Digital Laziness And Risky Reality- With Single Dad Laughing


So, Visitors, ever notice how rapidly we are losing our humanity behind our screens?

texting-2

This worries me, on many levels.

In the last column, I detailed to you my excursion into online relationship building. Online hilarity aside, there is something happening here that is essentially broken. In the single week I have been exploring, I have had several texting relationships with interesting men.

I am rapidly losing patience with the online world, so I am developing my own internal standards.  I won’t text with an interesting man for more than three days, for example. Honestly, for me? That’s it. I am all over meeting actual real-life members of the opposite gender who interest me. In real life.

  506e8f23c5f981cfd2a3294ac1b52f4d

What’s more distracting? The lovely woman or the distracting screen? 

It’s been about a week, and about half a dozen of these virtual conversations. So many of these guys are good at online conversation! Witty, entertaining, and interesting as all get out. After day 3, I propose a meeting, and the response rate drops dramatically. Interesting. Texting is so incredibly easy, and so distracting from the real, actual humans on each side.

Here’s what I wonder about screentime, Visitors- what seems to be broken here is a sense of relational work, and I just can’t stand it. Three days is more than enough to decide if you want to have coffee with me, just go ahead and pull the trigger.

Of course, it’s more complicated than that, it always is. See, men in my age demographic have been beaten up. Usually, there’s at least one divorce in the story, and if there are children in the picture, some assorted heartbreak there.

(I’ve discovered I’ve raised intolerant children in that area. I detailed one of these custody-battle stories with my oldest daughter, her response? “Geez Mom, you’d think these guys would have thought this through before having children with someone they really don’t like.” Hmm, some truth to that.)

I get it, men, and it’s ok. You’ve had it rough. You really have, my heart goes out to you. Here’s a suggestion, let’s not overlay that on me, please? Don’t manufacture some sort of grief or pressure that you’ve been carrying, and pretend it’s coming from me.  I’m safe. Stop texting me. Rally some courage. Let’s FaceTime and arrange a coffee date. Real communication is tough, I get it, but you’ve got this, I’m sure.

What’s becoming interesting to me, is that there seems to be very little difference between the men who claim to be Christians, and men who are flat-out prowling for dates.

One of the prowlers propositioned me. It was actually hilarious, and he pulled it off. He was part of the younger set, not quite 40. We were merrily texting away, him as eager as a puppy.

“….We could meet for coffee at the park, and then if we liked each other, we could go back to my apartment?”

Uh, after two days of texting? Pass.

One of the Christians simply couldn’t figure it out.

“Hey Angel, did you sleep well? What’s going on at your job? How are things?  Text me back when you can.”

Gracious! Delightful man, you have a phone in your pocket. Zip the texting, please.

See, Visitors, actual, real-time, face to face communication is risky. Even in some cases, difficult. Check this out-

Stutttering humor

Stuttering humor. It’s OK! I laughed the loudest! 

You guys know me, I stutter. You know the reason why, a minor brain injury as a toddler. I just about DIED laughing when I saw this on Dan Pearce’s website, Single Dad Laughing. (danoah.com)

Dan is just an amazing blogger and author. I love this guy. Dan has battled obesity, the demise of two marriages, the challenge of adoptive and single parenting, and crippling depression. He’s our tribe, he gets it. Life sucks. It’s just terrible. Awful things happen, and something is waiting around the corner to ambush you, even now.

On the other hand, life is frigging awesome, especially face to face. The love of friends (like you,dear Visitors)  is a gift! The face of a child is hopeful! There really is a God who cares! Whole Foods has cookies and cream ice cream!

The stuttering thing is emblematic of all this, Visitors. See, unlike you fluent speakers, I take nothing about speaking for granted. It’s hella work! My parents were good, I landed in speech therapy around age 6, and stayed there until, oh, about two weeks ago.

I’ve been trained in all of these tiresome fluency techniques, I’m aware of breathe control, articulator use, word choice, soft contacts, blah, blah, blah. It’s like playing the piano. If I practice, I’m pretty good. If you distract me, or I distract myself, things might get a little slow.

Speaking IRL, (In Real Life, for those of us over 45) is a flipping challenge for me.  If you muster up the courage to put down the screen and actually speak to me in the same room, I might stutter. Or take a little longer to say something. Guess what? You get to show me what an awesome real-life person you are! This is how it works-

Me: “Well hi! It’s nice to see you! Shall we go to starbucks and grab a t-t-t”

You: “Table?”

Me: “Yes, table.  Hey, look, that was sweet, but I really can’t stand people finishing my sentences.”

You: “Oh! Ha! Sorry!”

Me: “No worries. ”

See? That’s not so tough. Road bump crossed,  imaginary crisis averted, Victoria awards you mad courage and respect points, and a nice coffee date likely follows.

Gracious. Well, we could go on about this for hours. I guess, before I lose all hope, I’d like to ask you guys to come alongside. Put down the &$#% screen. Have tech-free dinners, tech-free weekends. If you’re married, DO NOT take that thing to bed.

If you’re single, like me? Send me one, last text.

“Starbucks, 5:30. Looking forward to it!”

Much love,

 

Victoria

 

 

 

 

 

Divorced Baby Boomer Men Are The Most Fragile Of The Species


So I’m in Puerto Rico now, Visitors, because my son asked me to come see him accept an award from AGC, the Association of General Contractors. Frankly, I find that to be manly as can be. This kid did a project that landed him a week-long, all expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico, a cash gift and a nice plaque, and he asks his mother to accompany him? How secure is that?

This got me to thinking about some recent escapades I’ve had with some remarkably insecure baby-boomer men. See, I’ve discovered that single men my age (just turned 50) can be categorized. Category 1- about 1%. Never married. What’s up with that? Heartbroken? Ok, but for decades? Mommy issues? Rather just be single? Ok, fair enough, but can we quit pretending we’re interested in a solid relationship with a woman?

Category 2- Widowed. Another 1%. Of that tiny fraction, about half have no business dating, they need to grieve their wives, and not kid themselves they are OK. Get busy boys, it’s a lot of work, trust me on this. The other part of that fraction? I’m not sure they actually exist, except once on a blood moon I see a happy, settled, widowed man announce his engagement. Generally to a widow.

Category 3-and buckle up- 98%. Divorced And Fragile As Hell. There’s a gentleman in my life, we’ll call him “Mitch”, who’s company I really enjoy. He’s divorced, bright, educated, hilarious and capable of great kindness to me. We recently had a discussion where he admitted to me that he was ‘as intimidated as hell’ by me.

“Really? By me? What on earth is that about?” Mitch and I had great talks.

“Well, I guess I’m old fashioned, but I think the guy should be the provider. You know, make more, give his lady things. You don’t really need anything from me. ”

(Mental facepalm)

“I drive around in my beater cars, and live in a little house in Broomfield.” Mitch pauses.

“Mitch. What. Seriously? You own those things. You have 20 percent left to pay on your house. I’d much rather be driven around in a beater you own than some fancy car you have out on payments. You know this. I also admire your discipline about your house. You know this too. ” Mitch and I talked a lot about economics.

“Well, I don’t know, Victoria. You’re beautiful and driven, and financially better off than me. That’s just kind of intimidating.”

When Did This Happen?

Visitors, maybe because I’m more firmly established in my widowhood. Maybe it’s because I’m fifty. Maybe it’s my manly son, who had a secure man as a dad for 18 years, but I just couldn’t stand it. Mitch’s paycheck isn’t that much smaller than mine, and are we really so fragile?

“Mitch. You’re just going to have to deal. I’m done apologizing for who I am. If we’re going to be friends, than accept me for who I am and what I do. ”

THAT was six weeks ago. Yep, not a word.

Another, this one a  divorced business associate. You folks know I dabble in real estate. I’m negotiating a little bitty condo deal right now in Denver. The owner has his mother, yep, his 70 plus year old mother, respond to all of my negotiations.

Recently, I laid out a fairly short list of inspection objections, totaling about three grand.  His MOTHER nearly ripped my head off . I was bossy, I was demanding, I was uninformed, and the answer was no.

Fine, I walked away from the deal. The son, FINALLY, sent me a meek little email asking if I would still be interested if the conditions were met. I got what I knew was reasonable, and the son made a jaggy little comment about ‘how I drove a hard bargain’. Really? What makes you such a wuss? It’s just business, and didn’t you learn not to take that personally your first job? Honestly.

Seriously? Say it isn't so, men. Please.

Seriously? Say it isn’t so, men. Please.

Still another, someone I thought was a dear friend. Divorced, ex- military, we had been friends for a couple of years. We cycled in and out of each other’s lives, a delightful ebb and flow. Recently, we had a lovely dinner together. I thought about it afterwords, and decided I was done with the incidentalness of things, and wanted to see my friend more.

I sent him an email, and made some suggestions. A picnic at the lake? A bike ride? A hike in the park?

Poof! Like magic, my friend disappeared. That was three months ago. Thinking the best, I sent him a couple of texts. “Are you OK? Kids all right? Everything OK in your world? ”

Not a word. Then “Friend, did I offend you? What’s up? ” The silence was deafening. Sigh.  What else to think but I some how broke something fragile in this man. Again.

Well, for heaven’s sake. How frustrating. Nary a male soul my age to be found who isn’t a quaking flower, unable to deal with a strong, self-directed woman like me.

So I’m stumped, Visitors.  Suggestions? I like men, I’d like one in my life. But I utterly refuse to be something I’m not, to cater to a frightened, oversensitive, fragile man. What do you think? Am I being to hard on them? Suggestions and thoughts are welcome.

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

Dear Diary- My Heart is a Traitor Bastard


I lifted that line directly from a Bird Martin essay at everyonehasastory.me. Go check it out, Bird is awesome.

With all the good things that surround me, why do I have such a hard time letting go of the ugly?

With all the good things that surround me, why do I have such a hard time letting go of the ugly?

So, I try really hard not to burden you people with angst-ridden, obsessive stories that cloud my judgement from time to time. But here it is , midnight on the day before I am to board a beautiful cruise boat with my four adorable, hilarious kids, and I am stewing over a petty rejection.

I have things to do, like printing out cruise boarding documents, and fleshing out a series of really cool essays I’d like to bring to you folks as we go along this trip.

I guess I would call this a “Piano Man” moment, you know the song where Billy Joel goes on about how stuck he is in a bar, where people put bread in his jar, and say “Man, what are you doing here?” This is utterly ridiculous, so here goes.

You folks know that I am still going to this older singles group at Mission Hills Church in Denver. I very nearly blew it off, as some of the relationships there were simply disguised napalm. But the silver lining was that I learned, as a single woman, how to handle destructive people in my life, and I did it without that benefit of a spouse. When I look back on it, that’s actually pretty cool. Mel Curtis, esteemed life coach, reminds me of how far I’ve come in my judgement since then. Josh, the pastor at the church, reminds me not to lie to myself. Here’s the lie “My judgement about new friends is simply terrible, I will never be able to make new friends as a single woman.”

Here’s the truth “I made mistakes in judgement. I have the Spirit of God to help me make better choices next time.” And then to write down the number of times since I’ve come to Mission Hills that my judgement has been pretty good, and I’ve made some pretty heartfelt friends.

Even then, that’s not entirely spot on. Another silver lining there is that I have learned that people who are older singles are generally that way for a reason. We have a hell of a lot of baggage to deal with. Every single one of us. The two mistakes I made were with people who were really, really good actors, and who denied any sort of baggage at all. MONSTER red flag for next time, and actually, when framed like that, I’m authentically grateful for the experience.

As I continue making new friends, I can look more clearly at their behavior, and ask myself “Are they acting like they have the world by the tail? Everything is fabulous? Think twice, Victoria. If that’s the case, why are they estranged from their parents? Why do they have no contact with their kids? Why do they have rocky relationships with other people? Hmmm…..”

Chris and I used to talk this stuff over into the wee hours of the night, and I can hardly tell you how much I miss that. He was a very relational person, and figuring out relationships with him was like breathing.

So anyway, back to the Meetup. I post a very friendly, generic greeting to a woman that I noticed had an interest in long-distance bike riding. I make a comment about her posted training schedule for a local ride and inquire if I might join the group.

(We made our first epic ride during the Newkirk Circle of Eights. Thirteen years ago we did Ride the Rockies, a remarkable seven day trek held annually over the wild territory of Colorado. My brother John was 38, my dad had turned 80, and Christopher had turned 8. I was thirty four,so no biggie there. It remains an awesome piece of family riding lore)

So, this woman, we’ll call Peg, took down the post, removed my comment, and didn’t care to reply. I discover, of course, that she’s friends with my mistakes at the meetup. Naturally.

AND what’s worse, that I give the situation any of my attention at all. Enough.

So, with that said, I’d like to tell all of you how much I prize your friendship. This teeny weeny little blog has blossomed into something really cool over the past year or so.

I would like to think that when we visit, I’m chatting with an audience of widows, widowers, people in the middle of loss, or simply isolated folks who wonder where the light is at the end of the tunnel.

I know that bunches of you are simply decent people. People who wonder what it’s like to walk in the other gal’s moccasins, and who stop by here to see what an accomplished, lonely, blessed, bereft, joyful widow looks like.

It’s a privilege to me to share with you the truths I stumble over. Things like there actually is a God who loves us and knows us pretty darn well. Truths that it’s pretty rough out there. Truths that even in the rough spots, life can be pretty damn good.

That said, join me tomorrow as my kids and I board Royal Caribbean’s “Allure”, the biggest cruise ship on the planet.

American excess always holds a great deal of humor for me, some light, and some dark. The “Allure” is a first world joke, from my point of view. It’s size is only exceeded by one single oil tanker, and an aircraft carrier somewhere in the Pacific.

Manufactured adventure like this is generally not my first choice.  Brainless twit that I am, when my three college kids trained the “Mommy Guilt Rays” on me, I’m embarrassed to say I caved.

“Mom! We all have the same Spring Break! How often is that going to happen! We should do something really fun, like a cruise!”

Sigh, the little stinkers. So yes, I caved, and off we go the islands.

I love you all,  and appreciate you listening. Cruise documents are almost done, dreamland, here I come.

Sleep well, friends.

Much love,

Victoria

Adversity Is the Touchstone of Friendship


Ever notice how surprising it can be when people DON’T cut and run during conflict and drama?  Those of you have been with me for a while know that the past couple of years have been pretty drama filled.

The past several months, Thank God, have been smooth sailing. Even this Valentines’ day was pretty nice. I was as sick as a dog, stricken with a vile case of the ‘flu that’s been rampaging across the nation. I got to take the day off (I have the best staff in the world) and sit at home and buy e-cards worth a cup of coffee at Starbucks and send them to my Valentines.

We have finally finished untangling Ma’s estate this February, for real this time, and it is a beautiful thing.

About a month ago, my sister, the best one in the world, and my brother, a truly standup guy, and I, spent the day in the estate attorney’s office.  Mom was affluent, and things are complicated. My sister, who is awesome, and I were niggling about some things, and John was going through some documents.

Really, this is about the part in the story where I can tell I start to lose you. Estate battles among heirs are legion, but Chrissy, John and I have had each other’s back for years. Sure, we drive each other nuts sometimes, but I can count on them for my best interest, and vice versa. Nevertheless, sometimes knots have to be untangled, and that can get tense. We had been working hard for about a couple of hours, when my little sister suddenly burst into tears.

“Chrissy! What’s wrong?” (We were talking about office buildings.)

“Mom had so much fun building these things, and now she’s gone, and never coming back.” (Grieving people have penchant for the obvious.)

Brother John just looked at her. Then, with tears welling up in his eyes, he pulled out a little white bank envelope. You know the kind? The sort that you can get your cash in when you leave the teller, so no one snatches your money out of your hand when you walk to your car?

“I keep this with me, Chrissy. Look at what it says. ” Mom had written a note on the back of it.

“Take this and use it to take Melissa and the girls out to a nice dinner. I love you. Mom.”  John was openly sobbing now.

By this time all of use were streaming with tears. The estate attorney, a rock star who teaches at the Sturm college of law at DU, asked us if we needed a minute, and should he step out. (At four hundred dollars an hour.)

“Yea, probably,” we chorused. So next, I pulled out Mom’s Costco card. In retrospect, that’s pretty goofy. In fact, it makes me smile to write about it. Mom loved to go to Costco, and it was one of the last things we did together.

She sat in one of those funny little carts with the flag sticking up, and I walked behind her.

“Vickey! Vickey!”She’d fuss. “Get that ten pound double pack of Skippy! Peanut butter never goes bad! You always need peanut butter!” I shook my head, chuckled and grabbed it. She’d have to live to be a hundred and seven to eat all that, and she died six months later.

Gotta have that Skippy!

Gotta have that Skippy!

So I carry Mom’s Costco card. I look at it now and again, the dorky picture on the back makes me smile.

When we were done exchanging stories, Keith, the attorney tentatively stepped back in. I think he was surprised not to see bloodshed.

“Did we make some progress here?” We laughed through our tears and got back to work. It was emotional and exhausting.

That night, I thought it would be a good idea to go to the Meetup at Mission Hills. It’s been getting better, I’ve made new friends who aren’t so toxic, and are more of a like mind.

I sat in the front, and as we sang, the lights grew belligerent. The sound started to blare,  and jagged daggers shot through my head.  Soon, it felt like it was going to explode.

I carefully stood up, carefully walked to the back of the room, and carefully pressed my head against the cool of the back door glass. What the hell was I thinking. That was one of the most stressful afternoons of my life, and I’m at a fluffy social event? Tears started to stream down my face as the pain ratcheted up, blurring my vision. I sunk to the floor, out of sight.

“Victoria. Victoria! Are you all right?” A big hand descended on my shoulder. Wyatt, a large, redheaded man stood over me. Wyatt and I had become friends a few meetings ago.

“Pain. Wyatt. Migraine. Terrible.” Each whispered word was like a knife through my temple.

“You’re having a migraine?” (Yep, either that or a stroke, and then things would get really interesting.)

“OK, got it. What can I get you?”

“Aspirin. Caffeine. Soon. ”

Pretty much

Pretty much

“Got it, Aspirin and Caffeine. Let’s get Maverick to run to the store.” Maverick was another friend. Quite the ladies man, but at the heart of it, Maverick had a heart of gold, and would do whatever he could to relieve someone else’s suffering.

Wyatt led me to a dark room, and helped me stretch out. He got four aspirin that I swallowed dry. I thought about banging my head against the floor, to give me something else to think about besides the A bomb going off in my head. Migraines can get strange that way.

A few minutes later Maverick galloped into the room with a barrel full of Coke. You know the kind? The “Big Trough? Gulp? Barrel full of sugar and caffeine?”  I had never, ever bought one of those things, and I laughed  spite of myself.  I nearly fell out of the chair.

Wyatt chuckled. “Your truck big enough for that, Maverick?”

“Hey, the lady wants caffeine, the lady gets caffeine!” I started to sip. The boys stood over me, chatting aimlessly, and slowly, the pain ratcheted down to bearable levels. I got up and staggered, and each man grabbed an arm.

“Whoa! Sit down there young lady! (Ha!)” We’ll stay here as long as you need. ” Tears jumped into my eyes.

It’s a funny thing, the stuff you miss when you’re not a wife. See, I believe loving well is a learned skill, and actually is learned best during adversity. Chris and I had a hell of a lot of adversity during our years together, and we learned to be pretty good friends during most of it.

Wyatt and Maverick demonstrated the simple, protective love men can offer women. Or, women can offer men, come to think of it. A simple, friendly gesture, staying with someone while they are sick, meant the world to me. The pain slid down to mere firework levels, and I told the boys I thought I could make it home.

“No, no, no, I don’t think so.” Maverick can be very commanding. “You just sit here until you feel better. Wyatt and I can drive you home. ” I sat. Evergreen is to far to ask new friends to drive.

We chatted some more, and soon I really did feel steady on my feet. Wyatt walked me to my car, tucked me into it, and Maverick insisted I text him when I pulled in.

Sometimes, the best thing to have is a friend.

Sometimes, the best thing to have is a friend.

Wyatt and Maverick have since become some of my most heartfelt friends. I trust them with my safety, and they tell me their adventures, and friendships slowly inch along. It’s a treasure.

Socrates – “Be slow to fall into friendship, but when you are in, continue firm and constant.”

It’s a beautiful thing.

Much love,

Victoria

Faces of Love: Generations of Humor


Ok, fellow Visitors, sometimes it’s just great to laugh until your abs hurt. I have two great essays for you on the theme of “Generations” but we must start with the funniest. If you’re like me, in the 45- to 55 demographic, you may have to have a sarcastic teenager in your orbit to educate you about the likes of  youTube star Julian Smith. 

Five Minutes! That’s all I ask! It’s good for you! Laughter lowers your blood pressure, makes your headaches go away (sometimes even the two legged variety),makes you rich, lose weight, and attract the likes of Ryan Reynolds for a coffee date. Stick with it while Julian works with his great granny. Watch both of their faces in the frame, and see how patient he is with this woman who’s several times his age.

He’s gentle, kind, and very loving. She’s working so hard to please her eager grandson. The end result is this hilarious piece that has several million viewers falling out of their office chairs with laughter.

Julian is brilliant! I want to be his mom! HAHA! She makes so many mistakes, don’t you just love the frustrated face? Man! How many times have you beaten your head against a wall for someone you love? HAHA! She tries so hard to get that word, and when she does, in the sketch, it’s just brilliant.

Have a great laugh today, fellow Visitors.

Much love,

Victoria

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Twelve. A Spiritual Diversion to Aix. God bless you Sarah, Where ever you are.


A miraculous thing occured today, I made every deadline I was supposed to make! I didn’t oversleep, miss a cab, forget breakfast for the girls, and most importantly, we made the train to Nice!

Not only that, but I used my fractured French to find the platform, figure out which of six trains, and which coach to get on! Incredible!

So about the midpoint of our six hour trip through the southern farmland of France, we got hungry. I found the car with the train food and got in line behind a woman who looked familiar.  She was about my age and  spoke French with an interesting accent, but fluently. She turned to me, and asked me something incomprehensible.

I replied “Uh, Je regret, je parle Francaise terrible.” I’ve found that line usually gets a smile, and communication starts rolling.

“It’s ok, I just asked if you were standing in line for lunch, I haven’t made up my mind yet.” AHA! Her fluid French was American accented!

“Well, hello! So you’re an American too! ” A frown creased her pretty forehead.

“No, no. Of course not. Not at all. I’m Canadian.” Oops, another American ethnocentric boo-boo. I tried to rescue it with a joke.

“Canadian! Oh! A French baggage inspector told me a joke.” The woman smiled indulgently. “I was asking about accents, and if he could tell the difference between ours. No, he said, we all sound alike to him. But if we have an American accent and don’t like guns, then we must be Canadian.”

The woman chuckled. The line was interminable, so we started to chat. She introduced herself as Sarah.

“What brings you to France?” she asked.

“Oh, I’m on a sabbatical of sorts. My older three children are in college, and all have the same winter break. The youngest is bright enough to keep up online, so we are spending three weeks wandering around Europe. How about yourself?”

Her eyes widened, and she took on a distracted air.

‘I’m here to clear my head. I was raised in Quebec, and fifteen years ago my husband and I moved to Aix-en-provence for his job. He’s a nuclear physicist. We had to move to Laguna Beach a year and a half ago, and put the house in Aix for rent. Now the renters are gone, and just in time, because my husband just told me three weeks ago he’s dumping me for his  24 year old yoga instructor. ‘ She smiled self-deprecatingly. I mistook her smile for politely waiting for me to respond. Then my brain caught up with the conversation. My stomach started to sink.

“And now, here I am, how trite. Telling my life story on a train to a complete stranger!” Tears began to well in her eyes.

“No! No, it’s ok. Nothing is ever easy. Let’s keep talking long enough and I’ll tell you all kinds of ‘husbands-dead-too-early -from- cancer stories,’ like mine!  Really, it’s ok. ”

She looked down, and then chuckled, darkly. “No, really? Has he been gone long?”

“Two years last July.”

“I’m sorry. That’s terrible. Now I’m in a terrible spot. I have a ten year old and a twelve year old who were born in Aix. I could move them back right here, slide them right back into the same schools and live in Aix. But when I get back, who knows? I mean, I’m not supposed to tell them their dad’s being an asshole, right? Dumping me for someone that could be his daughter.”

“It happens. More than you think.”

“I guess. But now were supposed to go back and pretend to be merry for Christmas? One happy family? I’m completely screwed. I haven’t worked in fifteen years, I don’t even have working papers for the States. It’s so complicated.”

We got our food and moved to the standing tables. She continued to tell me her complicated story of fear and abandonment.

Eventually, we traded stories, and that terrible sisterhood of incompetence started to emerge.

“I just don’t think I can do this by myself. I mean, my kids are ten and twelve.”

“I get it. I felt the same way.”

“What am I going to do? I was always the domestic one. Now I have to manage all the business ends of a family.”

“Intimidating, isn’t it? But you strike me as competent.”

“I don’t know. How did you figure it out?”

Hmm. That Question. How to summarize going from a complete, non-functional basket case to the competent person I am today.

“Well, not to preach at you, but I’m a Christian. I had a pretty sturdy set of helpers from my church from the very beginning. Lots of other folks too.  All sorts of exotic flowers in God’s garden came to my aid. I had to surrender a lot of my pride, and ask for the help I needed. ”

“Hmm. You’re lucky you’re religious. I never wanted to be in a church, and neither did he. Now I sort of wish we did.”

“This might be news to you, Sarah, but you don’t have to be religious to go to a church.  Jesus doesn’t keep score. And you know what else? He understands nasty. He understands mean. He understood me when I was being unlovely, angry and bitter. Thankfully, most of that is behind me. I get lonely now, sure, but I’m never alone.”

The train was pulling into Aix.

“You strike me as strong enough to get through this, Sarah. You can do this. I am, and if I can, anyone can. ”

She gathered up her things, trying not to cry.

“Well, it’s been nice talking to you. Good luck.”

“You too, Sarah.”

God bless you, Sarah of Aix.

Monty Python and the Fine Art of Worry


It Just Feels So Good When You Stop!

HAHA! Click on the video before you proceed, friends. Everyone should laugh as often as possible!

The monks are chanting  ‘Pie Iesu Domine. Dona eis Requiem’, before they whack themselves on the head with a board. It means “Merciful Lord Jesus, Grant them Rest.” It’s from a Catholic funeral mass.

Isn’t that the best? Gracious, sometimes you just wake up on the right side of the bed. I bounded up this morning, realizing that for some reason I felt about two inches taller and twenty pounds lighter.

Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that their have been three things over the past year that have been dragging me down. (Whack!) First, worrying about if my children will make the transition to college successfully without their dad. (Whack!)

Next, will my family still be speaking to each other after my mother’s will is untangled in probate. (Whack!)

Lastly, this disgraceful state witch hunt about my little Christian school will be settled. (Whack!)

Merciful Lord Jesus! Grant us Rest! (Whack!) It just strikes me as hilarious, that as Christians, we can torture ourselves for ever (Whack!) Or, we can settle down and accept the peace He offers us.

I am leaving you with a gift–peace of mind and heart. And the peace I give is a gift the world cannot give. So don’t be troubled or afraid.   -Jesus Christ, in John’s letter, chapter fourteen, verse 27. 

Now, of course, that is a heluva lot easier said than done. (Whack!) But here are some facts of the matter, at least for me. My children have made the transition to college successfully, and are winging around as resilient, caring young adults. Wow.

My family is all still friendly! Actually, that’s too sarcastic. I have a great little sister, and a brother of sturdy character, and we’ve had each other’s backs for years.   Mom’s probate was done a week ago.  Remarkable. Especially because people tend to go bananas even with just a little bit of money involved. But in the end, we all agreed that with the Lord as the center of things, it would have killed Mom for us to argue.

I can’t yet fill you in about the EA business, but I will soon. In short, my staff, attorney and I have done the very best we can, and it is in God’s hands now, and that is awesome. We are done.

Bird, Mel, Fang, Chrissy, John, especially John, Michele, Deann and Tom, Dad, Stacey, Betty, Joann, Drew, Becky, Pam, Melissa, double for Melissa, Barb, Todd, Nellen, Steve, Brent, Claire, the list goes on and on. Every single one doing their level best to grab that goofy board. Thanks gang! I’m grateful for every single one of you being Jesus with skin on.

So, I’ve put the board  down. Mercy! It just feels so good when you stop!

We’re Not Dead Yet!

PS – Three days ago, a large, uniform group of readers marched down my blog roll list and showed up on my WordPress Statistics page. I can’t tell who you are, unless you identify yourselves, but this is tremendous compliment. The same number of you read over two dozen of my essays, and I would like to meet you. Prayson? Rick? PC? Princess?  Words Fusion? Is it you? If it is, I admire your work as much as you seem to like mine. Drop me a line, whoever you are at victorialierheimer@yahoo.com. Let’s meet.

Much love,   Victoria

V-V-V-Victimology


    vic·tim·ol·o·gy

noun \ˌvik-tə-ˈmä-lə-jē\

Definition of VICTIMOLOGY

1
: the study of the ways in which the behavior of crimevictims may have led to or contributed to their victimization
2
: the claim that the problems of a person or group are the result of victimization.
      It is part of my family lore that I contracted encephalitis from as a baby. It is said, because of that, I  developed the hydrocephalus that robbed me of fluent speech. I stuttered from the time I could speak, and because of that, spent, oh, about seventeen years being  concerned about what people thought about me whenever I opened my mouth to speak.
          I have a unique insight into the human heart as an early childhood professional. The Bible says that people are born naturally selfish and prideful, and I can testify to that first hand. My timeline was rife with children who couldn’t resist making me a target, imitating my stuttering, and otherwise tormenting the life out of me.
         Around 18 or so I realized I didn’t really give a damn what people thought about how I spoke, and that was  freeing. Years and years of boring, repetitive  work at speech therapy finally came to fruition, and I could relax enough to speak much more fluently.
        People still get goofy when my speech gets away from me, though. Since fluent speech for me is a learned skill, I don’t do it as well if I am tired, distracted or bored. Often, that’s when things get really interesting. All kinds of snap judgements get made about me, from my level of intelligence to my perceived level of sexual interest.
         (e.g.- Victoria meets a new guy, Victoria is completely exhausted from long day; Victoria stutters during introduction. Guy smiles patronizingly and says “You don’t have to be nervous meeting me, I don’t bite.” Actually, I sort of do, so watch it, idiot. True story.)
       It would be easy to play the role of the victim with this one. Gosh, I can’t talk. I can’t stand  to recite poetry. I can’t act on stage. I can’t talk to people who actually do make me nervous, like heroes or celebrities. I can’t speak in front of groups, too nerve-wracking. What if I have children? Maybe they’ll talk like me! I can never have decent relationships, what if people think I’m too funny -looking when I talk? First impressions are everything!
        Well, discrimination is real, too be sure. Those concerns are genuine, and as unfortunate as it is, bad things often happen because people make snap judgements about others, and discriminate. I was a victim for years of exactly that. It seems though, that we are descending into a culture of victimology.
I simply cannot tell you how much victimology exasperates me. I popped a cork at an acquaintance today who claimed that her problems arose from a lack of appreciation of her artistic endeavors. Discriminating buyers would make her rich, of course.
“I create art to make others happy!”
“My personal problems can’t interfere with my art, or I don’t get paid!”
“I sacrifice my creature comforts for the sake of my art!”
                She is a remarkable artist, truly has a very unusual gift.  Another acquaintance once bent my ear about being a dancer of color. She danced for years with a very prominent company, and was the lead in many well-known shows.  But life was hard, don’t you know, because sometimes she was discriminated against because of her face. In my line of work, I often must listen to people sort through the source of their problems. Since Chris died, I have been given a measure of compassion for how difficult life can often be.
 Having said that, I must say that I have to leave to room when otherwise gifted people kvetch and moan about discrimination.
Figure It Out! I want to say. You are bright! You are gifted! Able bodied! You don’t even stutter! Adapt!
When Chris was alive, and we were working together, I got a bit lazy. He was great PR. He looked forward to speaking in front of groups, and did it well.  Names came easily to him. When he passed, I realized that if I was going to make this work, I would have to develop similar skills, consciously.
        I hired a life coach, one who specialized in working with women executives. Melanie Curtis and I developed strategies to work on this. I learned not just names of clients, but jobs, relatives names, names of other children  and family members.
        I attacked other problems full-on. Chris spoke in front of large groups at our school;  things like back to school night, and Christmas programs. Now it was my turn. Fluency and humor came easily to him. Fluency is very deliberate for me especially in front of a group of adults.  But guess what? I can be pretty funny naturally, and pretty fluent deliberately. Mel and I worked on these types of things for months.
           In another column, “Relationships and Cougars Hunting” I described to you my first foray into talking with appealing members of the opposite sex. It went well, much better than I expected. Since then, my men friends keep appearing, their dear faces making my life much brighter. Adaptability is great!
         Look, I have never been one to get stuck in self pity for long.  If anyone has reasons to be to feel victimized, it’s me. I understand, though. Life can be hard, making things work is often just that, work. But at the end of the day, the knowledge  that I gave it my very best shot with the tools I have, is very satisfying.
I wish the same for you.
Much love, Victoria

Abi’s Story: Must Love Kids


When Chris and I were in our late twenties, we were going to a megachurch in Denver called Cherry Hills Community Church. It had a lot going for the late twenties and early thirties crowd, and we made a lot of friends there.

One Sunday we were sitting in the auditorium before the service started, idly paging through the bulletin. Our eyes landed on this squib, at almost exactly the same moment.

Adopt A Child from China

Do you have a heart for children? Come and learn about foreign adoption in China. We will meet in Room 208 next Wednesday evening at 7 pm. 

     We just looked at each other. Instantly, we both knew what to do. Wednesday evening couldn’t come fast enough! We rolled up our sleeves and plunged into the application. The process was long and complicated, and we discovered that the vast majority of people who participate in international adoptions do so in part because of fertility issues. As this was not the case with Chris and me, we often floated on the outskirts of group discussions.

     We had our homestudy, answered all kinds of questions, and broke open every piggy bank and source of cash we could find to pay the exorbitant fees. Chris used to refer to them as ‘ransom for our daughter.’

       

When our application was completed, China closed. NBC had done a series about Chinese orphanages called, “The Dying Rooms.” The gist of it involved hidden cameras, and footage of sick little girls deemed to be too needy to take care of. Should one of the babies be found in this condition, they would be placed in these rooms, and an attendant would come back when the crying was over. It was horrible, true, and irrelevant. American journalists cost the Chinese government ‘face’, and China would make us pay, somehow.Well. The cessation of Chinese adoptions was supposed to last 30 days. It stretched to 60, then 90, than ‘an indefinite period of time’. Who knew when China would open up again? So we decided to wade in the water again. 10 weeks into my pregnancy with Faith, I got a phone call after particularly vigorous bout of vomiting.  China had just opened again, and our application would be processed shortly.  Yep, I thought it was pretty funny too.

We boarded the plane with the rest of our group when Faith was six months old. China in 1994 was quite a place to be. Chinese at the time had a thinly veiled antagonism toward foreigners adopting ‘their’ children.We would travel around with our new children, and draw quite a crowd.  Abi didn’t look anything like the gorgeous creature you see here. In fact, it’s a family joke that Abi was the scrubbiest, weirdest looking little kid you’d ever want to see! Chicken pox had raced through her orphanage, leaving scars on this kid’s face. The back of her head had flattened, as she spent most of her first nine months on her back. Lice and bedbugs were rampant in her orphanage, so her head was shaved.

To top it off, she showed her native intelligence by bellowing her objections to the two strangers who were now showing her all sorts of attention. Who were these people, anyway? Where is my cribmate? Restore my world, such as it was, right now!

It was such fun getting to know this kid! In a lot of ways, she was the most challenging  to parent. Often times friends ask me, “Well, she was only 9 months old when you got her, how hard can it be?”

It’s amazing to me how often people underestimate children.I usually don’t answer that question anymore. Some folks ask that and they already have children. I just (inwardly) shake my head and wonder just when they’ll start to pay attention.

Baby Miao Zhu (Abi’s given name) missed her biological family terribly. She had a very difficult time bonding with Chris or me,  and simply couldn’t deal with transitions of any sort. I remember one October going to Vail to spend a few days with my parents. She wailed in the room for nearly four hours.

Fortunately for us, we had several good attachment therapists in the area. After working with Abi for about a year, amazing things started to happen. She sprouted six teeth in a month. She grew and inch in two months. In the midst of all this, she started to walk. The therapist explained that it was as if her brain was giving her body permission to grow. Really, it would bring tears to watch. 

At seventeen, Abi decided to completely freak me out by wanting to go to art school in Brooklyn.

Born in China, raised in the mountains of Colorado, now wanting to spend a month at the Pratt Institute? I’d better sit down.

Abi makes friends easily!

Abi took to Pratt like a rocket to space. I couldn’t believe it! She mastered the subway easily, and actually listened to all of my cautions about city navigation. She poured herself into her artwork. Often, when she would call me, it would be with only a few hours sleep. She was so tired, she would speak in fragments.
“Mom…I really like drafting….vellum is cool…..we had nudes in class today….”When the month was over, her artwork was judged by a professor. It was a rigorous procedure, but then Abi got Chris’ work ethic ages ago. She works her little tail off. Her focus was interior design. Here her professor is critiquing some of her models. She drew, modelled, painted, collaged, and charcoaled her way through six hours of college credit, and came home with a remarkable portfolio and A’s. What a great kid.
In a way, I think that the loss of Chris was the hardest for Abi. If you think about it from the body count perspective, that makes a lot of sense. Abi, the knowledgeable baby, was perfectly aware that her biological mother, father, grandparents, and any other Chinese relatives were lost to her forever.  After she was adopted by us, she was very much her father’s daughter. She had Chris’ wry sense of humor and witty tongue. She has his sense of productivity and hard work, and his sense of making the most of his talents. She also has a mirror of his relationship to God. Chris was always just a bit suspect of God the Father, as his own father was such a criminal.
Abi has a similar mistrust, and who can blame her? She’s lost two fathers here on earth, and doesn’t yet have the perspective that this grieves her Heavenly Father immensely.
But what a gift for me. Psalms says that “Children are a Gift from the Lord.” In spite of all the work, and all the trials, and all the energy spent, I have found this to be true.
I have been quite gifted. Again, I think that God must love me after all. But could another man love me? Only if he loves kids like Abi.
Affectionately,
Victoria
Victoria’s List of What Makes a Real Man
1. Someone who treasures me more than himself. One might almost think that’s Biblical.
2. Courage. Take heart. Never, never give up.
3. Must Love Kids.  The greatest strength is shown through gentleness. Jesus himself had a special place in his heart for children.