The Education Of Victoria Faith

My firstborn daughter graduated yesterday, Visitors, and it rocked.

Victoria Faith was the smallest of my biological crew, weighing at at 6 lbs 12 oz. She had the biggest head of the bunch, though, and makes a habit out of apologizing to me every birthday. This running joke still cracks me up.

That head proved to be stuffed with brains, as this kid talked at about eight months, showed remarkable fine motor coordination early, and not an iota of interest in walking until she was nearly 2. Early childhood specialists know that could be cause for concern, so we had that enormous head scanned to check for problems, anomalies and incubating aliens. Nothing out of whack, just a cantaloupe held up on a fragile neck-stalk, and we had to be careful until she grew into it.

Grad Cap Fits

It normalized, eventually.

Victoria Faith was, of course, one of four reasons why I felt the burning desire to start Evergreen Academy. As most of you know, Visitors, Jefferson County Public Schools is a flaming train wreck, and is getting worse as time goes by. (More on that later)

Jeffco was in bad shape in the nineties, and I simply could not abide the idea of sacrificing my children on that particular altar. Victoria Faith was a case in point. When she was three, she had a preschool teacher that went a little overboard on phonics instruction for preschoolers. Three year olds should not have direct phonics instruction, and I was constantly correcting that particular teacher. That said, Victoria Faith made these mysterious synaptic connections, and one day when she was four, Chris caught her reading Curious George out loud to herself. Fluently. With expression.

Faith’s intellectual development proceeded by leaps and bounds after that. I knew what was going on, and as with all my kids, I handpicked their public school teachers when they entered public high school. Largely, Faith’s public school teachers were a good influence on her, and Chris and I mitigated the influence of the bad ones.

Salutatorian Faith

She rocked the Salutatorian stage.

Chris and I started saving for our children’s post-high school education after they got their Social Security numbers. (With four of them, we knew we better start early. ) When Chris died,  all of the kids really dialed in on the financial arrangements for college.  All of them could see me working hard for that goal, and were hugely appreciative when Poppa wrote the occasional check for that purpose. All of them stayed on task, but Faith’s path was the most torturous, in my opinion. THREE sections of Organic Chemistry? Organic Chemistry FaithThat says “Orgo III Reaction Guide – Wheeee!”.  (I have very sarcastic children.)

Jeep picture with Chris

Victoria Faith was about thirteen when this picture was taken. Chris was diagnosed shortly after.

Chris left us when Victoria Faith was sixteen, and that considerable brain power was knocked cleanly off the rails. Victoria Faith, like all of my children, was devastated.

I have never gotten permission from my children to detail  here what they experienced when they lost their father. Life was shattered for all of them. They loved their dad. Life, though, has this tendency to go on.

Faith End of Freshman Year

Victoria Faith struggled through her first year at DU. She made it.

Fem in Stem pic

She developed her own interests, and her own delightful friend group.

Robin and Faith

Distinctive Thesis Award -Faith





She made a wonderful, wonderful connection with this woman, Dr. Robin Tinghitella. Dr. Tinghitella  is a PH.D primary investigator at DU’s Tinghitella Lab, where like minded-scientists study rapid evolutionary change in organisms such as crickets and sticklefish. ( With Robin’s rigorous review, Victoria Faith earned a Distinctive UndergraduateThesis award.

All of this with me providing the most minimal, diminishing guidance. Visitors, those of you who , like me, have been visited with loss, remember the days when it seemed like nothing would ever change? Loss is here. It is defining. It rains on my days, it deepens my nights. I will not see the clear light of day anytime soon, maybe not ever.

Mom and Faith Graduation

Faith in auditorium






Things change, Visitors.

Things change for the better.


Like a friend of mine once said – “What are you going to do with it now? ”

Faith and Mom Walking

I’ll keep you posted.

Much love,


“Sex Is Not An Egalitarian Pleasure Party”


I  wonder if my kids will recognize innocent lovemaking someday.

I wonder if my kids will even recognize innocent lovemaking someday.


Hmm. Well, that one certainly got my attention. Most of you know that my three older kids are in college now, and they all  come back with things that constantly startle and amaze. My older daughter is blossoming into quite a feminist, and is walking a line between frothing rabidness and downright insightfulness. (It’s actually pretty funny, she’s self aware enough to call herself trite. )

Still, I listen to her like I did over lunch today, and can’t quite believe what I hear.  We discussed this issue today. The quote titling my column today came from a two year old column by one Jared Wilson, a blogger for an organization called “The Gospel Coalition.” Mr. Wilson wrote a column for the Coalition entitled “The Polluted Waters of 50 Shades of Grey.” (He has since taken the column down.) In it, he quotes another author -Doug Wilson, who wrote in his book Fidelity: What it Means to be a One-Woman Man:

“Because we have forgotten the biblical concepts of true authority and submission, or more accurately, have rebelled against them, we have created a climate in which caricatures of authority and submission intrude upon our lives with violence.

When we quarrel with the way the world is, we find that the world has ways of getting back at us. In other words, however we try, the sexual act cannot be made into an egalitarian pleasuring party. A man penetrates, conquers, colonizes, plants. A woman receives, surrenders, accepts.This is of course offensive to all egalitarians, and so our culture has rebelled against the concept of authority and submission in marriage. This means that we have sought to suppress the concepts of authority and submission as they relate to the marriage bed.”

Now just sit with me for a second.  I have trouble getting over my revulsion about the words ‘conquers, colonizes and plants.’ Much less the violating implications of ‘surrenders and accepts.’

Rachel Held Evans,  an Egalitarian Christian blogger, barely restrains her wrath from these men. I’ll excerpt what she said shortly.

Apparently, there are labels to be had here. The Gospel Coalition types, as I understand them, call themselves “complementarians.” That seems to mean that they accept Americanized-(italics mine) gender roles as God ordained. Men are in authority over all things, women are to submit.

Egalitarians seem to reject this, and accept roles with more liberality. As far as sex is concerned, it kind of boggles my mind that this is even a debate. Here is what Rachel Held Evans had to say: (

According to this post, sex is just another avenue through which a man must exert his authority over woman. As with everything else, the man is the boss and the woman is the subordinate. Wilson contrasts this “God-ordained” relationship of authority and submission to that of an “egalitarian pleasure party,” which I can only assume refers to a sexual relationship characterized by mutual pleasure, mutual authority, mutual submission, and mutual respect—which sounds a lot more desirable to me than being conquered and colonized. 

Now, Ms. Evans continues with lengthly reference to Song of Songs, the first chapter, where she describes the Shulamite woman as going out, finding her husband, and initiating the joy of sex with a willing partner. In First Corinthians 7:3-4 the Apostle Paul also teaches about the mutuality of the marriage bed.

I don’t label myself as anything but Scriptural, but I find myself landing with Ms. Evans on this one. How on earth is there anything but mutuality in the marriage bed, as taught in Scripture? Gracious.

Really, to me, I don’t care for any of this theological bickering, only inasmuch as it applies to the people I love. I must say, though, I am concerned. As my children fly out of the nest, they float through a lot of this relational nonsense. Fortunately for me, I was raised in a household that valued ‘hiding God’s word in my heart’ and not much else. It helped a lot when I met Chris, who had been blown about by all sorts of feel good teaching. None of that helped heal the hole in his heart from an abusive family dynamic. Only leaning on the eternal, unchangeable, healing of God’s spirit set him free.

My prayer for my children, as for you, is that we continue to find solid, baggage-free, Scriptural teaching that is not viewed through the lens of the culture or fad of the day. That we continue to dig through the treasure of Scripture and find out what God has to say about matters of the heart, rather than have someone do our thinking for us. is a great place to start. I have great faith in your ability to think, Visitors,  and Biblegateway has a great parallel feature where you can look up what you are interested in, find several versions of scripture, and start asking yourself the important questions. Then go to your pastor, or write me even, and let’s figure some of this stuff out together.

Love to you all,


(Note, Jared Wilson has since apologized for the content of his 2012

Doug Wilson stands firm.

Life, Death and Sandwich Mothering

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

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

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

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

Can't put 94 candles on that!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Aroo! Down we go!

Aroo! Down we go!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,


The “Allure” of American Excess

“Give them bread and circuses and they will never revolt.”

This famous phrase is attributed to the  first century Roman poet Juvenal. In context, Juvenal is displaying his contempt for the slide of contemporary Romans into a culture of decadence, rather than historical political involvement. This could be interpreted as ‘the richer and more distracted the citizens feel, the less trouble they’ll cause.’

This is utterly fascinating to me, as a single parent trying to guide these four kids into responsible adulthood.

Gaze upon this mountainous thing with me, for a moment-

This is the biggest cruise ship on the planet, currently. It's size is eclipsed only by a single aircraft carrier and another oil tanker.

This is the biggest cruise ship on the planet, currently. It’s size is eclipsed only by a single aircraft carrier and another oil tanker.

The craft next to it is a cruise ship from the “Princess” line, and we are docked side by side at Saint Thomas, USVI.

Really, it’s just sort of staggering, don’t you think?I find myself whistling “Down in the Valley” when I walk between ships when they are docked. I mean, I can barely see the sky.

This thing is so gigantic I’m mindful of things like BASE jumps and rappelling down mountainsides when I walk beside it.

So, a bit of history. When Chris and I started our parenting journey, we decided that we didn’t want our children to be happy, we wanted them to be good. Really “Happy” is such an first world notion. I don’t give a plugged nickel if my children are ‘happy’. Just the word is insipid and annoys me. Any parent with more than two brain cells to rub together can get that ‘happy’ is fleeting, and ‘good’ is forever. Why? “Happy” can change if I trip over a shoelace and break my wrist. (True story)

But “Good” lasts. “Good” takes risks. “Good” says to the hurting woman at the well, ‘Yes, you can have any extra that I don’t need. My children are fed and clothed, I have a surplus, it’s yours.’

“Good” looks at the destitute cancer victim and says “Of course, you can stay with me. Yes, you may use my things, and get whatever measure of peace you can find to rebuild some strength for this battle you are waging.”

“Good” says to the college student “Think! You have a magnificent brain! Weigh what your professors tell you, form your OWN thoughts and convictions, develop your OWN identity! You can do this. ”

“Good” looks at it’s children and says “Cause trouble. Don’t be distracted by bread and circuses. Stick up for the rights of those who have less power than you. Question your peers, don’t go with the affluent flow.”

So, what are we doing here? Really, it’s kind of hilarious. Here’s one reason: “Traveling Feet”

I want these kids to have a sense of wonder, and wanderlust. The world is a magnificent place, and they can make it better.

I want these kids to have a sense of wonder, and wanderlust. The world is a magnificent place, and they can make it better.

We took a day trip in Nassau to snorkel a spot called “Rainbow Reef.” There’s wild country under the surface of the waves, and these mountain children rarely see it.

Here’s another reason. You folks remember my brother selling his manuscript “The Old Man and the Harley ” to Thomas Nelson a couple of years back? (Go to Amazon and get it, it’s great. )

Tradition and identity. Riding Harleys is a wonderful part of John and Dad’s history. How cool to honor that like this?

John and Dad got a grin out of this one!

John and Dad got a grin out of this one!

This is emblematic. As parents, we forget that we ask a lot out of our kids. She's weary, and so are the others.

This is emblematic. As parents, we forget that we ask a lot out of our kids. She’s weary, and so are the others.

So here we are on this towering shrine to excess. The Allure is a techological marvel, It holds several thousand passengers, and over two thousand service personnel.

It’s like nothing I’ve ever seen. The service is impeccable, the food superb, the shows of the highest quality, and the staff seems to be either authentically friendly or extremely well trained.

Our first day was in Nassau, Bahamas. We chose to spend it largely on another boat, speeding out to a good local dive spot.

All of my kids are experienced divers, and have been snorkeling since about age 5, so this was nothing new. It’s funny, I could see them chomping to be let loose to explore the boundary waters, but they could see that would likely tick off the people who’s responsibility it was to keep them safe.

“Safe” is as much of an irritant to my kids as it is to me. I think it was Lucy who once asked Mr. Beaver if Aslan the Lion was ‘safe’ (The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe, C.S. Lewis) “Of course not. ” replied Mr. Beaver. “But Aslan is good.”

Exactly. If I can teach my kids, in the middle of all this opulence, that ‘safe’ is not the equivalent of ‘good’, I will have continued to succeed in my parenting.

On this trip so far,  I  continue to have undistracted talks with the self-directed young adults these kids are becoming. It’s a beautiful thing.

Yep, that's rum punch you see in their hands. In the VI the drinking age is 18, and what a great way to get them to display any mysteries this drug might have for the.

Yep, that’s rum punch you see in their hands. In the VI the drinking age is 18, and what a great way to get them to display any mysteries this drug might have for them. Coke for Ray, of course.

I think the best reason to be here has to do with identity formation. Now is a critical time for all these kids to figure out who they are. The death of Chris was a terrible blow to this process, and it’s a very real lack.

So I cast around mainly for time. When I am at home, the demands on my time are pretty big. My job, my sick dad, and Rachael being at home are my main time expenditures, and it’s OK. But, with four kids, it’s pretty much an odds game that someone is going to need some parental input, right this instant.

Running a family is definitely a two person job.

But it is what it is, and I run around finding as much undistracted time to pour into these kids as I can. It helps.

Here are some of the knotty problems to untangle:

Faith is a junior this quarter. Yes, she just graduated last May, but DU finally processed all her honors, AP and additional collegiate coursework. She also obtained a research fellowship with a doctoral student. Med school is screaming down the tracks.

Christopher is really into his construction management studies. Many of the major companies offer internships around the country. Take one in some other part of the US, or part of the globe, for six months or so?

Abi might transfer to Savannah or Manhattan next year. This kid is remarkable, but that’s a big step, and she’s nervous about being away from everything she knows.

Rachael is just taking these first steps, and is dealing with a culture at EHS that frowns upon accomplishment. How to help her without transmitting my own cynicism toward American public school?

If you’re a person of faith, pray for me. This is a ton of work. If you’re my friend, buy me a Starbucks. 🙂

If you’re a single parent, shoot me back some advice, as soon as you can. I could use it!

Saint Maarten tomorrow!

Much love,



Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Eleven. Who Doesn’t Love the Louvre?

Raise your hand if a piece of artwork has ever truly moved you. I mean really, brought you to tears, made you laugh, made you think or stopped you in your tracks. OK, GO!

Anyone? Anyone at all? No one? Ferris? Ferris Beuller? No, seriously, it’s OK. I never appreciated art until I was forced to take an elective in ‘Art Appreciation’ at DU. I thought it was a fluff course, but it was one of those unexpected game changers.

After that quarter I gained a new appreciation for what we humans need to let our imaginations take flight. Michelangelo, Raphael, and Da Vinci took on a whole new meaning as a very patient professor from DU’s school of Art and Art history explained the meaning of themes, terms and the cultural context of many very important works.

I mean, think about it. Imagine, if you will, life without the constant influx of images and data we have streaming at us every single day of our lives. Imagine, instead, standing in line in Rome to pay your penny to see this:

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper.

There are uncountable versions of this scene of Jesus turning the water in to wine at the wedding supper. Yep, that’s Rachael’s cute little head. 

I get the biggest kick out of this one though, because if you really study it, you notice all kinds of interesting details. Like this one, a detail of Jesus’ face:

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

A couple of things. First off, he just seems bored silly to me! Secondly, a brunette, fair-skinned Jesus? HA!

If you Google  this Raphael, and get a bigger and better shot, you’ll notice that he set this “Water into Wine” picture in the context of 15th century gentry. I find this to be hilarious. On the left, are all sorts of bejewelled upper class. On the right, a few peons are allowed at the table. To Jesus’ right, you see Mother Mary, presumably dropping the hint that the guests are complaining the bar is running dry.

All of his works were commissioned, of course, so the man had obligations. He had to make his patrons look good, and make Jesus seem like part of the nobility. As I went through the exhibition with the girls, the various versions of Jesus really jumped out at me. One, a gentle looking boy with a staff. Another, a very wise looking baby gazing adoringly at Mary. (How come mine never gazed adoringly at me? Wait, no, they did if I had a cookie in my hand.) Another was even blonde!

Ha! Can you imagine? In America, the real flesh and blood Jesus would be stopped at the airport, pulled into an interview room, strip searched and profiled as an Arab terrorist. I mean, really.

Still though, you had to give it to these men. Typical Italians at the time travelled very little. They had few diversions, and devotion to Jesus was chief among them. Looking at these marvelous pictures no doubt gave them conversation for weeks. Here’s one that especially blew my mind.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It's called 'The Sacrifice at Lystra' and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed.

This thing is a TAPESTRY. Incredible! It’s called ‘The Sacrifice at Lystra’ and shows when Peter and Paul heal a cripple. (Far left corner) The passersby mistake them for gods and try to offer them sacrifices. They get miffed, they want to give the glory to God, not men. Right on. 

I can hardly imagine that. Right beside this enormous piece of fabric which decorated one of the apartments at the Vatican, was Raphael’s ‘cartoon’ of this piece. A ‘Cartoon’ is basically the painting, then given to the weavers, who wove this painting into a piece of material. With thread and things. I can hardly wrap my mind around that kind of skill.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

Raphael, was, well, just terrific.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.

15th century marble sculpture just fascinates me. I think the only thing more beautiful is the human soul. And this goofy trio, of course.








Raphael was a genial, popular painter who had a large studio and a devoted following. He supposedly died of a fever gained from too many (eh-hem) ‘amorous pursuits’ at 37. That was youngish, even 500 years ago!

Master Da Vinci painted the cheerful Lisa Giocondo, or La Jaconde, and she seemed almost anticlimatic, compared to these giant rooms full of master artworks.

She seems like a cheerful sort.  Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

She seems like a cheerful sort. Apparently she was happily married, and had a child before this picture was commissioned.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.

This is the entrance to the Louvre. At first glance, it looks grotesquely out of place. But once inside, it all seems to work.









Overall, though, it was an exhausting, but wonderful break.

Part of the point of Sabbatical in a Teacup is to find out what there is in the world that fascinates me still. A day at the Louvre is really one of the most relevant things for a person like me.

See, when I am in my usual environs, I notice things. I’ve been a teacher for a long time now, and things like distances have  changed during the 26 years I’ve been teaching.

Distance between ignorance and knowledge. It seems to be harder to get kids to really ‘know’ something now. I mean to internalize and benefit by something, like a piece of artwork.

Distance between loved ones is another. It’s hard to hold someone’s hand if it has an iphone in it, for example.

Paradoxically, distance between cultures has both shortened and lengthened. I can call China right now for pennies. I can step outside onto the Rive Gauche right now and find an all night cafe and write.

But no one will bother me with the impenetrable screen up. I will be left alone, and the distance between me and that grandmotherly French woman at the table next to me will seem enormous.

But put away the screens, and even leave my purse at the hotel. Wrap up in a pashmina scarf, or three, and stick some Euros in my pocket. Grab a kid or two, and see if we can’t make ourselves understood to the French cabbie.

After a few minutes of pidgin French, an elderly gentleman cabbie slowly explained to me, in both English and French, that he could take me to the Quartier Latin for a cinema, and that he had family in Colorado Springs, and what was the capital of Colorado, and did I like Paris.

Poof! Distance eradicated. I think I see a dissertation in there somewhere.

To be continued. Train to Nice tomorrow.

Much love,




Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Nine, it must be Paris. On Trans Women, Drinking Chocolate and Talking Sexuality.

So here I sit on the left bank of the river Seine. I can actually see blue sky, and leave my jacket open, so I know I’m not in London. We are slowly unclenching, my girls and I, we slept in until ten thirty this morning, and then saw this.

The south rose window of Notre Dame

The south rose window of Notre Dame

It was worth most of the day to go to Notre Dame. Really, Catholics have some incredible history in their cathedrals. Just thinking about all the scaffolding needed to build these enormous vaulted ceilings makes my head spin. It’s nearly 850 years old, and still standing! Sure, a number of restorations, but remarkable nonetheless.

We then found an entire street next to ours, that was simply several huge blocks of art galleries. I would have been drawn and quartered had I taken pictures, so leave it to say my desire for new artwork in my home far exceeds my budget. Fun to look, though.

Dinner, and then this.

The Eiffel tower, during the evening light show.

The Eiffel tower, during the evening light show.

Who can resist? There is something special about La Tour Eiffel. We went around nine o’clock, when the crowds were minimal and the view still superb.

What was really fun though, was the perpetual search for drinking chocolate on the way back. Now, after Cambridge, we have been completely spoiled for hot chocolate. or ‘chocolate chaud’ here. We found a little shop there, where for one pound seventy, you got a little pot of this marvelous, thick concoction topped with real whipped cream. Gracious, non of this nasty, powdery just-add-water stuff will ever do again. So we keep looking, my girls and I.

We passed a gelato shop, and had high hopes. When we were about to enter, I was startled by the appearance of a genuine trans woman coming toward me. He was wearing a bright purple tutu, red leggings, boots, a wig like Mom used to wear, and a profound five oclock shadow. It was one of those rare times I was rendered speechless.

“Girls!” I hissed, after he was out of earshot. “Did you see that?” The girls erupted into laughter.

“Duh! Geez, Mom! Was that the first trannie you’ve seen this trip? We’ve seen at least six!”

“Well,” I stumbled around. “Yes, I guess it was. I so want to give him a makeover. Nana had a wig like that!” I giggled. “And a purple tutu? Doesn’t he have a sister?”

“Wow! Judge much?” my liberal college age girls taunted. Actually, not at all. Jesus is the only one who can change people’s hearts, I wouldn’t even try. But a purple tutu?

In Paris, I’ve noticed that same sex couples are much freer than in the US. Over the years, I’ve taken a lot of slack for what some people might call a liberal attitude toward that sort of sexuality.

I find though, that the proof of something can often be found in one’s children. I don’t find sexual sin to be any different than anything else. Let’s be clear, the Bible is quite specific about homosexuality. As it is about gluttony, strife, envy, murder, and my all time favorite, gossip.

So Chris and I trained our children accordingly. Jesus didn’t die twice for the gay man, any more than he did the addict or the angry man. We’ve had a lot of time to talk about all sorts of things on this trip, and it’s really fun to get to know my girls in their near-adult incarnations.

As college freshman, they are subject to the antics of a lot of near-adults in their dorms. Sexual exploration, alcohol abuse, and all kinds of random behavior are seen by them on a regular basis. They’ve both developed a remarkably sensitive ‘gaydar’, for example. A compassionate one, too.

As I listen to them talk about their gay friends, I find I can drop some of the jaundice I’ve developed over the years toward some of the more rabid members of that community. I was raised conservative Baptist, remember, and many of my leaders had a special contempt reserved for gay folks.

It’s funny though, my own mother was a great counter example. Raised extremely conservative Grace Bretheren, she didn’t see a movie or play cards until she was 21.

Yet here are some great “Nana Quotes.”

“Vickey, Diana is coming over for dinner. Now, don’t tell your dad, but she’s a homosexual and she’s bringing her friend.”

“Vickey, Vickey! Listen to me. Don’t tell your dad, but your piano teacher is getting a divorce because he’s gay. His boyfriend is very nice, and Milton and Betty are still great friends. But don’t tell your dad, he just doesn’t understand.”

And on and on. Little bitty Nana, friends with everyone, no matter what their issues. Sound familiar? I bet Jesus would have done the same thing.

So I stand on the sidelines and watch. I admire the gay men walking arm in arm, securely wrapped in knotted scarves and impeccably dressed. I go to a vintage clothing shop with Abi, and admire a pair of leggy French women, obviously partners, trying on hats.

I listen to my daughters talk about “Gay Tam” and “Lesbian Sal” without an ounce of judgement in their voices. I hear them talk about asking everyone to their church’s caroling, or service project, and wonder at the architecture of friendship.

There’s an unexpected sort of purity there, and I find it delightful. They know exactly what’s going on, and accept these kids anyway. It’s sort of magnificent, almost as much as Notre Dame.

Much love,


Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Seven. Christmas in Britain, Follow the Money.

Ladies who Lunch, Lunch at Harrods.My mother became a ‘lady who could lunch’ in her later years. Her business became successful, she sold it to a larger company, and could have spent the rest of her time at ease.

Harrods is a shopping mecca for the British aristocracy.

But what would have been the point? These last two days have been fascinating. Many of you know that Faith and I had parts in the a local musical theatre company a year ago. The play was ‘Evita’ and Faith and I played members of the ‘aristocracy’. There was a line in a song we sang “…..No, we wouldn’t mind, seeing her in Harrod’s, but behind the jewelry counter, not in front!”

So, naturally, we had to go to Harrods. This place is huge, and the shopgirls are everywhere. I don’t know anything about retail or floor design, but I think space has something to do with it. All of my pictures had to be surreptitious, so I don’t have any of the floor to show you, but gracious, we could have brought a hamper, sat down and had dinner.

Window shopping for us!

Harrods has many wings, or ‘rooms.’ Here is a picture of the food wing, where 100 grams of chocolate (small by US standards, would run about eleven US dollars) A plate fish and chips? A mere thirty pounds, or about 43 US. A single apple? Three US dollars. Amazing, and the place was crowded. Who has money to eat like that?

Answer? Actually, more than we think. My daughters and I got to talking about this when we left. I asked them if they would like to have dinner at Harrods, simply for the experience of it. I had budgeted the money, and thought that were Nana here, she would have gotten a kick out of it, once.

There are key words there, I keep rediscovering. “Budgeting” and “Once”. Many of you know this story, but when Chris and I were first married, we were family budget counselors for a Christian organization. We helped dozens of families get rid of credit card debt, and simply get organized.

Nana, being a depression era gal, had this forced on her. Here are some things that would have made her double over in laughter, even in her wheelchair.

It’s a nice bag. I’d like to have it. But 900$ nice? C’mon!

Nine hundred dollar Prada bag, anyone? That’s just silly.

Speaking of silly, how about four hundred POUND earmuffs? (about 575$ US) Or something from this table for me to lose straightaway ?

You have to admit the Alexander McQueen brass detail was pretty cool, but 400 US cool? Nope!

Nana would have been digging Camden Town Market, even in her wheelchair. Hip and low rent, tattoo parlours and fabulous food adorn the place.

Vintage and unique shops adorned the place. Fabulous!

North Africans bark at you to come look at their wares, and Abi found me a hipster, three quarter length sweater trimmed in faux fur. Forty bucks, instead of three hundred.

Lastly, meet my new friend Ayush. A shop keeper with two little kids, Ayush ran a booth with Desigual ripoffs, and fitted me into THIS adorable piece.

Very, very cute, unique, and forty bucks. Find THAT in Target.

I guess it’s pretty much the same with all of us in first world countries, wouldn’t you agree? Even excluding people like me, we all have more than we think we do, and with a little reorganizing, can give away a lot more than we thought possible.

It’s fun, really. Who the hell wants a three hundred dollar dinner at Harrod’s anyway? For now, this is what I’d rather be buying.

The Lierheimer Women, making memories.

Much love,


PS. The girls said “No.” We ate at Camden.  Much love, V

Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Four. Shakespeare and the Olympics.

Here we are mugging Shakepeare’s Globe Theatre in London. It’s a replica, of course, but built about two hundred yards from where the original was excavated. The pillars in the background aren’t stone, they’re 400 year old single trees painted to look like marble. Many are older than the original Globe itself.

I had several pictures of the Olympic Complex to show you, and if you like, I still will.

This is the Observatory Sculpture overlooking the Olympic complex in London. It was surrounded by “Authorized Personnel Only” signs as the whole complex is being dismantled.

Here’s one. That funny looking observatory sculpture, that to me still looks like a work in progress. It stands watch over the Track and Field center, the Aquatics and Water Polo centers as well. Looking at this mess, I found it to be profoundly depressing and impermanent. Is there really nothing else to be done with these structures besides knocking them down for car parks and block condos? Sad.

So I’ve been thinking a lot about permanence today. Mainly, that there’s not a lot of it in this world. As always, I seem to land in Scripture. Funny how that works. I mean, Jesus talks a lot about all kinds of relevant life issues.

 In the book of Hebrews, chapter 13 I think, it’s claimed that he is the “same yesterday, today and forever. ” Good thing He’s a decent chap and puts up with the likes of us. John’s letter also says he is the very embodiment of love. Therefore, his love for us must be unchangeable. So what’s unchangeable about me? Gosh, I don’t think I could ever stop loving this:

This is Faith, Christopher and Abi getting hot cocoa at the market beside the Thames. 

 But other things? I’m not so sure. I made a new blogger friend today, Evan Sanders (I think) of thebettermanprojects.wordpress.

In it, Evan talks about passion. And being stuck. Those of you who have been with me, know that these are two very important things to me. I simply cannot abide being stuck, and have a very hard time being around stuck people. Passion? Gosh, with just a little digging, I can remember that.

I’d be a terrible counselor for adults. Give me a four year old any day. Preschoolers are about the most dynamic creatures on the face of the earth, and given the right circumstances and environment, I can get about any one of them to change for the better. Adults, on the other hand? Years. Years!

Look at this part of this trip, for example. It’s only just penetrating that these near adults of mine are just that, near adults. They have their own lives, interests, insecurities and abilities, and frankly, sometimes I get on their nerves. It’s pretty funny.

They aren’t quite old enough to get separated and know what to do, not quite, so I make them charge their phones, have money and passports in their pockets, and get giant eye-rolls from the whole crowd. (Heheh, I live for that kind of stuff, it just cracks me up.)

Nevertheless, I can here the role- change clock ticking. Here’s one example:

Christopher: Mom, let’s go down into the tube station. Now, look at the map, do you see how you take the Central tube west to the Picadilly line? Then take that to Earl’s Court? You think you can find your way back from there?

Mom: Thanks, sweetheart. That was really clear. (Thinking- Not quite demented yet, but nice to know that’s how he’ll treat me)” Yepper, now you go and give Shelby a hug and have a nice dinner. Love you!

Christopher:  Love you too, Ma! Bye!

Glad tears jump into my eyes as I wave to that broad shouldered boy-man.

So where does that leave me? Actually, sort of rubbing my hands together in glee. See, Chris and I always took childrearing very seriously. The thing is, the finish line keeps jumping around. But lately, times like that give me a pretty clear indication that my role is changing, and it means that whatever time or braincells I have left, I can spend on something I deem worthwhile.

So, as I love lists, let’s get one going.

1. Brain study. Developing brains have always fascinated me. Watching the brains of preschoolers unfold is a neverending story. What if I checked out what DU has to offer in their cognitive psych department for very young children?

2. Piano. It’s time. The last time I touched it, was before that fateful day in February when Dr. Ted mistakenly told Chris he had liver cancer. Dear Doctor Ted. The very beginning of a very long, draining chain. Where ever you are Ted, we love you.

OK, that’s enough. Too many goals scares the heck out of me. But you know, God says that with Him, all things are possible. I have tasted that, and found it to be good.

Much love,


Sabbatical in a Teacup: Day Three. Cool Stuff In Britain

So, many of you know I’ve been planning a trip to the Europe for months. Three weeks, three countries. We are in Britain now,  the South Kensington part of London, specifically.

We are seeing some hilarious stuff, like this in the local sweet shop:

Who Eats This Stuff?

Nasty! Right next to the chocolate covered frogs!


The Multicultural  Picadilly Starbucks: Italian, British and Nigerian Baristas!



I’m taking this trip largely to answer some questions for myself. Maybe you’d like to ponder them with me, then add your own voice.

I’ve been a teacher in one capacity or another for nearly 28 years. I was a wife for 23, and a girlfriend for three before that. I’ve been a mother for over 21 years, and a daughter for 48. My, that’s quite a lot. Roles we play have always been interesting to me, and I sense a change in roles coming. Like I tell my students, let’s start with easy, then move to hard. Get a little gratification going, solving the easy problems first, after all. So I’m with this crowd running around and seeing the sights:

“The Portable Party!”

A  more fun bunch of kids is not to be found. Sometimes, death has this funny way with family dynamics. Either it can blow people and relationships to bits, or draw them together. So far, so good. Really, I know there are about a gazillion of you out there reading this who are in the middle of the whole horrible permanent loss merry go round, and I am here to tell you, it will get better.

Not that we haven’t had our blowups. I’m sure we will continue to do so. Keeping a family on track is messy, hands-in, hard work. Honestly, I thought as they got older, it would get easier. It has, a little. But you know? I can almost see my relationship with God mirrored with these kids.

See, God has blessed me with a lot of stuff. I have the resources to take this trip, for example. But, just like with God, my kids don’t need my stuff, they need me. Second Chronicles 7:14 says “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face….” Then God promises that he will hear from heaven. God has been unspeakably generous with his stuff. I know it may not seem like that sometimes, but really, the air we breathe is from his good grace. It rains on everyone, and all of us, especially those of us who live in Colorado, get to look at God’s country every time we get up in the morning. (Sorry,Texas readers! 🙂 )

So what do my kids really need? Another trip someplace cool? Another skydiving certificate? A new set of skis? No, they need me. They need me to walk alongside them when we went to Picadilly Circus today, and tell them about the time Daddy and I came here once. They need me to take them to Kings College, and tell them about when Poppa was a Fulbright scholar there.

They need me to hold their hand, and tell them that no, the world is not a safe place. But it will be OK. There is a God who loves them forever, and a mother who will as long as she can, just like Daddy did.

As they get older, I find their demands straying into “Seeking Mom’s hand” instead of “Seeking Mom’s face.” Isn’t that just typical? I find myself doing the same thing with God. Looking into his hand, asking His hand to move, to give me something, to change something, to make something go my way. Now, that’s not all bad. He wants us to ask, and sometimes he even says we don’t have something because we don’t ask for it.

But, it seems to me, that the most satisfying part of the Christian walk is when we seek God’s face. Seek what He is like, what wisdom He wants to give us, and what enjoyment we have out of a relationship together. The Bible says that he likens us to his children, instead of slaves or bondservants, if we accept Him.

How great is that? I love my kids, and they love me. When we get together, we have a good time. How much better is it when we get to sit with “Abba” or “Daddy” as he wants us to call Him? How much better to let him told MY hand, and tell me- No, the world is not a safe place, but I love you forever, Victoria. I don’t need more stuff, I need that.

Just like my kids. Imagine that.

Much love,


Tomorrow: The Olympic Stadium and Cezanne



On Purple Fingers And Rowdy Debates

This young Iraqi girl was too young to vote, but asked for her finger to be inked anyway.

So the riot fences have come down. I-25 and Hampden is open again, and the kids who live in Centennial Halls can get out of lockdown. By most accounts, Romney scored a KO against Obama, and the kids at Denver University had a riotous time watching all of these shenanigans.  My girls got several chances to be in the lottery to get a ticket to see these two, but alas, were relegated to the Driscoll Green and the JumboTron.

Faith has a young Iraqi friend at DU, and this kid is a doll. Let’s call her “Amira” or Princess. That’s not her name. Since Faith has had the privilege of getting to know Amira and her family, she’s had her eyes opened to what a special country we live in. In 2005, Amira’s countryfolk risked their lives in the “Blue Finger Revolution” to vote in 2005. Similar  pictures greet us from Tunisia and India over the past years, where the disenfranchised muster up the courage to (literally) risk their necks to vote for their leaders. The ink is long-lasting, sometimes taking a week to fade away.  I’m told sometimes people, especially women, hide themselves until it’s gone, they feel so threatened.

So it makes me wonder. I look at the faces of these brave women, and think about my own priorities. Mitt kept on saying “Is it worth borrowing money from China to fund (Fill in the blank)?”

What a statement. Magnificent.

Good question. Chris used to love to talk politics with the children. Given the events of the past few years, I’ve found my energy for this type of thing starting to wane. But since my children have become adults, I find myself focusing my priorities again. Who do I want spending my money, anyway?

My family just wrote out an enormous check to the Obama administration on behalf of my deceased mother. She would be completely frosted.

“Vickey!”  (She’d scold.) “That man thinks abortion is OK at any time! Your cousins couldn’t ever have babies, and it broke their hearts! You’d think he’d have a clue!”

(Susan B. Anthony List,, september)

“Vickey! How much is the national debt? Sixteen TRILLION dollars? (US National Debt Clock,

My, the list would just go on. My mother knew her mind. Do you know yours? My kids are getting to know theirs. An acquaintance of mine once told me blindly, “George Bush was the worst president we EVER had. ” Really? What are your facts to back that up?

Thank God, no one will threaten our well being because of our politics, like in Amira’s country. But for heaven’s sake, let’s be adults about this. Miss Victoria is going to take the red pen out of her schoolmarm hair and make a list:

Miss Victoria’s Important Stuff:

The candidate I vote for will:

1. Be pro-life. Prolife or prochoice, understand what you are defending. We have legal abortion in this country up to and including the ninth month of pregnancy. What’s up with that? In the business I’m in, I see the heart break of infertility every single day. One in four couples in this country can’t have kids, or have more that one. Fifty million abortions is the best, most compassionate solution we can come up with?

2. Be pro SMALL business. Anyone paying attention knows that businesses with fewer than twenty five employees make up the majority of job growth. Be nice to us.

3. Be consistent. I just HATE when people discard their core values for convenience or pleasure.  Did you know in the eighties that Al Gore was a consistent pro-life vote in Congress? Then he ‘changed his mind’ when Clinton tapped him for VP. Yuck. Stand up and be counted for WHATEVER you stand for.

4. Be a decent human being. Quit with the trade-in wives, the mistresses, the padding your accounts at my expense. Sheesh, enough is enough.

Well, isn’t it a wonderful thing that we can all grab a soapbox and spout? What a country! My kids are after me to make sure I forward their ballots to them at college. Let’s follow the children, and go get our fingers inked in November.

Much love,


Author’s note. I’ve found the President of the United States in 2032. At least I hope so. His name is D.K. and he’s a brilliant economics student back east. I hope to introduce you to him soon. Much love, V