbuttoning his suspenders.

“Liesl, hilf deinem Bruder mit seiner Kleidung. Binde seine schuhe! “

(Liesl, help your brother with his clothing. Tie his shoes!)

Liesl’s cheerful spirit and sunny smile shone in everything she did. She happily took her younger brother’s hand and guided him through tying his sensible shoes.

“Let’s use English words Luther. Hold your laces- the bunny goes around the tree and down the hole, now pull it tight! I’m going to tuck in your shirt now, let’s button you back up, and don’t take them out again!”

Three year old Luther looked adoringly at his capable sister, and snuggled against her in the crowded buggy. Poppa Tobias climbed into the seat, and soon he and his large family were on their way to services. He glanced back at the smiling Liesl, and thanked God again for giving him seven children, seven blessings, seven Gifts from the Lord. Liesl was special, always seemed to be cheerful, ready with a smile or a happy word for the rest of the bunch. Poppa Tobias smiled inwardly. Life was good.

Claude and I chatted in the rental car as we made our way across Montcalm county. This was old stomping grounds for him, he had fifty years of history in this lovely farm country. The colors were still on the trees, a spate of warm weather had made the glorious fall longer lasting than usual.

Lovely fields of verdant winter wheat carpeted the area, bracketed by stands of yellowed corn. Honestly, I thought, this is the breadbasket of the area. Farmers truly are people to know if things go south.

I had just come from a lovely breakfast at the farmhouse of one of Claude’s cousins. Elizabeth was a talented seamstress, and married to Michael, an accomplished taxidermist. They travelled all over the world gathering the skins of the most interesting animals.Together they had raised a crew of four boisterous boys, at the same time dotting the country with her husband Michael’s amazing creations. Exotic animals from all over the world decorated Michael’s studio. Springbok, moose, wolves, and even an enormous giraffe stood guard over their work, and I was amazed at yet another part of the world I knew nothing about.

Claude and I advanced on a local farmhouse, when he noticed something out of the ordinary.

“Wait, wait, what’s going on here? There’s a car down! There are bodies on the ground!” He pulled hastily to the side of the road as my attention to the scene materialized.

A damaged red truck. Ford, F-250, shattered windshield.

A distressed man, clad in work clothes and a safety vest, telephone in hand.

A shattered Mennonite buggy, with yes, several bodies scattered haphazardly on the roadside and in the grass.

Claude- leaping out of the car, the driver of the truck running to him “I didn’t see them! I didn’t see them! ”

Claude, getting the phone and completing the 911 emergency call.

“Lord Jesus, please help us and comfort these children!” I stood, astounded for a few minutes. I counted eight bodies, two adults and six children.

“Airways! Airways! Airways!” I ran to the nearest body, an adult woman. She was breathing, barely.

I went to the man. Breathing, bubbling blood.

I checked the children. Gasp. One was dead, she had to be. Motionless, ruined beyond repair.

Another, undoubedly. Far, far too much damage.

A slight boy, sitting on the ground, a four inch gaping head wound showing his skull. Astoundingly, he was beginning to walk around aimlessly, shrieking at the top of his lungs. He’ll live.

Four other children lay scattered on the ground. A seven year old girl in a flowered bonnet. Two preschool age boys, in plain clothing and suspenders. A tiny baby, eighteen months old at best.

I checked the girl, barely breathing, heart fluttering, blue lips. The other three children were responsive, so I hovered over the girl.

She was breathing, breathing, barely breathing. She had a heartbeat. I prayed over the little one, holding her head in a neutral position, watching the air raise her lungs, watching her face slowly pale.

EMS descended and a capable young man went the girl in the flowered bonnet.

“She’s cynanotic. She’s blue. I don’t think we are going to make it here. ” He attended her while I went to the other three children.

I watched the buzz of activity with the two of the three younger children on my lap.  and Luther Wiebe wept while Petr lay on the ground under my jacket. A large, capable EMS man gently assessed Petr for breathing, and set him up with breathing assistance.

I sang to Luther. Chattered at baby Hannah. Helped them both stay alert and watched Claude coordinate with EMS. Men in plain clothes began to arrive in cars, Claude had the distressing task of breaking this terrible news to the local Mennonite community.

Soon, a kind-faced EMS man told me to hold tight to both of the children, it was about to get very windy.

I looked behind me and several people, some in plain clothing, had made circle in the grassy field behind me. The trauma chopper beat the air above, and I sheltered the little ones against the turbulent air. Poppa Tobias was bundled into the chopper and taken away.

As the chopper lifted, I glanced over at the girl. Liesl Wiebe, the girl in the flowered bonnet, was covered with a blanket. She had just died, just passed into the arms of Jesus as her father flew away into the sky.

God bless you, Liesl Wiebe, 2010-2017. Rejoice in Paradise, dear child of God. 

(Author’s note.  At 8am, Sunday, October 29th, a red F-250 rear ended a Mennonite buggy in Montcalm County. The truck was going around sixty, the buggy about 15 mph. My boyfriend and I are visiting family here, and were the first on the scene, mere minutes after it happened. I have never been involved in a mass casualty event. This was, bar none, the most heartbreaking occurrence I have ever seen first hand. Of course, all of the identifying information has been changed. Please, if you think of it, ask God for comfort for the ‘Wiebes’. And please, pay attention when  you drive.) 

Heartbroken,

Victoria

 

 

 

The Corruption of the Jefferson County Board of Education: The Mind Boggles


Well, Jeffco Visitors and interested passers-by, I have got a doozy for you. Anyone following this dirty and torrid recall drama knows that the “Clean Slate BOE” recently refused to renew Dan McMinimee’s contract. (McMinimee was the superintendent my brother, John Newkirk and the other  conservative board members hired during their short-lived tenure.)

The “Clean Slate” BOE stated that there were no quarrels with McMinimee’s performance, rather the ‘process by which he was hired’. They then proceeded to use the same search firm the previous board did, jack up the new super’s wage by $80K, and basically launch an identical process to hire a new super. (McMinimee’s wage was $220k, the wage for the new super will be $300K.)

Exasperated yet? You should be. Suspicious yet? I certainly hope so. Something is going on in the wings here, friends, and here is something you should see.

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As you can see, this is a recent copy of correspondence from the “Clean Slate” gang.

The issue doesn’t matter, and the recipient doesn’t matter, so they’ve been redacted.

See who is our listed as our superintendent? Cindy Stevenson. The super who led our district into the depths of mediocrity? Cindy Stevenson. The “Every Jeffco kid to college” superintendent? Cindy Stevenson. The anti-charter and anti-Warren Tech superintendent? Cindy Stevenson. The one who quit under the WNW leadership? The one who had endless, endless allegations of backroom bargaining to unions,  payoffs to friends, and utter disregard for achievement of students in Jeffco? THAT Cindy Stevenson?

The anti-charter and trade school talking  point especially gets me, Visitors. Most of you know I have four kids, and three were firmly in or graduating from college last year. Daughter #4 spent her senior year in a marvelous EMT program at Warren Tech., Jeffco’s trade school.

Stevenson let funding  for Warren Tech languish, and Evergreen High School lost it’s building trade program. Thanks to my brother, John Newkirk, and the conservative board, Conifer got a building trades  program, but Warren Tech still struggles for funds.

Not every kid NEEDS to go to college, Visitors. I’m sure that is clear to you. These days, building and technical trades pay just as well, sometimes better, than the college-educated ones. We can see that, but the pre-WNW leadership could not. Thus, the voters rightly elected a board that would address the needs of ALL Jeffco kids. This union manipulated group is back to lining the pockets of the adults.

So, it looks like your opinions here really don’t matter. Did you fill out that “Community Input” survey regarding a new superintendent?  Waste of time. Go to a board meeting and give feedback about a ‘new super?’ Silly of you.

Instead, understand clearly, just who is making these decisions for you.

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Check this out. The arrow in the first picture is pointing to Wendy McCord, the disgraced attorney who lied to us with the Jeffco United organization. Remember that? The organization that she swore was ‘parent driven’. A judge FORCED McCord to disclose her funding stream, and 99% of the funds for Jeffco United came from various teachers unions.  Wendy McCord=Documented Liar. (Blog post here, “The Endless Lies of Wendy McCord”, “The Endless Lies of Wendy McCord, 2.0”)

Note the man in blue, and how delighted he obviously is to see Wendy. That’s John Ford, Union Boss, head of the Jefferson County Teacher’s Association. The woman on the right is Tina Gurdikian, Wendy McCord’s accomplice in the deceitful, successful recall that elected this mess.

So, let’s inventory. Ford and McCord have reason to be delighted. The Jeffco board is closing FIVE high-need schools for the stated reason of increasing teacher compensation. (Jeffco  already lands in the top 1/3) of wages statewide). Achievement continues to languish in Jeffco, charts like this one are endless.

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Letting go of a perfectly fine superintendent in order to REHIRE the one who quit under the recalled board, with zero attention to the dismal achievement of Jeffco kids, as shown above. This lack of achievement is rightly laid at Cindy’s feet. Now, by all appearances, she is our new super, again. Mad yet?

This district is a squalid, torrid, corrupt mess. Charter School parents? Hold on to your hats, it’s going to get worse. Tech school parents? For heavens sake, sound off.

All the rest of us? Hang on to your disgust, remember in November, and vote your power back. Jeffco kids depend on it.

If at all possible? #FleeJeffcoSchools, it’s the only choice left.

 

 

 

Intimacy and the Stumbling Christian Male (Adult Content)


Not too long ago, I was chatting with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about some of our various online dating experiences. Stockholm and I are of type. Middle aged, educated, we take our faith seriously, and are interested in making a difference in the world around us. Stockholm and I have zero interest in the ‘hookup culture’ that seems to permeate the dating world today.

Throwbacks that we are, Stockholm and I share an  interest in romance, in finding another relationship that’s marked by kindness, cherishing one’s partner, and putting the needs of a future partner first.

In the several months that I have been exploring online relationship development, I’ve found that there continues to be a profound disassociation between what people will do or say online, and what will actually occur in the physical world.

Consider intimacy, Visitors.

I’ve long operated on the assumption that humans of all ages crave intimacy. We desire to be known, we want someone close to hear us, to listen to our innermost desires or fears,  to actually view our hopes and dreams in as much vivid color as we see our own.

It is incredible to me how quickly the desire for intimacy  gets transmogrified into a desire for sex.

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trans·mog·ri·fy
transˈmäɡrəˌfī,tranz-/

verb

humorous
past tense: transmogrified; past participle: transmogrified
  1. transform, especially in a surprising or magical manner.
    “the cucumbers that were ultimately transmogrified into pickles”
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Anyone who has wandered into the world of online dating knows the drill. Share some basic information, upload some pictures, answer questions that make a stab at intimacy. I get where these dating app developers are going, they are addressing the very desire we are talking about here.
On OKCupid, I have long felt the belle of the ball. I get DOZENS of overtures weekly, sometimes daily. I skim through them, apply some screening criteria, and pick and choose the ones who appear promising. Ones who appear to be solid Christian men, educated and interested in the same things as I. I would respond to overtures, engage in some online back-and-forth chit chat, and generally see where things went.
To date, gentle Visitors, I have been the recipient of FOUR pictures of these gentlemen’s genitalia.
Sit with that for a minute, Visitors, and then you can crack up.
FOUR DICK PICS! FOUR!
These are the SCREENED MEN, Visitors!

The first one, frankly, I was tempted to share with you here. I mean, the opportunities for hilarious mockery were endless. The man in question was not fit, and had taken pains to find a horizontal full length mirror. Wearing nothing but a scowl, he, his limp member  and substantial gut were captured for the world to view, and he sent this treasure to me.

GAG!

The others were more anonymous, which led to some puzzled head-scratching on my part. Ok, so this one was large. This one, a disconcerting shade of purple, this one was most definitely photoshopped to an unappealing length.

WHAT on earth is going on? I ranted about this to Stockholm, and he assured me he found my profile to be articulate, erudite and even funny. Thus, I can’t say I was attracting the trash factor. WHAT on earth made these men think it was OK to do something so demeaning?

( I got this hilarious groaner from the political Stockholm shortly after this discussion-

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The friendly Dick Nixon. 

“This is the only Dick Pic you’ll get from me!”  Facepalm!)

As I wandered further in the dating wilds, I screened and met many other interesting men. One, a fit, accomplished leader in the business world, who simply could not stop talking about his accomplishments. They were considerable! He was affluent, well-liked in his world, and had a heart for Philippine orphans. Looking for wife number three, “Ed” was so caught up in his own desire for intimacy, he had no room for mine. I simply could not get a word in edgewise with Ed regarding my own aspirations.

“Dave” was another. Recently divorced, Dave was a COO of a large manufacturing firm. A solid Christian, Dave and I had many discussions about very intimate things. Love, loss, politics, church life, the state of the world, all sorts of closely-held topics. Dave was a world class athlete, well-travelled and a genuine desire to follow Jesus anywhere. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Dave was simultaneously cultivating similar intimacy with other women across the country. (Women, I can feel your eye-rolls from here. Selfish to the extreme. )

The tales of middle-aged, self-absorbed, needy Christ-professing men went on, and on, and on.

It’s enough to wear me out. What to conclude from all of this, Visitors? Well, first off, the desire for human connection is only natural. Really, it is. I get it! I am convinced God made us this way. Very, very few of us are made to be the ‘lone wolves’ of society, we simply need each other.

But at what cost? Honestly, all laughter aside, it disgusted me that these men who seemed appealing thought so little of me that I’d be interested in such pictures. It is dismaying to see that the “Daves” and “Eds” of the world could be so completely self-absorbed that the needs of a partner would simply not be part of the equation. No space for my dreams, no space for my interests or desires.

I can only conclude that the divorced population  of Christian men has some inner work to do. Trust me on this one, gentlemen, grief is hard. You are not ok.  “Getting back up on the horse”- that is to say dating immediately after your divorce- is a simply terrible idea.

Your divorce has left you scarred, just like my widowhood has left me. What can you learn? How can you be a better partner?  Christian men especially, how can you authentically, honestly put the needs of someone else before your own? Things have changed, middle age is different than your twenties, you are different, and believe me, no woman of character wants to see your dick pic.

You know what though? This kind of work rocks. I’ve wrestled with these questions since Chris died. Thank heaven for good counsel, great friends, and the forgiveness of those who love me. We can make progress, we can figure this out, we can find like minded friends. We’ve got this.

I think  I might even ask Stockholm to lunch.

Much love,

Victoria

The Horrifying Reality of 3:02 AM


Well, Visitors, what a time we have had. In the past week since Trump was elected, we have been treated to all kinds of images of the most extraordinary fearmongering. School teachers in a large local district wearing black after Election Day, informing ALL children they were mourning the ‘Death of America’.

Ignorant college kids protesting the election, saying they were ‘frightened’ of the upcoming four years. Misinformed twenty-somethings calling for the end of the electoral college, calling it a ‘fearful tyranny of the minority’.

Most incredibly, my peers, college educated middle aged women, being accused if ‘internalizing misogyny’ and being completely unaware of the fearful hell we had just voted down on our heads.

Gracious. In the midst of all this, there has been a small chorus of reasoned voices attempting to redirect attention back to an issue that’s close to my heart- that of genuinely traumatized, fearful people.

I was talking with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about this very issue. Privately, Stockholm and I share the same disdain for ‘triggered’ young ‘uns, who need ‘safe spaces’ for ‘self care’. Stockholm is a great deal more diplomatic than I, as I voice my disgust for this at every appropriate opportunity. Stockholm just smiles.

Last night, at 3:02 am, I had a ‘triggering event’.

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3:02 am, on July 18, 2010, the phone jarred me out of a sound sleep. On the other end, my sister informed me that Chris had lost his battle to the great dragon Cancer, and won his seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I was traumatized. I broke the news to my daughters, called my son, and drove over to the Hospice in my bathrobe. I stumbled into the facility, and kissed the cool, lifeless forehead of my husband goodbye. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Now, most of you know that I am of a pretty rational bent. I like things that can be measured. I like things that I can observe, and control as much as possible.

For about a year after that event, inexplicable things happened at 3:02 am. I got spam phone calls. Coyotes would yap at that hour. As was expected, any night terrors would reach their peak at 3:02 am, jarring me into a wide-eyed, heart pounding wakefulness.

Rationally, one would expect that sleep would become a trial for me, and it has. As most of you know who have been with me for a while, I have a horror of getting ‘stuck’ in destructive behavior. Good ‘self care’ is simply critical for authentically traumatized people. A combination of outstanding talk therapy, judicious, short-term use of benzodiazepines, meticulous attention to exercise, and really, really great church family continues to restore me to good health.

So, about last night. My dogs are these little Italian Greyhound mixes. These two possess the hearts of lions, and the brains of walnuts. At 3:02 am, these little beasts spotted a bull elk off of my back deck, and went ballistic. Snarling! Snorting! Bellowing at the top of their lungs! Raising the roof!

And, of course, triggering  me to jolt BOLT upright, flooded with memories of 3:02 am six and half years ago. Heart racing, I crept downstairs to deal with this auditory mess, and slept no more for the rest of the night.

Self care this morning included a sturdy breakfast, prayer, Scripture reading, understanding from the gentle Stockholm, visiting with good friends, and a solid day in at work.

Visitors, let us not allow authentic struggles of people like me to be co-opted by these irresponsible people rioting after the recent election. It dilutes the language, and the progress we have made on this issue.

Rioters, for shame. “Triggered” students? For HEAVEN’S sake, pull yourselves together. Manipulating teachers? KNOCK it off. You are to teach, not preach your worldview.

My people? The genuinely traumatized? The authentically ill-used?  The wounded and the bleeding? The cloud of us surrounds you. You can do this. We are here, and we love you.

Much respect,

Victoria