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How To Love Your Cop
How To Love Your Cop

How to Start a Peer Group

I absolutely LOVE my new Peer Group. There are eleven of us wives from six different departments around the NorCal area. We’ve met twice now and the camaraderie is already there.

I’d like to see other groups like this – to experience the friendship with other LEOWs, and to really have that support. So I’ve come up with some ways to help those of you who want to start something but aren’t sure just how to do it.

Who?

As I was preparing to do this, I just started mentioning it to people. Those who were enthusiastic, I followed up with. Most of the girls moved their schedule around or got babysitters. We have eleven, but it doesn’t have to be that big. I also thought it important to have different departments – when it is just one department that all the ladies are from, it is a huge temptation to talk about the office politics, and that can ruin a group and/or diminish the departmental support of families. You can put an announcement out on Facebook, or ask your friends to invite someone else. Compiling a diverse group of ladies is half the fun!

When?

For my book, I scheduled 13 consecutive weeks. One week for introductions and twelve for the chapters. I put them on the calendar, and communicated this to the ladies I invited. They know that we are meeting every week at such and such a time, at such and such a place, until April 9.

How?

The first week we shared about our families, and then I had them find an object in their purse that describes them. That helps get answers from people you normally wouldn’t get, and we heard some cool perspectives about what people’s lives are about. We also talked about what we were hoping to “get” from the group. The second week we started in on the book. We read through a chapter a week together. The questions are in the back of each chapter. Easy!

Rules

The first meeting I talked about boundaries. This is IMPERATIVE. To create a safe place for women to share, there must be confidentiality. NO flapping of the gums about what people say. I also told them to keep it positive. We are not a rant and rave group – that’s not helpful for anyone. We also do not talk about department politics UNLESS it directly and personally affects your family and we can help support you. We also talked about the fact that we are all different and have different views. The rule is to approach each other with grace – so that all of us can be free to be who we are and still be loved.

Bonus

A few other things are group dates with our guys, ladies’ nites out, and a secret Facebook page. We exchanged numbers. We hold each others’ babies. We talked about doing a Dave Ramsey class together later on. So far, so good.

I’ve no doubt as we get into things that there will be disagreement. And we’re okay with that. But we agreed to stay within the boundaries of the rules, and are actually happy with them. As the leader, I will keep us accountable to it.

Lastly, as their leader, I’m praying for our time, and for their families. This is the unseen glue that keeps us together, I think. When a leader has “help” from God or an older mentor, someone to bounce off problems or ideas (keeping confidentiality intact, of course), that really enhances a group as well.

If you are interested in starting your own peer group in your area, please let me know so that I can pray/help you as well. We’re in this thing together!

January 27th, 2014

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Why We Avoid Community

On Wednesday I held the first meeting of my new peer group. I invited several local police wives to join me once a week to go through A CHiP on my Shoulder chapter by chapter.

We enjoyed some goodies, introduced ourselves, talked about the purpose and the rules, and basically learned who each other were. Amidst the different personalities, we found lots in common, even down to the specific way each other eats. Toward the end of the meeting, one girl expressed her relief that everyone was so chill. Others agreed – they stepped in the door apprehensive to the drama they’d seen created with other women – and were relieved.

I got to thinking about this.

I’ve been in peer groups continuously since college. I’ve really gelled with some, not so much with others. At times, the drama was so thick it took over my life. I’ve seen women get downright ugly, or get spun off on something trivial. I have seen pettiness, selfishness, and conflict, but I have also experienced love, support, and encouragement. Each group is different, and each group will have its negatives and positives.

It is human nature. In the human race, there is diversity of backgrounds, of culture, of personalities, diversity of hurts, and trigger points and their responses. Relationships with peers run the gamut of amazing to horrible.

I’ve been in a group with other writers for over ten years now. Several of us have been there since the beginning – before any of us were published. We dreamed together, hurt together with each setback, had to change with each other through the changes of publishing and social media. We had to grow through conflict, and choose to celebrate when others were succeeding while we were not. I have grown in my character because of these women, and they know me – my good, my bad, and my ugly.

I don’t like conflict. I’ve spent most of my life avoiding it. But conflict has been something that has shaped my relationships like none other:

I’ve learned to listen.
I’ve learned that I’m not the only one in the world who matters.
I’ve learned to find creative solutions to problems.
I’ve learned to pray.
I’ve learned to think before I speak.
I’ve learned that every person is hurting in some way – and I’ve learned to recognize the ways they deal with or mask that hurt. Some of those ways may be really hard to deal with in a peer group.
I’ve learned that my words and actions affect the lives of others – in healthy and unhealthy ways.
I’ve learned to love in spite of my disagreement with their actions.
I’ve learned to forgive.
I’ve learned to see other perspectives; and this has given me patience.
I’ve learned to trust, and not trust.
I’ve learned that more conflict is due to miscommunication and misunderstanding than actual deliberate behavior, and there are always two sides to a story.
I’ve learned how not to get sucked into other peoples’ irritations and rants (most of the time).
I’ve learned that conflict is an opportunity for greater understanding and cohesion.
I’ve learned that friends come in all shapes and sizes – some of my closest relationships are with those I did not initially like.

I’ve learned to be unselfish – the world does not revolve around me.

Best of all, I’ve learned to love and to be loved.

This is the reason I continue to live my life with others. This is why I am not afraid to start new peer groups. No matter the ups and downs a peer group takes, with the right attitude and leadership, there is going to be treasure found.

This is why I believe community – especially for police families – is not only a fundamental need, but a requirement.

Thinking you’d like to be brave and start up a peer group? Next week I will post some tried and true ways to create/lead/maintain a group in your area. Stay tuned!

January 17th, 2014

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Hello, My Name is Victoria

My daughter and I were watching TV together the other night. She asked me a question about the show, and I started to tear up. She gave me that teenage-are-you-really-getting-emotional-about-HGTV-Mom?-look. It’s a smirk – and from time to time I have to bare my soul and explain my thought process for things I do that they don’t understand. The kids have their chuckle, and then it’s usually, “Oh, OK, Mom, I get it now.”

I have something to confess. I REALLY like Nicole Curtis (DIY’s Rehab Addict). It’s not that she’s a little blonde bad-ass who loves power tools and runs marathons. It’s not that she’s stubborn with her vision, or that she sports a midwestern accent, or that she lives in MinneSOta. Although I like all that, too.

It’s that Nicole Curtis looks at old homes that others have deemed as doomed and is willing to put in the work to make them pretty again.

She braves old basements and salvages what she finds, then pours new foundations. She is sure to comment that working with a shovel is a great core workout.

She opens up walls to expose old brick, cleaning it up with a wire brush, and patching holes in the mortar. She designs the rooms around the brick, using it as a focal point. It’s beautiful.

She pulls up linoleum and exposes hardwood flooring, meticulously refinishing and repairing the old wood. This is the true timeless beauty of the home.

She appreciates the splendor of old things, restoring them to let them shine in their craftsmanship, and adding both old and new to give a home the best of both.

This is why I like Nicole Curtis.

So, why did I go emo on the show in front of my daughter?

Because Nicole restored a home that was damaged by arson. Crime came to a street in Detroit – her home town – and burnt it to the ground. But the fire spread to the house next door as well. And when the damage was left to become a dump site, the whole street began boarding up old homes and abandoning them.

Damaged. Devalued. Decomposing.

Ugly.

Much like the American tendency to do in our own homes. When the fires of conflict torch a home, and the damage is done, many choose to just scrap it all and walk away. But it isn’t just the lone couple that suffers. There is lasting damage that breeds more destruction to those in close proximity.

But when there is reconciliation, when a couple decides to salvage their marriage, patiently doing the work to look at both the good and the bad in their relationship, and purpose to restore it, there is something amazing that happens. There is a quality and beauty there, and a mature character that something (or someone) new just can’t measure up to.

On the show, the community came out to see what Nicole was doing. They watched intently as the heavy equipment swept away the demolished home next door. They helped clean up the yard. They helped brush away the charred remains of the fire damage. They got behind her and caught her vision. And then, in the middle of the day, kids came out to play, a go cart was put into action, and…

There was joy and life again on a street that had once brought so many tears.

Whether we’ve been married three years, twelve years, or 25 years, our marriages could use a little TLC – sprucing up what’s in good condition, getting rid of excess, and a few new changes. In my world, that’s worth shedding a few tears for.

Every January I choose a word to be my theme for the year. My word for 2014 is RESTORE. Chief and I are doing some things in our home this year, physically and relationally, to renovate, update, and restore.

I look forward to the journey.

I think our teenagers are looking forward to it as well.

January 9th, 2014

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