The Lying Mouthpiece of Jeffco Teacher’s Union: Meet Scott Kwasny


Readers, especially Jeffco visitors, I’m almost boring myself here. Honestly, this whole Jeffco debacle is such a relentless drumbeat of hate speech, deceit and disruption, I find myself running out of adjectives. Those of you who have been with me for a while, remember the Louisa stories I developed a while ago?

Louisa (who was me, of course) was a medieval warrior princess. She had lost her prince in a terrible battle to the death. (That was Chris, dying of cancer). She was burdened heavily with the responsibility of her community, largely of families and children. Louisa discovered, as time went by, that this work suited her. It was tremendously consequential, and only successful with the aid and succor of local villagers.

In short, Louisa and her village had to come together to prosper. Corny, but true. We, all of us, have to band together to stand in the gap for Jeffco’s disadvantaged kids.

Check out this guy:

Kwasny-Fist-Detroit

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Meet Scott Kwasny.

Kwasny is Jeffco Teacher’s Union hired gun. He was hired by Jeffco Teacher’s Union one month after my brother and his colleagues were elected in 2013. Prior to moving to Denver, Kwasny was a well-paid agitator for the American Federation of Teachers in Detroit.(NINETY THREE percent of Detroit kids can’t read well. Mission accomplished, Kwasny? http://www.cnsnews.com/news/article/terence-p-jeffrey/detroit-public-schools-93-not-proficient-reading-96-not-proficient)

For my international Visitors, there a two chief education-related labor unions in America. One, the NEA, or National Education Association, was the union I referenced in a previous column. It was one of three unions that pre-funded the recall election with hundreds of thousands of dollars. (This is what made  Wendy McCord, Tina Gurdikian, Terri Straut et al, liars, as they swore this was a parent-driven effort. )

American Federation of Teachers, or AFT, is the other big-dog player in the pro-Union scene in American education today. As of this year, AFT has over a million and a half members. They give millions of dollars to political causes, all of the funds coming from rank and file members. 95% of AFT donations are of a liberal, left-wing bent. AFT has publicly endorsed Obama, both Clintons and has given tens of millions of dollars to political causes. AFT has given far more than any private corporation in America. AFT, and Scott Kwasny, are the epitome of education politics in America today.

Someone I respect greatly once said “Know where someone sits, before he takes a stand.” So, we know this about Kwasny. A fairly young man, he worked for several years for hard-left union causes in AFT. Jeffco Teachers Union is a hard-left organization, therefore, when they lost to conservatives in 2013, you can assume that they would hire a hard liberal like Kwasny to bring Jeffco back into the union fold.

This is where it gets interesting, Visitors. Kwasny is very, very good at what he does. Mainly, because the man has no moral compass, and will say, and do, anything to get a win. Check this out- This is the beginning of a  Facebook conversation I had with Kwasny during the election season:

Scott Kwasny

  • If you think that you have fought for social justice and that helps you sleep at night than so be it… you are only ten years older than me. I am a hard working father and husband who has a very different belief system than you and your brother…for example – I would not kick a child out of my daycare because they had 2 mothers or 2 fathers. I spoke to a woman this past weekend who said that is exactly what you did. Keep on pretending, Victoria.

     
     
  • 10/26, 10:02pm

     

    Victoria Lierheimer

    Scott, I will get on you every single time you post another lie like the ones you just said. I have never, not one single time, ever discriminated against a gay couple, and I will give you names of gay folks in this town who will attest to that. You are a liar of the worst sort, one in a position of influence and power, and I have dedicated my life to protecting innocents against people like you.

    Consider this, Visitors.  I make a point of wide-open inclusivity in my non-denominational Christian school, even to the point of irritating my more conservative friends. Why? Because I’m convinced it’s what Jesus would do. These days, we have family structures of all kinds. Young, old, May-December, divorced, not married, gay, straight and single, straight and living together-gracious, I have to write it all down or I get lost. It’s important to me, again, as I’m certain I’m pleasing God by doing so. Incoming family structure is not important at EA. How that child is parented, that’s the only important thing.

    Irrelevant to Kwasny. He makes it up as he goes along.

    Here’s another:

    Scott Kwasny 10/6 9:27 pm 

    John Newkirk is nothing but a gold plated trust fund baby who’s never done anything by himself, only slid along the coattails of his father, a well-respected man in the community. He doesn’t know anything about Jeffco kids, he’s never had to work a day in his life! Victoria Lierheimer, John Newkirk’s sister, isn’t even a teacher! She’s the ‘principal’ of a failed religious academy. #standup4kids

    10/6, 9:38 pm

    Scott Kwasny Actually, let’s deal with this here, you lying coward. As a union employee and hack yourself, you now have access to my teaching license? My 28 years of licensed teaching preschool, kindergarten, grade school, and middle school English? In both public and private settings? What, you don’t like school choice? Addressing the needs of languishing schools like Alameda? Ali Lasell, Brad Rupert, Amanda Stevens, Ron Mitchell, this is who you have fighting your battles for you.         Readers, remember these names, remember Scott Kwasny as an excellent, gold-plated example of the type of a lying union employee who doesn’t give a plugged nickel about the well being of your children, or the state of Jeffco Schools, and instead wants to shove his union agenda down your throat. #norecall#standuptounionbullies (that’s you, Scott Kwasny)

     

    Brrrr.  Absolutely chilling. Most of you know that I’m studying for a masters degree in Criminology, with an emphasis in pathopsychology.  I’ve always been interested in questions of behavioral deviance, and my course of study could not have been better timed. Kwasny, as you can see, is a sterling example of the hired-gun henchman who will discard all morality, engage in all kinds of deviance, all in the name of politics.

    As the election continued, all kinds of deviant and criminal behavior surfaced. I uncovered five artificial FB identities, three fake twitter accounts, and at least two stolen identities, all surfaced on line in order to spread slander and hatespeech in the name of this successful recall.

    Kwasny and his crowd won this round. One can only hope that the forces for good will win the next one.

    Respectfully,

    Victoria

     

     

 

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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

 

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

On Christian Misogyny and Feral Children


Last week was an interesting one for me in the annals of human behavior. A friend of mine started a  program at my church.  I wanted to help and provide some financial support. It was turned down by the board of elders, all of whom are white, wealthy men.

Now, before I lose you, understand that I’ve devoted a large part of my teaching career to carrying out what Martin Luther King really meant when he said that he wished his children would be judged not by the ‘color of their skin, but the content of their character.’ If he were alive today, I would venture to say that gender blindness would also be a desired outcome.

I also like men. I have nothing against a white, wealthy man being in charge, as long as he shows some common sense and Christlike character. Still, sometimes things just set my teeth on edge.

My friend has devoted the past two decades of her life to meeting the needs of older singles like me. (Funny, I don’t really see myself as ‘older’ at 48, but it is different, and a lot more fun than in my twenties. ) She started a group whose goal was to provide an environment where singles could meet and mingle that was not a bar, or some other obnoxious meeting venue where chemicals and poor behavior are to be expected.

With a few exceptions, Christian values are upheld, and the group seems to be meeting a need in the greater Denver area.

Here’s the delicate part. Jesus is pretty clear that when Christians get involved in charitable giving, one hand isn’t supposed to know what the other is doing. In other words, if you blow your horn, that’s all the recognition you’re going to get. So give, give generously, but shut up about it.

It came to my attention that the group could benefit from some transitional funding, as the church is quite large, and has a budget cycle that should be respected. The fiscal year for this church begins in January.

I offered to provide the funding, not to the church, but directly to the (currently unpaid) leadership.

(Charitable giving used to be a source of great joy for Chris, my late husband, and me. We did our homework, looked at budgets and business structures, administrative costs, and gave where it would do the most good. I miss that intensely.)

The approving elders set a meeting for last January. Then February. Then March. Last week, they finally had a meeting to decide whether or not to fund the position, which, by the way, was largely with my money.

The conclusion? Outside funds cannot be used to fund church programs, and my friend could wait until the next budget cycle to get a real decision. Thanks but no thanks, Victoria, you can keep your money.

Well, that’s mighty white of you, sirs. I venture to say, that if my friend were a man, and I hard- charging male CEO, the outcome would have been different.

Let me pause before I grind my teeth into a powder. Older singles are very much “The least of these” in the eyes of the church. You can really tell a lot about the character of a person, and a church, by how dismissive they can be to the powerless and poor.

Argh.

Next, stand up if any of you had child development in college. Did you ever study feral children?

I had a phone call today from a client that I think may have been thrust into raising  genuinely feral children.

Wikipedia has a pretty good functional definition of a feral children:

Genie (feral child)

Genie (feral child) (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

A feral child (also, colloquially, wild child) is a human child who has lived isolated from human contact from a very young age, and has no (or little) experience of human care, loving or social behavior, and, crucially, of human language.[1] Some feral children have been confined by people (usually their own parents); …. Feral children may have experienced severe child abuse or trauma before being abandoned or running away. Feral children are sometimes the subjects of folklore and legends.

What do you think of when you imagine a feral child? Most of you probably dial up a Disney-esque Mowgli, a child abandoned by circumstance and left to be raised by animals.

Few of us imagine a child isolated as a toddler, given food laced with sedatives and having very little contact with the outside world. “Mitchell”, we’ll call him, was contacted by the authorities when they discovered his biological triplet sons had been isolated in a room with very little outside contact from the ages of about one to about three.

Mitch’s boys’ mother had multiple psychiatric disorders, and why she had any sort of custody of these kids is a mystery to me. The boys’ physical growth had been stunted and their linguistic development almost nil.

That is to say, their conventional linguistic development. Most of us with healthy parent-child relationships see our children ride a magnificent wave of language acquisition during these crucial years. When the boys were discovered to be living in these horrendous conditions, they had developed a language of their own. They are the size of a typical one year old, and chatter away with each other, clearly understanding what the other has to say.

They bring each other things, have conversations, and play side by side. The problem is, no one else in the world has a clue what they are saying.

Mitch desperately wanted custody of his boys. He received it, but in order to keep it, he has to keep up with an onerous schedule of various therapies all at his expense. Mitch is a blue collar worker, and is pedaling as fast as he can to make sure his boys get to all of their appointments.

So he lands on EA’s doorstep.

“Please. Victoria. No one else has space for all of them. I can’t break them up, and it would kill me to be running to three different facilities. Can you help?”

Can I help.

Three profoundly abused, seriously disabled little boys, and a dad who’s doing everything in his power to keep them at home.

On the one hand, this is the most depressing part of my job. Lock three little children in a room for over a year? The diaper rash alone must have left permanent scars. What kind of person uses their power for such a profoundly negative thing?

A sick one.

On the other hand, what an opportunity for good. Perhaps three isn’t too late. Noam Chomsky postulated on the “Language Acquisition Device” that all children have, and theorized that all children can learn language until about twelve.

Other theorists speculate that the cutoff is closer to six. Much past that, and the hope of being a native language speaker diminishes rapidly.

Still, there might be a chance. So what do I do? Our country is headed for disaster in terms  of early childhood education. If President Obama has his way, our country will soon not have a K-12 school system, but a PS-16 state funded system. The reasons to be apprehensive about this are legion.

Back to Mitch. The state has stated to Mitch that if he does not provide an appropriate educational environment for these boys, at his expense, the boys will land in foster care and the state will find preschool placement for them.

This is insane.

Mitch wants his boys. Because the dad assumes responsibility of these profoundly damaged kids, he must pay an enormous fee for them to come to my school, or the state will take them and tax dollars will not only pay their preschool fees, but their foster care and upkeep as well.

This makes no sense.

Why not halve the cost, have the state pay a discounted rate to EA, and Mitch pay to raise his sons, as it should be?

So, I turn this over in my mind, and I bring it to you. Are any of you advocates for the disenfranchised? Advocates for the rights of fathers? Can any of you help me help Mitch?

If we can find the funding for all three of these kids, including the funding for a special aide just for the boys, we at EA could make a profound difference in the language development of these kids.

In the mean time, pray for Mitch. Pray for the feral kids who are isolated, but not discovered yet. Pray that there is still hope for us, as humans, to treat the least among us with some degree of dignity.

It’s what Jesus would have us do.

Much love,

Victoria

Victoria Alert: Regarding “The Call” With Halle Berry


I was going to have a lovely night here at Barnes and Noble with Rachael putting together a picture book of our recent cruise to the Eastern Caribbean. It was terrific! I have some great pictures for you guys to see of the magnificent boat and some wonderful, different places on the planet. Some of the simplest ones are the best. For example, ever notice how scary it is too look over the pier anywhere on Manhattan Island? Someone once told me you were only safe if you got a hepatitis shot before swimming! Contrast that to this:

Running with the "Silent Girl" pirate crew to see the turtles at Tortoise Cove

Running with the “Silent Girl” pirate crew to see the turtles at Tortoise Cove

 

 

Ah! Go swim anywhere! From a pirate ship in Saint Thomas.

But that’s going to have to wait until tomorrow.

Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’m contemplating going back to school for a doctorate. Abnormal neuroscience has held a fascination for me for years. I’ve been steeped in the ‘normal’ (Ha!) for decades. Now, I want to see if I can make a contribution toward catching the likes of Dylan Klebold or Adam Lanza.

I also like the fact that we are all pretty much in the same boat, as far as the hard cards we get dealt in life. Sure, I’ve had an unusually bad run, but if something traumatizing hasn’t happened to you, just wait a bit. Someone is going to abuse you, one of your addictions will get the better of you, or someone will die.

Here’s the good news, it’s doable.

Several columns ago I wrote about PTSD and an experience that I had that was essentially ‘retraumatizing.’  (“Jeff Mackleby…”) In a fascinating study of the etiology of PTSD stressors Julian D. Ford  describes education, reading ability, and a belief in ‘self-efficacy’ to have a tremendous impact on the lowering of ‘retraumatization’ among PTSD survivors.

 I think that’s pretty damn cool. 

In essence, if you read well, like school, and believe that you can help yourself and others, you can make a difference the the lives of others. I come out pretty strong in all those areas.

So here we go.

Halle Berry on the set of "The Call".

Halle Berry on the set of “The Call”.

 

Halle Berry and Abigail Breslin are simply terrific. They’re two of my favorite actresses, so I thought it would be a fun way to spend an evening with Rachael, followed by a trip to Barnes and Noble.

(SPOILER ALERT!) “The Call” is a story about how a 911 police officer responds to a lethal call. Berry plays the police officer in the 911 call center (The “Hive”) who receives the call of a teenager who is trying to avoid the hands of a home invader.

She doesn’t. She’s murdered in her little-girl bedroom, and the invader goes on about his business. Berry’s character hears everything, and is brutalized. (Some of you are getting a gut reaction right now. Good for you.)

Halle’s character is a decent human being, so is realistically depicted as being traumatized by this event.

Six months later, the assassin strikes again, and Berry’s protege  takes the call. Berry is now a trainer, and her newbie replacement can’t figure out what to do when Breslin’s character is abducted from a mall.

What follows is a tense cat and mouse game between the killer of the previous call, Berry and Breslin’s teenage character. Berry is exceptional and Breslin is really coming into her own.

It’s a tightly woven, edge of your seat tale, and very, very realistic. Breslin very nearly loses her life, as does Berry.  I had my eyes glued to the screen, and at one point found tears running down my face. What the heck?

Well, duh. I have three teenage girls. This could be any one of them. Probably has been one of yours, my precious reading audience. Why look at a story that sets your thoughts in such a negative direction?

So if your loss still gets to you, if you still feel the pinch of pain in your gut when you hear accounts of other people’s trauma, don’t go see “The Call.”

All the best, my forward looking friends.

Much love,

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

A Cascade of Divorce and the Better Man Project


Ever wonder what we can do to be better men and women? I’m sitting at my desk, pondering this question even as my heart aches for a little tyke at school.

Over the past month, seven different couples, all friends of mine , have announced their sudden divorces. Fourteen people, twenty  children, and uncountable numbers of relatives and friends are impacted by this tear in the social fabric. Another just announced, about an hour ago.

Really, I can hardly stand it.don't judge quote

As I look over the past year, the variety of relational difficulties simply boggles the mind. Of course, I see more than most, given that my business is helping families. But what ever happened to being the better man? Being the woman who rises above? Being the person to whom marriage vows actually mean something? The one who can grant your partner mercy?

I have some people I’d like you to meet in this column. Three different couples, all dear friends of mine. Then, Evan Sanders of The Better Man Project, but we’ll get to him later.

First off, Tanesa. Tanesa is Jamaican, and a wonder to behold. Her family immigrated here when she was a baby, poor as church mice. Her mother did the usual hard working immigrant things, while her dad, an acupuncturist, cleaned floors for a local Safeway. Tanesa was brilliant. She played the cello in a local orchestra, and won a full ride scholarship for med school at 17.

Tanesa is now a trauma doc, and her husband of six years is a medically incapacitated agoraphobe. In English, that means he experienced several traumatic blows to the head, which resulted in a debilitating  fear of situations that he might find hard to escape. Mitch is a great guy, and didn’t start out that way. A gung-ho financial advisor, he was cutting trees on his property up here when he fell off a ladder and knocked himself so hard on the head it took him a couple of days to wake up.

They had a baby boy at the time, who now comes to my school. Mitch cannot work for pay, his moods are unpredictable and he cannot consistently be trusted with the little guy. You can’t tell by looking at him, it often works like that with brain injured people. Still, he knows he has to fight for a normal life, and he doesn’t give up.

Many women might look at Mitch, and say to themselves “I’m 36, able bodied, can have more kids, and I certainly did not sigh up for this.” But Tanesa is tenacious. And hopeful, and committed not just to Mitch, but to the better woman she wants to be. “In health AND sickness” was what she promised, the better woman doesn’t just cut and run.

Neither did Elizabeth Ann. “Annie”, as we know her here, has an adult child with her handicapped husband Martin. Marty was a musician when they were younger, and no one really knows what went south for him. As the years went by, he became less and less predictable. His behavior became erratic, but his body was fine. He experimented with drugs, undiagnosed bipolar patients often do that.Eventually, his depression became so crippling that he left Annie for a while.worth it quote

A fine doctor at a public clinic identified what was wrong, and eventually found the cocktail of meds that helps Marty stay on an even keel. He works odd jobs and pickup work, and Annie keeps several local buildings clean and shipshape after hours. She never would have dreamed of leaving him, she loves him and her vows meant something. A better woman, to be sure.

Now meet FC. I got a call from FC’s partner today informing me that they were moving west as soon as possible, because FC had cheated. Partner’s voice shook into the phone, the betrayal and angst were palpable. Partner was blindsided. Life was good, jobs were stable, partner had no idea that FC was straying from the marital fold.

Partner was going to make FC as miserable as possible, starting with complete denial of contact with the preschooler at my school. My stomach sank. As always, the children will pay.

What’s up with this? When did “I Love You” mean “I Love You Until It Gets Hard?” Marty and Mitch have prodigious needs, to be sure. So does FC. Show me a ‘need-free’ human and I’ll show you a liar. What happened to men and women with “stout hearts?” Annie and Tanesa can’t be the only ones. FC’s partner could be one, if both sides were willing to be the better person.

It’s been two years since my husband withered and died, and I still get the exasperating “I don’t see how you do it!” exclamations. This is especially exhausting from the Christian crowd I usually run with. See, as a Christian, I believe it is the Holy Spirit that lives in my heart that gives me the strength to get up in the mornings. Lots of women in my position pull the covers up over their heads, it’s a lot safer there, after all.

work asses off quote

But ultimately it’s my choice. Mine. Mine alone. Mine to get up and meet the needs of these kids. Mine to let the God of my fathers show me what to do. Mine to sing, dance, run to the east in the morning and the west at night, and let the beauty of Creation wash over me. Mine to set my goals, and exceed them when I can.

Meet Evan Sanders of the Better Man project.

http://thebettermanprojects.com/.

Evan was one of a legion of bloggers who took an interest in my posts during my Sabbatical in a Teacup.

I backtracked to his blog, and discovered an enthusiastic young man with a burning desire to change himself for the better. Read his essays. Like many of the generation that follows mine, Evan is on a purposeful journey of self discovery.

Evan’s essays spoke to many of the reasons why I took my fractured family on the Sabbatical. Fear was a great one. As many of you know, adventure travel was an important part of our family culture.

I was paralyzed with fear that adventure travel was gone forever from our lives. I simply couldn’t handle all the details that come with planning a huge trip with five adults. I would fail somehow, and that gut-level certainty was arresting.

One thing that people like Evan like to address is the whole idea of ‘following your heart’, or ‘listening to your gut.’ There is a grain of truth to that, but largely I find that pretty funny. I think Evan and I are on the same page, but if I had listened to my gut about my job, my abilities, or many other things after Chris died, I’d be living in a cave somewhere. I have found it’s only a good idea to listen to my gut when it knows what it’s talking about.

Annie and Tanesa have very well educated ‘guts’. They slowed down. They listened, they heard their partner’s needs, then, they very deliberately chose to be the better person. I am honored to have them in my friend circle.

I love FC and FC’s partner too. They’re doing the best they can, but I wish they’d put a rein on their ‘gut’, and listen to their brains for a while. Set aside the tragedy of betrayal, and the colossal fear of rejection. Slow down, listen. You loved each other enough to make a child, what can you do to uncover what was real in your relationship. Go back to the beginning, where you loved each other with abandon, and look at that closely. Maybe, just maybe, you might find some limiting fear, and behind that the partner you once loved.

Take a risk. It’s worth it.

Much love, Evan.

Victoria