Death in the Back Country- The Wrenching Loss of Sam Failla


“Hey Sam! How’s it going?”

It was the end of November, and the ski season at Vail was just starting for me. Nearly two years ago two of my daughters had decided to become preschool ski instructors at Vail, Colorado. The training was pretty grueling, eight days of in class and on snow instruction, capped by several days of ‘auditing’-watching other instructors, before you were given a class of little ones to teach to ski.

My daughters came home with romping tales of little ones of all nationalities and encouraged me to join them the next year. Why not? I thought. Since their father’s death, if my children ever asked me to do something athletic or adventurous, or anything that brought us together, I would move heaven and earth to make it happen.

Sam Failla’s tousled head bent over the pizza he was currently inhaling. Two little boys sat in front of him at the cafeteria table, gazing up at Sam adoringly.

“Great, Victoria! You working?”

“Nope! Just getting my skis. How was your summer?”

“Epic! I took this awesome trip to Asia!” Sam regaled me with a hilarious account of a journey he and several other ski instructors had taken to interesting spots in Thailand, Cambodia and other engaging spots on the Far East. I listened with interest, and marveled at the youthful energy Sam exuded. The world truly was his oyster.

Sam Failla was another reason why I did this part time job at Vail. The money wasn’t great, to be sure, though the skiing was unmatched. Teaching at Vail attracts an invigorating crowd of risk-takers, boundary pushers who step outside their comfort zones. Most times, these were post graduate gap-year takers, either high school or college age.  This gang was free-wheeling and inclusive, and a lot of fun to be around.  Often, there were middle aged part timers like me, striving mightily to hide the fact that our rickety knees could usually stand up to three or four days in a row, before having to go home to ice and Advil. (God forbid the twenty-ish types should get a glimpse of THAT!)

Sam Failla was a great representation of this group.  Sam was 24, I was 53, old enough to be Sam’s mother. In the rest of the non-ski teacher world, these athletic, accomplished kids were too cool to have much to say to a different generation. Not so with Sam and his peers. Sam, in particular, was loud, jolly and energetic. He was a full timer at Vail, and jumped into his work with overflowing alacrity. I’d see him patiently encouraging kids on the smallest bunny hill, and leading a group of little ones to a mountain class, all with a giant smile under that messy hair.

We’d interact casually in the crowded lunch room, offering to watch each other’s table so the other could use the restroom, comparing notes on the snow, chuckling about the behavior of some of kids in attendance that day.

What encouraged me about Sam was his utter ease with all sorts of people on the mountain. He always had a funny word for his peers, and treated me exactly the same as his post-collegiate buddies. It was delightful to be around Sam, and frankly, gave me hope for the supposedly spoiled millennial generation. Sam was a kind and generous soul, and was truly going places. It was a pleasure to make his acquaintance.

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Rest in peace, Sam Failla.

https://www.gofundme.com/db6kw-bringsamhome

 

Online Dating and the Digital Language of Love


I have news for you, Visitors. I’ve started online dating, and it is a blast.

Nothing for OKCupid?

Nothing for OKCupid?

Now, most of you know me pretty well. I’m a committed Christian, and in my life, I take all comers. I have “normal” friends, single friends, married friends, adulterous friends, gay friends, a dear person who is an authentic transsexual,  deviant friends with every fanged addiction imaginable, and families in every single configuration you can possibly come up with. It’s very enriching.

(I model this take-all-comers attitude in my school as well.  When we admit people, we have a very directed interview, where we explain that we come from a conservative Biblical worldview. Of course, we cover the usual things-curricula, regulations, teacher qualfications, etc.  We also explain, clearly, that your preschooler will get Christmas as Jesus’ birth, Easter as his resurrection, daily prayers, Bible stories, all the things a good, solid, Christian school should provide. Choose EA or not, but know what will happen. )

I had heard about OK Cupid among some of my friends, so I decided to open an account and see what the commotion was all about. I figured there is nothing inherently unBiblical about meeting people like this,  it piqued my curiosity.

Well. Those of you familiar with meeting people this way know the drill. Fill out a profile about yourself, mark some interests, set your limits, and off you go. Gracious! One hour and 253 “likes” later (no exaggeration) I started sifting through all this information.

Good heavens alive, Visitors, what an education! I put down my professional reading for the night, and started reviewing data points.

Data point #1 : Hi! I’m Rich. Ever consider dating a younger man? Your profile looked great! (Rich, 32, teaches English at a public school in Denver)

Data point #2: Hello Beautiful!  I’m Ed. You have a calm “vibe” and I’d like to get to know you better! ( Ed, an engineer at Martin Marietta)

Data point #3: Hello, Gorgeous! I’m  Mitch! (Followed by this groaner) God was surely showing off when he made you! Care to chat? (Senior petroleum engineer at a local oil company)

I quickly activated my ‘predator sensor’ and wrote off the creepy idiots asking for intrusive information. Surprisingly, this was, oh, perhaps 20% of the total. Fewer than I would have thought.  I then wrote off the ones with obvious health problems, for reasons you can guess.

People like Rich, I shelved for further attention, more on that later. “Mitch” and “Ed” types (not their real names, of course) garnered my attention. Why would professional, educated men resort to something like online dating? Are we desperate, boys? (Ooops, pots calling kettles black, came to mind)

So, I gave some thought to this. See, in my case, meeting like-minded, Christian, male buddies is nigh on impossible. I work with a team of delightful women. Middle aged (mostly),  white, devoted-to-their jobs women. All of you know that my dad stroked a while ago, so I gladly take him to HIS church, full of gentle grey heads. I go to grad school with hard-boiled (usually married) cops or fresh-faced twentyish grad students.

Is it too much to ask to hang out  with someone my own age? HA! Not on OK Cupid. This whole thing is just fascinating. As I continued to peruse the data points, I discovered my vocabulary to be lacking. How about these newly-coined words-

Sapiosexual- Someone who views intelligence as the most attractive characteristic. (OK, that’s a pretty cool attribute)

Demisexual- Someone who can only be sexually attracted to someone with whom they have developed a strong emotional bond.  (What? Isn’t it supposed to be like that?)

Omnisexual-(synonym to Pansexual)- Someone who is attracted sexually to both genders.  (Oh, brother, how convenient.)

This exercise in vocabulary development led to a whole new world of ‘blue’ vocabulary that I can’t possibly relate to you, Visitors, without censoring this essay into nonsense.

At any rate, I whittled down this tidal wave of interest into a few likely candidates, so far.

“Rich” piqued my interest immensely. What!  He’s 32! Mommy issues? I won’t lie about my age as a matter of pride. I could be your mother, boy!

Seriously!

Seriously!

What followed was an utterly charming conversation with an athletic young man who actually likes introducing middle schoolers to good literature. Turns out he was at a recent 21 Pilots concert the same night I was, and had just as much fun. This light and fluffy guy actually likes the focus older women possess. Hilarious!

“Ed” was genuine, if a bit of a downer. A parent of adult kids, Ed is four years divorced, and striking out on his own, relationally. Fair enough.

“Mitch” is Armenian, and speaks more graciously than he writes, thank heaven. He’s an attendee of an Armenian Orthodox church, and invited me to a service. I think I shall go!

All of this simply cracks me up, Visitors. The communication skills required in this kind of relationship-building are immense. We only get words until we talk on the phone, and even that is incomplete. Nothing, absolutely nothing, beats in-person communication, and that’s coming next. I’ll keep you posted.

With great hilarity,

Victoria

PS- I love you all, and I can anticipate the cautions a mile off. Remember, I am safety-minded to the point of paranoia. Meeting in crowded, well-lit spots? Yep! Telling someone where I am and when I’ll be back? Got it covered! Applying all of my newly-acquired background check skills to these guys? You betcha!

🙂 V

On Medical Doctors and Other Superior Beings


images-2

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

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

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

Bird Goes On Vacation


Greetings from a high country Starbucks, fellow Visitors. I’d like to take a minute and introduce you to some of the people who have enriched my world tremendously over the past year. Conventional wisdom says to keep these things short, apparently you people don’t have the patience to actually read so much, with images bombarding you from every venue.

I have faith in you though. I think, somewhere, we are still a nation of readers, just getting buried under Facebook, handheld movies, and High Def GPS devices in our cars.

Meet Catherine Mallicoat. Prior to last Thursday, Catherine and I had never laid eyes on each other. She was my very first “like” when I started victoriasvisits, and I took an interest in this little whippet from the beginning.

We struck up quite a correspondence, and through some similar life choices, came to lean on each other quite a bit. Catherine does the world an enormous public service writing about the raw reality of losing loved ones to methamphetamine. This scourge has raced through her family, decimating relationships and finances, and is simply no respecter of persons.
Catherine has an iron constitution, not a speck of judgement for the idiotic choices I often make, and is absolutely hilarious. I’d encourage you to go back to the beginning, and read this one from the start. Much love, Victoria

Everyone Has A Story... Again

Like probably all the other bloggers in the world, I intend to write a year round-up piece

tomorrow. It’s probably going to be my masterpiece because let’s face it — This year was packed full of drama for me. Luckily, I’m finally able to find some things to laugh about despite the upheaval my life experienced. It would have really blown if the year had ended in October, right?

One of the things that is helping me end the year on a better note is that I got to take a vacation this week to Colorado. In a move that is completely unlike me, I decided to take up a fellow blogger’s invitation to come visit her in her home. I have a lot of friends I’ve developed through blogging, and I am blessed by invitations to visit occasionally. Up until now, I’ve politely declined because in all honesty, I’ve…

View original post 1,504 more words

Just Who the Heck Are You, Anyway? On Affleck, Clooney, Mendez and Argo


    So I just got back from the opening night of Argo with some friends. Ben Affleck and George Clooney produced the thing, and Affleck was the star. No spoiler alert, suffice it to say it was an edge-of-your-seat affair about a Latino CIA spook who was instrumental in the release of the hostages during the 1980 Iran hostage crisis.

English: Cover movie poster that was created b...

English: Cover movie poster that was created by the CIA as part of their cover legend. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Go see this thing. Affleck has made a successful transition from man-candy actor to legitimate director, and perhaps, most astonishingly a patriot! In the liberal Hollywood establishment, this is amazing.

I love a good movie that makes you think. Lately, those of you who have been with me for a while, know that I’ve been ruminating a lot lately about people’s character. The “Chandler” posts, after I stopped bleeding, were actually pretty instructive. What kind of person do I want around me, anyway? Who are you?

In Argo, the “Tony Mendez” character kept reassuring these hostages ‘It’s what I do, and I’ve never left anyone behind.’ No one asked him to risk his life to be murdered by crazed Iranians, it was what he did. Over and over, he drilled the hostages in procedure, and persistence, and teeth-rattling bravery. It was what he did.

Recently, some very kind friends have made some comments to me about my persistence in the face of religious persecution by the state of Colorado. I don’t have the irrevocable hard copies in my hand, so I can’t get quite specific yet.  Suffice it to say the government of Colorado doesn’t like faith-based preschools, and did it’s very best to eradicate mine.

No. It’s what I do. No. I can’t stand a bully. No. I will NOT allow bullying in any form, even from the government. No. NO! The outcome of this battle was never assured. I could have lost just as easily as won.  I have found that character is not often influenced by win/lose selfish scenarios.  I WOULD NOT allow something that’s just wrong to happen, if I have any say in the matter. Even if I lost, I would lose with my side of the street clean, no regrets, nothing done differently.

Melanie Curtis, my business and life coach, is constantly encouraging me to a higher self, a better, more loving, more aware place to be. During the entire preschool ordeal, she helped me clarify why I was doing this, and how far I was willing to go. Would I, like Jefferson, pledge (work) lives, fortunes, and  sacred honor?

Hell, yes. It’s the principal of the thing, dammit. I have lost wages for nearly four months. My teachers didn’t get a raise. We couldn’t go to the annual teachers conference that I look forward to every year. My character and motivation was impugned at every opportunity by desk bound critics held hostage by their own anti- school choice, anti-family agendas. My teachers were subject to extreme, humiliating inspections and questioning that government based preschools simply never get.

No. I would rather lie down on a train track than give up what’s so important to me. During the whole ‘Chandler’ ordeal, I often heard the refrain “People change.” Actually, not so. It’s more like people are revealed. When the chips are down, when bravery, money, self-control, persistence, unselfishness, kindness or other hard things are required, you get to see what people are made of. I find if you frame it like that, I am actually thankful for some of the trials Jesus promises us. You really get a lot of clarity.

One of my companions tonight was someone who has proven herself to be in my  trusted inner circle. “Rebecca” has a serious, nagging, constant health issue. It prevents her from driving, and doing other activities of daily life.

Yet during the hardest part of Chris’s cancer ordeal, Rebecca’s  Godly character held like a steady, bright flame. She babysat my kids, cleaned my house, had her kids help steady mine, with never a single complaint or sigh of impatience. Rebecca is a gift. In a somewhat frail package, Rebecca has the character of a rock.

Some Christians say hard times are coming. I’m not the apocalyptic type, but these days, I wonder. Who would have thought I’d nearly be driven out of business because of my faith? I wonder.

I  do wonder. But I stand firm. With the help of God and my trusted countrymen, because it’s what we do.

Much love,

Victoria

On Best Friends, Boy Friends and Bitter Betrayals.


This has been the week for relationship stories around the Lierheimer household. I thought that since three of the kids moved out to go to college, my life would become relatively drama free. Such is not the case.

Now, as far as my children are concerned, the Bible says that “Children are a Gift from the Lord.” Psalm 127:3. I have found this to be, hilariously, the case for twenty years. My kids just crack me up.

I wish I could figure out how to post the pictures, but Christopher is wild about living off campus at college. He’s cooking, and keeps sending me these food pictures. Last night was a plate of steak, baked potato and string beans. Caption” I’m moving up in the world, Ma, you raised me well.” Ridiculous, and funny. The very first one was the “Cheeseburger of Independence” when he moved to CSU. It was a lumpy little thing, with two strips of bacon sticking out like antlers. He shot a picture of it for me : “Mom, you know why this cheeseburger is so good? It tastes like INDEPENDENCE!” I need a poster of that one.

So the girls call me, and tell me about all their adventures. Great shots of very friendly young men and women, and all kinds of tales about college. One of my girls actually admitted it was on her ‘goal list’ to perhaps find a husband! Yikes! Ha, it’s all good. My children have excellent judgement, and aren’t yet burdened down with truckloads of baggage that cloud their vision.

I have discovered that excellent judgement is not always the case in middle age. Most of you who have been with me for a while, know that I’ll do anything not to stay ‘stuck’. Stuck in grief, stuck in loss, stuck in negative thinking, anger or other poor choices. Toward that end, I have felt the need to increase my friend circle as my children get older. You know about Mission Hills, my dance coaching, my other various classes, and of course, life at Evergreen Academy. I am also evaluating the possibility of a doctoral program at DU.

It was during one of these venues that I met a young lady named Chandler Proditor. She was much younger than I am, but Chandler and I hit it off quickly. We had similar interests, drive, goals in life, and I found her to be hilarious.

Grrrl power

As the months went by, I grew to love Chandler like a sister. We would chat almost every day, and the interest was quite mutual. At the time, I was dating an older gentleman named Terrance. Chandler and Terrance were in the same class and knew each other.

After a several months, I realized eventually that Terrance was not the man for me  .  Nothing particularly dramatic, just various reasons, the usual suspects, the usual baggage that middle age brings. I called a time out after about four months, and when we came back together, Terrance and I agreed that there were parts of the relationship we really liked, but that romance was out of the question.

What would it be like to love each other platonically, to look forward to the occasional coffee, to support each other’s life endeavors as heartfelt friends? Terrance was up for it, and so was I.

As I struggled to make sense of this new phase, I confided every step to Chandler. Chandler assured me that she was utterly ‘safe’, had zero interest in Terrance, and that I could confide everything to her without fear of judgement or reprisal. Beside, said Chandler, it was “Girl Code.” Best friends simply don’t date each other’s exes. Period.

Best friends, forever?

What a relief. Chandler was a completely safe haven that I could tell all of my silly middle aged  hopes and dreams to. Early  on, questions like “Maybe Terrance would work out. Maybe his issues would diminish, maybe he would accept the feelings I was developing for him, maybe his expressions of appreciation and support were genuine.” Chandler was one of the kindest, most easygoing women I knew. It was a fun, very  mutual relationship.

Imagine my surprise when I found out that Chandler had been dating my soon to be ex, a month before Terrance and I decided to move into another phase. I couldn’t believe it.  Everything, every single thing she said about relationships turned out to be false. I felt the  the bitterest, most foolish kind of betrayal. What a moron I was to place my trust so easily.

Oddly, I found it hard to blame Terrance. He deserves it, as it turns out that he has Chandler convinced that starting over at midlife is a desirable thing for him.  Hoo, boy, it’s like a trite storyline to a bad chick flick. Lord, what fools we mortals be.

I confronted Chandler. I had to. Strange, because at that point, I had realized with utter certainty that being romantically linked to Terrance anymore was just some place I didn’t want to be. Some issues are too entrenched to conquer without divine intervention. Seriously. Not to say that I didn’t wish to have Terrance in my friend circle, when he’s emotionally available, he’s a great guy, and a sterling example of a good friend.

But who was this woman? Who was this person I liked to see coming? Who’s calls I looked forward to picking up?

What kind of woman says one thing to your face, and turns and does the most betraying,  damaging thing she could think of the next moment? I was simply dumbfounded. I viewed Chandler as a giver, a kindhearted soul who was good with children and small animals, and eminently trustworthy. I still can barely find the words. Everything important I believed about her was false.  Now I had the crushing burden to forgive her, or live in Anger Land forever.

Well, that depression lasted a few days, and I am over it. I am blessed with a very protective circle of friends all over the world. I relayed this story to my Chinese sister.

“Vickey, I think these are friend jerks. You need to discard them.”

“Victoria, don’t beat yourself up to much. You knew her for a few months. I had a friend in college for four YEARS who ended up sleeping with my boyfriend.”

“Vic, my good friend sc***** me over for 500 bucks. One minute I was her best friend, the next and evil b****” who wouldn’t share. People are unpredictable.”

Wow, true the last one, especially. I discovered through the loss of Chandler, that constancy is critically important to me. Chandlers excuse was that she had ‘changed’, “Terrance made her laugh” and she was ‘human’. Wow, if being a trustworthy friend is so easily discarded, what else will Chandler discard? She was actually the opposite of ‘safe’.

Losing Chandler has made me reexamine my own commitment to the character God wants us to have. It’s found it the verses describing the fruits of God’s holy spirit:

Against these things there is no law. Paul’s letter to the Galations, chapter 5, verse 22

That’s what I want to be, if that’s what will help me forgive Chandler.

Much love, Victoria