I don’t even know what VMA stands for. And I don’t really care.
But this week has been overshadowed by the latest shocking event on this show. Why? Because my daughter is mortified.
My girls grew up watching Hannah Montana. They’d finish their homework, and run to the television to watch the latest show. And all of us moms were like, “How cool is this? A wholesome show, where a daughter and her dad work together. This is great!”
My daughter reminded me today that her dad, AKA Chief, did not allow her to buy the Miley Cyrus CD. She was heartbroken.
I hadn’t remembered this.
But once I recalled the situation, I think I didn’t really agree with him. I didn’t see the harm in “Nobody’s Perfect.” But he set his foot down, and I let it go.
Today, I watched “Hannah Montana” in action again, only this time I was absolutely appalled.
My girls and I watched her new video for her song, “We Can’t Stop.” We looked at one another and my oldest responded, “What happened to her?”
That’s what I’m wondering, too. What happened to her?
She’s beautiful. She used to have amazing long, flowing hair. She has a flawless voice. She has money, and fame. She was smart, and funny, with some country, down home roots.
This week, as I watched her stick her tongue out KISS-style, shaved head with hair-ears, gyrating with a foam finger, freak dancing on a married man (oh, they call it twerking now), and generally making a first-class fool of herself, my first thought was, she’s reduced herself to her crotch.
I know that’s harsh. I’m sorry.
Yep, I’m sorry for her. And her dad. And for my girls to see such a gifted girl objectify herself for shock factor, or money, or ratings. It’s really sad. Because she is really so much more than that.
My “adopted” daughter (she’s like family) posted on her Instagram yesterday the photo you see above, a quote from Audrey Hepburn: “There is more to sex appeal than just measurements. I don’t need a bedroom to prove my womanliness. I can convey just as much sex appeal, picking apples off a tree or standing in the rain…” and the comment: “This is the obvious difference between a timeless Oscar winner and a little girl in desperate need of a daddy willing to pull his baby off that stage and remind her she’s beautiful…”
I’m not bagging on Billy Ray Cyrus – I have no idea what goes on in their home, what the dynamics are, and who exactly is making the decisions for his daughter, who is only 20. I just keep thinking of Chief and his unpopular decision to ban the music. Knowing what I know now, his spidey-cop-sense was pinging back then. Little Miley has been on a downward spiral for quite a while now. He didn’t think it prudent for our young girls to listen to the boy-centered lyrics over and over and over. I didn’t catch on right away, but he was protective. It’s a cop thing. Our kids need us to protect them from the world. Sometimes they need protection from themselves. It’s a loving thing for a daddy to step in and say no – no matter what the reaction.
Never underestimate the power of a dad who protects his kids.
And ladies, never undermine the value of a dad who protects his kids.
Chief has made some decisions that our kids thought were too strict at the time. Music. Places. Clothes. Friends. He said no when it wasn’t popular. He knows that our girls are smart, and beautiful, and have value and worth, and he has told them this for years. The boys round here know they have to go through Dad to get a date. Believe it or not, they appreciate this.
When I was a little younger than Miley Cyrus, I was out of control too. For me, I had the love and support of a family at home, and a dad who loved and protected me the best he knew how. But I needed to make sure that my family’s values were to be valued. At 16, it seemed that they were more of a hindrance to my fun than protection. So I was one person at home, and a very different person at the parties. Soon, I found myself in a downward spiral. I was miserable, even a little desperate. Then, in a great crescendo of foolishness, I went completely berserk and suddenly even the bad company thought I’d gone too far.
It was enough to slap me into reality. I looked in the mirror and saw that my beauty was fading, my body was weak, and there was no light in my eyes. I left the party scene for good. I went back to church. I apologized to my parents, and to God. And my dignity was returned. Their God-inspired family values became my own.
Because our kids have parents who love them enough to cherish and set boundaries to protect them, they’ve developed an inner value and peace. When I was that wayward, self-destructive teenager, my mom was on her knees in prayer, and my father set the standards. When my actions reaped their natural consequences, their love wooed me back home. And I found peace.
My prayer is that this latest event will be what slaps Miley Cyrus into reality, and she will return to her Southern roots, return to dignity, and finally become who she was born to be. It’s never too late to go home.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 28th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
How Do You Spell Relief?
Whether the issues that you face in your marriage are a result of his job or relational differences or other outside pressures, there is a likelihood that at some point you will want to give up. Even the best marriages have occasional long winter seasons, and we are human.
For sixteen months, Brent lived out of town during the week while he commanded another area. Then he transferred to a local position but took on the most challenging job of his life. I saw him more, but for the first few months he came home and promptly fell asleep on the couch. His job took more and more of his energy, concentration, and time. Then personal hard times hit. It was very difficult. After many months of seemingly impossible demands at work and at home, I saw a change in his behavior. He became withdrawn, angry, forgetful, and, at times, almost victim-like. This wasn’t like him. For awhile, I was concerned for him. But then I became more concerned about me.
“How long will this last?” led to “I don’t want to be treated like this,” which led to “I don’t deserve this.” That led to “I don’t have to take this anymore!”
I started detaching myself, entertaining thoughts of escape. It became a big temptation that consumed several days a week. I stopped fighting for us in my mind. I was letting go, giving up. With each squabble and each let-down, I found myself drifting farther and farther away and hurting more and more.
It was the first time in our marriage that I considered leaving. It was a very strong temptation. Frankly I just wanted out. I needed relief.
We took a vacation to the beach in southern California, and I wondered how to tell him where I was. We bumped along through the week, and I felt so distant. He was in the same room, but I felt we’d grown miles apart. One day we took a trip to the zoo with the kids. As we got into the car, we had an argument, and that was the final straw. All the way home it was over for me. I’d had enough. I didn’t want this anymore.
After dinner I went for a walk on the beach to clear my head. As I walked toward the ocean, I noticed a really cool sandcastle that someone had built that day. It was fortified with thick little towers around it and stones and a moat. Someone spent a lot of time building it.
The tide was coming in. A wave lapped at the fortress that surrounded it, and suddenly I was riveted. For the next hour, I watched as wave after wave washed bits of the castle away. The fortress was the first to go. Then the waves methodically carved a hole in the back side of the castle I couldn’t see. Suddenly the top fell off, and the waves washed it away within minutes. Then a large wave swept up, and the rest of the castle split in half. My chest tightened, and I caught a sob. My eyes filled with tears as I realized that, to me, it was not a sandcastle disappearing but my own home.
I heard a whisper: “Are you gonna do this to your family?”
I wept as the tide completely wiped the sandcastle away, leaving only the stones that garnished the fortress. It was as if it had never existed. And I heard that still, small, but firm voice ask me again, “Are you going to do this to Brent? To your kids? Everything you’ve built will be for nothing. And for what?”
I looked up at the blurred stars through my tear-filled eyes. “No,” I decided, “No, I cannot do this. No! I will not leave.”
I listened to the waves crashing on the shore and gained a little strength.
“No, I will not do this to my husband. I will not destroy my family.”
The hurt still burned in my heart. But I decided to stay. And then I decided to recommit myself to loving my husband no matter what he was going through.
After that night I had to re-train my mind to think positively about Brent and our relationship. It took a couple weeks, but then I realized that he was hurting too. He was burnt out. He was empty, weary, and he needed me! So I reached out with a new attitude and started actively loving him again even though not much changed on his end at first. I loved him first out of compassion but then with fervency.
Then things began to change. He relaxed. Work seemed to ease up. We started laughing together. Twenty days after the sandcastle moment, he presented me with a beautiful little song that he had heard and thought it could be ours. This meant so much to me! It seemed that once I decided to stay, my recommitment encouraged him and lifted him out of the place he was in.
Think We, Not Me
As I look back, I realize that I let myself get really self-focused. It became more about me than we. And when times are tough, this is a recipe for failure.
That night on the beach reminded me of something else. After the sandcastle disappeared, I looked to my right and saw some large rocks that some condominiums were built upon. I realized that Brent and I had built our relationship on a strong foundation of trust, mutual respect, and unconditional love. We were undergoing some strong storms of life and had been pelted and worn down. But because our foundation was strong, we would not fail. Our life together would not disappear like a castle built on sand; it would stand the test of time.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 21st, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
She pulled herself from under the covers. She couldn’t sleep anyway. Between the physical storm that presently ripped through the sky, and the storm that had crashed in on their world just a few hours earlier, there was no peace in slumber. There was no peace anywhere.
She stumbled to her computer and that’s when she saw my message. Emotion bubbled up inside, and she replied, “There is no chapter in a book that prepared me for this…”
My mind went back to many years ago when I got a phone call. I just returned from a weekend away and was on cloud nine. But then I heard the words, “Cammie was in a plane crash… and died…”
My body was thrown to the floor like I’d been punched in the stomach. Pain gripped me from the inside out and hurled itself through my veins, and then out of my mouth in an incomprehensible scream.
Cammie was my best friend.
The next few days were a blur. I somehow showed up on the family’s doorstep one dark night. We watched the news together after barely talking. The story blared from the set, and they showed footage of the plane. Her sister started screaming, the reality of horror setting in. We consoled her, and cried with her. It was all too much for me.
I then went to a friend’s home who did not know Cammie. I stayed there for hours, crying, reminiscing, talking, and being silent. The guys in the house did nothing but listen. They didn’t know what to say, but that was fine. Their silence was sacred to me. And my healing began.
I learned this past year in chaplaincy training that there is a name for this: ministry of presence. We can provide comfort just by being present.
When the shock and grief hits head on like a Mack truck, there are no words. The body is reeling from shock and numb with pain, the mind is a jumbled mess of questions and rationalizations and disbelief, and the spirit is injured. The survivor simply can’t hear anything.
They don’t want to hear you’re sorry. Everybody says that.
They don’t need to hear the upside view of things. At this moment there is no bright perspective – their lives have been forever changed. They will resent your minimizing of their loss.
They don’t need someone to force them to eat. The body shuts down the need for food in the initial stages of shock and grief. They will eat eventually. Hand them a bottle of cold water instead.
They don’t need advice. Solutions will present themselves soon enough. Let the grief have its moments.
They don’t need you to pass judgment on how they grieve. Every person grieves differently.
They do need someone who will allow them to talk without interruption, cry as softly or loudly as need be, be silent and quiet as thoughts untangle, and to offer a comforting touch or hug if appropriate.
They do want to hear short positive memories or compliments of the person lost when appropriate.
They will appreciate happy photos of the deceased.
Then, after the funeral and burial have passed and the world moves on, they will appreciate your acknowledgement that you are still thinking about them, they are not alone, and they are not forgotten. Cards are best sent a month or two after the death. Flowers at Christmas in memory of the loss, or a tribute of some kind, or a phone call – it’s never too late to reach out to the survivor.
On the third of every month, my daughter (who lost a close friend on Super Bowl Sunday of this year) will come in and announce how long it’s been since Morgan died. We share a moment eye to eye, and I am silent to allow her to comment. Sometimes I give her a hug. Sometimes she’s quiet, sometimes she sheds a tear.
It’s all good.
Grief, in all its anguish, is a normal, natural part of life. It is not something to avoid, but to make time to embrace and work through unhurried. Our loved ones who pass away are worth it.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 20th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized
Take Time to Recover
The third stage is to take time to recover. Try to get some time off and get away for a change of scenery. Build positive memories. Take a break from extra-curricular activities that create more busyness. Make sure your family gets rest. If your relationship is at a relational deficit, then start making deposits.
This is also a good time to set some new boundaries relating to the issue. Perhaps you both need to stop spending time with friends who drink heavily and find other avenues for friendship. Maybe you both need to set some boundaries with activities that aggravate issues. Follow the avenues of healthy support. You also have the unique position to help him get the nourishment he needs through healthy meals and exercise. In fact, eating right and exercising are essential for his (and your) healing.
What I’m suggesting here is for the both of you. His crisis affects you in a huge way. Things you go through affect him as well because your lives are intertwined. You both need time to recover and to heal. In some cases it could be a lengthy road. You’ll need this time to remain patient while the problems are resolved.
Being Strong When We Feel Weak
Years ago the mentor I met with while a newlywed was diagnosed with an aggressive brain tumor. Debbie was given six months to live but died in five. During that time I too was dealing with internal hurts that needed healing. It was really tough. A wise friend of mine encouraged me to watch for what I could learn during this time. “Find purpose in the pain,” she said. I’d never done that before, and in the midst of it all, it seemed impossible.
But it wasn’t. With the help and support of my husband, eventually I viewed the end of Debbie’s life as a new beginning for me. Debbie had imparted a bit of her heart into mine, and this I could hold on to. Incredibly, the final piece of my healing was put into place through a conversation at her funeral. And although I miss her even now, in a way I keep Debbie alive as I carry forward what she taught me.
When you are going through painful seasons of life, challenge yourself. Try to find purpose amidst the pain. What can you learn? What can you carry forward? How can you have victory over what seems like defeat?
When life is topsy-turvy, we need to be held up by our foundations and support system (see chapters six and seven). There may be a tendency to withdraw when things are tough, but it is when we need others all the more. A timely phone call or a meal provided is very uplifting. You never know what kindnesses others will offer when you are in crisis.
As a person of faith, I turn to God for comfort. He has been my refuge and strength in the midst of some very hard times.
The last bit of help may just come from your own attitude. It may sound strange, but when you are going through tough times, be thankful. Sometimes you might have to start with being thankful your situation isn’t worse than it is! It may seem like your life is in shambles, but there is always something small (or large) to be thankful for. You will be surprised how being grateful will lift your spirits!
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 14th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
How to Deal with His Crisis
Whatever crises our husbands undergo, they need us, and they need us to be strong. Depending on the circumstances, we could be the ones who are there for him to talk out some of the emotion. But when it’s too big for us, we can come alongside and love them enough to get them the help they need. Whatever they are dealing with, they need to know they aren’t alone.
Our husbands, however, may not want to be “fixed.” It’s their deal, and they want to work it out. In this situation, perhaps they don’t understand the effects on us and our children. Maybe ego is a factor. Maybe they have adopted a cultural view that police officers are supposed to be tough and not show weakness. Sometimes they need space to work out the answer rather than depending on us too much.
Depending on your husband’s department, there may be a stigma against bringing up stress. In some cases, doing so may jeopardize their career. For many years, the culture of law enforcement has been to ignore responses to trauma. These responses have been labeled as weakness. Fortunately, the thinking within law enforcement circles is gradually changing into thinking that trauma is a natural response to the unnatural incidents that our cops experience. While this new way of thinking is slowly making its way throughout the country, it isn’t yet universal. If this is the case for your husband, he’ll need a safe listener, and it may need to be you.
There are three stages of dealing with his crisis. First, identify the problem beneath the symptoms. Seek the cause to the effect. I’ve listed some things here, but this is by no means all there is. Do some research online. Talk with a seasoned wife or another officer you trust. If your department does have resources, by all means take advantage of them.
There are a few practical things you can do as his wife while dealing with his crisis:
• Create a safe place to come home to. Be ready to listen without judgment or fearful reaction. Spend good, quality time with him in his off-duty time.
• Make an appointment for him to get a physical. Stress can take a toll on his body. Nip health problems in the bud.
• As much as you can, create delicious, healthy meals for your family. Stress tends to increase a desire for junk.
• Discourage making important decisions when he is overwhelmed.
• Maintain normalcy with life. Routine can keep balance in the midst of trials.
• Write down your feelings through the journey. When you’re on the other side, you can look back and see how far you both have come.
Second, deal with it head on. It is so important for us as wives to support them in a way that is not codependent. We want to understand and support them as our husbands, but that doesn’t mean making excuses for their behavior. If there is a problem, treat it as reality and work toward a solution. If it’s an issue like burnout he’s dealing with, that could be easily identified and worked through without professionals. But if it’s bigger and deeper, seek help.
Talk with someone safe. Find out if your husband’s department has programs designed to help in each of these issues. If so, make sure that there is confidentiality and then proceed. A police chaplaincy program is another potentially valuable resource. There are many avenues of crisis intervention, and they are designed to discreetly come alongside.
Check if your department has an employee assistance program. They are designed to help police officers get the help they need, sometimes even paying for counseling. Inquire if your husband’s department has a peer support program where other officers have gone through something similar, and join with your loved one to help them through the recovery process. Some departments also offer support groups for related issues.
Religious communities and organizations throughout the country and abroad have many different resources as well. Counseling, support groups and programs, books, and radio programs are designed to come alongside and provide encouragement, support, and guidance.
If these avenues have been tried, and still your officer is struggling, consider an intensive retreat. Two facilities exist in the United States to treat problems related to PTSD and critical incident stress. In California there is the West Coast Post-trauma Retreat. The On-Site Academy is located in Massachusetts. These three- to five-day retreats are held monthly and are designed to help emergency personnel who are overwhelmed by a critical incident or other job-related trauma. The resources section at the back of this book contains contact information.
Through these resources, build your support system. Don’t hesitate if you feel your man is in trouble. His life and your marriage depend on it.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 7th, 2013
Posted In: A CHiP on My Shoulder
This is not a political post. The one thing I dislike about politics is that people are divided, placed into different groups and sometimes pitted against each other. If you’ve read my posts for very long, you understand that I advocate bringing people together despite their differences, learning to communicate in a way that brings about unity. So, with that said, I’d like to tell you a story about a man who has made a difference in my life.
My family and I went to the Reagan Library yesterday, and though we’d been there before, I was surprised to learn a few things.
When I was born 47 years ago, Ronald Reagan was finishing up the last few months of his successful campaign for Governor of California. From that point on, he was someone from a distance who overshadowed my life.
Reagan was my first vote for President at 18 – even though I had no idea what he stood for politically. He was respected and handsome and was doing a great job already, so I voted for him.
Then, a few years later, I was in the country of Hungary, on my way to Romania for the summer. My friend and I had gone into a bathroom on a pitstop near the train. The bathroom attendant was a short old woman in a tunic and scarf. Lines were etched on her face and she was missing several teeth. She heard my friend and I talking, and asked, “Polis?” “No,” I replied. “American.” At that point she said a few things in her own language, approached me and took me by the arms. “Awwww….” she smiled and looked up into my eyes. “Reagan….” she giggled. “REAGAN!!!”
I nodded, not understanding what the heck was going on. We returned to the train, and journeyed into a dark place… Romania.
It was very different back then, in Eastern Europe. It was as if World War II was still a luminous shadow upon the land – communism had beaten the people down for decades, and there was military and government control over the people. They had no freedom, no choices, no voice, and no hope.
In Romania, the militia were armed with Uzis on every corner, striking fear in all of those around. The Romanian government was starving it’s people – we witnessed fights in bread lines, and their meat was unrecognizable; there were stores only foreigners could buy food from. At night, the people were only aloud one small light in their homes, and the length of that was rationed. Although the Romanian people were very proud of their medical care, we saw horribly diseased people. I saw one man whose legs were missing from high thigh. He “walked” on them, using wooden blocks to protect his hands, and his suit pants dragged behind. We were told of failed escape attempts, where people were shot as they ran for the razor-wire fences. If you were a person of faith, you were considered an enemy of the state. We talked with people who were beaten, starved and imprisoned for years because they dared to meet together to worship God and receive teaching from the Bible. We heard stories of the cruelty of the Dictator and his wife, and saw from a distance the palace he was building for himself – stealing the country’s food supply and selling it to other countries to pay for it. It was later shown that even bathroom fixtures were gilded in gold. The royal couple were absolutely hated, yet the factory workers were forced to clap, sing and wave flags when they showed up with cameras. We saw these staged rallies on television often during our stay.
These images jarred me out of my young careless stupor of what the world held outside American borders. As I saw the oppression of the people and was witness to the sobbing prayers of people crying for relief, I began to feel their pain.
That trip forever changed me. I came back extremely thankful I was an American.
What I didn’t know is that at the same time I was traveling to Eastern Europe, President Reagan, angry after Gorbachev pulled a fast one in their peace talks, challenged him in a speech near the Berlin Wall. “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall!” It was a challenge from a brave man who dared to speak of things that shouldn’t be, and against the recommendations of his Cabinet. He’d been given the opportunity by God to speak – and he didn’t back down. It was the beginning of the end of communism in Eastern Europe.
That little old lady in the bathroom in Hungary had been given HOPE, and she was celebrating it with a 20-year-old American who didn’t yet have a clue.
Two years later, on Christmas Day 1989, I watched on television as the people of Romania, with help from their own militia, captured Dictator Ceaucescu and his wife, and executed them. The Berlin Wall was torn down several weeks earlier by the German people. Families were reunited after decades of living on opposite sides of the wall. Though Reagan had already concluded his presidency, the movement he set in motion had come to the people.
This is a great inspiration to me. To see injustices cease; to see people rising in freedom and hope, was deeply meaningful. It made me believe that anything was possible.
Yesterday I sat in a garden in the Simi Valley, gazing upon a section of the Berlin Wall that was given to Ronald Reagan as a gift. I took a picture of my kids next to it – an image that speaks to me of the victories over oppression. Having dwelt in the shadows of this oppression for two months, it is deeply satisfying.
So, why am I writing this in a blog to police families? What does the inspiration of Ronald Reagan have to do with those in uniform?
We as police families have been given key positions in our communities. Our spouses – and by extension, us – have the ability to affect change. Through the work that is done every day, every night, they keep the peace, making sure that anarchy does not reign in America. Peace officers have the opportunity to take criminals off the streets, speak a word in a crucial moment, open the eyes of careless citizens, and even to show kindness to those who are rarely shown kindness. Even a little of each of these can give people hope, improving the lives of Americans. It’s an amazing responsibility we have as crucial parts of America’s communities.
With that responsibility comes sacrifice. And those of us who support officers from home can name those sacrifices and tell stories about those sacrifices, and sometimes even resent those sacrifices. Ronald Reagan was one who understood the responsibility of his position, and with the love of his wife, courageously set forth to change the world.
May we do the same.
Victoria Newman - "A CHiP on My Shoulder" August 4th, 2013
Posted In: Uncategorized