Serial Killers and Mother-Daughter Bonding Time


They're everywhere.

They’re everywhere.

So, my daughter and I just spent an hour bonding over an investigative show devoted to teenage female killers. I’m a graduate student now, pursuing a criminology degree in investigative psychology.

It’s fascinating stuff, Visitors, and I often get asked, why, at age 50, this is a course of study I want to pursue. I haven’t come up with a decent answer yet. Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that a lot of ‘watershed moments’ happened to me all at once, starting with being widowed in 2010. Friends died horribly, wrenching betrayal happened, my  mom died dramatically and suddenly. I wrote a column exploring a personal application of PTSD (Jeff Mackleby And the Art of Advanced Forgiveness) which detailed my own furtive journey into some pretty dark territory.

It in, I described what I now can recognize as a situation of predation. That is to say, “Jeff” and “Christina” were authentic predators, people who look for the vulnerable, the trusting, and who exploit them for personal gain. In short, authentic psychopaths, and I was easy prey.

I just finished a segment in my studies about psychopathy. There is a lot to write about there. The general public usually considers a ‘psychopath’ to be a knife wielding, blood soaked movie figure bent on pointless violence. The truth is a lot more chilling, and I’d like to bring some of those things to your attention later.

I am still a director of a local Christian preschool, and this course of study has sharpened my perception of my role immensely. Scholars have spent years studying how innocent babies grow up to be wreakers of havoc, and many of them have their roots in simply awful childhoods. When I go into the infant nursery in particular, I am filled with an immense sense of gratitude that our Lord has placed loving, caring people in my employ to show consistent care to these, the most vulnerable of our population.

Safety, is another enormous consideration. Dawn Hochsprung, the slain principal of Sandy Hook, has become a hero to me. She and I followed a comparable career path, and she was about my age when she confronted Adam Lanza and took a bullet for her trouble.

So many interesting aspects of this apply to all of us, Visitors, many of which I would like to bring to your attention in future days. Dawn, for example, were she allowed to have been armed, and had arms training as part of her leadership studies, might have effected a very different outcome at Sandy Hook. But for Dawn, and any other person besides the on duty School Resource Officer to bear a weapon within 1000 feet of a school would have been a violation of law. Hmmm.

Rachael, esteemed #4 child, shares an interest in extreme human behavior. She is enrolled in a dual studies course of forensic science at a local college, in addition to being a junior in high school. The video tonight provoked a lively discussion about ‘normal’ teenage girls setting aside what they know to be good and true, and taking another human life with ease.

Rereading that, I can see how many might consider this course of study to be somewhat awry. But for me? I find this immensely hopeful. Many people have terrible childhoods. Many are exposed to drugs in the womb. Many are disengaged, addicted, disenfranchised in their adulthoods. Many, my own husband included, lived with the fear of unpredictable days precipitated by an abusive parent.

Most, my dear Chris chief among them, do not turn out like this. Most go on to be decent human beings, by some measure. Most find a job, pay their bills, stagger along, even have successful relationships, and put one foot in front of the other regardless of some pretty incredible baggage.

What happened? How did ‘most’ turn out for the better? How did ‘most’ manage to discard these predictors of later trouble and turn out to be reasonably decent human beings? That’s what I want to find out.

I’ll keep you posted.

Much love,

Victoria

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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

 

 

 

 

Carolyn Jordan Newkirk 1/18/20 – 1/8/2012, One Year Later


As Fiona in “Brigadoon”  1953

So, it’s been a year since my Mom died. A massive stroke felled her one year ago today.

Funny, how quickly things seem to accelerate. I had lunch today with a dear friend of mine who had lost her mother a mere ten weeks ago. She’s also a ‘tail end’ baby boomer, born in 1964. It seems like this generation is the one riding this train of mortality, and whoa baby, would someone please show me how to get off?

No, seriously, I wouldn’t wish her back. See, my mom and dad  both loved the Lord from their youth. Being a Christian doesn’t necessarily make you nice, I’ve learned that one the hard way. But real Christians, and by that I mean the ones who have been brought to their knees by the power of love or cicumstance, those Christians often have a set of personality characteristics one can count on.

Mom was one of those.

Those of you who have been with me for a while, know that the power of story is a remarkable one. When Catherine Mallicoat of birdmartin.wordpress.com, came out to visit, I told her one of Mom’s defining stories, and Bird was moved. I thought perhaps you might be too.

Carolyn Jordan Newkirk lost her firstborn son, Jeffrey, to murder.

Jeff was a brilliant kid. My memories of him are a little vague, he was six years older than me. We have tapes of him playing by ear, with two hands, music on the piano when he was three. He was articulate, and an expert skier and Nordic jumper.

Strangely, he had many skirmishes with addictions during his twenty year life. This strikes me as odd because most of the addicts I know can trace their struggles to something. My own late husband, as you know, was molested in his family of origin, and self-medicated for several decades.

I dated a man who struggled with addictions, there is a definite addictive personality type. It often runs in families, and this is fascinating to me. But the Newkirks were a pretty boring lot, as far as those types of things are concerned. Mom had no use for alcohol, and my 92 year old dad is like me. Much more than a single drink, and the next day is wasted to a terrible headache. Lightweights, all of us.

Except for Jeff. Jeff would do just about anything to lay his hands on a mind-altering substance. During his late teen years, his addictions took over his life. One day, he didn’t come home to his apartment.

A frantic year of searching in 1979 led my parents to the discovery of his remains at the bottom of a highway ravine.  He had been thrown there like so much garbage.

If you like, you can see a picture of him at http://www.echelondata.com/clients/FOVAMP/victims/victimDetail.php?id=1177. This is a site developed specifically for families of unsolved homicide victims. I googled Jeff once out of curiosity and “Poof!”, up popped the brother I remember.

It’s funny, what tragedy will do to a woman. The death of a son, a husband, or someone so close in the family orbit can be defining. The addictive gentleman I dated once asked me if I wanted my husband’s death to be ‘defining’ to me. I thought about it, and realized that actually, tragedy can be an architect of something good in someone’s soul.

My mother was generous to a fault after Jeff died. She seemed to take in every homeless stray human that crossed her path. Beaten and abused women, mentally handicapped men, and, much to our dismay, she would often pick up hitchhiking teens. (Don’t tell, but I often do that myself. These kids get a free ride to their door, after listening to me scold them the entire time about the dangers of hitchhiking)

My mother was dramatic. This could get old after a while, and she did learn to reign it in. But she felt the pain of someone else’s problems intensely, and would do what she could to make the story turn out right.

I’m afraid I caught that one in spades. It’s hard for me to mind my own business, especially when children are in the picture, and being treated unjustly. Lucky for me I have a lot of people leaning on me to show diplomacy and tact.

When Chris was dying, and Mom so soon after, I refused to see any benefit at all their stories would have on me.

It’s still a little sensitive to talk about Chris, but with Mom, not so much. She died at 82, which by anyone’s reckoning is a good long run. She died quickly, which was a gift. Best of all, she left a remarkable legacy. The beautiful woman at the top of the page left us with a sense of resilience and generosity.

The worst happened to her, and she lived. Not only that, but she loved, reached out, and eventually thrived. She didn’t stay stuck in her grief, and I, for one, am grateful for that example. Jeffrey’s death defined her as much as Chris’s death defined me, but in many positive ways, after all.

If you like, you can enter this title in the search box at the top of the page, and see the entire essay I wrote the day after she died. The Lewis Carroll ripoff is there too, many of you seemed to like it. I am going to leave you with this link. For those of you in my generation and before, Mom could have been the next Jeannette McDonald or Shirley Jones, had she opted to take that path. Before you go to bed, read the words, and listen to this unusual, lovely voice.

One Kiss-CJN

In this year of Seventeen Ninety Two

Our conventions have been thrown all askew

And I know I’m out of date when I seek one mate

One faithful lover true

To be really in fashion today

You must have a dozen beaux in your sway

But somehow I don’t believe in the modern plan

I want to wait for just one man

(It’s more fun to love ’em all
Kiss’em all, short or tall)

I have only scheme

It’s my only dream

One Kiss, One man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow, and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world

(You’ve been reading stories of romantic glories)

(Are you growing sad for your Galahad?)

Soon my Knight may find me

Softly steal behind me

Put me on a horse

And carry me away

Laugh all you like at me

I’ll find my man, you’ll see

One kiss, one man to save it for

One love for him alone

One word, one vow and nothing more

To tell him I’m his own

One magic night within his arms

With passion’s flower unfurled

And all of my life, I’ll love only one man

And no other man in the world.

Written by Sigmund Romberg and Oscar Hammerstein II, popularized my Nelson Eddy and Janet Macdonald in 1942.

Much love to you all,

Victoria

PS, Say hello to Chris for me, Mom. Love to you both.