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.


Rest in peace, Sam Failla.



On the short, sweet life of Liesl Wiebe



“Liesl, hol deine haube, es ist Zeit zu gehen!”

(Liesl, get your bonnet, it’s time to go! )

Liesl Wiebe grabbed her flower covered bonnet and tied it around her chin. The charming seven year old scampered across the gravel covered driveway and jumped into the buggy.

“Mutter, kann ich das Baby halten?”

(Mother, can I hold the baby?)

The sturdy Mennonite family fit snugly into the buggy as Poppa Tobias hitched up the horse. It was a sunny morning in Montcalm County, and the Wiebe family was going to church.

Baby Hannah fussed as mother Wiebe adjusted her cheerful pinafore and scolded four year old Luther for unbuttoning his suspenders.

“Liesl, hilf deinem Bruder mit seiner Kleidung. Binde seine schuhe! “

(Liesl, help your brother with his clothing. Tie his shoes!)

Liesl’s cheerful spirit and sunny smile shone in everything she did. She happily took her younger brother’s hand and guided him through tying his sensible shoes.

“Let’s use English words Luther. Hold your laces- the bunny goes around the tree and down the hole, now pull it tight! I’m going to tuck in your shirt now, let’s button you back up, and don’t take them out again!”

Three year old Luther looked adoringly at his capable sister, and snuggled against her in the crowded buggy. Poppa Tobias climbed into the seat, and soon he and his large family were on their way to services. He glanced back at the smiling Liesl, and thanked God again for giving him seven children, seven blessings, seven Gifts from the Lord. Liesl was special, always seemed to be cheerful, ready with a smile or a happy word for the rest of the bunch. Poppa Tobias smiled inwardly. Life was good.

Claude and I chatted in the rental car as we made our way across Montcalm county. This was old stomping grounds for him, he had fifty years of history in this lovely farm country. The colors were still on the trees, a spate of warm weather had made the glorious fall longer lasting than usual.

Lovely fields of verdant winter wheat carpeted the area, bracketed by stands of yellowed corn. Honestly, I thought, this is the breadbasket of the area. Farmers truly are people to know if things go south.

I had just come from a lovely breakfast at the farmhouse of one of Claude’s cousins. Elizabeth was a talented seamstress, and married to Michael, an accomplished taxidermist. They travelled all over the world gathering the skins of the most interesting animals.Together they had raised a crew of four boisterous boys, at the same time dotting the country with her husband Michael’s amazing creations. Exotic animals from all over the world decorated Michael’s studio. Springbok, moose, wolves, and even an enormous giraffe stood guard over their work, and I was amazed at yet another part of the world I knew nothing about.

Claude and I advanced on a local farmhouse, when he noticed something out of the ordinary.

“Wait, wait, what’s going on here? There’s a car down! There are bodies on the ground!” He pulled hastily to the side of the road as my attention to the scene materialized.

A damaged red truck. Ford, F-250, shattered windshield.

A distressed man, clad in work clothes and a safety vest, telephone in hand.

A shattered Mennonite buggy, with yes, several bodies scattered haphazardly on the roadside and in the grass.

Claude- leaping out of the car, the driver of the truck running to him “I didn’t see them! I didn’t see them! ”

Claude, getting the phone and completing the 911 emergency call.

“Lord Jesus, please help us and comfort these children!” I stood, astounded for a few minutes. I counted eight bodies, two adults and six children.

“Airways! Airways! Airways!” I ran to the nearest body, an adult woman. She was breathing, barely.

I went to the man. Breathing, bubbling blood.

I checked the children. Gasp. One was dead, she had to be. Motionless, ruined beyond repair.

Another, undoubedly. Far, far too much damage.

A slight boy, sitting on the ground, a four inch gaping head wound showing his skull. Astoundingly, he was beginning to walk around aimlessly, shrieking at the top of his lungs. He’ll live.

Four other children lay scattered on the ground. A seven year old girl in a flowered bonnet. Two preschool age boys, in plain clothing and suspenders. A tiny baby, eighteen months old at best.

I checked the girl, barely breathing, heart fluttering, blue lips. The other three children were responsive, so I hovered over the girl.

She was breathing, breathing, barely breathing. She had a heartbeat. I prayed over the little one, holding her head in a neutral position, watching the air raise her lungs, watching her face slowly pale.

EMS descended and a capable young man went the girl in the flowered bonnet.

“She’s cynanotic. She’s blue. I don’t think we are going to make it here. ” He attended her while I went to the other three children.

I watched the buzz of activity with the two of the three younger children on my lap.  and Luther Wiebe wept while Petr lay on the ground under my jacket. A large, capable EMS man gently assessed Petr for breathing, and set him up with breathing assistance.

I sang to Luther. Chattered at baby Hannah. Helped them both stay alert and watched Claude coordinate with EMS. Men in plain clothes began to arrive in cars, Claude had the distressing task of breaking this terrible news to the local Mennonite community.

Soon, a kind-faced EMS man told me to hold tight to both of the children, it was about to get very windy.

I looked behind me and several people, some in plain clothing, had made circle in the grassy field behind me. The trauma chopper beat the air above, and I sheltered the little ones against the turbulent air. Poppa Tobias was bundled into the chopper and taken away.

As the chopper lifted, I glanced over at the girl. Liesl Wiebe, the girl in the flowered bonnet, was covered with a blanket. She had just died, just passed into the arms of Jesus as her father flew away into the sky.

God bless you, Liesl Wiebe, 2010-2017. Rejoice in Paradise, dear child of God. 

(Author’s note.  At 8am, Sunday, October 29th, a red F-250 rear ended a Mennonite buggy in Montcalm County. The truck was going around sixty, the buggy about 15 mph. My boyfriend and I are visiting family here, and were the first on the scene, mere minutes after it happened. I have never been involved in a mass casualty event. This was, bar none, the most heartbreaking occurrence I have ever seen first hand. Of course, all of the identifying information has been changed. Please, if you think of it, ask God for comfort for the ‘Wiebes’. And please, pay attention when  you drive.) 






Intimacy and the Stumbling Christian Male (Adult Content)

Not too long ago, I was chatting with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about some of our various online dating experiences. Stockholm and I are of type. Middle aged, educated, we take our faith seriously, and are interested in making a difference in the world around us. Stockholm and I have zero interest in the ‘hookup culture’ that seems to permeate the dating world today.

Throwbacks that we are, Stockholm and I share an  interest in romance, in finding another relationship that’s marked by kindness, cherishing one’s partner, and putting the needs of a future partner first.

In the several months that I have been exploring online relationship development, I’ve found that there continues to be a profound disassociation between what people will do or say online, and what will actually occur in the physical world.

Consider intimacy, Visitors.

I’ve long operated on the assumption that humans of all ages crave intimacy. We desire to be known, we want someone close to hear us, to listen to our innermost desires or fears,  to actually view our hopes and dreams in as much vivid color as we see our own.

It is incredible to me how quickly the desire for intimacy  gets transmogrified into a desire for sex.




past tense: transmogrified; past participle: transmogrified
  1. transform, especially in a surprising or magical manner.
    “the cucumbers that were ultimately transmogrified into pickles”
Anyone who has wandered into the world of online dating knows the drill. Share some basic information, upload some pictures, answer questions that make a stab at intimacy. I get where these dating app developers are going, they are addressing the very desire we are talking about here.
On OKCupid, I have long felt the belle of the ball. I get DOZENS of overtures weekly, sometimes daily. I skim through them, apply some screening criteria, and pick and choose the ones who appear promising. Ones who appear to be solid Christian men, educated and interested in the same things as I. I would respond to overtures, engage in some online back-and-forth chit chat, and generally see where things went.
To date, gentle Visitors, I have been the recipient of FOUR pictures of these gentlemen’s genitalia.
Sit with that for a minute, Visitors, and then you can crack up.
These are the SCREENED MEN, Visitors!

The first one, frankly, I was tempted to share with you here. I mean, the opportunities for hilarious mockery were endless. The man in question was not fit, and had taken pains to find a horizontal full length mirror. Wearing nothing but a scowl, he, his limp member  and substantial gut were captured for the world to view, and he sent this treasure to me.


The others were more anonymous, which led to some puzzled head-scratching on my part. Ok, so this one was large. This one, a disconcerting shade of purple, this one was most definitely photoshopped to an unappealing length.

WHAT on earth is going on? I ranted about this to Stockholm, and he assured me he found my profile to be articulate, erudite and even funny. Thus, I can’t say I was attracting the trash factor. WHAT on earth made these men think it was OK to do something so demeaning?

( I got this hilarious groaner from the political Stockholm shortly after this discussion-


The friendly Dick Nixon. 

“This is the only Dick Pic you’ll get from me!”  Facepalm!)

As I wandered further in the dating wilds, I screened and met many other interesting men. One, a fit, accomplished leader in the business world, who simply could not stop talking about his accomplishments. They were considerable! He was affluent, well-liked in his world, and had a heart for Philippine orphans. Looking for wife number three, “Ed” was so caught up in his own desire for intimacy, he had no room for mine. I simply could not get a word in edgewise with Ed regarding my own aspirations.

“Dave” was another. Recently divorced, Dave was a COO of a large manufacturing firm. A solid Christian, Dave and I had many discussions about very intimate things. Love, loss, politics, church life, the state of the world, all sorts of closely-held topics. Dave was a world class athlete, well-travelled and a genuine desire to follow Jesus anywhere. Imagine my surprise when I discovered Dave was simultaneously cultivating similar intimacy with other women across the country. (Women, I can feel your eye-rolls from here. Selfish to the extreme. )

The tales of middle-aged, self-absorbed, needy Christ-professing men went on, and on, and on.

It’s enough to wear me out. What to conclude from all of this, Visitors? Well, first off, the desire for human connection is only natural. Really, it is. I get it! I am convinced God made us this way. Very, very few of us are made to be the ‘lone wolves’ of society, we simply need each other.

But at what cost? Honestly, all laughter aside, it disgusted me that these men who seemed appealing thought so little of me that I’d be interested in such pictures. It is dismaying to see that the “Daves” and “Eds” of the world could be so completely self-absorbed that the needs of a partner would simply not be part of the equation. No space for my dreams, no space for my interests or desires.

I can only conclude that the divorced population  of Christian men has some inner work to do. Trust me on this one, gentlemen, grief is hard. You are not ok.  “Getting back up on the horse”- that is to say dating immediately after your divorce- is a simply terrible idea.

Your divorce has left you scarred, just like my widowhood has left me. What can you learn? How can you be a better partner?  Christian men especially, how can you authentically, honestly put the needs of someone else before your own? Things have changed, middle age is different than your twenties, you are different, and believe me, no woman of character wants to see your dick pic.

You know what though? This kind of work rocks. I’ve wrestled with these questions since Chris died. Thank heaven for good counsel, great friends, and the forgiveness of those who love me. We can make progress, we can figure this out, we can find like minded friends. We’ve got this.

I think  I might even ask Stockholm to lunch.

Much love,



The Horrifying Reality of 3:02 AM

Well, Visitors, what a time we have had. In the past week since Trump was elected, we have been treated to all kinds of images of the most extraordinary fearmongering. School teachers in a large local district wearing black after Election Day, informing ALL children they were mourning the ‘Death of America’.

Ignorant college kids protesting the election, saying they were ‘frightened’ of the upcoming four years. Misinformed twenty-somethings calling for the end of the electoral college, calling it a ‘fearful tyranny of the minority’.

Most incredibly, my peers, college educated middle aged women, being accused if ‘internalizing misogyny’ and being completely unaware of the fearful hell we had just voted down on our heads.

Gracious. In the midst of all this, there has been a small chorus of reasoned voices attempting to redirect attention back to an issue that’s close to my heart- that of genuinely traumatized, fearful people.

I was talking with my gentleman caller – code name “Stockholm”- about this very issue. Privately, Stockholm and I share the same disdain for ‘triggered’ young ‘uns, who need ‘safe spaces’ for ‘self care’. Stockholm is a great deal more diplomatic than I, as I voice my disgust for this at every appropriate opportunity. Stockholm just smiles.

Last night, at 3:02 am, I had a ‘triggering event’.


3:02 am, on July 18, 2010, the phone jarred me out of a sound sleep. On the other end, my sister informed me that Chris had lost his battle to the great dragon Cancer, and won his seat at the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

I was traumatized. I broke the news to my daughters, called my son, and drove over to the Hospice in my bathrobe. I stumbled into the facility, and kissed the cool, lifeless forehead of my husband goodbye. I remember it as if it were yesterday.

Now, most of you know that I am of a pretty rational bent. I like things that can be measured. I like things that I can observe, and control as much as possible.

For about a year after that event, inexplicable things happened at 3:02 am. I got spam phone calls. Coyotes would yap at that hour. As was expected, any night terrors would reach their peak at 3:02 am, jarring me into a wide-eyed, heart pounding wakefulness.

Rationally, one would expect that sleep would become a trial for me, and it has. As most of you know who have been with me for a while, I have a horror of getting ‘stuck’ in destructive behavior. Good ‘self care’ is simply critical for authentically traumatized people. A combination of outstanding talk therapy, judicious, short-term use of benzodiazepines, meticulous attention to exercise, and really, really great church family continues to restore me to good health.

So, about last night. My dogs are these little Italian Greyhound mixes. These two possess the hearts of lions, and the brains of walnuts. At 3:02 am, these little beasts spotted a bull elk off of my back deck, and went ballistic. Snarling! Snorting! Bellowing at the top of their lungs! Raising the roof!

And, of course, triggering  me to jolt BOLT upright, flooded with memories of 3:02 am six and half years ago. Heart racing, I crept downstairs to deal with this auditory mess, and slept no more for the rest of the night.

Self care this morning included a sturdy breakfast, prayer, Scripture reading, understanding from the gentle Stockholm, visiting with good friends, and a solid day in at work.

Visitors, let us not allow authentic struggles of people like me to be co-opted by these irresponsible people rioting after the recent election. It dilutes the language, and the progress we have made on this issue.

Rioters, for shame. “Triggered” students? For HEAVEN’S sake, pull yourselves together. Manipulating teachers? KNOCK it off. You are to teach, not preach your worldview.

My people? The genuinely traumatized? The authentically ill-used?  The wounded and the bleeding? The cloud of us surrounds you. You can do this. We are here, and we love you.

Much respect,





Digital Laziness And Risky Reality- With Single Dad Laughing

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


This worries me, on many levels.

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Uh, after two days of texting? Pass.

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

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

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

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

Stutttering humor

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

You: “Table?”

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

You: “Oh! Ha! Sorry!”

Me: “No worries. ”

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

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

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

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

Much love,









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!



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,


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


Miao Zhu Lierheimer And The Handprints Of God

“God’s will”  can be a nebulous thing, Christian Visitors. Ever notice that?  We talk about it so casually, as if it’s immediately recognizable by anyone. We bandy that phrase around, as if it’s something we can readily influence.

Don’t get me wrong, God’s will never contradicts God’s word, and American Christians need to crack their Bibles more often. But the difference between God’s perfect will, and God’s allowed will?  Or even the big picture of God’s will? The farther along I get, the bigger, and more complicated it seems.

Consider this, Visitors. In about two weeks I’m boarding a plane with Christopher to go visit Abigail in Hong Kong. You remember she’s a design student at the Savannah College of Art and Design, and they have a campus over there.

Twenty one years ago I boarded this plane and made the same journey to meet her for the first time,  and I remember it as if it were yesterday.

When we went to China,  Chris and I flew to Hong Kong for a single day. We were so jetlagged we spent it in the hotel asleep, and then boarded a plane for Hangzhou, in the southeast corner of the Zhejiang province of China. We spent several days there, visiting the orphanage where our daughter lived, viewing the silk mills for which Hangzhou is famous, and this, the West Lake.

West Lake possesses a haunting beauty. It’s divided into five sections by several causeways, and is full of ancient temples, pagodas and gardens that have influenced Chinese design for centuries.

West Lake is also busy. Hangzhou, which numbers nearly three million, attracts all kinds of people. Photographers, painters, artists of all sorts come to West Lake to create. It is never empty.

It was here, somewhere in this lovely spot, that Miao Zhu Xu started her journey to become Abigail Lierheimer, my daughter.

Miao Zhu’s biological mother loved her very much. At the time, China’s one-child policy was in full swing. Neighborhoods were monitored, and unauthorized second pregnancies were dealt with harshly. Benefits were denied families, and sometimes entire neighborhoods if second babies were allowed to be born. Sex-selective abortions were routine, ultrasound technology allowed this with ease. As there is a prejudice against girls in China, first girl children were routinely aborted in favor of boys.

Miao Zhu’s mother was careful. She had her baby in secret, and wrapped her tightly against the cold.  She found a crate for her baby, and wrote out all she knew about her child. She tucked the paper inside the blanket, against the baby’s delicate skin.

Under cover of darkness, she carried Miao Zhu  into West Lake. Abandoning children is a crime in China, but Miao Zhu’s mother loved her too much to let  her die. She slowly crept to a policeman’s shack, and left her sleeping baby near the door, certain to be discovered. Anxiously she waited. Waited and waited until the baby woke, and started to cry. Soon, the wailing roused the policeman on duty, and he came and picked up her child.

Miao Zhu’s mother wept as her child was taken away.

Miao Zhu landed in the Hangzhou orphanage, where she soon developed an eating disorder. Miao Zhu was wildly intolerant of lactose, and all of the formula available to the children was made from cow’s milk. She couldn’t hold it down. The orphanage had one care provider for every ten infants, and Miao Zhu was rapidly becoming a time-intensive problem. It was 1995, and often the Chinese response to sickly, abandoned children was to allow them to die of neglect.

‘Dying Rooms’ were common. Dying rooms were rooms in orphanages where ‘too needy’ children were placed, and died agonizing deaths of thirst or starvation. Earlier that year, three Americans made a film about this phenomenon, and adoptions in China ground to an abrupt halt. Miao Zhu couldn’t drink much formula, and she grew smaller and sicker. Chicken pox raced through her rooms. Headlice was common, her head was shaved.

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On the other side of the world Abi’s father and I waited impatiently. Abi’s brother went to preschool, and her sister was learning to walk. We had news of Abi’s difficulties, and we would often plead with God to speed things up, and let us connect with our daughter. Time was short for this little one.

Finally, we got on a plane. Days later we were driven to Hangzhou, and met Miao Zhu.

She had the most beautiful brown eyes I had ever seen.

We were told that ‘Miao Zhu’ meant ‘Baby Pearl’ in Chinese. ‘Abigail’ means ‘Source of Joy’, so Miao Zhu became Abigail Pearl, our joyful third child.

Abigail’s journey presents many, many puzzling questions about “God’s will”. There were many junctures where we, mere humans, could have thwarted God’s perfect will for this child. Her mother could have denied her life. The policeman in West Lake could have taken her somewhere else. Chinese politicians could have not allowed any adoptions at all after the damning documentary. Or, most likely, Abi’s little body could have shut down due to a lack of nutrition and attention.

None of these things happened.  Abi was held securely in the hand of God through all these frightful events.  It seems the older I get, the less I really know about the will of our Heavenly Father, Visitors.  But, this I do know, as the psalmist says:

    He will protect you like a bird
    spreading its wings over its young.
    His truth will be like your armor and shield. (Psalm 91:4)

Abi in China


Much love,