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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What’s The Surplus For?


Check out this shot from my ‘surplus years’, Visitors.

Chris and me black and white

This portrait was ten years ago. I was 42, and Chris was the picture of brawny health. A mere four years later, heartache of the most enormous magnitude would be forced on me. My kids would lose a terrific dad, the world lost a funny and talented teacher, and frankly, I would lose a pretty smooth life.

I traded it for scarred and resilient children. I traded it for working all the time with a high degree of focussed intensity, and I traded it for some hard won successes.  In recent years, my inner emotional ‘bank balance’ has been getting pretty hefty. EA is going swimmingly, my dad is OK and my kids are making terrific life choices. Life is good, and I rejoice in this stretch of peaceful sailing.

Lately, it seems a though my situation has been an ‘anguish attractor’. I can’t figure it out. For my Christian visitors, one might ask “What is God doing here?”.

Heartache of all sorts has rained down around me. A dear friend is divorcing an addicted and abusive wife, and asked for my help to rent out his house. Another dear,  close friend lost a relative to a freak accident. Another was just hospitalized for a heart  issue, third time this year. Another has a child who was just diagnosed with bone cancer, stage 3. Yet another has joined the absolute legion of folks my age getting rejected by their spouses and enduring a bitter divorce. All have come to me, seeking counsel from me or merely a listening, supportive ear. I am happy to do what I can.

Back when dinosaurs roamed the earth, Chris and I were steered to some wise, Biblically grounded budgeting advice by our pastor. The late Larry Burkett ran a wonderful ministry devoted to helping God’s people learn wise money management according to Scripture. Nearly thirty years later I am reaping what I sowed, and often have a budgetary surplus to share with folks who have less than me.

It occurs to me, Visitors, that surpluses, or ‘extra’ can take many forms. None of my wounded friends are asking me for money, this is Evergreen, after all. But did you ever notice, as time goes on, that the essence of loss is lack?

Ponder that one with me for a minute, Visitors. I lost Chris, the most heartwrenching life experience I’ve had to endure, thus far. In the years he’s been gone, I felt the lack of a friendly companion, a useful partner, a father to these kids, and warm feet under the covers.

The people around me are lacking. Lacking health, lacking loved ones, lacking direction. Our society answers that in curious ways. It frosts my cookies more than I can tell you to listen to the myriad of predators out there who promise the moon to hurting people. I see it with every single hurting situation around me, these days. Take this vacation! Buy these clothes! Eat this product! Use this cosmetic! Do these things and that lack in your soul will be filled! What nonsense.  Listening to these types tell my people that the holes in their souls can be filled by emptying their pocketbooks nearly incites me to violence.

(Perhaps you’ve noticed, Visitors, one thing I lack is tactful diplomacy. My people can’t take this sort of directness. )

See, Visitors, I lost the burning desire to ‘be right’ a long time ago. What drives me now is the desire to be useful. Evergreen Academy is a great example of this. I get the privilege of guiding new parents every day in my job. Most of my clients are self-directed and accomplished, and most are self-aware enough to face their cluelessness head on (My clients are pretty endearing). New parents are easy enough to guide, usually they’re a pretty open bunch.

The newly grieved, though, are an entirely different matter.  The haze of grief is often impenetrable, and is often perceived as permanent. How to be useful to the ones that end up weeping on my shoulder, or slogging through a seemingly endless grief-stricken marsh, like Frodo in Lord of the Rings?

Christian and non- Christian visitors alike, I think the answer to this is found somewhere in the idea of community. Someone I respect once told me that ‘just showing up’ is critical to the meeting of any need. Reaching out in the real and digital domains, a simple “Are you ok? Just checking up on you” enhances the idea that we are not alone, there is a long chain of hands pulling even the saddest of us back from the brink.

I have a surplus of emotional energy now. I’m sure someday that will change, but in the mean time, I’m giving it away. It helps my little community around me, and honestly, it’s the least I can do.

Much love,

Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

On Weddings and Victoria’s Garden


Here’s a picture of a good friend of mine.

Rose was a beautiful baby!

Rose was a beautiful baby!

I knew Rose shortly after she was born. She came in this dress to my wedding, staged right here in 1987.

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

 

Life, Death and Sandwich Mothering


Hi gang, it’s nice to see you again. I recently made contact with my friend Bird Martin at http://everyonehasastory.me/        Bird has a heroine role in my life. When I first started blogging after my husband Chris died of colon cancer,  Bird Martin was the very first person who made any comment at all on my columns.

It was a revelation. I wasn’t just talking to myself? Egads. Someone else might actually listen, and perhaps, even, BENEFIT from what I had to say? It couldn’t be so.

But it was. Bird and I developed a rollicking friendship, culminating with a visit to Colorado. Over the past year though, life has intruded, and we had fallen out of touch. I determined (or “Purposed” in Christianspeak) to catch up on her blog, and am backtracking. (Bird, dear, I am on October 2013)

Our lives have run parallel courses, and I am wondering how many of you are walking the same road. My dad has been sick too, Bird. Last fall, he fell in his house, and wasn’t discovered for nearly a day. Up to this point, he had refused daily care, accepting only the three hour daily visit from the local Visiting Angels helping agency. My brother and I check on him daily, of course, but his fall happened after all of those ‘safety checks’ took place. Of course.

Can't put 94 candles on that!

Dad just had a birthday. Can’t put 94 candles on that!

So, we went through the tiresome process of rehab, where these sparkling new hospitals treated my father like a number, and we eventually found him a place a mere three miles from our homes, which he seems to enjoy. His intellectual abilities are slowly fading, and he needs more and more care.

It’s difficult to ‘mother’ my dad. Once again I’ve gotten some pretty solid advice from people who sit around and think about this stuff for a living. I’m told as much time as I can give him, I ‘ll be glad I did later. Those of you who’ve been with me for a while, know that at the beginning of victoriasvisits, I wrote a lot about being constantly pelted by death for about 18 months. First Chris, then my dear friend Mickey, then Emily Berkeley, Tom Seedroff, and many others. It got old.

Being around Dad sometimes has that effect. That makes me terrible, I realize. Playing cards with Dad at his new place, and wondering, “Hmm, this could be the last time I play cards with Dad.” How morbid is that? Dad is aiming for three digits, which is cool. I think it would be hilarious to have a centenarian in the family. But I keep on remembering Mom. January 7th, 2010, she gave my daughter a birthday card, told her she looked gorgeous and wished her a happy birthday. That night she blew out an artery in her brain the size of a pencil and was gone in eight minutes.

What to do, though? Not hang around Dad because he could drop at any second? Hell’s bells, he coined that one. “Kids, I have one foot in the grave already, so be aware!” Got it, Dad.

Nope, not an option. I muster up the strength, drive over there, play cards, eat cake, and drop off Engstroms Toffee beside his bed. (He forgets I bring it to him, so his care provider and I joke that he must think the Candy Fairy comes from time to time.)

In the mean time, get a load of this bunch.

Aroo! Down we go!

Aroo! Down we go!

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

The Lierheimer gang at Vail. Where did these adults come from?

Chris and I used to joke that we’d be poor in our dotage, but we’d have a great bunch of little powderhounds. It’s true! The bigger kids all had spring break at the same time, so they came back from their various colleges and we took off to Vail for a few days.

Chris and I were a great parenting team. Boy, do I wish he were around for this one. See, we believed very much in the power of habits, and repeated activities simply being normal. So, we committed that each kid would get ten years of concentrated ski instruction. (Nothing too intense, Copper has an 8 week program we did for years, then extra family days, of course)

The point being, that when they were done with that, each kid could ski anything on the mountain. Then, when they start to scatter and live their lives, as they are beginning to do, the thought process would go something like this:

“Hmm, what to do with my two weeks paid this year? Huh, a few days in Colorado skiing with the sibs? Sure! Sounds like a blast!” Mothering these kids through this and various other transitions to adulthood takes a lot of intentionality.

Planning to see my increasingly childlike dad is also quite a trip. But right now? I think I’m good with it.

What do you folks think? Sign in below if you’re a sandwich mom or dad, let’s hear your stories.

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

Jeff Mackleby and the Art of Advanced Forgiveness


   DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present: 

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

So, when I first heard of PTSD, I think I was about twenty. I was in college, learning for the first time about things that could throw our psyches into an state of disarray. I didn’t quite buy the diagnosis, it seemed too convenient an excuse for soldiers to come back to our country as slackers. (No rotten tomatoes yet, please)

Then, Chris got sick. Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’ve written about this topic quite a bit, you can look in the category list for various essays on that topic. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the whole ‘cancer journey’ and I’m sure Chris is too. He’s not sick anymore, after all. Then Emily Berkeley fell from the sky and died, Tom Seedroff lost his cancer battle, Micky Krupa’s bone cancer ate him alive, and seventeen year old Spencer’s raging lung tumors suffocated him to death. Finally, my own dear mother blew an artery in her brain and leapt into the arms of Jesus in less than ten minutes. Pretty rugged year and a half.

So, PTSD came and lived in the spare bedrooms of the Lierheimer house for quite a while. This unwelcome guest would invade my children’s dreams, interfere with my concentration, and rob me of sleep for months. It would walk with me into movies, frightening me at unexpected times with loud noises and strange people. It dangled this unexplained feeling of doom in front of me at all hours, assuring me that something else awful was sure to happen soon. What was next? Something was sure to come. Perhaps I was going to lose a child, and as Dickens would say “You’d have to ship me off to Bedlam.”

For quite some time, I was quite certain I was coming unglued.

Jeff Mackleby entered my life the month after Mom passed.

Mack was an understanding sort. He was a teacher nearby, and like most of my friends, is musical. We met through a church event, and I was drawn to Mack over time. He was sharp and stimulating, with an advanced degree in comparative theology. We had wonderful talks over chamomile tea, and soon were seeing each other regularly.

As the months went on, Mack and I got to know each other better. He confided in me some of his own considerable internal struggles, including times where he seriously considered ending it all. Depression, a search for significance, a stalled job, all of these things where serious detriments to Mack’s mental health. I wrote Mack often. Writing, as those of you who have been with me for a while, brings a lot of clarity and peace to me. I wrote pages and pages, detailing the horrifying helplessness that would wash over me often as time went by. Mack was a saint to put up with all the words, and he would often reciprocate over coffee, a concert, or dinner. We would often go into great detail, me more so. The great linguist Debra Tannen observed the women simply have a greater ‘word bank’ after all.

As I grew to trust Mack, I revealed more of my own internal struggles related to the PTSD associated with such a depressing cluster of loss. Mack was the first person who treated me like a normal human, who didn’t gasp with simulated despair or mouth the platitudes that Christians often articulate.

In short, Mack didn’t treat me like the freak I thought I was.woman-crying

God was good to me, I thought, providing me with a friend that was a respite, a soothing break.  I honored Mack with the same. Never would I speak about Mack’s thoughts of suicide, never would I speak of his issues with his troubled life, I would hold those as close to my heart as he held my troubles. Mack was safe with me.

As the months went by, Mack and I grew apart. Nothing too dramatic, ‘dating’ in middle age is often ridiculous territory to negotiate. Mack went his way, I went mine. I missed our talks, but was sure that Mack would remember them with as much fondness as I did.

Mack and I still travelled in the same circles, and it came to my attention that he had started dating a woman named Christina Cruz.

There was no love lost between Christina and I. It’s a funny thing, people. I learned a long time ago that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ does not mean “Be Best Buddies with Everyone You Come Across.” It just doesn’t work that way. There will always be rough edges, always people that you just don’t click with. Christina was like that for me. I had reason not to trust her, and simply stayed out of her way as much as possible. Conflict in the Body of Christ is an ugly thing, anyway, and best avoided if possible.

When Christina found out that Mack and I had been seeing each other, a giant target appeared on my back. A ghastly dynamic began to unfurl in all places, the church. About a month ago, one of the church members actually came up to me and said “I don’t know what Christina’s problem is with you, you don’t seem crazy to me.”

Crazy?

Another church member: “I don’t know why Christina keeps talking about you. It seems like other people’s personal information should stay personal.”

Personal?

A third, previously unknown church member: “I’m so sorry for all the loss you’ve endured. Christina has taken me into her confidence, and I’d like to pray for a healing over you.”

A Healing?

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on here? I would never have shared such personal information with Christina. She’s just not trustworthy.

How did she know about my PTSD related issues? I could count on one hand the number of people I trusted with these things. Medical people, mostly. Gifted folks who sit around all day trying to figure out how to help traumatized people like me and my kids.

Mack. Jeff Mackleby. It had to be. Everyone else, except my family, was bound by professional confidentiality.

“Withering” isn’t strong enough. “Humiliating” is better. Mack had utterly violated me by making those issues available for public consumption. My kids, too.

Christina was a vicious gossip, and Mack had handed her enough ammunition for a lifetime.  How severely I had misjudged him. Why on earth, why would one human being would violate another like that is completely mystifying to me.

I spoke with the pastor about it, and we were both stumped. Gossip is such an evil, Jesus, and Jesus’ half brother James warn against it continually.

One of the well meaning friends in the church informed me that Mack had allowed Christina to read everything I had ever written to him. (Really, even then it would be so much better if people would just keep their mouths shut. I appreciate that people were just trying to be kind, but I didn’t need to know the depth of Mack’s betrayal.)

How pointless to know that Mack had bared my soul without my permission. Besides, was I really that interesting? I think not. What would the point be?

At any rate, the situation is a stumper. Christina is right, I was crazy. So were my children. Trauma dreams are enough to mess with anyone’s head. But who’s business is it?  I’m not sure how anyone could get more intimate, barging into my family dynamics like that. Especially since the story is lopsided, and the redemptive side of it, the side where the Lierheimers actually heal, is completely left out.

How about a testimony? How about the completed story, where God reaches down into the mire and uses these horrible experiences to bless other people going through the same ordeal? How about incredibly uplifting stories like my kids walking beside other young adults experiencing similar loss?

And what to do about Mack and Christina. Jesus asks us to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ which a lot of people interprete as ‘eternally.’ He forgave us, after all.

Nothing I do will stop Christina or Mack. The only strength I’ll have is to keep healing, keep relying on the the God of my fathers to continue to provide me with the friends, love and strength to be the best Victoria I can be.

Fortunately, our God is constant.

A picture of healing

A picture of healing

Thank God for that.

Much love, Victoria

Addendum to “Mackleby” Which Victoria Never Does

Fellow Visitors, I edited “Mackleby” several times before I sent it out. Even after this went live, something about it niggled at me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I called my good friend and fellow blogger Bird at everyonehasastory.me for advice. Bird is delightful, and one of the most honest, blunt people I know.

“Victoria, this sounds like a pity-party. Are you still hurt by this?” I thought about it, and the honest answer is no. In fact, the most honest answer is “HELL, no, I am not still hurt by this.”

When I found out what Mack had done, I lost about a day over it, mainly because I thought Mack had more respect for me than that. To tell someone else’s deepest, darkest secrets without their permission is a wretched, sick person thing to do.

My story is mine. My children’s stories are theirs. I wrote “Mackleby” because too many people of faith go around sharing other people’s stories, concluding with “We should pray for them” as disguise. I am convinced that even people of no faith persuasion realize this for what it is, shameful gossip, and there is no excuse.

I work as hard as I can not to gossip, and often fail. I hold up Mack and Christina as counter examples. Do you find yourself doing this? Then stop. Now. Today.

By the way, both Mack and Christina are composites. This story is true, but names and characteristics are completely unrelated to who the characters actually are. In fact, in the spirit of a little fun, I’d challenge anyone except those of you in my inner circle to write me privately and actually name Mack and Christina, and I’ll take the essay down immediately. Don’t want to gossip, after all.

Much love,

V