I was frustrated. My daughter rolled her eyes when I told her to do something she wanted me to do for her. Chief had a beef with several things that had fallen through the cracks. My marketing firm gave me an ultimatum. And I was living in a constant state of frustration, doing poorly in every area of my out-of-balance life.
Yet I trudged on. It felt like each day I pulled around a heavy ball and chain, and couldn’t get my act together. Nothing was working right. I couldn’t cross off items on my list to save my life!
Have you ever been there? Where you have a to do list as long as your arm, and at the end of each day, it’s a longer list than you started with? Yeah, me.
Then came Sunday.
I had one of those deeper, come to an understanding conversations with Chief. And suddenly it all came clear. I was involved in too many things. I’d chosen to sign up for too many good causes, and everyone around me was suffering because of it. I was suffering, too.
I made the choice to withdraw from the chaplaincy. Yep, I only had a small amount of hours to complete. Yep, I loved it. Yep, I didn’t want to step away. But when it came down to it, it was the well-being of my family, or the chaplaincy. No contest.
What finally stopped me in my tracks was when Chief mentioned the one year we have left with our 16-year-old. She will be the kid that packs up and heads for college near the beach, coming home for Christmas and spring break. Oof.
Since I resigned from the chaplaincy (just a few days ago), every day is a new day of relief. More opportunities showed themselves: opportunities for relationship, opportunities to serve my family, and opportunities for contentment. The frustration level has decreased. I even exercised the last couple of days. And it feels great.
It’s about timing. We as women have so many choices and seasons, we are very capable. I thought this season was more about my career, as the kids are getting older. They don’t need me like they used to. But they still need me.
I don’t change diapers or pick up toys or help with homework anymore. But I do take phone calls and I do drive my younger two to events, and I need to remind my 13-year-old to wear sunscreen. I don’t stay up nights praying away monsters under the bed, but I do comfort my adult kids when they’ve had a bad day – at midnight, usually. I also wake up in the night praying for my son who doesn’t live with us anymore, but I know he may be sleepless with his chronic nightmares.
The kids are older, but I am still the heart of our home. And the choices I make with my time have a ripple effect on Chief and the four that God blessed us with. And for now, in this time, my availability for them is the most important choice I can make.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 28th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Last week’s blog has some tips on helping you have a support system with other police wives. Here are some more rules of engagement for you.
Rule Number Three: They Are One, Not Two
Rose’s husband is a deputy with a nearby county sheriff’s department. She was recounting to me how the office had experienced severe drama in the last several months, and it was wearing on her even though she wasn’t directly involved. There were two people having an affair at the office—an officer who was married and the wife of another deputy. Everyone knew except the spouses, and they were all trying to keep it a secret while gossiping about it. What a mess.
You will socialize with other attractive men in uniforms throughout your husband’s career. Chances are your friends’ husbands are nice to look at too. But if we are to conduct ourselves in a way that makes us safe friends, we must establish boundaries with other men.
I have developed a defense mechanism against letting handsome men get into my thoughts. When I see a married man who is attractive, I make sure to meet his wife. Then I look at them as one entity, not two. When I see Robert, I see Sue. When I see Scott, I see Lisa. This has worked for me; it keeps my mind in check. Looking at them as a couple keeps me from flirting and therefore doesn’t stir up bad vibes with my friends. The friendships keep me accountable. I don’t even go there, and others sense that I’m trustworthy.
I also have to mention the way we dress. Women are beautiful. And how we clothe ourselves makes a big statement to others about who we are and what we value. Dressing to attract (very short skirts, low-cut tops, ultra tight pants) may get the attention of men, but it screams to other women that they can’t trust her. She’s unsafe, threatening. Dressing nicely but appropriately helps other women trust you as a friend.
Rule Number Four: Loose Lips Sink Ships!
Have you ever poured a bag of sugar into a canister and realized too late that it wasn’t big enough to hold the whole bag? There are sugar crystals everywhere! They’re on the counter, the floor, and your clothes. You can sweep for the next three days and still feel them on your shoes.
This is what happens when we don’t use discretion. Once your words are out of the bag, they can end up anywhere.
Within departments there are always politics. I can’t tell you how many times key people have tried to get me to talk about my views on things. They’ve tried to get information. I am learning to keep my opinions to myself because my views will be read as my husband’s views. And that could get him into hot water.
When you are socializing with people from the department, play out beforehand what you will disclose and not disclose. You don’t ever have to be rude unless someone gets out of line. Smile. But be careful about passing along information that could jeopardize the well being of your husband. Better yet, stay clear of controversial work topics and share about the other aspects of your lives.
Someone Older and Wiser
Renee’s husband, Joel, had been deployed to Iraq twice. When his time was up with the National Guard, he went to work for the sheriff’s department. Renee had struggled deeply with little kids in tow while he was in the Middle East. She felt very alone, and there wasn’t much support available. Those years were very hard. So when Joel came home and became a cop, she was glad that he was home, but there were still stresses with his job.
About that time she met a woman who was also a deputy wife. Cyndi was a little older, and her husband had been with the county for several years. She took a liking to Renee, and they soon found they had much in common. Soon this friendship blossomed into a mentoring relationship. Cyndi called Renee from time to time and asked her how she was faring. She’d answer questions and listened to Renee’s concerns. She gently guided Renee to keep on investing in her marriage and children and offered understanding and helpful ideas. Unlike the lonely deployment experience, she felt supported and strong.
I, too, have benefited from mentoring relationships. When I was younger, I sought out confident women that I respected and asked them to meet with me for guidance. The time was invaluable. I sat soaking in tried and true wisdom and remember much of what they said all these years later.
In recent years I have been able to pay it forward. I am now a mentor to several ladies and feel honored that younger women want to meet with me. I love listening and sharing wisdom and asking questions to get them to really think about the deep stuff.
If this kind of a friendship appeals to you, start looking for a seasoned woman from the office or another department. It helps if she is a law enforcement wife, but it doesn’t have to necessarily be so. Look for a wise, quiet yet confident woman who cares about you and your marriage. Then take the plunge and ask her to meet regularly.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 24th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
Recently Chief and I went to a co-worker’s wedding. During the ceremony, the couple braided three cords together as a symbol of their new marriage. One cord for the bride, one for the groom, and the third was symbolic of God. It was a Scottish/Irish tradition, and the pastor talked about how they were individuals coming together to make a new life, and God would be the third strand that would keep their marriage strong.
I’d never seen this before, even though I am Scottish/Irish and Chief has Irish roots. But as a couple who just celebrated our 25th year together, I can say that our third strand, Christ, has definitely made our marriage stronger, and in many ways.
First of all, the third strand strengthens us as individuals. My relationship with God is somewhat like a knight in shining armor story, as he rescued me from a destructive life at the age of nineteen. I was in a downward spiral, and in a really low moment, I called out to God for help. He reminded me of the love He has had for me since I was a small child, and welcomed me back into a relationship with Him that has grown in fervor ever since. My husband has had a relationship with God since he was a kid, and He has watched over him, given him wisdom, and guided his life and career to this day.
Second, the Third Strand meets needs that we can’t meet in each other. When I married Chief, I thought that he would meet all my relational needs. But that was completely unrealistic. No one can do that! And then he became a highway patrolman, and that made things even more difficult. In my lonely nights alone while Chief was working, the Third Strand was with me. In the times I feared my husband wouldn’t come home, the Third Strand comforted me with His promises (Psalm 91). In my clumsy miscommunication, the Third Strand gave me clarity of mind and new perspectives that would help me articulate my feelings and thoughts. In my fatigue of the days, months and years of constant battling for our marriage, the Third Strand gave me strength. And in my inadequacies, He somehow made up the difference. It’s kind of a mystery, but one I rely on to sustain me through the difficult days.
Lastly, the Third Strand holds us together even when we are frayed and strained in our relationship and life as a couple. We have a common faith, a commitment, and common values and goals. Even on the days that we get tired of each other, or situations, or the job – the Third Strand keeps us joined by being intimately involved in the smallest details of our lives.
As Chief and I celebrated our 25 years together a couple of weeks ago, we talked about the things that we change and not change, and then recommitted 25 more years together. I have confidence in this, knowing that with all that will happen, good and bad, the Third Strand, our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ, will be with us, help us, and continue to hold us together.
“A cord of three strands is not easily broken.” – Ecclesiastes 4:12
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 20th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
You need a support system, but can you trust women?
I ran into an acquaintance recently who I hadn’t seen in a while. We quickly caught each other up on our families, and she mentioned that her nine-year-old daughter was giving her fits. I nodded, knowingly. “That’s when their hormones start up,” I shared. “I bet she’s also experiencing drama with other girls at school, isn’t she?” She looked at me like I was psychic. I went on to recall stories of my girls when they turned that magic number nine. It was a hurtful time; girls were so mean!
Sometimes interacting with other women is scary. We’ve all been there at some time or another—some girl is creating drama, and suddenly connection isn’t such a hot idea. The good news is as we mature, there are fewer of us who take part in this kind of stuff. But definitely not all. That’s why I say, “Proceed with caution!” If you find yourself connecting with a woman who is gossiping, run—don’t walk—to the nearest exit. Even if she’s talking trash about someone you don’t like, chances are she’ll eventually talk trash about you too.
Rules of Engagement
Over the years I have worked with, served, taught, mentored, spoke to, and counseled hundreds of women of all backgrounds. I’ve learned through trial and error how to be a friend and observed those that do friendship well. I’ve come up with some general rules of engagement that will help you pick some good friends and be a good friend in return.
The Number-One Golden Rule
I’ll start with the most basic. We learned this in school or from our moms early on, but it represents a very good boundary for our behavior! The golden rule is to do to others what you would have them do to you. If you want someone to keep your secrets, keep hers. If kindness is important to you, then be kind. If you would like some practical help here and there, then offer and follow through with practical help. Fill in the blanks from there.
Keep this in mind as you converse with others. As women, we have a tendency to talk too much. Oh, the words we say, every day, in lots of ways! But we all have two ears and one mouth. Listening is twice as important as talking. Ooh, this is a good reminder for me! I have so many stories, and I like to tell those stories to make connections to this and that—show others how much we have in common! But I like to be listened to, so I have had to teach myself to shut my mouth and listen to others.
Rule Number Two: What’s the Back Story?
Novelists are always on the lookout for creative ways to bring in the back story. This is the prelude to what you’re reading in the book, the reasons or the road to how the character got where they are physically and emotionally in the story. The same goes for real people; there’s always a back story.
I have learned to never make assumptions based on first impressions. Some women are shy. Some women want to be friends, but want to first observe if you’re trustworthy or not. When I speak, it’s often the women who don’t make eye contact with me during my talk that approach me afterwards to ask questions.
You’d be surprised how many women are carrying burdens that come across as indifference to others. Those who come across as confident, engaged women can actually be harboring feelings of self-doubt just beneath the surface.
Things aren’t always as they appear. We don’t always have the facts. That fabulously dressed brunette sitting by herself with a don’t-approach-me look has a story. She probably isn’t stuck up. She probably doesn’t think she’s better than you. She might be shy. Or she was abused as a child. Or she and her husband had an argument on the way there. Or she has ten dollars in her bank account and no groceries in the fridge. You never know what is behind the blank stare or the up front attitude. But it might be worth it to try to find out the back story. It just might be very similar to your own.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 17th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
Two are better than one, because they have a good return for their work;
If one falls down, his friend can help him up.
But pity the man who falls and has no one to help him up!
It started with a funeral… All of our husbands had to work it, so several of us went to Chili’s, ate chocolate cake, and cried together. We’ve been close ever since.
Faye, CHP wife of 16 years
There was an instant connection with other cops’ wives. They could understand what I was going through. It became a lifesaver.
Christina, wife of deputy sheriff
It was a mix and match evening. There were cops’ wives who were married from three to thirty-two years. There were different departments, nationalities, ages, and viewpoints. We had a former dispatcher, a wife who had two sons on the force, and two wives of retired policemen. Several had gone through critical incidents and their aftermath with their husbands. Some had gone through struggles in their marriages and almost didn’t make it. And yet the unity was undeniable. Those who’d never met before were hugging and exchanging numbers by the end of the night.
I hadn’t expected this when I invited several wives of law enforcement to my home to talk about our lives. I was pleasantly surprised at their insight; heads nodded around the table as each took a turn to describe what being a wife of a law enforcement officer was like. At the end of the evening, several women said that even though they’d never done something like this, they wanted to do it again and soon.
I learned something that night. No matter our differences, we need each other.
A Need Indeed!
We have so many demands on our time. Work, children, and managing our homes consumes hours and energy. Add to that a husband’s crisis-driven career, and there’s not a lot of time for much else. We can live our lives moving from task to task, and there is a certain amount of satisfaction with this. But after awhile loneliness sets in. We need connection. We need to laugh together, cry together. We need someone to hear the fifty thousand words we have to get out every day. And our kids just can’t meet these needs.
The California Highway Patrol Academy holds two important events for every cadet class. The day before the cadets report for training, the staff hosts a family orientation seminar. The purpose is to educate loved ones as to what their cadet will go through and suggest ways to help them through the next twenty-seven weeks. The day before graduation, family members of those graduating are invited to a family support panel. The purpose of this meeting is to educate families for their first steps as an officer. In both events seasoned wives are invited to encourage, validate, and connect with other families. Swapping numbers with nearby people, encouraging Facebook connections and forums online, and grouping families according to geographical area of assignment is a big part of the connection process. The reason our department does this is that they have recognized the importance of support systems for our officers. It is becoming increasingly apparent that cops and their families need to have connection with and support from those who love them. Their emotional survival depends on it.
You and I are no different. We may be the support systems for our men in uniform, but we can’t do it alone either. When we deal with what comes home, we need validation of our thoughts and actions. It is good to get feedback from those we trust, and most of all we need healthy doses of encouragement that come from others who love us. Living life together gives us confidence and security.
Let’s start with you as an individual. Do you have close friends or family who support you, your marriage, and your kids? Chances are you have a great support system in place. But what if your husband’s job takes you to another part of the state or country? Or you have a strained relationship with your mother? Or your spouse just started his career in law enforcement and your friends not only don’t understand but also don’t want to?
Brent and I have lived in several parts of our state as he’s transferred for promotions. My experience is that I have been the one to take the initiative. In southern California, before I had children, my workplace was where I found my friends. I found myself tagging along with single girls when Brent was working or looked forward to ladies’ nights out with coworkers. We went to the Hollywood Bowl together, threw wedding and baby showers, and went to lunch. I learned a lot about LA’s creative variety hanging out with these gals.
Once I had children, it seemed to be a little easier to find friends. I joined a local Mothers of Preschoolers chapter and got involved. I was invited by another CHP wife and loved it. As the kids grew older, I met ladies at school functions and the gym. We’d work out and then go to coffee afterward for girl time.
One of my closest friends is a young woman who moved to Sacramento the same time I did, and we met in a Bible study. Once I learned her husband was with the Air Force and they lived five minutes away, our families began living our lives together almost every day. We have continued to keep in touch through the years and spend many of our vacations visiting them in whatever state they reside.
One question I hear often from new officers’ wives is, “How do I get in touch with other law enforcement wives?” It’s not as easy as it might seem. Sometimes you just have to extend an invitation for coffee without expectations. You never know who you’ll connect with and who you won’t. With the friend in the Air Force, I had to ask her several times to get together before she actually took me up on it. She and her husband weren’t used to getting to know people much because they moved often. We cured them of that.
Annie’s husband, Tim, was with county homicide. It was hard on him, and he wasn’t the same person after he saw some awful things. I asked her how she dealt with it. She told me that in addition to her church, she has some great friends in law enforcement. She had grown close to a female deputy who was also married to an officer. When their husbands worked swing shift, they would take the kids out to have some fun. Sometimes they got home just before their husbands did! But Annie told me that those fun times were what got her and the kids through those long, lonely evenings.
Another thing that works fairly well within offices is to get groups of wives together on a regular basis, grass-roots style. The best example I’ve seen is what my friend Faye put together. She and a couple of ladies started going to coffee together. Then they went to a play. Soon they invited more and more ladies from the station to join them, and they came up with a variety of monthly events. Faye had the vision to connect the women in her husband’s office, and she went for it. It caught on. Then when one of the women’s husbands was killed in the line of duty, they stepped up and took care of her, comforting her and meeting practical needs. It was community they created, and it naturally kicked into action when crisis hit. Faye and I are now actively encouraging others to do the same thing in other areas of California.
Another way that we’ve seen great connection on a larger level is groups of law enforcement wives on the Internet. Our cadet wives have been creating small groups on Facebook. This is a great way to keep in touch with several people at once and when you don’t live close to other wives. This is an incredible way to gain information, ask questions about benefits, support families through critical incidents and family emergencies, and just toss out ideas. When face to face isn’t always available, this is a great way to connect. If you check my website, I have updated links to several groups of law enforcement wives on the Internet.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 10th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
I’ve talked about motivation, foundations, problems, and trust. These are some deep parts of yourself you may never have thought about in this context. But I come back to them because it is so important to know who you are. When we know who we are, then we are much better equipped to deal with whatever life hands us. We know what will work and what won’t. It’s much better than going through life just guessing.
When Brent went into the academy to become a highway patrolman, I went through my own transformation at home (the CHP Academy is a six-month live-in arrangement with most weekends off). I had to stand on my own two feet for the first time in my life. I had a home to run, a job to perform, and on the weekends a husband to encourage and support. Back in the day before e-mail and cell phones, I had no way to get in touch with him during the week. I had to rely on his ability to use the one phone on campus while completing rigorous eighteen-hour days. He didn’t call much, and I missed him terribly.
It was during this time that I discovered that my husband would not meet all of my needs. Fulfillment could not be found in him alone, nor could he secure my insecurities. This was hard to accept; I came into our marriage with an expectation that he would do all that. I did some soul-searching, found a mentor, and grew up a little. It was a good thing too because that toughened me up for our first assignment in Los Angeles.
The best approach to our relationship with our husbands is as whole people. They can meet some of our needs but not all. Spending some time answering the motivation and foundation questions is a good start. But we cannot do this alone. We must have a support system.
Questions to ask yourself:
1. When you are eighty years old, what do you want your life to look like as you take inventory of the years you invested?
2. Do you struggle with fear and/or worry? If yes, what is something you’re willing to try to combat it? If not, why not?
3. Do you tend to live with short-term thinking or long-term thinking?
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" June 3rd, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder