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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

Blogging A CHiP on my Shoulder

Starting this week, I will be posting my book, A CHiP on my Shoulder – How to Love Your Cop with Attitude. Yep, a couple of times a week, you’ll be able to start at the beginning and read through it, word for word.

Kind of an out of the box idea, I know. But here’s where I’m goin’ with this.

Back in late 2005 and early 2006, the California Highway Patrol lost a total of six officers over the holidays. It was AWFUL. We banded together as blue blood families do, and muddled through it. And some of their widows are now my friends. Chief often says that these ladies are real heroes, and I completely agree. But during that time, we were also losing officers to suicide. In the course of four years, 15 CHP officers took their own lives. During this rash of on duty deaths, the numbers seemed to increase in frequency.

Chief and I were about to turn in one evening, when he looked at his Blackberry one last time. Another suicide. I yelled to him across the room, “What are we DOING?!” I was talking about the CHP – what are THEY doing – but for some reason, I started asking myself the question. What am I doing? And soon thereafter, in a quiet moment with God, a title came to me: A CHiP on my Shoulder. I wouldn’t write it for another four years, but in that time I got involved. I started caring on purpose. I started listening. Joined the Family Panel. Listened some more. Did research. And finally I wrote – prayerfully and thoughtfully. And CHiP was born during the toughest season of marriage Chief and I have had to endure yet. Which actually made the book that much better.

A CHiP on my Shoulder became available this time last year. And only a small percentage of police spouses have read my book thus far. But the response has been almost overwhelming. I get lots of letters saying that CHiP has changed perspectives, brought more understanding, encouraged them, saved their marriage, and spurred much needed conversations with their officers. They laugh, they cry, they see themselves in what I wrote. And I’m thrilled.

But I’m just getting started. Because the response has been so positive, it’s given me the confidence to work even harder at getting the word out. Blogging my book is just one more step to that end. My hope is that more will hear what I have to offer – and that it will make a difference.

But I also would love it if you entered into a conversation with others (and me) about the book. Stories, positive comments, respectful disagreement, or other thoughts that are spurred by sections of the book are not only welcomed, but encouraged. I’m still listening to learn – and have plans for more resources. Talks, seminars, more books, Bible studies – these are what I’d eventually like to have available, and how much better will they be with the input of hundreds as compared with the 35 I listened to during the writing of CHiP!

The only thing I ask is that you keep it positive, and listen to learn with me. There is so much division in this world – we can’t possibly agree on everything! But we can respect each other in the process.

One last thing – subscribe and tell others, okay? If you find it helpful, maybe others will too. And we all need a little help from time to time. Especially in this crisis-driven field.

Thanks to those of you who have purchased my book, loaned it to others, and have sent me great letters. My hope is that many more will do this, and engage in the discussions. We need each other!

September 25th, 2012

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To the One Who Wants Out

Last night I heard that another law enforcement marriage looks like it’s ending. A couple from my own church. And it grieves me. Because I believe that those who stand up and stand in the gap deserve better. And those who love them and are willing to sacrifice parts of life that others don’t deserve better than this as well.

Well, I was inspired. And here’s what I wrote:

This is for the one who serves and protects. You, who stands up for us and puts your life on the line and says, “I will not let you” because the act is destructive. It hurts others, causes chaos, and even though this thing that the criminal wants to do may seem good to him at the time, it will ultimately lead to destruction of his own life. Thank you, thank you for putting on your uniform day after day and going out on the streets and protecting and serving those of us who appreciate you, and those who don’t appreciate you.

I have heard that you want out. That you are tired of the life that you have made with your spouse and you are daring to think that a life without her would be better. You have walked away, shut down the love, and have been looking elsewhere.

I acknowledge that you work long hours. That the job takes its toll. That you see things that people do to each other that are inexcusable. You’ve seen that life isn’t fair. You’ve seen who people are at their worst. Your job as a peacekeeper is difficult and lonely.

I acknowledge that almost three out of four police officers experiences divorce. It’s become a common thing – an expectation even – something that your leaders will tell you up front you’re headed for. So don’t even try. Lower your expectations, get what you can out of each relationship, and then when it gets tough, just cut bait and leave. Move onto wife number two. It’s what cops do.

I acknowledge that that person you married is difficult to live with. She doesn’t understand. She complains. She doesn’t seem happy. You’re not getting enough sex. And chances are, she doesn’t look like she did when she walked down the aisle to pledge her life to you.

I acknowledge that your life isn’t the way that you imagined it would be. It isn’t what you want anymore. That it’s been this way for so long that there’s no point in trying because you’re so tired and worn out and it’s just not worth the work to try anymore. You’ve been pushed beyond your ability to stay.

I acknowledge that there are others who look at you in your beautiful uniform and desire you. They are ready, willing and able to please you. They seem to understand, especially if they are wearing the same uniform. You’re beautiful. You’re desired. You’re feeling things you haven’t felt in a long time.

But it’s a lie.

All of it.

Being a cop does not mean that you have to be alone. It does not mean that you will get a divorce. This is, pardon the pun, a cop out.

I appeal to you as a warrior. You are willing to stand up and say NO! To fight for what’s right. You’re willing to lay your life down for this. Why, as a warrior, are you so unwilling to fight for your own marriage? For your family?

Your wife is a human being. Complex. Difficult. Hard to understand. And so are you. Complex. Difficult. Hard to understand. And your job makes things even more complex, difficult, and hard to understand. You put your life on the line, and you know what? So does she. She puts her sense of security on the line. She puts her heart on the line. She says, if something happens, I will make up the slack. I will carry on the family in your stead. And while your crisis-driven career makes your lives tumultuous, she says I will support, I will flex, I will go to things alone, I will let go of my expectations, I will do what is needed to make us work.

Who does that? Who would put up with that? Someone who is fiercely in love. Someone strong. Someone who has deep character. Someone who deserves that fierce love back. Someone who will serve and protect the life that she herself is willing to sacrifice for. She doesn’t deserve to be walked away from.

A long life together is a life of seasons. There will be winter seasons – when life is colorless and there isn’t much sex and it isn’t as you imagined it would be. But if you stick with it, and make choices to invest in your relationship, the spring will come, the summer will come, and it is continually a life of adventure, and pain, and happiness, and history, and goodness.

I appeal to you as a discerner. When your gut is telling you that something isn’t quite right, you put yourself on alert. You get in defensive posture, ready to take on the threat that you sense. But why do you allow yourself to be lulled in by beautiful women? A person who is willing to enter into a relationship with a married man is nothing but a thief. She’s willing to take something that isn’t hers because she WANTS it. Don’t you arrest thieves? Why?

She may be hot, but she’s selfish. She may seem to understand, but it really is all about her. And she may be willing to have sex, but she’ll dig her claws into you and destroy your marriage, your kids, your wallet, and your soul. And when she’s drained you dry, she’ll move on.

I appeal to you as a man in blue. Why have you stopped protecting your marriage? Why have you stopped serving your marriage? Because it was too hard? Because you’re too tired? Those cops who turn and run in the face of difficulty are called cowards. Stand up and be the brave man that you are.

You took an oath. To love, honor and cherish till death do you part. When did you stop loving? When did you stop honoring? When did you stop cherishing? Go back there. Start again. You have a choice to stand in the gap and say, NO! No divorce. No bad marriage.

As one who has put her heart on the line, she deserves it.

As one who has put your life on the line, you deserve it.

This is for the one who serves and protects. I’m appealing to you, to stand up for your marriage and put your choice on the line and say, “I will not give up.” Because leaving is destructive. It hurts others, causes chaos, and even though it may seem good to you now, it will ultimately lead to destruction of your own life.

September 19th, 2012

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Sorry, No Lamb Chops Today!

Yesterday we buried Officer Kenyon Youngstrom and paid tribute to who he was as an officer, a family man, and a man of faith. We heard from several CHP officers, some of whom shed tears while they spoke, and I offered Kleenex to still others who were affected. Many of the officers present did not even know Kenyon. I didn’t.

And I ask myself,

Why do some people hate cops so much?

Why does a man see a young officer on the side of the road tending to a dead deer, pull over, and come out shooting? Where does that rage come from?

A few days prior, a fellow LEO wife had her husband’s uniform hanging in her car, and decided to stop at 7-11 on her way home from the dry cleaners. Four scumbags nearby commented rather loudly, “That guy should’ve taken out more cops before he got gunned down in cold blood.” Where does that come from? It sends shivers down my spine. (And it’s a reminder to all of us LEOWs to put the dry cleaning in the trunk).

I’ve been thinking about this quite a bit. Asking God about it. And then …

Across the world, Muslim extremists are tearing our embassies apart, and killed our Ambassador to Libya and three others, including two Marines. It makes my blood boil.

Where does that come from? Why do some people hate America so much?

I drove myself to the funeral yesterday – in my blue Prius. My car didn’t look like the others that were parked on every flat surface a half mile radius around the church. And I watched cops arrive from every direction. They are intimidating. Chiseled faces, helmets and caps, sunglasses, shiny badges, lights flickering, weapons around their waists. Because I’m sorta into this kinda thing, I got this warm feeling inside. Wow. But what about others who got caught in the traffic jam? Did the same view that gives me warm fuzzies give them a sense of dread? I’d be willing to bet yes.

There are three different kinds of people in this world. There are sheep, wolves, and sheepdogs.*

The sheep are the biggest group – they live quiet lives meal to meal, don’t care about much that doesn’t affect their world, and just want to be safe and happy.

The wolves want to prey on the sheep. Devour them. Satiate their thirst for blood and death. Most predators don’t care if it gets messy.

And then there are the sheepdogs that make up only 2% of the population. They’re a little confusing. They look like predators on the outside (cute, yes, but look at their sharp teeth), but their motivation – their job – is to keep the sheep safe. They stand in the way of danger and say to the wolves that they will not feast on the sheep. They stand in the way of danger, and say to the wolves – YOU WILL NOT EAT. And how do you think those wolves feel about that? Probably strong enough to randomly pull over on the side of the road and kill him.

I also see our country as a sheepdog. We’re big, we’re powerful. We have beautiful brass shiny things, and chiseled jaws, a very cool flag and weapons around our waist. We are intimidating. And for decades we’ve said to wolves throughout history, YOU WILL NOT EAT. And how do you think those wolves feel about that? Strong enough to hijack planes and turn them into bombs. Strong enough to shoot our US Ambassador and drag his dead body through the streets.

Do you think the sheep are happy the sheepdogs are around? You’d think so. And some are. But sometimes those sheepdogs get a little bossy. Sometimes the sheepdogs have to get after the sheep because they’re doing something stupid that could jeopardize their safety. And because of that, sheep aren’t always grateful. Instead, they’re irritated.

Sometimes sheepdogs die protecting the sheep. Not gladly, but willingly. And those of us who commit to our sheepdogs understand the risks. But we love them anyway.

Because they’re people. Humans who tear up when it’s safe to do so. They love, and laugh, and feel deeply and play, but they are still sheepdogs at the core of their being. And when they put on the uniform, they tell wolves, NO LAMBCHOPS TODAY.

There are some that reason that if there were no sheepdogs, there would be no wolves. If we lay our weapons down, if we just learn to understand, be nice, try not to offend, then the wolves will go away. But if our cops cease to exist, or if America ceases to exist, it doesn’t mean the wolves will go prancing into the sunset with nothing to do.

It means they will devour the sheep.

*This idea comes courtesy of LtCol. Dave Grossman, awesome speaker and author of On Combat and On Killing.

September 14th, 2012

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Remembering September 11, 2001

I wrote the following narrative a couple of days after September 11th, 2001 to a group of mothers of preschoolers. Thought I’d share it with you (adding a little commentary here and there as well as changing the kids’ names):

“The phone rang about 7:30 am, waking my husband and I out of a sound, jet-lagged sleep. As a law enforcement family, we were used to getting calls at all hours, so naturally, Chief (then “Sarge”) answered the phone.

“You’re kidding.” Silence. “No-we got in late last night.” Silence. “It’s okay – we’re home, no need to worry. I can’t believe this.” After Sarge hung up the phone, he said to me, “That was Mom. Follow me – America has just changed forever.” We stumbled to the television in the den. We watched in dismay as they replayed scenes of airplanes slamming into the World Trade Center Towers. The LIVE picture showed only one tower standing, then it, too, gave way to dust. We were stunned.

Two days earlier we were on Patrick Air Force Base in Cocoa Beach, Florida. We had originally booked our tickets to return Tuesday morning, September 11, but through some strange circumstances we reluctantly cut our stay short. Brent’s mother feared we were stuck on the East Coast – or worse – aboard one of the hijacked planes previously headed for California.

Words cannot explain the pain that has invaded the heart of our country. Loss of life; financial implications; security concerns; (and I add war here) – our way of life has been altered. It is of some consolation to see that America has returned to united patriotism and to the One who gave us our freedom. Somehow our suffering has been able to strip down the walls that divide us – we’re praying together, looking for comfort and re-evaluating what is truly important.

Several years ago, amidst the anguish of losing a close friend to cancer, a wise lady told me, “Ask God what He wants you to learn through this.” Somehow her question brought about the realization that there could be some purpose to the pain. I never forgot it – and my compassion deepened through the mourning and recovery processes.

So I ask myself – and you – how can we find purpose in the midst of this tragedy? Is it not an appropriate time to take inventory of our priorities?

As a parent I have been thinking of my main priority – my kids. As I watched events unfold, I was periodically called away to care for the needs of my children. Looking back, I see it as a blessing that a mother’s job is 24/7; for the interspersed smiles of innocence on my little ones’ faces brought relief in the midst of sadness.

Bubba* (then 10) and Ralphie** (8 at the time) watched with curiosity and lots of questions, until more important things called away their attention, such as wrestling in the front room, or reading American Girl magazine. Mini-Me*** (then 5) was engaged in her favorite pastime – coloring, and of course brought each masterpiece to Mom and Dad for our hearty approval. Little Guy**** toddled and babbled about the house making messes for me to deal with later, but every so often, he’d see my tears, crawl into my lap, and give me “loves.” Precious moments like these renew a sense of joy in the privilege I have of influencing my little ones on a day to day basis. I have found renewed purpose within the pain.

It is now that we as parents deter the downward spiral of insanity within our society. We may feel like our efforts are small in this American struggle – flags pasted in our mini-van windows, prayers sent up for the rescue workers at Ground Zero during bedtime, a few extra dollars donated, ribbons worn on our kid-soiled T-shirts – but I think we have a calling that is a powerful weapon against the fears of tomorrow. We are engaged in quiet combat within our homes – on the offensive for the raising of an excellent future people.

Ladies, we have been given the stewardship of a great national resource. Let us teach our children godly morality, instilling in them virtues of courage, perseverance, and selflessness through loving discipline and instruction. Today we are training America’s heroes for tomorrow…”

*Bubba is our oldest daughter – Chief called her that and the name just stuck.
**Ralphie is our oldest son – he used to look like the blond kid in The Christmas Story.
***Mini-Me is third in line – and she is a carbon copy of me, I’m afraid to admit.
****Little Guy – our youngest – although he’s just as tall as me now.

In the years since that fateful day, I have seen the changes that America has gone through. Every year I re-watch the documentaries and listen to the accounts of that day. I watch firemen and cops weep over the loss of their brothers as they talk about what happened, how they wonder why they survived and others didn’t. And currently I am writing about saving lives in Afghanistan – the war that resulted from September 11th. Much has changed in America because of that day.

In my home, I see my children eleven years later, growing into good people who care about the world and are dedicated to making contributions where they can. Chief and I can see that our efforts have made a difference.

At the time, I thought Chief was being dramatic when he declared that America had changed. But, as usual, he was right.

September 11th, 2012

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Seven Books for Police Wives

Seven Books For Police Families

Way back in the dark ages of the late 80s, before everyone had a computer and a cell phone, there was no information or help for those of us who were new law enforcement wives. Some of us muddled through, some gave it up, but in LA, very few of us ever spoke to each other. Marriage topics were taboo, unless someone was bold enough to rant to the world about their home life. And really, that wasn’t helpful.

I’m pleased to say that this is no longer the case. We’re now stepping into the 21st century, realizing that the status quo just isn’t good enough. Law enforcement marriages have been breaking apart – according to studies, almost 3 out of 4 police marriages will end in divorce. And it affects everyone – spouses, children, extended families, cops, departments and our culture. Broken marriages extend pain beyond just the two involved. But I think those who step up to the thin blue line deserve better than this. So do those who are brave enough to love them.

In the last several years, concerned people have decided that they cared enough to help. They wrote books, put together seminars, and started groups, Facebook pages, ministries and blogs. I thought I would mention seven books I’ve read that I think would be helpful for some, comforting to others, and life-changing for still more. As I read more books in the future, I will let you know what I find.

The first is the pioneer – I Love a Cop by Dr. Ellen Kirschman. She is a clinical psychologist from California who works with peace officers and their families. She put together a wealth of information on what she has learned every police family should be aware of. I consider it a resource that every family member of a police officer should have on their shelf. It is an eye-opener.

Next comes Emotional Survival for Law Enforcement by Dr. Kevin M. Gilmartin. This book is a must-read. The author is a former police officer and now consults with law enforcement agencies as a behavior scientist across the country and in Canada. He explains the psychology and physiology of being a police officer. My husband attended a class with him, and told me that it was the first time in his life he felt understood.

The third is Bullets in the Washing Machine by Melissa Littles. Melissa is married to an officer in Oklahoma and started an internet group called “The Police Wife Life.” Her Treadmill Thoughts of the Day range from hysterical to in-your-face truths as she talks about many aspects of the life of an LEOW. Her book is a collection of several true stories that are both heartwarming and thought-provoking. Thousands of LEOWs across the country draw strength and laughter from Melissa.

Dependence Day, written by Heidi Paulson, documents a spiritual and emotional journey of healing after her husband crashes his motorcycle while on duty in Montana. She exhibits great strength in the face of many grueling months post-accident. It is inspiring to read for every day, but if your cop gets injured on the job, this resource would be a great comfort and guide.

The next book is written to officers, but I personally got a lot of understanding and new perspective from it. It’s called Arresting Communication and is by a retired police officer out of Illinois named Jim Glennon. Be warned that this book is laced with profanity, but also contains some great principles about communication for cops, on the job and at home.

Chaplain Allison Uribe, a chaplain and LEOW from Texas, wrote a faith-based book for law enforcement wives based on her own experience. It’s called Because I’m Suitable – The Journey of a Wife on Duty. Complete with tons of Scripture, thoughtful questions, and warm encouragement, this book can be used for Bible study groups. I have been personally going through the book on my own and it has been really great to stretch me in my relationship with my husband. Allison also runs a ministry to LEOWs called Wives on Duty.

The last is A CHiP on my Shoulder – How to Love Your Cop with Attitude, by yours truly. I wrote CHiP based on my own experience, interviews with over 35 police families, research, and feedback from those who are smarter than I. What results is a real but positive how-to book that gives new perspectives and understanding for the spouse of a police officer. I talk about communication, kids, money, support systems, sex, and difficulties that are specific to a crisis-driven career.

These are resources that I feel are helpful to the families of law enforcement. If you know of another book or seminar that would be helpful, please email me at victoria@how2loveyourcop.com, or comment here. I’ll check it out. In the meantime, I will continue to develop more resources in the days to come – books, seminars, speaking engagements and other resources to help police families not only survive, but thrive.

September 4th, 2012

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