Some Sundays are Like That


This is a picture of Christopher a couple of years ago when he was improving his accuracy skills. “Accuracy” in skydiving, means jumping out of a plane two miles in the air, piloting your canopy to a landing spot, and placing your feet within a three foot circle. In competition, it means stomping your foot on an eight inch circle that sounds an alarm, while the judges mark you for points.

He called me up after this jump, and with his heart in his mouth, breathlessly told me “First off, Mom, I’m still alive.” (Great opener, son. ) Turns out, he had misjudged his landing and collided with an unexpected gust of wind, and had gotten dragged along by his face for several yards. (Later on that year he won a bronze medal in a National Collegiate accuracy event.)

It’s funny, Visitors, how grief can sometimes feel that unexpected. Those of you who are grieving, ever notice that? Things in Lierheimer Land are actually pretty good right now. Christopher’s interning in LA on a massive subsidized building project, Faith landed a competitive yearlong spot in England at the University of York, Abi is buzzing along in Savannah, and Rachael comes home from Warren Tech with the most interesting tales from her forensic studies. (It’s hilarious to watch crime shows with her now. She’ll stop CSI and yell “Wait! No! They’re doing it WRONG! Mom……)

I’ve started Class Two in my graduate sequence in Criminology, with the emphasis in Psychopathology at Regis. It’s utterly fascinating. It’s fast, engaging, a ton of work and very much where I want to be.

I think too, that I’m getting a handle on this single thing. Except when I’m not, like today. Lazy Sunday mornings were a favorite around our house. I’d make banana pancakes, Chris would make coffee, and the kids would laze around until it was time for church.

Now, today, I feel like my son in that picture. Sort of raw. I miss Chris’ warm feet, I miss him stumbling around until coffee, I miss (acutely) telling him what all these kids are doing, and man, didn’t we do the right thing by them (so far, anyway).

Well, anyway. I try and draw something out of this, if not something good, at least something useful. It was a beautiful day when Christopher marked up his face,  and it’s a beautiful day today. I get to go to church with Rachael and Dad, and that’s always a treat.

I suppose I’ll always miss Chris to some degree or another. Were he here, I think he’d encourage me to go out, get the gym, go to church, and not sit gazing out the window and wondering what he’s up to.

Warm regards, Visitors. Much love to you all.

Victoria

Advertisements

Happy Mother’s Day!


 

YES! Happy Mother’s Day to all of us, who’ve embarked on this adventure together. Skydiving is the very, very best analogy that I can see to mothering at this point. Spend four minutes with me and feel the intensity of the these children as they scramble into the future!

Remember when your baby  son lay on your bed, trusting you with everything? Look at my adult one  in the first frame, and marvel with me as they look down the road.

Launch with me into something that continues this glorious adventure! The weight of it, if you held it in your hands, it would pass right through you, so take this chance, and just be amazed with me.

Pause it at second five, and slap my hand! Pause again at second 31 and feel the incredible lightness of terror, as Christopher runs out of the plane and into the trusting hands of God and skill.

Hug your daughters, look at their faces, scratch the stubble on the chins of your baby boys, and thank God for every moment He trusted you with these enormous miracles of children. Isn’t it wonderful? No place I’d rather be.

Then walk with me, mothers, walk with me slow. Marvel at what we are given, and were we will go . Caedmon’s Call has always nourished my soul. Enjoy!

My love to you all.

Victoria

The Surprising Adventures of Single Motherhood


Author’s Note: There is a wonderful adventure blog called lesleycarter.wordpress.com that is accepting outsourced pieces like this one. I would encourage you to check it out, she has marvelous essays viewed by hundreds of thousands of people from all over the world, and you just might see me there! Much love, V

Christopher, Jump 300+, Mom’s First Tandem 1/1/12

Parenting is just more fun than should be allowed. When I was having kids, the the first half of the actual pregnancy process was wretched. I lost a great deal of weight, was nauseated for sixteen full weeks, all to try and sustain this little bug growing in me no larger than a peanut.

But when I started to show, it got hilarious. Chris and I always loved to find out the sex of our children in utero, and loved to hear the heartbeat each time we went to the doctor. As I got bigger, I developed what I used to call “The Equator”. That is, a line around the circumference of my gigantic belly that I just couldn’t see beyond. The southern hemisphere of my belly grew to be more and more interesting as time went by. My other preschoolers would draw on my shirts, I would spill-prodigiously, often – and be completely unaware of what was going on down there until I took off my clothes at the end of the day. My ‘innie’ became and ‘outie’, and with full frontal, I was truly Aphrodite, a wonder to behold.

Now that my kids are almost adults, it seems like the adventure is restarting. Being a single parent is the epitome of ‘drag’, it very much takes two adults to run a family. Having said that, though, watching these kids develop into adults is almost as much fun as getting them in the first place.

Christopher started skydiving almost two years ago. The story behind it is profound. When his daddy was dying of cancer, we brought the CD of his tandem into the hospital for him to view. Chris, his father, was afraid of heights his whole life. He was also more of a good sport than a risk taker. He started skiing, kept cycling and swimming mainly to keep fit, not out of any sense of  exteme adventuring.

I wasn’t sure what Chris would make of his son stepping out of a perfectly good airplane and flying almost three miles to the ground. He watched the video in intensive care, and in his weak voice, turned to me and said “We have to help him pursue this. Help him pursue this.”

What choice did I have?

Chris knew his son was a hopeless adrenaline junkie. Skydiving was a natural for Christopher, as a gymnast he was very aware of his body in space. He’s also a terrain park skier, and a riot to watch on the halfpipe.

Christopher took to it like a bird.

For me, skydiving is the natural next step in this process called ‘grief’. I have been a single mother for about 18 months now, and I think I’m just getting the hang of it. I am an adventure junkie myself, and have had very little patience over the years with the naysayers who cautioned me to slow down after having children. Chris would scoff at that too, we had a lot of expensive baby gear from those years. Why stop skiing, biking, hiking and travelling just because you have a little person, or even a crowd of them (like we did) in tow?

But How About This?

Or This?

Parenting is also not for the chickenhearted. Nothing, no adventure travel, no new sport, no new venture into the unknown compares with the breath-grabbing, heart-stopping, gut wrenching experience of turning your near adults into the world.

Most of you know that I lost my mother abruptly on January 8th. My two oldest, Christopher and Faith, were riding home from the service in our 2001 Tacoma truck. The internment was a mere mile away from our house, nothing bad could happen in a mile, right? They were sitting innocently on the highway, signal blinking, when a distracted driver rammed into them going forty miles an hour. No ice, no blinding conditions, nothing. Just a blink of an eye, and the potential for lives to be changed forever.

Good parenting takes as much training as a sport, it’s a shame we don’t treat it that way. The best parents  I know understand that the future is utterly unknown, all we can do for our kids is better the odds. We have no idea what’s coming toward us in the future, we can prepare somewhat, but really, today is all we get.

I could have racked up an impressive body count that day, but we were lucky. The Tacoma took it like a champ, and absorbed all the force of the impact, so my children didn’t have to.

I ran like the wind from the gravesite, and wrestled past the firefighters who’s job it was to stop me, and ran toward my children.  My adult son towered like a guardian against the wind next to my daughter, who blazing femininity shone like a beacon. I wrapped my  arms around them both, thankful for another day.

Much love,

Victoria

Joy, Optimism and other totally Badass Behavior.


I  once loved a man who was a complete cynic. He had a plan, and if anything stood in the way of that plan, then God help us all.

He had reason to be cynical, to be sure. Things hadn’t gone according to plan. Wives had been unfaithful, a son was off the rails, and the job wasn’t satisfactory. It was embittering.

Fear and doubt barreled at him like a freight train, every single day.  History stood between what he was, and what he wanted to be. Caution was the rule of law.

For a moment, I stood with him at a crossroad. Then I realized, that all I had was that moment. That one, and the next. Each one a test, that I could only take once. There are no second chances.

I realized if I had a chance at joy, a chance at optimism, a chance at adventure, I was going to seize it. Everything that I want would collide with everything standing in my way.

So many things stand in my way. It’s me versus the odds.

It’s me versus excuses. It’s me versus no.

It’s me versus can’t.

It’s me versus last year.

It’s me versus next year.

It’s me, running with what could be.

It’s me, with no room for caution at all.

Let’s see what we’ve got.

Victoria

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  theartofmanliness.com 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

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.

“Jackassery” Is A Word


Hello Friends! With the world so full of ‘jackassery” , it’s a good thing someone came up with that word, or I would have had to coin it myself!

I am mulling over the meaning of words tonight. I love words. I love the plenitude of them, the vast abundance of words we have in English, how so many words can be subtle as a breeze and as violent as a car crash. I am far to wordy when I write, which is why I keep these things to about 800 words. (Chris used to bust on me all the time about that “Sweetie, you’ll never use one word when ten will do.”  Guilty.)

This week for me has been full to the brim with ‘jackassery’-mainly defined as stupid people behaving idiotically around me.

I have extremely limited patience with clients of mine who display thoughtless cruelty to their children or the people who care for them.

For example, a client who berated a teacher (in public) for a verbal misunderstanding between them. No one was hurt, simple words were misunderstood. Another client who humiliated my extremely valuable and talented assistant for misunderstanding our admissions paperwork. Again, no one was hurt, in fact it was the client who misunderstood, but needed to save face by verbally abusing my assistant.

Chris had the most remarkable verbal ability. I was thinking about this after I dealt with these situations. The issues involved were so petty, and the words exchanged were so unpleasant and consequential, I am certain he would have blown a gasket and sent these two clients packing that hour.

Being a woman, and the sole breadwinner in my house now, I am forced to take a different perspective. I would like to keep my business as prosperous as possible. I have 3 children about to go to college, after all.

I spent the week putting out these and other verbal fires, and am spent. It just sucks the life right out of me. Generally, after weeks like this one, I would plan and look forward to a little body-busting physical activity. Copper is still open, we still have passes, or at stint at spinning class, or, even better, and evening spent mucking around tunnel flying with the kids and the set of handsome dudes down there who teach me things.

It is not to be, however. I am at “Post-Op, Week Seven”, which is an interesting set of words by itself. Essentially, it means my physical therapists are pleased with my progress after my shoulder surgery. I come faithfully to appointments, and perform what little I am allowed to do, for fear of jarring loose the tightening ‘capsule’ around the repaired ligaments. No skiing, no spinning, no running,no lifting, and certainly, God forbid, no tunnel flying.

I go home, and every single day spend at least thirty boring, stultifying, mind-numbing minutes on the recumbent bike. It is slowly driving me insane.

I have a sunny friend who encourages me to reframe these things and try and find the positive. We skype a lot, so I can’t hit her, and am forced to listen to what she has to say.

Weary and drained as I am, there is some truth there. Here is what I have found.

Dealing with jackasses actually is good for me. Chris had a gift with those kinds of people, I do not.   I need to develop it.  (He could never confront anyone who needed it, and I never hesitated. Funny how people can complement each other)

It is good to show overt, verbal support to my staff. I work with really super people, and it’s good to tell them that more often. This does remind me to do so even when there isn’t a crisis.

The Chippendales at the tunnel are very much an ‘out of sight, out of mind’ kind of bunch. It bugs the daylights out of me that not one of those men has thought to ask after me, in the thick of it, like now. Chickens.

Well, what of it? Some people are like that. It’s good practice to let it go, and know that when I get back, they’ll be just as welcoming as a roomful of spaniels.

I actually am getting stronger, and look pretty good. After the recumbent torture device, I am regaining some lost flexibility. I can do a lot of dance warmups without involving my shoulder.

There is serious temptation to sit on the couch and work my  way through the newest Ben and Jerry’s inventory. But I don’t, because I have a goal. My doctor said when all is done, my shoulder will be better than it was before. 11 more weeks of this is too draining to think about. But tomorrow and the next day isn’t. I call up my girlfriends for support, and write to you people, and get through the next day.

Lastly, quit whining. I can do all this stuff, and am privileged to know a lot of really super people who don’t feel well enough to do these kind of things, or who spend most of their time in a chair with wheels.

To paraphrase Judith Viorst, “Some weeks are like that, even in Australia.”

Much love and thanks for listening,

V