Evergreen Senior High: The Good, The Bad, The Completely Unacceptable


#NotAnotherDimeJeffco 

Visitors, now that election season is drawing near, it’s time to highlight some of the pressing issues regarding Jefferson County ballot in November. Jeffco Visitors, this is particularly relevant to you, but general Visitors, I’d like you to track with me here. Sometimes sacred mantras -“Teachers Are Untouchable“- deserve to be debunked. 

I have been a bit apprehensive about publishing this particular column, because it’s important to me not to stoop to the levels I’m about to show you. However, teachers in Jeffco are not a special breed, they are human, with flaws and strengths, just like everyone else. Jeffco as a school system is deeply flawed, and it is troubling to me that we have zero recourse against the incompetence I am about to describe.

Toward that end, I’d like you to meet two Evergreen Senior High School science teachers, the two reasons I banned my last child from attending ANY science classes at EHS. 

Meet Cheryl Manning

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Photo credit:  http://www.ehs-manning.net/

When my first child started at EHS, he had had nine years of demanding Christian schooling. Classes were small, expectations were high, and children were trained to treat teachers with the utmost respect. I brought him to public school with great trepidation. I’ve been a teacher for years, and had my doubts about the consistency of delivery he would receive there. 

Imagine my surprise when I got a robotic “D and F” call from the district his very first quarter of attendance. The automated call informed me that my child was currently receiving a D or F in one or more classes. With minimal work, I tracked it down and discovered that it was in Cheryl Manning’s ninth grade life science course.

I was furious. My child was an exemplary student, why is he slacking off now?  Bright, verbal, attentive in class, and his first quarter he was getting an F in Science? I confronted him sternly. No child of MINE was going to fail in a lower-performing public school. 

“Mom! I do all of my homework! I do! I turn everything in on time! I promise!” Mrs. Manning missed something! She tells everyone she’s behind on homework all the time! “

I dragged him in on Parent Teacher Conference night and had him stand in front of Mrs. Manning-

“Explain yourself!” I demanded. 

 His face reddened at my embarrassing demand. 

“Mrs. Manning, I turn in all my homework. It must be in that pile somewhere?” He pointed to an unkempt, large stack of homework on her desk.

Manning poked through the stack, and retrieved several pieces of paper. She reviewed them, and entered some scores on her computer. “Oh, sorry, his average is actually an 86. ”

A solid B average. My bright, able son was performing consistently. I had to apologize to him right there.

After that trouble, I mistakenly allowed my girls to take the course when they entered ninth grade, as I thought they had no choice.  (My girls are six months apart. One is adopted, so they took a lot of classes together.) Manning kept up with the homework, but I was regaled, sometimes daily, with off-topic stories of Mrs. Manning’s opinion about things. Her opinion about ADD drugs, her thoughts on name calling, her thoughts about her own upbringing, with emphasis on the abuse she endured as a child. Her opinion on science education, and most aggravating of all, her take on any education-related political issue of the day, which was as left-wing as can be. All of Ms. Manning’s opinions were presented as rock-solid, inarguable facts to these fourteen year old children.  This is completely unacceptable. Teachers are to teach, not preach.

How ANY of this related to ninth grade biology concepts completely escaped me. There was no alternative to Ms. Manning’s class. My children were stuck, or so I thought. I gritted my teeth through Manning’s class, and my girls ended up in the next biology class. Again, no alternative, or so I thought.

Meet Dave Myers

(Jeffco Visitors, Myers has a secure public digital footprint. I couldn’t find a picture to show you. If you attend EHS, be very, very careful. Myers teaches biology there.)

Seven months before my husband died of metastatic colon cancer, Dave Myers gave a three day lecture on cancer processes. The lecture was filled with out of date, poorly referenced, inaccurate information. My girls, having a front-row seat to the suffering of their father, came home tearful and wide eyed after each day of the lecture. I reviewed their notes, and pointed out to the girls where Myers had lectured on wrong information. Naturally, my girls were upset and confused, particularly where Myers had pronounced metastatic cancers a ‘certain death sentence’. (To date, metastatic colon cancer has an 11 percent survival rate. Other metastatic cancer survival rates are all over the map, Myers was incredibly irresponsible for making such a pronouncement. Cruel to make it in the presence of students who were dealing with such a situation, and yes, he knew.)

Frustrated beyond words, I made an appointment with the administrator at the time. I had had issues with Myers before, brought things to his attention, and Myers had rejected my concerns outright. I did not have high hopes for this session. I asked for the administrator to mediate.

I brought my girls’ notes in to Myers. The administrator asked for Myers to give an accounting, and Myers stated that he was ‘teaching to the standard’ during a twenty-minute lecture. I pointed out to Myers that my girls EACH had three days of dated notes.  A “twenty minute lecture” was certainly not the case.

I asked Myers about various cancer processes that he had taught about. I reminded him that my husband was in a fierce cancer battle, and would he like me to ask our oncologist to come and lecture to the class, and get the most cutting-edge information possible?

Myers launched into a disgraceful display.  I was, according to Myers, a “harpy” who had “zero reason” to come in and criticize him for “teaching to the standards”.

Visitors, I’m afraid I was less than tactful. I was also completely traumatized by the impending death of my husband. I burst into tears.

“Who the HELL do you think you are, Myers? If you are ‘teaching to the standard’, understand the standard is WRONG! I am offering you the chance to get some current, up to date information, and you are NOT INTERESTED!”

The administrator hustled me out of there.

Visitors, this is just wearisome. What I want to point out to you next is the depth to which teachers like Manning and Myers will stoop to accomplish their non-academic political agenda.

Check this out.

This is a screen shot from a web page that an pro-union, anti-reform organization called Jefferson County School Board Watch posted during the recall battle for my brother’s seat, last year. Typical of the Wendy McCord, Shawna Fritzler, Scott Kwasny crowd, this thing was a tissue of lies from beginning to end. What’s really incredible though, is this part.

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We’ve come to expect complete and total deceit from Wendy McCord and her crowd.  (See “The Endless Lies of Wendy McCord”  and “The Endless Lies of Wendy McCord, 2.0” both parts, on this blog)

What completely flabbergasted me is that Cheryl Manning, Board Certified Teacher of Science at Evergreen Senior High, would make this up.

I was visiting my 96 year old dad that day, Visitors. Taking him out for ice cream, in fact. This is verifiable with his care providers. I was nowhere near Manning or McCord that day. But, as we know, the truth doesn’t matter to this particular wing of rabid Jeffco faculty, they make it up as they go along. (See, “The Lying Mouthpiece Of Jeffco Teacher’s Union: Meet Scott Kwasny” on this blog)  Manning, however,  was vicious, libelous, and relentless. And, she’s teaching your children.

I conferenced with my brother about this mess. John Newkirk, as you know, lost his seat under a successful tide of union-funded lies last fall.

John is a scholar and a gentleman. He was one of the few politicians who put up with harassment, criminal threats, union-sponsored hate speech to advance a truly altruistic agenda. He was for Jeffco kids, period, and paid an incredible price for his efforts.

His counsel to me was restrained. There is nothing you can do, Victoria. Incompetent teachers like Manning and Myers are protected. That’s one of the long list of things the reformers Williams-Newkirk- Witt were trying to change, and the voters voted FOR this kind of incompetence.

Visitors, there is something you can do, in fact, there are a lot of things. However, this column has run long.

First off, if you are a Jeffco voter who mistakenly voted FOR this mess, pay attention to the monstrous Jeffco bond issue this fall.

Vote Against It! This is over half a BILLION dollars for a district that simply will not take steps to advance the educational picture in Jeffco. The problems and corruption in Jeffco are far, far more entrenched then the ones I have described here. More on that later.

#NotAnotherDimeJeffco

Secondly, if you have children like mine, understand how concurrent enrollment works. This is what you can do – when my last child entered EHS in 2011, I refused to let the EHS science staff anywhere near her. Go to the high school counseling office, and get the forms for “Concurrent Enrollment”.  Go to Red Rocks, or the community college nearest you, and sign your child up for whatever you please. My daughter was 15, and we had to get a special permission for her to attend because the policy is usually 16. This was EASY. She then sailed through collegiate biology, anatomy and astronomy, which was taught in an objective, unbiased way. Yes, transporting her was difficult, but it was worth figuring it out.  She graduated with her class at EHS, with substantially less damage then my other three endured.

You’ve got this.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

 

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The Education Of Victoria Faith


My firstborn daughter graduated yesterday, Visitors, and it rocked.

Victoria Faith was the smallest of my biological crew, weighing at at 6 lbs 12 oz. She had the biggest head of the bunch, though, and makes a habit out of apologizing to me every birthday. This running joke still cracks me up.

That head proved to be stuffed with brains, as this kid talked at about eight months, showed remarkable fine motor coordination early, and not an iota of interest in walking until she was nearly 2. Early childhood specialists know that could be cause for concern, so we had that enormous head scanned to check for problems, anomalies and incubating aliens. Nothing out of whack, just a cantaloupe held up on a fragile neck-stalk, and we had to be careful until she grew into it.

Grad Cap Fits

It normalized, eventually.

Victoria Faith was, of course, one of four reasons why I felt the burning desire to start Evergreen Academy. As most of you know, Visitors, Jefferson County Public Schools is a flaming train wreck, and is getting worse as time goes by. (More on that later)

Jeffco was in bad shape in the nineties, and I simply could not abide the idea of sacrificing my children on that particular altar. Victoria Faith was a case in point. When she was three, she had a preschool teacher that went a little overboard on phonics instruction for preschoolers. Three year olds should not have direct phonics instruction, and I was constantly correcting that particular teacher. That said, Victoria Faith made these mysterious synaptic connections, and one day when she was four, Chris caught her reading Curious George out loud to herself. Fluently. With expression.

Faith’s intellectual development proceeded by leaps and bounds after that. I knew what was going on, and as with all my kids, I handpicked their public school teachers when they entered public high school. Largely, Faith’s public school teachers were a good influence on her, and Chris and I mitigated the influence of the bad ones.

Salutatorian Faith

She rocked the Salutatorian stage.

Chris and I started saving for our children’s post-high school education after they got their Social Security numbers. (With four of them, we knew we better start early. ) When Chris died,  all of the kids really dialed in on the financial arrangements for college.  All of them could see me working hard for that goal, and were hugely appreciative when Poppa wrote the occasional check for that purpose. All of them stayed on task, but Faith’s path was the most torturous, in my opinion. THREE sections of Organic Chemistry? Organic Chemistry FaithThat says “Orgo III Reaction Guide – Wheeee!”.  (I have very sarcastic children.)

Jeep picture with Chris

Victoria Faith was about thirteen when this picture was taken. Chris was diagnosed shortly after.

Chris left us when Victoria Faith was sixteen, and that considerable brain power was knocked cleanly off the rails. Victoria Faith, like all of my children, was devastated.

I have never gotten permission from my children to detail  here what they experienced when they lost their father. Life was shattered for all of them. They loved their dad. Life, though, has this tendency to go on.

Faith End of Freshman Year

Victoria Faith struggled through her first year at DU. She made it.

Fem in Stem pic

She developed her own interests, and her own delightful friend group.

Robin and Faith

Distinctive Thesis Award -Faith

 

 

 

 

She made a wonderful, wonderful connection with this woman, Dr. Robin Tinghitella. Dr. Tinghitella  is a PH.D primary investigator at DU’s Tinghitella Lab, where like minded-scientists study rapid evolutionary change in organisms such as crickets and sticklefish. (http://mysite.du.edu/~rhibbs2/Robin_Tinghitella/Welcome_1.html) With Robin’s rigorous review, Victoria Faith earned a Distinctive UndergraduateThesis award.

All of this with me providing the most minimal, diminishing guidance. Visitors, those of you who , like me, have been visited with loss, remember the days when it seemed like nothing would ever change? Loss is here. It is defining. It rains on my days, it deepens my nights. I will not see the clear light of day anytime soon, maybe not ever.

Mom and Faith Graduation

Faith in auditorium

 

 

 

 

 

Things change, Visitors.

Things change for the better.

 

Like a friend of mine once said – “What are you going to do with it now? ”

Faith and Mom Walking

I’ll keep you posted.

Much love,

Victoria

Some Sundays are Like That


This is a picture of Christopher a couple of years ago when he was improving his accuracy skills. “Accuracy” in skydiving, means jumping out of a plane two miles in the air, piloting your canopy to a landing spot, and placing your feet within a three foot circle. In competition, it means stomping your foot on an eight inch circle that sounds an alarm, while the judges mark you for points.

He called me up after this jump, and with his heart in his mouth, breathlessly told me “First off, Mom, I’m still alive.” (Great opener, son. ) Turns out, he had misjudged his landing and collided with an unexpected gust of wind, and had gotten dragged along by his face for several yards. (Later on that year he won a bronze medal in a National Collegiate accuracy event.)

It’s funny, Visitors, how grief can sometimes feel that unexpected. Those of you who are grieving, ever notice that? Things in Lierheimer Land are actually pretty good right now. Christopher’s interning in LA on a massive subsidized building project, Faith landed a competitive yearlong spot in England at the University of York, Abi is buzzing along in Savannah, and Rachael comes home from Warren Tech with the most interesting tales from her forensic studies. (It’s hilarious to watch crime shows with her now. She’ll stop CSI and yell “Wait! No! They’re doing it WRONG! Mom……)

I’ve started Class Two in my graduate sequence in Criminology, with the emphasis in Psychopathology at Regis. It’s utterly fascinating. It’s fast, engaging, a ton of work and very much where I want to be.

I think too, that I’m getting a handle on this single thing. Except when I’m not, like today. Lazy Sunday mornings were a favorite around our house. I’d make banana pancakes, Chris would make coffee, and the kids would laze around until it was time for church.

Now, today, I feel like my son in that picture. Sort of raw. I miss Chris’ warm feet, I miss him stumbling around until coffee, I miss (acutely) telling him what all these kids are doing, and man, didn’t we do the right thing by them (so far, anyway).

Well, anyway. I try and draw something out of this, if not something good, at least something useful. It was a beautiful day when Christopher marked up his face,  and it’s a beautiful day today. I get to go to church with Rachael and Dad, and that’s always a treat.

I suppose I’ll always miss Chris to some degree or another. Were he here, I think he’d encourage me to go out, get the gym, go to church, and not sit gazing out the window and wondering what he’s up to.

Warm regards, Visitors. Much love to you all.

Victoria

On Tough Mudders, Tough Bastards, and Really Tough Bitches.-Adult Content.


Tough Mudder, as many of you know, is a ten to twelve mile obstacle course with things like sheer climbing walls, ice pits, and barbed wire obstacles to get through. You work as an individual, and as a team, and when you are done, you have bragging rights to one of the best races in the country. (Next to Spartan, Aroo!)

A really cool test of mettle

My good friend Bird Martin (everyonehasastory.me) recently wrote a column ruminating about why she and her siblings had such rocky relationships. It’s a good one, and a textbook examination of attachment disorder, for you prospective parents and PsyD candidates.

It got me to thinking about something I saw on my mother in law’s apartment when we went to visit her last month. Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that that relationship is tentative at best. I don’t hate her for the abuse she allowed in her home, I don’t have the energy to keep that up. Also, if I claim to be a Christian, harboring hatred in my heart is clearly off limits.

We were over there for a visit, and prominently displayed was a picture of several people wearing T-shirts with my late husband’s face and birthday prominently displayed. It was my in-laws, every single one of them, adult cousins included, on a Tough Mudder team to raise money for colon cancer, the disease that killed my husband Chris.

Hmm. Well, that’s instructive. And news to me. This clearly went under the category of “A Big Family Deal.” Pictures, fundraising, lots of people included, except, of course, Chris’s family.

Over the years that we have known each other, Chris’s brother and sister rarely disguised their disdain for his life choices. Headmaster of a Christian school? Phht. Board member for an organization for sexually abused men? Shhhh! Speaker to police academies and other helping organizations for the weak and victimized? No “atta-boys” from them, ostensibly the closest of his relatives.

Not, actually, that any of that mattered a whit to Chris. As he went on his healing journey, his family’s opinion of it didn’t mean a thing. It was a bumpy journey, accentuated by alcoholic, disinterested siblings.  Chris fought the good fight not to avoid being pulled back into any self-destructive behavior.

What really made a mark though, was none of them getting to his funeral. I still ponder that. I think of my own son, what it would take to get me to miss his funeral. Or my own brother or sister. I can’t imagine. I mean, even on death’s door, you’d see me getting wheeled in on a gurney to say goodbye to these precious people. His entire family of origin fled, leaving us at our most vulnerable. Not a single family member made it to see Chris off. Not one. Even his adopted sister, who he was closest too, made a point to catch a plane home the day he died. I’m still staggered by this, four years later. My children heard that as a clear message of hatred, one that I battle to this day.

I mull over what Bird said in her article, “A Message to My Brothers and Sisters.” Bird and her brother Michael had three half brothers and sisters in their childhood. Their household was an abusive one, like Chris’s. Yet Bird manages to survive this thing with the diamond like certainty that there is something better. She was loved well once, by her dad who was forced to leave. This shaped the essential bedrock of her character.

Chris didn’t have anything like that. No one dealt with the childhood monster under the bed, which was Dad. So I looked at that picture, gazed at his brother.

Bastard.

His sister.

Bitch.

Yet another slap in the face to me and my kids. Chris’s family, his family of choice, his wife, his three biological kids and cherished adopted one, didn’t mean a thing to them. His family of origin huddled, inbred, silent, continuing their pattern of hateful exclusion.

Well, of course. What could I expect? I’m an early childhood expert, and these two had pretty terrifying ones. In the book of Matthew, Jesus tells an audience of occupied Jews to love their enemies. To go the extra mile. To feed your enemies, to give them a drink of water. These enemies that Jesus was talking about were pretty spectacular. Romans were cruel to their conquered people groups-their forms of torture and execution were exquisitely awful. It makes my hard heart look pretty silly.

Sigh. So here I am again, frustrated at my own lack of Christlikeness. Sure, thirty years branded the religious nut gives me a great excuse. Them being mean to my kids gives me an even better one, truly. No one would blame me for being the Really Tough Bitch in this situation, and man, that is such a comfortable place to live.

But I think it’s time to go now. Really Tough Bitches don’t have a whole lot of room for healing, love, laughter and hilarity. I’ve got a whole lot of that these days, and Really Tough Bitch doesn’t get to edge it out.

Perhaps, maybe even Really Tough Bitch might someday leave completely, and leave room for other family members to come in.

Much love to you all,

Victoria

 

The Fault In Our Stars- Reality Bites


     A funny thing happened to me on the way to the movies the other night, my girls wanted to see The Fault In Our Stars. John Green is the author of the book by the same name, and he’s a very young, liberal, hysterically funny author and blogger. My daughters have latched on to him as the Most Current Hip Thing, and I get it. He’s also a spot on storyteller with the sucky reality of cancer, and I wonder about the point of it.

The star-crossed lovers

The star-crossed lovers

Anyone with a pulse realizes that TFIOS is blazing box office numbers right now, and I just can’t figure it out. It’s grossed over 50 million bucks on a twelve million dollar tab to make, which is a pretty impressive return on studio investment.

The thing is, people, why pay to see what is all around you? I told my girls they could see it. I knew I would probably have objections to it, so I read the book before making any censorship decisions. (Note for those with ears to hear, always know what you are talking about before you insist your kids don’t see/buy/listen to something. )

So I read TFIOS, and bawled like a little girl. (Zero spoiler alert here, by the way. It’s a cancer movie, so of course important characters are going to croak, OK?) John Green wrote the book as an attempt to help people understand that cancer patients are not somehow “other” than the rest of us mortals, and that even young ones can have rich, full lives. To that, I tip my hat. The legions of friends that surrounded us when Chris was dying never gave me that ‘vibe’, he was treated with as much humanity as he ever was.

But how is it we are not awake to this? Why do we need to pay to be jarred into tears? As the movie progressed, I found myself watching my fellow movie-goers. Predictably, tissues came out during the more heartwrenching scenes. Shailene Woodley and Ansel Elgort  are completely adorable as the star crossed lovers, and when one of them dies, it brought the ladies next to me to full-blown sobs. Huh?

What around you are you not feeling?

What around you are you not feeling?

On July 18th, it will have been four years since I lost my own Chris to cancer. For about the first two of those years, just about everything brought me to tears. I was a raw, walking radar for other people’s pain. I didn’t have to look to closely, sometimes I didn’t have to look at all, to find something worthy of tears. Divorce? Illness? Cruelty? Aging, ignored elders? Neglected children? Hunger in America, of all places? Wounding thoughtlessness to loved ones? New friends have even opened my eyes to how we mistreat other life forms- I never knew that elephants had family structures a lot like ours, for example, and grieve for years when their babies are shot for sport.

It seems to me that we are experiencing what I find to be kind of a disturbing trend. I can’t quite put my finger on it, but I might call it ‘social media isolation’. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand when it’s wrapped around a screen, or typing on a keyboard. Texting interrupts everything, and the need to record everything for Facebook is everywhere. It’s ironic to me when we pay to see mind-boggling natural events on a big screen, and don’t strap on our hiking boots and go for a walk. And there is something deeply dismaying to me to see men and women weeping at a truly touching story, and leave those tears in a wadded up tissue at the theater door.

So what to do with all that energy? I find that simply showing up does a lot for me.  Get to a church, friends. Go to a woman’s shelter. Go to an animal sanctuary. Walk into a hospice and offer to mop the floor or make coffee. Go to an inner city AA meeting. Show up and let your heart be broken by reality. It’s much more satisfying than a movie.

Who will break your heart today? Who gets the honor?

Who will break your heart today?

Much love,

Victoria

On Medical Doctors and Other Superior Beings


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Well, Visitors, I’ve got a stumper for you. I’ve been informed by a long-term reader of mine that my attempts at camouflage are really pretty lame. I’ve been investigating this whole PTSD phenomenon for a while, and how the general population deals with mental differences. I’ve related to you some stories about how various people in my circles deal with someone like me who’s been traumatized, and what it’s like to live, grow, and even thrive with this particular kind of baggage. I’ve told you very personal stories of betrayal, and some of them have been at the hands of the same people.

Here’s a summary for you, in case you’re new around here and don’t feel like reading my morose “Why a Blog” page. (Spoiler alert, Run away quickly if you are dealing with metastatic colon cancer.   I’m not going to pull any punches with this one. Everyone is different, and you or your loved one might very well live. My husband did not,  and it was ugly. )

July 18, 2010, my 46 year old husband Chris passed away from colon cancer. It was just about every nightmare you can imagine. If metastatic colon cancer were a form of legal punishment, it would be outlawed as ‘cruel and unusual’.

I just read on the Colon Cancer Alliance page (http://www.ccalliance.org/‎) that the statistics for stage 4 colon cancer five year survival rates are up to a grand 12%. When Chris was diagnosed, the number was about 8%. Good luck with that.

At any rate, it’s easy to romanticize a lost battle to the death. I don’t feel like doing that anymore. Chris’s fight was ferocious, desperate, painful, grasping, and very, very deliberate. If there was one thing that kept him going, it was the fact that he simply couldn’t stand the idea of his children’s stories having “I lost my dad as a teenager” as a tagline. So he fought it off as long as he could.

Metastatic colon cancer is a wasting disease. He had no symptoms until it had invaded his liver. Fairly quickly, he went from a robust, six foot, 185 pound barrel chested man with incredibly sexy arms, to a withered 128 lb shell of himself.

His last week at home is something I’m still recovering from. Intimate proximity to horrifying, traumatic death is a very good working definition of PTSD. A musical friend of mine once said “Victoria, that stuff is enough to mess with anyone’s mind.” Right on, Kate.

So, it’s part of my story. It’s a lot more peaceful now, actually. The first year or two,  mental pictures of those last days would invade my dreams, even the wakeful ones. I’ve since learned that to try and banish that sort of thing is fairly pointless. What’s the first thing you think of when I say “Don’t think about elephants?” Big, grey, floppy trunks and ears, of course. So, “Don’t think about it?” How stupid is that?

Much better to talk myself down. Remind myself that it isn’t happening now. He’s not bleeding out now. He’s not hallucinating now. I’m not calling emergency vehicles now.  Friends aren’t descending now. The kids aren’t freaking out now. Yep, it happened, yep, it was hell, but it isn’t happening now. It’s surprising, how settling that can be.

I’ve discovered though, in many circles, that kind of self-talk makes me a fruitcake. To get back to my opening line, some of you have been able to tell that some of the stories I’ve related here have the same cast of characters.

Actually, probably most of you. I guess I’m pretty guilty of thinking too highly of my writing abilities. But what of it? The fact that anyone, a Jeff, Terrence, Chandler, whoever, would go around still using words like ‘crazy’, is  kind of startling. Do we say “retarded?”, “faggot?”, “Butch Queen?”, “kike” or “towel-head?” anymore? Of course not.

So why is “Crazy” the last bastion of comparative gossip?

My daughter Faith just cracks me up. She’s got the self-righteous, laser-focus hypocrisy meter cranked up on high. She also struggles like hell excelling at a pre-med course of study, community volunteerism, and intense grief about Dad that ratchets up with every accomplishment.

“Mom, my lab partner listens when I talk about how sad I am that Dad isn’t here to see I’ve tested out of two years of Spanish. Then she goes and tells her friends how glad she is her life isn’t  crazy like mine! ”

Yep, comparative gossip.

When did it become OK to say,or even think, “Well, my life sucks, but at least it isn’t as bad as THEIRS.”

I had an interesting discussion with a member of my church the other day. This woman was a medical doctor, a “Christian”, and good friends with one of the characters I’ve previously introduced you to. Apparently, these two harpys feasted on the idea that, well, while THEIR lives might be hard, at least they aren’t CRAZY like me. For heaven’s sake.

As most of you know, and my counselor reminds me constantly, I have an overdeveloped sense of justice. I simply can’t stand to see the powerless taken advantage of. That’s why I’ve spent the past several decades working with children, and find it so satisfying.

But when grown, educated, rational adults go off like this, I can barely see straight. Just who do you think you are, making such insane judgements? This is nothing but a play for power, and a pathetic one at that.

As you can probably anticipate, I had to call the doctor out on it. Matthew 18:15-16 is clear.

15 “If your brother or sister sins, go and point out their fault, just between the two of you. If they listen to you, you have won them over. 16 But if they will not listen, take one or two others along, so that ‘every matter may be established by the testimony of two or three witnesses.’

So I did this. One of the few people in my life I listen to, a spiritual director of sorts, mediated the discussion.

I asked the doctor point blank of she had done these things. First, she went off on a long-winded riff about how she had never, ever, not one single time, even heard my name, couldn’t dial me up, had no idea who I was, until she received the mediating phone call.

Huh. Ok.

So, I asked her point blank, “So you never, ever, not one single time, had a discussion with the other party that involved any identifying characteristics of me, my name, my age, the fact that I stutter, my relationship status, my cancer story, my mental state,nothing?”

Silence on the other end. Then, more of the ‘Superior Than Thou’ riff”

“Well, I’m a doctor. ” (So? That and three dollars will get you coffee at Starbucks) “People ask me medical questions all the time.” (Really? And you discuss them in a personal manner? All the time?)

“She may have talked to me a couple of times, but it barely stuck.”

Really? Well, you can’t have it both ways. Either you “Never, Ever, Not Even Once” heard or spoke of me, or you did.

The long and short of the conversation was that the doctor was understandably embarrassed about being called out, and hung up on me angrily. Huh. Guess Victoria failed on the Romans 12:18, “In as much as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone” department.

So Miss Victoria is stumped. I honestly don’t have it out for the doctor. I’ve grown up in the medical community, and misbehaving doctors are a very sore spot with me. Especially one that makes a claim to the promises of Christ. So what to do ? I am beginning to thing, nothing. Jesus already promised that God the Father will protect the widow and the orphan.

It’s time to put this to bed. July 18 will mark three years that Chris has been gone.

Ephesians, Proverbs, Timothy, all of these remarkable books in the Bible talk about how ‘gossip separates intimate friends’, ‘stirs up anger’ , is frightfully judgemental and is something only ‘busybodies’ do.

Even being the butt of this nonsense, I’m actually OK. How about that? Two years ago I never would have been able to say that, much less share that with you, gentle Visitors.

My kids and I go along, and it’s OK. In fact, I can actually say that one blessing I’ve gotten out of this is an acute appreciation for the undeniable fact that all of us, every single one, has baggage to carry.

Every single one of us deserves to have their baggage handled with gentleness, privacy and care. That some of us, like this doctor,  don’t do that? Well, I guess they’ll always be there. Like my mom once said-

“Vickey, sometimes the only thing in me that loves people like that is Jesus.”

Well said, Ma.

Much love to you all,

Victoria

Faces of Love: Generations of Pride


So, who knew I had a completely badass brother? In 2008, my brother, John J. Newkirk, published The Old Man and the Harley.

Look for the book at theoldmanandtheharley.com. Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

Look for the book at  theoldmanandtheharley.com. Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

John’s a pretty bright guy. He’s also the best brother a gal could have. He’s a double EE from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, Dad is also a graduate as well. Both with a powerful sense of family, history and citizenship.

In the summer of 1939, my dad, a young Jack Newkirk, set off on a rickety Harley to see both the New York and San Francisco World’s Fairs. He had no way of knowing it was to the the autumn of his youth, and that his entire generation would soon be thrust into the most devastating conflict in history, WWII.

Seven decades later, John retraced this epic ride with Dad, in a silent hope the old soldier will still be proud of the America he fought for. Each mile brought discovery as the author learns of his namesake, “Scarsdale Jack Newkirk”  the heroic Squadron Leader of the legendar Flying Tigers, and of his father’s life on the road and in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.

The result is quintessential Americana, a sweeping portrait of the grit, guts, ingenuity, and sacrifice that defined a nation, and a timely lesson from the Greatest Generation on how we can overcome our most pressing challenges and reclaim the American Dream.

I’m proud of these two generations of men in my family. I’m the mother of a firstborn son, and thank God he had the first eighteen years of his life with a man who wasn’t afraid to be manly, like John and Dad.

Study this one with me for a minute.

You could say apples don't fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn't be prouder.

You could say apples don’t fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn’t be prouder.

So here’s part of the third generation now. Faith is wearing the Salutatorian banner, and Abi is a National Merit scholar. Dad’s goofy grin takes over the picture, he just couldn’t be prouder.

Since my girls lost their dad, I’ve been praying for  ‘manliness’ to surround them. Now, don’t laugh, I realize the words ‘masculinity’ and ‘manliness’ have become comic fodder these days.

But when dealing with families, completeness is such a luxury. Male influence is necessary for child development, I’m convinced of it.

Now, before I get deluged with all kinds of mail about how intolerant I am, let me remind you I’m a single mother. I am not on the prowl for a spouse because my kids need a dad. That’s ridiculous. Loss abounds. One of my favorite bloggers, Prego and the Loon, recounts the tale of her near escape from a dad who very nearly killed her and her child. Bird Martin, of Everyone Has a Story, has very wisely chosen to restrict access to the kids by her meth-addicted husband. Men make mistakes, and women often have to make hard choices. A dear friend also lost her husband to cancer, two weeks before she gave birth. It can be a lonely life.

But how about the normal, healthy masculine guys? The ones like Dad, who fought for this country, came home and slugged out a living for sixty years, took pride in his kids and their accomplishments, and thanked God for his opportunities.

Or John? Electrical engineers are a dime a dozen in this raggedy economy. John is getting older, his kind of jobs are getting fewer and father between. So he regroups and slaves away and produces this marvelous book.

Or my friend Jeff? Look at this picture for a moment. Jeff has endured his fair share of loss. Jeff is familiar with spousal betrayal, the loss of precious friendships, and the restrictions of his rights as a father.

But even in his fifties he slugs it out. Jeff has three kids, two still need to be provided for. He’s a soldier, a defender of our freedoms, and works two jobs to get it done.

Look closely at this one. Cradled in his big arms, his powerful, careworn hands gently handle the most fragile of our species. A prideful smile plays across his craggy face, and the power of masculine gentleness radiates from the shot

Grampa Jeff when he's not flying a big scary plane.

Grampa Jeff when he’s not flying a big scary plane.

So what to do with all of this? For single people, I have found that Valentine’s day can be a little difficult. It’s a beautiful thing to reframe things sometimes. The love of a father, brother, the love of a child, all of these things truly are blessings from the Lord, and gifts to be treasured.

In fact, if I were a man, I might even give a hearty UH-RAH!

Much love,

Victoria