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.


Missing Mom

Hello, fellow Visitors, it is a pleasure to meet with you.  images-8

Funny, in the midst of great blessings, how easy it is to slip into melancholy. Springtime is finally here in Colorado, the meadows are green, and nothing is burning.

Coloradans, do you remember the date of the first fire last year? March 26! One of my staff members had the fire advance to within half a mile of her home, and several clients had their life’s possessions reduced to dust. Thank God we seem to be retreating from that today.

This time last year for me was simply crushing. Business issues abounded, children were choosing colleges, and Carolyn Jordan Newkirk had been gone for nearly four months. images-10

Since then, life has been on a wonderful upward track. Learning to be single has been a remarkable struggle, but I have made some lasting friends in spite of the pitfalls and setbacks.

My counselor has been a great help, especially during the issues with fledgling children. It’s funny, people generalize and judge with the ease of a fingersnap. I’ve been an active parent since my children were laid in my arms, it’s a wonderful occupation.

When issues come up, like Abi leaving for Georgia in the fall, I get “Oh! You must be so saaaad! She’s moving so far away!”

Actually, I am sad. But not for that reason at all. I’m thrilled that Abi has matured enough to consider making such a gigantic move. She belonged at SCAD last year, truly. What makes me sad, is that I can’t walk next door, barge in, holler “MOM!” and word-dump all of this wonderful news into a person who would be genuinely glad to see me. images-11

She’d squint across the table,stand up in her walker, offer me food, tell me to make her some tea in her uniquely crabby way, and command me to tell her all about it. An hour would go by, and she say something like “I’m so proud of that kid. You and Chris really raised her well. ”

I’d give her a hug, and bounce out of the house, back to work. I miss my mom.

Visitors, many of you have taken the time to be gracious to me and tell me of your own experiences with your mothers. Unfortunately, not all have been good. And for that, my heart goes out to you.

Most of you though, have mothers who have done the best they could, and you’re grateful. T.L., thanks for sharing with me about losing your mom to ovarian cancer. A big, strapping man like you crying like a baby in the john makes me feel less isolated. You’re the best.

B. H., thank YOU for telling me about losing your mom when you were twenty. You’ve missed her for more than thirty years, yet your beautiful smile and lovely family reassure me that things will be OK.

K.L.? Thanks for sharing YOUR mom. She reminds me so much of mine, it’s a comfort every time I visit. Do you know last time when I left Eastman, she waved, smiled and said ‘Arrivederci’? ‘Until we meet again,” indeed!

A.R., thank YOU for tearing up with me every time we talk about moms. Seven years yours has been gone, but you’ve thrived, and grown as a woman of God.

Thank you, Visitors.  To walk into the lonely night alone is a terrible thing.   I greatly appreciate your company in these, the dark nights of the soul.

May I give you a piece of gentle advice? If you can, make peace with your mother. If you are at peace? Thank God, and think about the wonderful things you have. Skype, a card, a phone call, a chance to sit on the couch and chat. I’m thankful I had all those things for as long as I did.

Arrivederci, my friends, and bon soir.

Oh, sorry, serious post, but I just had to end with this. Mom would have loved it. Good night!

Oh, sorry, serious post, but I just had to end with this. Mom would have loved it. Good night!

Much love,


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.”


Another church member: “I don’t know why Christina keeps talking about you. It seems like other people’s personal information should stay 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 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,


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,


Faces of Love: Generations of Pride

So, who knew I had a completely badass brother? In 2008, my brother, John J. Newkirk, published The Old Man and the Harley.

Look for the book at Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

Look for the book at Tyndale was smart enough to publish it, and you can be inspired to get it on Amazon.

John’s a pretty bright guy. He’s also the best brother a gal could have. He’s a double EE from Renssalear Polytechnic Institute, Dad is also a graduate as well. Both with a powerful sense of family, history and citizenship.

In the summer of 1939, my dad, a young Jack Newkirk, set off on a rickety Harley to see both the New York and San Francisco World’s Fairs. He had no way of knowing it was to the the autumn of his youth, and that his entire generation would soon be thrust into the most devastating conflict in history, WWII.

Seven decades later, John retraced this epic ride with Dad, in a silent hope the old soldier will still be proud of the America he fought for. Each mile brought discovery as the author learns of his namesake, “Scarsdale Jack Newkirk”  the heroic Squadron Leader of the legendar Flying Tigers, and of his father’s life on the road and in the jungles of the South Pacific during World War II.

The result is quintessential Americana, a sweeping portrait of the grit, guts, ingenuity, and sacrifice that defined a nation, and a timely lesson from the Greatest Generation on how we can overcome our most pressing challenges and reclaim the American Dream.

I’m proud of these two generations of men in my family. I’m the mother of a firstborn son, and thank God he had the first eighteen years of his life with a man who wasn’t afraid to be manly, like John and Dad.

Study this one with me for a minute.

You could say apples don't fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn't be prouder.

You could say apples don’t fall far from trees. Except that God grafted Abi into our family tree, and Dad couldn’t be prouder.

So here’s part of the third generation now. Faith is wearing the Salutatorian banner, and Abi is a National Merit scholar. Dad’s goofy grin takes over the picture, he just couldn’t be prouder.

Since my girls lost their dad, I’ve been praying for  ‘manliness’ to surround them. Now, don’t laugh, I realize the words ‘masculinity’ and ‘manliness’ have become comic fodder these days.

But when dealing with families, completeness is such a luxury. Male influence is necessary for child development, I’m convinced of it.

Now, before I get deluged with all kinds of mail about how intolerant I am, let me remind you I’m a single mother. I am not on the prowl for a spouse because my kids need a dad. That’s ridiculous. Loss abounds. One of my favorite bloggers, Prego and the Loon, recounts the tale of her near escape from a dad who very nearly killed her and her child. Bird Martin, of Everyone Has a Story, has very wisely chosen to restrict access to the kids by her meth-addicted husband. Men make mistakes, and women often have to make hard choices. A dear friend also lost her husband to cancer, two weeks before she gave birth. It can be a lonely life.

But how about the normal, healthy masculine guys? The ones like Dad, who fought for this country, came home and slugged out a living for sixty years, took pride in his kids and their accomplishments, and thanked God for his opportunities.

Or John? Electrical engineers are a dime a dozen in this raggedy economy. John is getting older, his kind of jobs are getting fewer and father between. So he regroups and slaves away and produces this marvelous book.

Or my friend Jeff? Look at this picture for a moment. Jeff has endured his fair share of loss. Jeff is familiar with spousal betrayal, the loss of precious friendships, and the restrictions of his rights as a father.

But even in his fifties he slugs it out. Jeff has three kids, two still need to be provided for. He’s a soldier, a defender of our freedoms, and works two jobs to get it done.

Look closely at this one. Cradled in his big arms, his powerful, careworn hands gently handle the most fragile of our species. A prideful smile plays across his craggy face, and the power of masculine gentleness radiates from the shot

Grampa Jeff when he's not flying a big scary plane.

Grampa Jeff when he’s not flying a big scary plane.

So what to do with all of this? For single people, I have found that Valentine’s day can be a little difficult. It’s a beautiful thing to reframe things sometimes. The love of a father, brother, the love of a child, all of these things truly are blessings from the Lord, and gifts to be treasured.

In fact, if I were a man, I might even give a hearty UH-RAH!

Much love,









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

…Aaaand Life Goes On. With Adam Young and Owl City.

Being a Christian is a tricky thing sometimes. I mean, there are just so many moving parts. Anyone with an open mind to can look at the Bible, especially any of the first four books in the New Testament, and get a clue that there actually is a God who loves us. Weird.

I “get”  love, especially since I popped a bunch of kids out of my body. When they first laid that scrunched up little boy in my arms, gracious, it was like an altered state of reality. So God gives is His son, which he must have loved as desperately as I love mine.

Where did THAT eighteen years go?

Two years ago a giant hole was ripped out of my love life, all of you know that.

In fact, several holes were ripped into that particular canvas, and boy, was I pissed off at God about that. (I can just picture Mom, who blew out an artery in her brain last January, “Vickey! Watch the language!” Date of eternal relocation, January 8, 2012. The lucky gal. )

So I fumble along, trying to figure out who the heck I am in this new picture, anyway. In the last post, I mourned the loss of not really just a friend, but of an unsuccessful attempt to branch out into new territory.

In thinking about it though, something occurred to me. Jesus Christ once said “Yes, I am the vine; you are the branches. Those who remain in me, and I in them, will produce much fruit. For apart from me you can do nothing.” I have found this to be true.

The day that Chandler did what she did, it was just like being catapulted into Loss Land all over again. Sure, their’s a huge difference in magnitude between losing a husband and losing a friend, but it’s loss nonetheless.

I railed at God, angry again about loss upon loss. Then, one of my very best friends for years showed up. Then another, then a third. Hmmm. Methinks I sense a pattern. All of them drifted through my office, all of them with the same message, “Don’t look at the blips, Vickey, look at the long-lasting things.”

Look at the people who have earned your trust. They’re there.

Look at the people who have loved you, even when you’ve been radically unlovable. Now THAT’s amazing, because I am a true pill quite often.

Look at how I am loved, for real.

Think about cutting off a tree branch, and just sticking it in the ground. What the hell did you think would happen, chica? Of course these efforts would wither and die.

I wept over the loss of Chandler for a few days. It took about six tries for my beloved Father to get to me, six different heartfelt, unconditional, years-in-the-making friends to come and sit in my office and eat M and M’s from my candy jar.  Or to call me from around the world for no reason. Or, the best one, a ten-year veteran buddy of mine who drove by and “just felt like” she should turn in, “for no reason.” I just love that. We had a great time.

In recent years, I’ve become such a cynic.

“Jesus loves me and has a wonderful plan for your life?” What BS. If death and suffering is part of this ‘wonderful plan’, count me out. I am beginning to think though, that I don’t trust enough. I am beginning to wonder if perhaps, just maybe, I’ll get my answers on the other side of heaven, not this one.

In recent days, my most common prayer has been “Oh Lord, Make it Obvious.” and His extravagant love rains down. To wit, in the midst of all this, a decade plus friend ‘appears’ with two tickets to Owl City on October second. Adam Young is coming to the Ogden.

Imagine that.

Much love,



Humans have funny traditions about grief. I mean, if you think about it, we’re the only species that acts startled when one of us dies. We moan, cry, tear our clothes, and do weird things like embalm the dead, put makeup on them,  and give them pillowed caskets as they are ‘laid to rest’. As if they care! Other species act much more rationally, from the worldly perspective. They leave their dead where they fall, or eat them.

I think we get all jumpy because at some level, we know it’s not supposed to be like this. We were created to be eternal beings, and death wasn’t part of the original plan.

I’m an unashamed Christian, and believe that my Christian mother understood this thoroughly.  When she was buried, she didn’t give two cents what we did with her. In fact, she made that clear to the rest of us in spades.

I remember one conversation I had with her at the dinner table, several years ago. She had this riotous sense of humor, and wanted to tell us about the arrangements she and Dad had made for their respective burials. She was laughing so hard, she could barely get the words out.

“Vicky, Vicky, listen to me. This is how it works for cremation. Don’t forget, I want to be cremated! And no open viewing! NONE! See, they put you in this casket, and then take you to the service in this really, really nice oak casket. MAKE SURE IT’S CLOSED! Then, you have the service, and then…..” (she starts cracking up) “… THEN! they open a trap door on the side of the casket, and slide you right out! It’s all cardboard! They put you in cardboard, and then off you go to be cremated! It’s so much cheaper! You just rent the casket, you don’t even buy it! You go get cremated in cardboard! Then they put the ashes in a nice bronze urn, and you bury that! It’s so much less expensive because the plot is so much smaller! Heeeheeeheee!”

My brother and I just looked at each other. Who was this person? Hee-hee. It was mom, a Depression era girl, who looked for a deal even in death. What a gal.

When we were making her program, we acceded to another American tradition. Some people spend money to honor people. They sent flowers, gifts, all kinds of things. It’s no use to say “No flowers, please” people will just do it anyway. So we picked the three charities that were the closest to her heart. There is a local pregnancy center, a local food bank, and a fund to educate my children than some very kind friends set up when Chris died.

We put the addresses to each of these things in the program. Boxes and boxes of cards came in, and many people made very generous donations. One, in particular, moved me so much I just had to share it with you.

Byron Post is an elderly friend of my family that lives back east. Byron has had a difficult life. He’s in his seventies now, and was declared ‘different’ by society when he was a teenager. By today’s standards, he would have received an ADD label as a child, and maybe ‘paranoid schizophrenic’ as an adult. Today, he very likely would have gotten some very helpful medicines, and had an easier time of it. In the sixties though, the mentally challenged had a very hard time.

My mother always  had a heart for the hard cases, probably because she felt so different being so poor in the Depression. She always helped Byron whenever she could. She helped him buy food, helped him go to church, helped him get and keep various low level jobs.

The card I received from Byron had this in it:

“Dear Victoria, it was a privilege to read Chris’s words in his Caring Bridge blog before he died. I am very glad that you are continuing to write in Victorias Visits. In the crises times, the mundane still has a way of pressing in. Please accept this as a hug and a token of my love for you, Chris and your mother. Love, Byron.”

Inside the card was a very carefully stapled check for nine hundred, thirty eight dollars and fifty cents, made out to me.

I had met Byron perhaps 5 times in my 47 years. Tears suddenly jumped into my eyes, and I felt very, very loved. Byron barely knew me personally, but he knew my heart intimately over this weird, new form of communication called the Internet. He had figured out how to go to the library when Chris got sick. He figured out how to get on Chris’s Caring Bridge blog. He heard me when I transitioned it to victoriasvisits.wordpress. He continued to hear me, faithfully, every week over the past year or so of posts.

But why 938.50$? Byron worked a minimum wage job at a storage facility. He didn’t have that kind of money to give away. Why not an even 900$? Why so much? I thought about it.

My mother taught me about budgeting when I was a little girl. I have saved twenty percent of my income since I have had any.

My mom was a saver, I think this came from her daddy having to shoot her pet goat to have meat for dinner one week. She worked next to her mother cleaning the local church, and any other work they could find. These things really shaped her.

She very likely imparted the same skill to Byron. 938.50$ sounded like a budgeted amount. An amount carefully set aside from a very small check, stashed away until just the right moment. This was the right moment.

I looked at Byron’s check, unsure about what to do with it. My children will receive an education, their choices are just limited with only one income. This was a huge amount for Byron. Should I keep it? I thought some more, and this mental picture came to mind.

 41 Jesus sat down opposite the place where the offerings were put and watched the crowd putting their money into the temple treasury. Many rich people threw in large amounts. 42 But a poor widow came and put in two very small copper coins, worth only a few cents.

 43 Calling his disciples to him, Jesus said, “Truly I tell you, this poor widow has put more into the treasury than all the others. 44 They all gave out of their wealth; but she, out of her poverty, put in everything—all she had to live on.”

Byron had shown me the best example of sacrificial love I had seen in a while. I deposited his check into the education account, and sent him a heartfelt thank you.

I thank you again, Byron, from the bottom of my heart.

Much love,


Never Give Up, Even When Your Goggles are Streaked with Blood

Christopher, Jump 192

There is one main way to maneuver your canopy after deployment.  You can pull on toggles that dangle on either side of you, and  do something called ‘flaring’. This changes the shape of your canopy, and will change the angle of your flight in relationship to the ground. It will also slow you down.

Christopher was trying for an accuracy jump here, which means to land within two meters of a designated landing point. He misjudged his flaring just a bit, and got dragged along the ground,  contacting the earth face first.

I got a phone call after this picture (love this kid) informing me that ‘he was still a living, breathing human being’.  I could hear his heart pounding in his  voice.

People often look at me strangely when I describe Christopher’s skydiving exploits, and often move away cautiously when I add my plans to them. I am going to follow this kid into the sky when Rachael is a little older, but right now I can’t quite bring myself to do it, with Chris gone and her only 13. Tick tock.

I think this kid has a hell of a lot of courage. Skydiving isn’t particularly courageous, lots of people do it on a dare. But it is emblematic of a way to approach life, which is, I think, distinctly masculine.

Ever notice that women tend to cluster? Now, people aren’t predictable like chemicals or math, so it’s hard to generalize. Even so, women tend to gather. We gather opinions, children, food, clothes, and together. We tend to weigh each other’s judgements. We seek each other’s counsel. There is not a whit of anything wrong with this, but sometimes a different approach is merited.

We had some turmoil at school this week, human dynamics are messy. When people ask me what I do for a living, I often say I’m a preschool administrator, and that I   help people play nice in the sandbox. Then I add, “I don’t mean the children.” I’m utterly serious.  After an incident, one client felt the need to sit me down in my office, and list ways I could improve my “complete and total lack of professionalism”.  Another complained about my ‘glaring lack of standardization and goals’ in my business, as if such a thing were possible in preschool.

I went home after one particularly tumultuous day, and started to feel sorry for myself that I didn’t have Chris around anymore to help solve these problems. Men and women are created distinctly differently from the womb, and Chris and I each brought a different piece to the table when we had an issue to deal with. It was really very effective.

At this stage of the game, I bore myself to death when I mope around because I’m a widow and partnerless business woman. I was exhausted and bitter, and faced with a choice. Sit around and cry, or try and get what I think I need. God and I are more on speaking terms these days, so I asked. “Father, how on earth am I supposed to figure this out?” (Jesus doesn’t mind when I whine. He’s a much better parent than I am.) Seriously though, every bit of conflict at work comes out of my paycheck, so I have no choice but to address problems head on and face first, and what I was doing wasn’t entirely working. What to do?

A warm breeze of inspiration blew around me. It dawned on me that I know a lot of really great guys. I went through my contact list, and checked off about a dozen men who’s opinions mattered to me. Men of all walks of life. Millionaires, store clerks, writers, performers, military, skydivers, builders,physicians, lawyers, pilots, manufacturers- all kinds of occupations. Fathers, husbands, single men, grandfathers- these guys had roles to juggle.

In my mind, I named them “The Male Brain Trust.” Very few men like a lot of words, so in as brief a form as possible, I outlined the knotty problems I was dealing with, and whoosh-blew out the email in one blast to all these guys.

Brilliant!  Within a day, the replies started to trickle in. I had hit a well of good fortune. I had about a 60 percent response rate, which was fabulous. These guys are a very self-directed bunch, and not exactly overloaded with free time.  I appreciated any response at all!

One man connected me with an attorney who had solid advice. Another three gave me the same advice, which just confirmed my gut feeling. Another had an inspirational story. Another, an inspirational essay, combined with a photo story that makes me smile even now. All were glad to do it, reaffirming my faith that most men, given the chance, are happy to lend a hand. All, masculine to a “T”. Direct, to the point, some even aiming genial profanity my way.  “Dammit, Victoria. I’m so sorry you have to deal with this s***. It’s always f***ing something.”

Ha! Swear away, boys, I appreciate the sentiment more than you know. So, with a lot of hands,  I dug myself out of the hole, and thought for a while. What exactly did these guys provide for me, that I couldn’t get myself?

Without explaining the personal nature of the work issues, I would have to say that I am guilty of what a lot of women do, and that is to personalize. Surely,  I could have done something differently. Surely, I could have said something, taken some sort of action, used a different tone, something.  Often there is a grain of truth to criticism, often times people are just completely batty.

The Brain Trusters cut through all that crap and got to the point. I did the right thing in both of these situations and needed to quit the sabotaging self-doubt. I know my business, I’ve run it successfully with a partner for over 20 years. There’s no reason at all I can’t run it another 20 with the acquired wisdom I already have.

There is a website called that retrieved a great Theodore Roosevelt quote that Chris used to love, and I have claimed as my own. It’s a little thick, but stick with me people, it’s worth it-

It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.

Courage. Striving. Spending yourself on a worthy cause. A face marred by dust, sweat, and blood, just like my manly son’s. For now, my face too is that of a warrior princess in the arena, and if I fail, my place shall also never be with the cold and timid souls who knew neither victory nor defeat.

Right beside the Male Brain Trusters.

Much love,


Victoria’s List of What Makes a Real Man

1. Someone who treasures me more than himself. One might almost think that’s Biblical.

2. Courage. Take heart. Never, never give up.

Miss You Much, Mick.

images-5    So yesterday was Mickey Krupa’s birthday. I think he would have been 43? I thought about sharing another photo here of Mick, one in the last weeks of his life. Cancer had robbed him of his mobility, dexterity and hair. He was in a sip and puff chair, and looked very different than he does here.

But then I rethought that. Mick was one of the least vain people I knew, but the objective fact of the matter was that he was beautiful. Mick would truly stop ski traffic as people would stop and stare when he went past.

That smile you see? Rarely left his face, even when he got mad. Mick and I always had a friendly relationship, he was just that way with everyone. But I always felt he had an extra measure of something for me, perhaps because of my position. Women in positions of leadership really catch it sometimes. I think he knew this so well because he was married to one.

Liz, his soulmate, is a goal oriented, tough as nails attorney. Look for Liz Krupa to be on a federal bench someday. When that happens, be glad, because she is a great example of lawyerly compassion and brilliance.

In the weeks after Chris died, Mick and I developed a special relationship. I think he was looking for some reassurance that when he left that his precious people would be OK. I actually got to drive him to treatment once in that fabulous red convertible, and we had some great talks. Mick told me more about his background, and I told him things about  mine I have never told another soul.

It was a funny thing that I pondered a lot. Some men invest a lot in the way they look, or the things they can do, and are devasted when they lose those things. Mick got intensely frustrated to be sure, it’s hell not to be able to dial a phone, for example. But at the heart of it, when Mick and I would talk, those things really didn’t matter.

He was also one of those unique men who was safe. Even when he was able bodied, and by everyone’s standard a total hottie, I felt completely safe spending time with Mick. A large part of that was his total devotion to Liz. I won’t tell you all of the intimate details of our talks, but I did ask him once if he ever thought of cheating on Liz. Here’s what he said, and sorry of you’re offended. Mick doesn’t get censored:

“Shiiit! Are you kidding? We have a scissors drawer at home. She would cut my nuts off and store them in a drawer!”

I laughed my head off on that one, partly because it was true, and partly because I could see the intense love he had for his wife. That made him completely and utterly safe.

During the last weeks of his life, Mick also became a bit of a confidante for me. The occasional visits we had were very much a give and take, which was very Mick. He would ask about me or the kids, and we would talk.   I can barely tell you how much I miss that.

Some of you might be wondering why I haven’t written about that kind of give and take with Chris. Easy, I wouldn’t know where to stop.

Mick, during the few short years, and then few short months we were closer, well, that was a precious jewel.

Miss you much, Mick.

Much love,