Divorced Baby Boomer Men and Their Ideas About Relationship “Work”.


NOTE: OOOPS! Somehow, I published an earlier, incomplete, and slightly idiotic version of this column. THIS is what I intended to print, and I hope you like it.

Much love, Victoria

 

Most of you know I started jumping out of planes last year. Christopher, my son, is now a tandem master, coach, and all around top-notch skydiver, so I thought I’d give it a try. It’s really more fun than should be allowed, and has introduced me to a hilarious crowd of bawdy boundary pushers. Among them are a segment of Divorced Baby Boomer Men, and I’ve gotten into some pretty interesting talks.

I have to be careful here with identity disguise, because the community of expert skydivers is so small, they’re pretty recognizable. Let’s call this one “Brian”. Brian is 47, an utterly brilliant skydiver, leader in the field, and organizer. Brian has been married once, and divorced after a handful of years.

“It was too much work, Victoria. If it’s the right one, it should be easy.”

“What does that even mean, Brian? What should be easy? What part?”

” Oh, hell, I don’t know. I just picture our eyes meeting across a room, and we just fall into it.”

Fortunately, these guys are genuinely punchable. I punched Brian on the shoulder, and told him he must be kidding.

Another is an engineer in real life, and skydives as an  expert hobbyist.

“This is how relationships work, Victoria,” he told me in the middle of his divorce. “Find someone you hate, then buy her a house.” Gracious, how cynical.

It’s a funny thing, Visitors. It’s as if this generation of men has checked out of the “Nothing worth having is easy” consensus.

Got it? I'm sure you do.

Got it? I’m sure you do.

Divorced Baby Boomer men, of all stripes, seemed to be terrified of this one. This is just a brain-dead one to me, Visitors, because they are so accomplished. At least the ones I hang out with are. Pilots, athletes, businessmen, professors (so many professors) have at least one, perhaps two, broken marriages under their belts.

On the one hand, I get it. Women, if we’re honest, we can be a pretty emasculating bunch. Once we really get to know a man, to the point where we’re calling him ‘our’ man, ‘our’ boyfriend, ‘our’ husband, partner, any form of committed relationship, generally we’ve gotten to know our guy pretty well.

The Divorced Boomers I know have had been knifed pretty well. Remember Maynard, the firefighter in the previous column? Say what you will about bodybuilders, but bodybuilding is Maynard’s ‘thing’. It’s his hobby, what he does when he’s not fighting fires or being a divorced dad. Credit where credit is is due, the man looks like a block of granite, competes and has won prizes.

Obviously, ideas of self worth and masculinity are tied up in the mind of the male bodybuilder. To be knifed by TWO extramarital affairs must have been quite a blow. Completely human to be gunshy.

But on the other hand, is this the first serious setback you’ve ever had, gentleman? Somehow I doubt it. I’d venture to guess you’ve had failed businesses, don’t get along with someone you should, or have had one of many setbacks along the way. No one is invincible, and you’re over 50, after all.

So lean in, boys, this is the good stuff. We’re just as fragile as you are. We’ll meet you in that place, and we’ll give you your chance. Yes, most of us are pretty high maintenance, but you know what? So are you! And it’s OK! We’re all old enough, and smart enough, to figure out what a treasure we can be to each other.

What is 50+ anyway? High noon, as far as I’m concerned.

Much love,
Victoria

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Divorced Baby Boomer Men Are The Most Fragile Of The Species


So I’m in Puerto Rico now, Visitors, because my son asked me to come see him accept an award from AGC, the Association of General Contractors. Frankly, I find that to be manly as can be. This kid did a project that landed him a week-long, all expenses paid trip to Puerto Rico, a cash gift and a nice plaque, and he asks his mother to accompany him? How secure is that?

This got me to thinking about some recent escapades I’ve had with some remarkably insecure baby-boomer men. See, I’ve discovered that single men my age (just turned 50) can be categorized. Category 1- about 1%. Never married. What’s up with that? Heartbroken? Ok, but for decades? Mommy issues? Rather just be single? Ok, fair enough, but can we quit pretending we’re interested in a solid relationship with a woman?

Category 2- Widowed. Another 1%. Of that tiny fraction, about half have no business dating, they need to grieve their wives, and not kid themselves they are OK. Get busy boys, it’s a lot of work, trust me on this. The other part of that fraction? I’m not sure they actually exist, except once on a blood moon I see a happy, settled, widowed man announce his engagement. Generally to a widow.

Category 3-and buckle up- 98%. Divorced And Fragile As Hell. There’s a gentleman in my life, we’ll call him “Mitch”, who’s company I really enjoy. He’s divorced, bright, educated, hilarious and capable of great kindness to me. We recently had a discussion where he admitted to me that he was ‘as intimidated as hell’ by me.

“Really? By me? What on earth is that about?” Mitch and I had great talks.

“Well, I guess I’m old fashioned, but I think the guy should be the provider. You know, make more, give his lady things. You don’t really need anything from me. ”

(Mental facepalm)

“I drive around in my beater cars, and live in a little house in Broomfield.” Mitch pauses.

“Mitch. What. Seriously? You own those things. You have 20 percent left to pay on your house. I’d much rather be driven around in a beater you own than some fancy car you have out on payments. You know this. I also admire your discipline about your house. You know this too. ” Mitch and I talked a lot about economics.

“Well, I don’t know, Victoria. You’re beautiful and driven, and financially better off than me. That’s just kind of intimidating.”

When Did This Happen?

Visitors, maybe because I’m more firmly established in my widowhood. Maybe it’s because I’m fifty. Maybe it’s my manly son, who had a secure man as a dad for 18 years, but I just couldn’t stand it. Mitch’s paycheck isn’t that much smaller than mine, and are we really so fragile?

“Mitch. You’re just going to have to deal. I’m done apologizing for who I am. If we’re going to be friends, than accept me for who I am and what I do. ”

THAT was six weeks ago. Yep, not a word.

Another, this one a  divorced business associate. You folks know I dabble in real estate. I’m negotiating a little bitty condo deal right now in Denver. The owner has his mother, yep, his 70 plus year old mother, respond to all of my negotiations.

Recently, I laid out a fairly short list of inspection objections, totaling about three grand.  His MOTHER nearly ripped my head off . I was bossy, I was demanding, I was uninformed, and the answer was no.

Fine, I walked away from the deal. The son, FINALLY, sent me a meek little email asking if I would still be interested if the conditions were met. I got what I knew was reasonable, and the son made a jaggy little comment about ‘how I drove a hard bargain’. Really? What makes you such a wuss? It’s just business, and didn’t you learn not to take that personally your first job? Honestly.

Seriously? Say it isn't so, men. Please.

Seriously? Say it isn’t so, men. Please.

Still another, someone I thought was a dear friend. Divorced, ex- military, we had been friends for a couple of years. We cycled in and out of each other’s lives, a delightful ebb and flow. Recently, we had a lovely dinner together. I thought about it afterwords, and decided I was done with the incidentalness of things, and wanted to see my friend more.

I sent him an email, and made some suggestions. A picnic at the lake? A bike ride? A hike in the park?

Poof! Like magic, my friend disappeared. That was three months ago. Thinking the best, I sent him a couple of texts. “Are you OK? Kids all right? Everything OK in your world? ”

Not a word. Then “Friend, did I offend you? What’s up? ” The silence was deafening. Sigh.  What else to think but I some how broke something fragile in this man. Again.

Well, for heaven’s sake. How frustrating. Nary a male soul my age to be found who isn’t a quaking flower, unable to deal with a strong, self-directed woman like me.

So I’m stumped, Visitors.  Suggestions? I like men, I’d like one in my life. But I utterly refuse to be something I’m not, to cater to a frightened, oversensitive, fragile man. What do you think? Am I being to hard on them? Suggestions and thoughts are welcome.

Much love,

Victoria

Weird Christian Attitudes About Money


imagesChris and I had a simply terrific pastor for pre-marital counseling. His name was Mark Brattrud, and he pastored a little Full Gospel church that met in a Howard Johnson’s in Albany. Mark was perhaps thirty at the time, married for a few years with a couple of small kids. The church grew like wildfire. Made up mainly of college kids and young marrieds, we got the job done.

We sent out missionaries, sent up Sunday school programs for little ones, and had all kinds of positive things going in the community. I’m convinced that one of the reasons this happened was because Mark took what the Bible had to say about money very seriously.

At the time, a man named Larry Burkett had started a ministry called Christian Financial Concepts out of Georgia. Larry merged his ministry with another one, and it’s now called Crown Financial Ministries. Larry passed away after that from cancer, but Crown continues to thrive.

Mark got all of the “managing your money God’s way” materials and made Chris and I study them together as part of our counseling. We learned all kinds of things like this:

*Jesus talks more about money than any other topic except salvation and love. “Did you know that?

“The Bible has a lot to say about finances and belongings. I have researched God’s Word and found more passages about money and possessions than about heaven, hell or the Second Coming. The Bible offers more than 500 verses on prayer and fewer than 500 on faith — but more than 2,350 verses on money and possessions! There is no doubt that the church should have something to say about financial matters in the church as well as in the secular world.” (www.crown.org)

*”Thou Shalt Not Go Into Debt” is nowhere to be found in the Bible. It does, however, admonish us with all kinds of scary images about debt. Ps. 37:21 calles us “wicked” if we borrow and do not repay. Proverbs 22:7 says the “borrower becomes the lender’s slave.” Yikes!

* Money is intimately connected to your heart.

Matthew 6:21, “Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.”

So, Pastor Mark wanted Chris and I to “hide these things in our heart” from the very beginning of our relationship. Considering that nearly 80% of all divorces cite “Money” as one of the top 3 reasons for splitting up, this was a very wise idea.

Anyone who’s been married for a while knows that reasons for arguing with your spouse abound. It’s nice to knock “Money” off the list from the beginning. I can sit here and tell you with clear eyed truthfulness, Chris and I never argued about money, because of this early training.

So, now that  he’s gone, what to do? In the previous post, I related to you a gritty situation I found myself in regarding money.

The megachurches I have been involved in over the past years, sadly, don’t seem to handle their money well. Before Chris was diagnosed, we attended a church up here that has since shut down. Money was a constant issue. The church was affluent and well attended. It was estimated that the average annual income of the attendees there amounted to about 70 million dollars a year. (Average household income in the area about 70,000$ a year, times about a thousand regular givers.)

Out of the seven years we went to that church, it stretched to meet a two million dollar budget. Jesus asks us simply to tithe. Just tithe, or give ten percent of our income. Jewish folks actually were encouraged to make all kinds of other offerings, the ten percent was a minimum.

Had my old church simply been obedient and tithed, our annual budget would have tripled. Think of it. Seven million dollars. We could have started a free medical clinic, immunized poor kids, supported food pantries, had every single ministry in the family of God provided for abundantly, very likely with some left over.

This is, sadly, the modus operandi of most American megachurches. Honestly, it’s so irritating I could spit. My kids and I talk about this type of thing all the time, and fortunately, so far, their training in generosity seems to have ‘stuck’.

Ten percent isn’t that much. If we can’t get along with 90 percent of what most Christians make, we seriously need to reevaluate.

Did you ever notice, too, that Christians can’t seem to talk about this type of thing without raising up a whole crop of squirrely attitudes?

I got blasted the other day by a regular reader about the previous post. David is a doll, and one of my most valued friends. Still, he’s a redheaded Irishman, and trusts me enough to let loose now and again.

“Victoria! You should take that post down! You can’t assume about people’s financial situations! And besides, you’re making yourself out to be this loaded chick with more money than God! You are sounding very manipulative!”

Hmm. I thought about it. Really, I did. David is one of about 5 people that I actually listen to when they criticize me.

I realized that David was right about some things.  Since Chris and I used God’s principles of handling money from our marital infancy, we’ve always had a surplus. The point of that surplus, after the needs of the family are met, is to give it away. Really, it’s not brain surgery, a minimum of study will reveal that God owns it all anyway, so we may as well be obedient.

Very, very few Christians are obedient in this way.  Thus, people like me come across as indiscreet. How unfortunate. How much better for ALL of us to be obedient, and maybe even get together and TALK about the good we could be doing with a surplus!

When Chris and I were young, we had the joy of discovering that even a well placed 50$ could make a world of difference to someone. As we went along, we learned about how wise Christians provide even for their children’s children (Proverbs 13:22) and how we need to know where our money goes and have a plan for it (Proverbs 27:23) .

The blessings of this sort of concrete planning are really pretty cool. I think the best part of this type of thing is the joy that comes with contentment. Chris and I were not millionaires, and with four children to educate, I’m not  going to be that, probably ever. But we knew the faces of our flock, AND knew the faces that came with sharing with those of us who don’t have a surplus, and could use some of ours.

So, my friends, lay off the judgements, if you please. I talk about giving because it’s what Jesus asks us to do, not because I’m made of money. Also because I think it’s pretty darn fun.

I would dearly love to talk to YOU about giving, because I know for a fact, somewhere you have a fifty lurking around that could change someone’s life. You know you want to, don’t you. images-1

Much love to you all,

 

Victoria

Jeff Mackleby and the Art of Advanced Forgiveness


   DSM-IV Criteria for Posttraumatic Stress Disorder

A. The person has been exposed to a traumatic event in which both of the following have been present: 

(1) the person experienced, witnessed, or was confronted with an event or events that involved actual or threatened death or serious injury, or a threat to the physical integrity of self or others (2) the person’s response involved intense fear, helplessness, or horror.

So, when I first heard of PTSD, I think I was about twenty. I was in college, learning for the first time about things that could throw our psyches into an state of disarray. I didn’t quite buy the diagnosis, it seemed too convenient an excuse for soldiers to come back to our country as slackers. (No rotten tomatoes yet, please)

Then, Chris got sick. Those of you who have been with me for a while know that I’ve written about this topic quite a bit, you can look in the category list for various essays on that topic. Frankly, I’m a little tired of the whole ‘cancer journey’ and I’m sure Chris is too. He’s not sick anymore, after all. Then Emily Berkeley fell from the sky and died, Tom Seedroff lost his cancer battle, Micky Krupa’s bone cancer ate him alive, and seventeen year old Spencer’s raging lung tumors suffocated him to death. Finally, my own dear mother blew an artery in her brain and leapt into the arms of Jesus in less than ten minutes. Pretty rugged year and a half.

So, PTSD came and lived in the spare bedrooms of the Lierheimer house for quite a while. This unwelcome guest would invade my children’s dreams, interfere with my concentration, and rob me of sleep for months. It would walk with me into movies, frightening me at unexpected times with loud noises and strange people. It dangled this unexplained feeling of doom in front of me at all hours, assuring me that something else awful was sure to happen soon. What was next? Something was sure to come. Perhaps I was going to lose a child, and as Dickens would say “You’d have to ship me off to Bedlam.”

For quite some time, I was quite certain I was coming unglued.

Jeff Mackleby entered my life the month after Mom passed.

Mack was an understanding sort. He was a teacher nearby, and like most of my friends, is musical. We met through a church event, and I was drawn to Mack over time. He was sharp and stimulating, with an advanced degree in comparative theology. We had wonderful talks over chamomile tea, and soon were seeing each other regularly.

As the months went on, Mack and I got to know each other better. He confided in me some of his own considerable internal struggles, including times where he seriously considered ending it all. Depression, a search for significance, a stalled job, all of these things where serious detriments to Mack’s mental health. I wrote Mack often. Writing, as those of you who have been with me for a while, brings a lot of clarity and peace to me. I wrote pages and pages, detailing the horrifying helplessness that would wash over me often as time went by. Mack was a saint to put up with all the words, and he would often reciprocate over coffee, a concert, or dinner. We would often go into great detail, me more so. The great linguist Debra Tannen observed the women simply have a greater ‘word bank’ after all.

As I grew to trust Mack, I revealed more of my own internal struggles related to the PTSD associated with such a depressing cluster of loss. Mack was the first person who treated me like a normal human, who didn’t gasp with simulated despair or mouth the platitudes that Christians often articulate.

In short, Mack didn’t treat me like the freak I thought I was.woman-crying

God was good to me, I thought, providing me with a friend that was a respite, a soothing break.  I honored Mack with the same. Never would I speak about Mack’s thoughts of suicide, never would I speak of his issues with his troubled life, I would hold those as close to my heart as he held my troubles. Mack was safe with me.

As the months went by, Mack and I grew apart. Nothing too dramatic, ‘dating’ in middle age is often ridiculous territory to negotiate. Mack went his way, I went mine. I missed our talks, but was sure that Mack would remember them with as much fondness as I did.

Mack and I still travelled in the same circles, and it came to my attention that he had started dating a woman named Christina Cruz.

There was no love lost between Christina and I. It’s a funny thing, people. I learned a long time ago that ‘Love your neighbor as yourself’ does not mean “Be Best Buddies with Everyone You Come Across.” It just doesn’t work that way. There will always be rough edges, always people that you just don’t click with. Christina was like that for me. I had reason not to trust her, and simply stayed out of her way as much as possible. Conflict in the Body of Christ is an ugly thing, anyway, and best avoided if possible.

When Christina found out that Mack and I had been seeing each other, a giant target appeared on my back. A ghastly dynamic began to unfurl in all places, the church. About a month ago, one of the church members actually came up to me and said “I don’t know what Christina’s problem is with you, you don’t seem crazy to me.”

Crazy?

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

Personal?

A third, previously unknown church member: “I’m so sorry for all the loss you’ve endured. Christina has taken me into her confidence, and I’d like to pray for a healing over you.”

A Healing?

What in the name of all that’s holy is going on here? I would never have shared such personal information with Christina. She’s just not trustworthy.

How did she know about my PTSD related issues? I could count on one hand the number of people I trusted with these things. Medical people, mostly. Gifted folks who sit around all day trying to figure out how to help traumatized people like me and my kids.

Mack. Jeff Mackleby. It had to be. Everyone else, except my family, was bound by professional confidentiality.

“Withering” isn’t strong enough. “Humiliating” is better. Mack had utterly violated me by making those issues available for public consumption. My kids, too.

Christina was a vicious gossip, and Mack had handed her enough ammunition for a lifetime.  How severely I had misjudged him. Why on earth, why would one human being would violate another like that is completely mystifying to me.

I spoke with the pastor about it, and we were both stumped. Gossip is such an evil, Jesus, and Jesus’ half brother James warn against it continually.

One of the well meaning friends in the church informed me that Mack had allowed Christina to read everything I had ever written to him. (Really, even then it would be so much better if people would just keep their mouths shut. I appreciate that people were just trying to be kind, but I didn’t need to know the depth of Mack’s betrayal.)

How pointless to know that Mack had bared my soul without my permission. Besides, was I really that interesting? I think not. What would the point be?

At any rate, the situation is a stumper. Christina is right, I was crazy. So were my children. Trauma dreams are enough to mess with anyone’s head. But who’s business is it?  I’m not sure how anyone could get more intimate, barging into my family dynamics like that. Especially since the story is lopsided, and the redemptive side of it, the side where the Lierheimers actually heal, is completely left out.

How about a testimony? How about the completed story, where God reaches down into the mire and uses these horrible experiences to bless other people going through the same ordeal? How about incredibly uplifting stories like my kids walking beside other young adults experiencing similar loss?

And what to do about Mack and Christina. Jesus asks us to forgive ‘seventy times seven’ which a lot of people interprete as ‘eternally.’ He forgave us, after all.

Nothing I do will stop Christina or Mack. The only strength I’ll have is to keep healing, keep relying on the the God of my fathers to continue to provide me with the friends, love and strength to be the best Victoria I can be.

Fortunately, our God is constant.

A picture of healing

A picture of healing

Thank God for that.

Much love, Victoria

Addendum to “Mackleby” Which Victoria Never Does

Fellow Visitors, I edited “Mackleby” several times before I sent it out. Even after this went live, something about it niggled at me, and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So, I called my good friend and fellow blogger Bird at everyonehasastory.me for advice. Bird is delightful, and one of the most honest, blunt people I know.

“Victoria, this sounds like a pity-party. Are you still hurt by this?” I thought about it, and the honest answer is no. In fact, the most honest answer is “HELL, no, I am not still hurt by this.”

When I found out what Mack had done, I lost about a day over it, mainly because I thought Mack had more respect for me than that. To tell someone else’s deepest, darkest secrets without their permission is a wretched, sick person thing to do.

My story is mine. My children’s stories are theirs. I wrote “Mackleby” because too many people of faith go around sharing other people’s stories, concluding with “We should pray for them” as disguise. I am convinced that even people of no faith persuasion realize this for what it is, shameful gossip, and there is no excuse.

I work as hard as I can not to gossip, and often fail. I hold up Mack and Christina as counter examples. Do you find yourself doing this? Then stop. Now. Today.

By the way, both Mack and Christina are composites. This story is true, but names and characteristics are completely unrelated to who the characters actually are. In fact, in the spirit of a little fun, I’d challenge anyone except those of you in my inner circle to write me privately and actually name Mack and Christina, and I’ll take the essay down immediately. Don’t want to gossip, after all.

Much love,

V

Faces of Love: The Unlikely Joy of Peter Wiebe


Love: The Blessing and the Curse

Jesse 2010 - 2011 225To love at all is to be vulnerable. Love anything and your heart will be wrung and possibly broken. If you want to make sure of keeping it intact you must give it to no one, not even an animal.

Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements. Lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.But in that casket, safe, dark, motionless, airless, it will change. It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable. To love is to be vulnerable.

C.S. Lewis. (Isn’t that true? And so terrifying. To love anyone is to risk having your heart shredded.) 

It’s nice to see you, fellow Visitors. During the Sabbatical in a Teacup I mentioned to you that I had met some remarkable people in this oddly wonderful blogging community. I’d like to introduce you to one that I met a while ago, a gentleman named Peter Wiebe, who writes thresholdofheaven.com.

Peter lost his oldest son Jesse to a rare form of childhood leukemia on May 11, 2011.

Peter’s blog is a chronicle of thoughts and actions during his son’s journey to heaven. Peter is a dedicated Christian, and, like me, has had his faith sorely tried over the past stretch of time.

Valentine’s day is coming, it will be my third without my lover and best friend,Chris Lierheimer. Chris was a generous mark for all the Hallmark holidays, he just loved to give cards, candy, flowers, dinners, all the trappings.

I was often too distracted to make much of this sort of thing, which generally led to a lot of frantic night-before shopping and planning. I was just glad to have my loved ones around me, and to make sure he got his special grilled steak. (And, usually something else from my namesake Victoria’s Secret, since he’s been such a good boy.)

I’ve actually been gathering the strength to look at pictures this year.  The one in the previous entry is one of my favorites. My mom was a stunning woman her whole life, and this morning, before I went to work, I studied a series of pictures we had taken of Mom and Dad on their 60th wedding anniversary.

Bent and stooped, graying, they both had the goofy smiles of their youth, and their love for family and each other radiated from the picture.

When Peter posted this shot on the fourth, it took my breath away. Study it with me for a minute, will you? Jesse’s departure seems imminent. He can’t eat, thus the nasogastric tube. His body seems almost transparent. Frail, like that of a cocoon about to be shed.

Peter is vigorous, with good color and strong hands. Only in his eyes do you see the pain of a parent about to lose his firstborn son. Go to the blog now-thresholdofheaven.com- and read a remarkable story of redemption and love between this father and son.

I have found that people often avoid cancer blogs. No one likes to be reminded of their mortality, especially if one’s views of the afterlife are uncertain. Peter, like those of us who lay claim to the promises of Jesus Christ, looks forward to the day when he will see Jesse whole again.

But today is really all we have. Jesus doesn’t promise us tomorrow, only that we will be with him in Paradise. So what shall we do? Where shall we go? Shall we insulate our hearts, wrap them in airless containers to harden and fossilize? Or shall we be like Peter, and love extravagantly? Peter and his lovely wife poured their hearts into Jesse’s journey, and were broken for their faith.

But what else to do? When you love a child, a woman, or even an animal, it’s an extension of your own heart. The rewards are tremendous, and the risks, commensurate.

I have a series of pictures I would like you to see over the next few weeks, fellow Visitors. I call them the “Faces of Love”. They are from fellow travelers, and cover a different kind of landscape. One that I think you all will find just as beautiful and heartwrenching as any other landscape on the planet.

Much love,

Victoria

PS- Let me remind you to the introductions so far:

Everyone has a Story – birdmartin.wordpress.com.

Evan Sanders at thebettermanprojects.com

and finally Peter Wiebe at thresholdofheaven.com

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Much love,

Victoria

War and the Dangerous Art of Love


 18 The LORD God said, “It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him….. 24 That is why a man leaves his father and mother and is united to his wife, and they become one flesh.

– The first book in the Bible, Genesis, chapter 2, verses 18 and 24.  Cool story, bro.

I’ve been thinking a lot about how dangerous it is to love somebody. Really, I mean to love somebody well. I was dial spinning on the car  radio the other day, and heard someone talking about this very subject. This guy was going on about loving someone sacrificially, understandingly, and in a committed way. You know, all the Jesus-type examples.

Friends of mine and I talk about this kind of thing all the time, on both sides of the gender divide. Men seem to be a little more predictable, bless their little visual hearts. All the ones I ask, every single one, start with “I have to love the way she looks.” Obnoxious, if I didn’t feel pretty much the same way, myself.

I went to something called a Meetup the other day.  It was  basically a dinner event with a speaker, centered around what God has to say about the character of a prospective partner. It was pretty cool, and thought provoking, and had the added benefit of a lot of supercute dudes.

Their were about 250 people in attendance,and afterwords, about a hundred of us piled into cars and went across the street to have tea and PIE. Hilarious! Just the word PIE is funny. Sheesh, I felt like a Baptist kid all over again. Pie! Not a beer in sight, or any other ‘adult’ substance, for that matter. I spent the rest of the evening chatting with a very nice, unmarried, midthirties gal who hadn’t found a Christian husband, and would very much like to. On my other side, I had a great conversation with a drummer from a  successful local cover band. He was very funny and thoughtful, but surprisingly soft-spoken for a man with a thirty year entertainment career that included music, standup and improv comedy. It was really fun, and very, very safe.

I got to thinking, though, mainly because the drummer posted a message to me after the event. Perfectly innocent, charming, a simple, “It was nice to meet you, and I hope to get to know you better next week.” I responded in kind, and then thought about it. (Usually, it’s better to do that in reverse order. )

It’s been kind of fun to venture out into this world. Sometimes, I think those of us firmly in midlife like to delude ourselves into thinking that we’ve changed dramatically somehow. Sure, perhaps we’ve accomplished a lot, have a bunch of great kids, and maybe a lot of stuff. People like me get to a certain point and a rain of sorrow is to be expected. My mom was 82 when she died, after a long and fruitful life. What else could I ask for? My husband died of cancer. I miss him, but it happens, and the number of cancer wives are legion. I’m not an overwrought widow anymore, and I’ve moved into a new life.

But at the heart of it, what’s really changed? I like to have friends, grow my little Christian early childhood facility,  travel, run around like a kid,laugh out loud, dance, and sing like opera star I wish I were.

In reality though, a lot has changed, thank God. I learned so much during my married life. Marriage was one of the hardest things I have ever done, and one of the most deeply satisfying.

Chris and I were kids when we met, still in our teens.Thank God we had the sense to wait until our early twenties to marry, but our cockiness is a little embarrassing to recollect. We were both convinced we could make a difference the world, and had found exactly the right person to do it with. We had, and we did, but the battles along the way were epic. It was a tremendous amount of work to love this man in an understanding way, but I was glad to do it.  He felt the same about me. When we would climb a mountain together, literally or otherwise, there was nothing like it. Love, too, like Garrison Keillor says, is also about “growing tomatoes and washing dishes together.”  A precious part of my history.

The speaker at the Meetup drew this analogy to love affairs in general- Gather a lot of kindling, pour a lot of lighter fluid on it, drop a match,and thing will burn pretty hot and pretty bright.  It’ll  also die really quickly. Thoughtless, physical love affairs are a lot like that.

As Christians though, we want the kind of slow burning, red-hot, stokeable, marshmallow-roasting, kind of fire that you can keep banked forever, if you do it right. This can only come with time, and a pretty fair degree of thought.

I’ve observed in friends around me that it is so almost like breathing to take the easy route. A male acquaintance  once actually told me that he had found a relationship that was ‘effortless’. That the woman ‘made sense’, and he was passionately, head over heels in love. Two months after being introduced to her he had found ‘the great love of his life.’ Hoo, boy. Watermelon seeds take longer to germinate than did this love affair.

(Seriously, though, how dangerous is that. I tell my girlfriends that story, and usually get gales of laughter. Then they sober up.  There is no such thing as a effortless relationship, or a baggageless human. To think so is to place a terrible expectation on any prospective partner.  After two failed marriages and nearly age 50, you would think that maybe my friend needs to apply himself a little more. Oh, well. It’s not just children that can be slow learners.)

At any rate, I find myself asking “Just what do I want again  here? Man-candy to look at across the table? Jovial friendship? Fellow warrior in the Kingdom of God? Reliable emotional support in times of trouble? Workout partner?  Spiritual discussion partner? All of the above, and more, really. All of this while allowing whoever God brings my way to be his own, unique, completely alien, male self.

Study this picture with me, for a minute. I know the instructor on the right, just a little bit. These boys are Navy reservists, and I think this shot is a pretty interesting study in gender differences. Start on the left. The first strikes me as pretty young, almost a post college kid, a study in youth and naivete. Until you look at the number of kill shots on his target, and notice the missing part of his hand. How’d that happen?

I’m using Navy issue Beretta M9 Parabellum. Standard qualification course of fire with adherence to the timed fire guidelines.

The next gentleman seems a little bit older. Perhaps it’s his glasses, or the lines around his mouth. He also seems to be pretty generic, the sort of guy who could be your insurance agent,  until you look at the number of holes in his target’s neck and torso.

The black man has that sort of guard up that I’ve noticed in a lot of fit, young black men. This is just a guess, but a lot of black men I know wear a carefully constructed neutrality on their faces. Another guess, is that they’ve had to do that out of necessity. This man is probably the local Sunday school teacher, and perhaps has gotten tired of being judged the badass former gang member, due to his appearance. Still, though, the solid shots through the heart give pause.

My acquaintance is the instructor on the right. Notice the way he leans into the photo, almost as if he’s straining to get out of it, and on to the next thing. I find that to be a very deliberate, masculine, almost dangerous quality. Very different than most women I know.

So what to make of all this? We are who we are, Jesus has created us vastly different, yet similiar, like puzzle pieces that fit together. It would be completely alarming to love one of the warriors in the picture above, or any other man, for that matter. Really, the list is huge.  What if he died? What if I thought things would be easier that they turned out to be? What if he were unfaithful? What if he disappointed me, left me lonely, devalued me somehow, left his faith, or did any one of a number of dangerous things that would hurt me?

How can I know, how can I be sure?

Well, hell’s bells, I can’t. Do I really want to be? What fun would that be? Why not make a leap of faith, a leap of trust that God actually does have another messed up, wonderful, funny,humble, broken leader out there for me. One that wants to  learn to love me well, just like I learned to love well.

Sounds a lot more satisfying to me.

Much love,

Victoria