My, how 2012 has unfolded.
At this time last year I had a book in hand and a trip overseas planned. I had a dream – but would not have guessed the places I was to go, and the people I would meet. It’s been a wild ride, but one that I cherish and that I treasure.
A few highlights:
In February: I went on a trip to the Philippines with CODE 3 International to bring the Courageous movie to over 5000 Philippine National Police officers. That was incredible.
In April: I had a huge book signing in my hometown, Chico, California. Lost count of how many came. I met some wonderful girls who told me of the needs there. In November, I went back for a conference that several of them put together, and now I hear there are new relationships that have formed, and there are tentative plans to do another in the area, and talk of doing it statewide.
In May: I traveled to Washington DC for Police Week with CODE 3 International. What an incredible week. Thousands of police officers and their families. Made connections and sold many books. I also entered into contract with a client to write a second book.
In August: I loved speaking to the San Diego Wives Club and going to dinner with the leadership. They are a truly lovely group of women. I still get all warm and fuzzy when I think of them.
In July and October: I visited Texas, Kentucky and Tennessee for interviews with Army service members for my next book.
In between these significant events, I have connected with several of you over the course of the year, networking, helping, mentoring, listening, and working together on projects. I love what I do because of you.
This year I’ve had a theme word that I kept in mind all year long. It was SPEAK. When I chose it last year as the theme of 2012, it was just about self-explanatory. I’d just come out with a book and had speaking engagements on the horizon. But then in August, a precious girl spoke up after I’d spoken in San Diego. “What if we do the things you’re suggesting, but our LEO still holds onto the remote?” This was a response to cops who veg on the couch in the coming down phase of hypervigilance. I had talked about this phenomenon, and we agreed it was difficult on a marriage. Without thinking, I blurted out – “You stand in front of the TV!”
This brought on a whole new meaning to my theme word, and I incorporated my theme more deeply in my marriage and role as a mom. To speak is to be courageous. To be in touch with our relationships. To dare to realize that there are areas that need improvement and then communicate this with our spouse and children. We can initiate change if we find our voice.
In the course of the year, I’ve also discovered that to speak wisely, it is also imperative to listen. In the interview process of this next book, Selfish Prayer, I flew to different parts of the country to ask questions of soldiers who were in Afghanistan. Because I don’t have a military background, I had to listen quite intently, learning as I went. I had to decipher the language of the Army, medical terminology, and listen to the personalities of the men involved so that I could accurately and creatively tell their story. And then as I translated it all to paper, I realized I had listened well, but still had much to learn of their experience.
I’ve learned much through this year about communication. To SPEAK is to dare to suppose I have something to offer the world. But in this I also learned that humble confidence is key to SPEAKING WELL. Whether it’s before an audience of a thousand, or one.
I have a new word for 2013. It is FEARLESS.
More on that tomorrow…
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 31st, 2012
Posted In: Uncategorized
Christmas Thoughts for the Hurting
Last year Christmas was very difficult for our family. In the midst of the culmination of a dream – the release of my first published book – our family experienced a very painful season. In light of so many life-altering events that we hear about and experience every day, I want to share our story – humbly and vulnerably – in hopes that it will bring hope to those who are hurting.
In the fall of 2011, my son, fresh out of high school, left for USMC boot camp. We had invested a 2-year journey of exploration, prayer and gut-searching talks about this decision, and Chief and I were very supportive, as were our other three children. We were ready – even a little excited – about being a Marine family.
Five weeks in, it all began to fall apart.
My son called me from an ambulance – he and several others had pneumonia, but they also suspected he had meningitis. His boot camp brothers were given antibiotics and sent back. My son underwent a spinal tap, which paralyzed him from the knees down for three days. He was subsequently separated from Bravo Company, a devastating blow.
This set into motion a downward spiral of ill-fated circumstances that stripped our son of everything. He fought back with a burning intensity, but in the end, he was medically discharged from the Marine Corps, and arrived home shortly before Christmas.
To add insult to raw hurts and insecurities, our reunion in the airport sparked the interest of some nearby. He was mistaken for having come back from war, and was thanked for his service. He looked, talked, walked like a Marine, but he was not a Marine.
Our journey had only begun. We were not fully aware of the things he’d undergone. We just knew he was deeply confused, lost, and hurting.
We had planned to postpone Christmas until the second week of January, after his graduation. The kids were totally willing to wait. We were gonna keep the tree up no matter how dry, and have people over for dinner, and do the whole thing in January. But that didn’t happen either. We spent Christmas Day together in a fog. We went through the motions, very glad to have our son home, but there were questions lingering, and pain that oozed from our confusion, and we passed over it in the spirit of the season.
I suspect that many of you will do the same this year. We’ve lost several of our blue brothers recently, one only on the job for four months. Just this month, California Highway Patrol lost two of our own – one from his own hand, the other in an off-duty hit-and-run. There are 27 families in Connecticut that will be without their loved ones, and in Colorado 12 more. Losses, cancer, people without work, broken dreams, broken lives, broken people.
“Long lay the world in sin and error pining…”
Some words I wrote in this season:
“Oh, Lord, I come to you this morning with heaviness of heart. With longing for peace, for answers, for direction… As always I look for quick answers – for resolved revelation, so we can move on from this dark, confusing place…
“Can I, in this Christmas season, have joy in the midst of hardship? Can I rejoice – return to joy – amidst my circumstances, by faith? Help me to understand this: there is unfinished business in our home, but You know all about it, have a plan, had a plan, and are carrying it out now. The solution will not be wrapped as a gift under the tree at Christmas Hollywood-style, but yet help me return to faith, return to joy, return to the knowledge I have of Your character. It is in this place, bolstered in the assurance of Your sovereignty and individualized love for my family, that I dare to re-joice.” – (Journal Entry, December 23, 2011)
Five months later, I was at the Law Enforcement Memorial in Washington DC. It was Mother’s Day – and the Candlelight Vigil was to begin in a couple of hours. My phone rang, and my son wished me a happy day. And then he told me that while in boot camp, he witnessed a suicide attempt, close enough to get blood splatter on his uniform.
A cold chill went down my spine. And then the thoughts that had been a jumbled mess for months suddenly aligned. Oh. Now I get it. My son had post-traumatic stress from a violent act he witnessed firsthand.
I listened. I prayed. I called Chief. I called our Marine recruiter. And while I was on the phone, a Marine in his uniform hobbled by on crutches at the Vigil site. He had only one leg.
Finally, the truth was known. Now we can do something.
When I got back, we got our son into EMDR therapy. We journeyed alongside him through nightmares, anger, grief, sadness, and the aftermath of difficult sessions.
And then, slowly but surely, he started coming back. And our relationships deepened. Trust was built. Genuine, unguarded hugs were exchanged. And the darkness has lifted.
My thoughts this year:
“Lord, I am amazed by Your faithfulness. This past year has been a walk of faith through many trials. And although life isn’t perfect, it is good.
“I have trusted Your character, Lord, and You have been completely faithful. I have been imperfect in my trust, but You have been perfect in Your love and guidance, in Your vision for us, and Your plan in the midst of our pain.
“This Christmas season has a renewed hope within our lives. We’ve been through the storm – tossed and shaken, uprooted and battered. And now we are rebuilding. My trust in You has grown; my inner panic in the midst of circumstances that seem so bad on the outside has subsided as I learn how You work. You are the Master Potter, the Chief Weaver, the Patient Artist. You have Your vision, and You carefully, faithfully, lovingly bring it together in Your time.
“I am peaceful in the midst of this process – still afraid, still moved by circumstance, but anchored by the hope of Your Mighty Hand.” – Journal Entry, December 1, 2012
Losing loved ones in the process of human life is so difficult. The grief can be devastating. Walking through unknowns in our marriages, with our health, our kids – overwhelming. But there is One who is very much concerned, very present in your pain, and very able to comfort. He will help you rebuild, from the inside out.
Life’s solutions are not wrapped in pretty packages. They unfold in time, as we dare to emerge from the shadows, knowing there is the light of hope beyond the dark.
“O come, Thou Day-Spring, come and cheer our spirits by Thine advent here
Disperse the gloomy clouds of night and death’s dark shadows put to flight.
Rejoice! Rejoice! Emmanuel shall come to thee…”
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 21st, 2012
Posted In: Uncategorized
Balancing Home Life and Career(s)
Jenny and Tim had been married double-digit years when they had their first child. Before this time she was a dispatcher and he an officer. They worked out their shifts together, and it was relatively easy, considering it was just the two of them. But when their daughter came, things changed. Jenny quit her job to stay home. Tim was still working long hours, and there were other demands that had to be taken care of as well.
In response they set up an agreement. They decided that when he had his days off, he was to give them one full day. The other days were up for grabs, but one day was to be spent with his girls. This worked as they scheduled several days a month to be together.
Kathy and Jerry did something similar. Jerry would come home from long hours on the job and retreat to the computer. He was really good at Farmville, an easy game on Facebook that he used as his down time. But it was creating resentment in Kathy. He’d already been gone for many hours; why would he want to spend more time without her and their son? She came to understand that he, in fact, craved that down time; he needed to think through the demands he felt during his shift. But this understanding didn’t entirely solve their problem. What did work was scheduling time to sit together and talk without other distractions. Sometimes they’d talk about their days, other times they got into deep issues, and other times they planned special trips. And occasionally these nice little talks led to intimacy in the bedroom.
Seasons: Recreating Normal
As the years progress, seasons come and go. Seasons of long hours. Seasons of illness. Seasons with children. Seasons with inadequate leadership within the department. Some of these seasons are amazing and some are excruciating. But they come and they go. When we live day to day, it’s very easy to forget this.
I took a walk with a physical trainer several years ago. Kate was bemoaning the fact that she was to have surgery on her knee within the week. She was weary of her injury. She was worried about gaining weight and possibly losing her job. She was sure that life would crumble around her and never be the same.
I suggested that she was in a winter season. I explained that there are seasons of life that seem bleak. Colorless. Like there’s no hope. She perked up when I told her that winter seasons eventually move into spring seasons. Seasons that show promise of beauty and color. There’s newness everywhere, and we get excited in our anticipation. Spring seasons move into summer seasons, and so on. Kate told me she’d never heard that before but seemed hopeful. Two months later she led our water aerobics class in a full-hour workout. Spring had come.
It’s all about attitude.
If your husband is working really long hours because of a case he’s on, it will end at some point. Some seasons are longer than others, but they do change. Your attitude makes the difference. Understand that you have to create a new normal for each season. Adjust expectations. Hold onto hope. Hunker down and persevere during the winter, knowing that spring is on it’s way.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 18th, 2012
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
“I think you have to kinda let go of the life that you thought you were gonna have when you marry an officer. I really do. I think you have to realize that you are in a new life now. And it’s gonna throw you curves. It’s different than any other job there is out there.” Jenny, former dispatcher and CHP wife
“True contentment is a real, even and active virtue—not only affirmative but creative. It is the power of getting out of any situation all there is in it.” G. K. Chesterton
There is no normal. Not really. Gone are the days where we compare ourselves to the Cleavers or the Joneses. We are a creative people collectively. If you took a survey of the households on your street, you might find that someone comes or goes all twenty-four hours of the day. Living in the city, I am always amazed how many people are out and about at four in the morning.
We create our own normal. My normal may be vastly different from your normal. The challenge comes when we try to make plans with others or even those within our own household. With three teenagers in our home, dinners around the table with everyone present are rare. Sports and work schedules prohibit many nights together. When they were smaller, the kids and I had dinner together every night, and normal was either Brent was there, or we kept a plate heated for later. In both situations everyone appreciates when we do have everyone present, and it’s usually a really fun night.
Before Brent and I had children, he worked swings (1400 to 2300, military time), and I worked at an office (0800 to 1700). We each were alone for several hours—he in the morning, I in the evening. We chose to look at it positively; we got to see each other at least four days a week. And we took advantage of those moments together and apart. We created our own normal.
DeAnn and Shawn both work and have two busy children. Their lives are very full with so many schedules to juggle. It was quickly becoming unmanageable, so DeAnn bought a whiteboard to put on the wall in the kitchen. Everyone’s schedule was placed on the calendar. It was Shawn’s responsibility to get his work schedule on the whiteboard in a timely manner. From then on, she was able to be organized and keep the details of the family straight.
I keep two calendars. A large desktop calendar works the best for me; the kids can write in their events and check on dates themselves. Brent, however, uses his Blackberry for his schedule. After several conflicts in communication, Brent asked if I could sync our computers by inputting events on his Gmail calendar. It works perfectly as long as I input things in a timely manner!
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 10th, 2012
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
Looking at being the wife of a cop as an adventure allows you to see the upside of so many events. Let me share a few of our memories over the years:
I remember turning beat red when a large group of cadets sang “Happy Birthday” to me on the steps of our state capitol. That was definitely cool. We missed a wedding in Northern California and drove all night to SoCal when Brent decided to return to help with the LA riots even though we were on vacation. Somehow I felt his call of duty and chose to answer it with my full support. There’s a satisfaction I have when I recount it now, like I did the right thing for the greater good. Maybe you understand? Your own needs take a back seat to the pressing issues of his job for a time.
When it was time to move, I accepted it, looking forward to a new adventure, and kept in touch with those we left behind. Now I have friends in several parts of the state, and I’ve never regretted it. I cried when a twenty-year-old killed her two best friends when she decided to drive drunk. I laugh as I remember how a poker game in the backyard became a little more eventful when a mole chose to run through a crowd of cigar-smoking cops. There was one less pest in the world to dig up our lawn!
When my two-year-old son burned his hands after falling into a campfire, Brent’s coworkers put together a basket of goodies for him to pass the time with while he healed. The support of other officers and office personnel has been huge when hard times hit. When a call came in of a nearby pursuit while having a deep conversation at home with out-of-state friends, I quickly helped Brent climb into his uniform and watched him screech away (he was the on-call supervisor). Our friends and I later listened with wild anticipation as he recounted how the pursuit ended in a field of flames with the suspect in custody. Hoorah! I clapped as tears filled my eyes when I witnessed an incredible victory over tragedy. Months after one of our officers became a paraplegic when he was hit on duty, he hand-pedaled his specialized bike as he joined my husband and his cadets on a run to our state capitol. I enjoyed being in the know when my husband got to be involved in a high-profile case. He was the first officer on the scene of the burned-out car that belonged to the victims of the highly publicized Yosemite murders.
These are just a few of our memories. You will have your own list if you don’t already. From time to time, it feels good to recount the ups and downs like I’ve done here. It bolsters confidence, knowing that we survived the downs intact, maybe even coming away with a little more strength, a little more wisdom. The ups invite an attitude of thankfulness, enjoying the good times once again.
It’s a wild and crazy adventure, a very full life. And know that more great things will be added in the years to come. Commit to the adventure; you’ll be glad you did.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" December 3rd, 2012
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder