The Vibe Was Electric and That Was Before the Coffee Buzz – The New York Times
It’s hard to blame Matthew Wiley for suspecting Valentina Marie Lomborg was telling whoppers when he met her in 2017 at a Starbucks in Clearwater, Fla.
Not only did she claim to be a former Los Angeles fashion model who socialized with celebrities, she also said she was psychic.
His credulity didn’t reach its limits, though, until after they exchanged numbers and went on a handful of dates. As Mr. Wiley got to know Ms. Lomborg, she told him she was fluent in four languages, had lived in the wilds of Alaska for years as a child, was homeless for a time and was being visited regularly by Hollywood chums who flew in for help contacting their deceased loved ones.
“I was like, no no no,” said Mr. Wiley, 43, a quality manager for an engineering company in Clearwater. “Those things could not happen.”
He has since abandoned those doubts.
Ms. Lomborg, 53, moved to Clearwater three years ago. Before starting her business, Psychic Medium Valentina, she was indeed a Los Angeles model who posed for magazines including Jet and Essence and catalogs such as Frederick’s of Hollywood. She also appeared in television shows and movies, among them “In Living Color,” “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “Dumb & Dumber.” Her roles were mostly uncredited, and of the sexy babe variety.
Before her modeling career took off, she had already learned to speak Danish, Swiss German, English and Inupiaq, an Eskimo language, the result of a peripatetic youth. She was born in Denmark and lived there until age 6. Then she and her mother, Hjordis Lomborg, moved to Switzerland, where she picked up Swiss. A few years later, her mother, who had divorced Ms. Lomborg’s father, married the man she considers her father, David Parkinson. They moved to Alaska, where she learned the other two languages.
“I was 8 and thrown in there at the top of the world in subzero temperatures with 4,000 Eskimos who had never seen a brown person,” Ms. Lomborg said. She finished high school there but never fully acclimated. As soon as she was old enough, she moved to California.
“I was 19 and I basically up and left my family,” Ms. Lomborg said. Her goal was to become a musician, she said, the next Blondie or Madonna. Instead, she lived briefly on the streets of Santa Cruz, Calif., where she said she survived on broken cookies supplied by a sympathetic bakery owner.
By the early 1990s, her dreams of pop stardom were replaced by plans to become a top model. She already had cover girl bona fides: As a toddler in Denmark, she posed for several issues of the women’s magazine Femina. In Los Angeles, “I got signed to the first agent I met, Irena Kamal, who represented a lot of Playboy models,” she said. Work poured in. “Everyone really believed in me.”
Ms. Lomborg’s natural beauty, which earned her a living as a model well into her 40s, wasn’t matched with robust health. In 1991, when she was 23, she suffered a brain injury after she said she was in an altercation that led to her being pushed headfirst onto concrete.
The recovery was slow: “A year and a half of hell.” But during that time, she felt a first connection to the spirit world. “I could sense illness and death in people. It was frightening. I just sort of pushed it aside and went back to modeling.”
In 1994, she had a son, Seven. In 2000, she got married, a union that lasted 11 years. Throughout those years, the feeling that her brain injury had opened a connection to the supernatural lingered. A year before her marriage ended, she became curious about the paranormal. “That’s when I got good at talking to ghosts,” she said.
She claims she has been talking to them ever since, particularly the ghost of her mother, who died in 2015 of congestive heart failure in California, two weeks after her stepfather died of the same condition. (Ms. Lomborg never reconciled with her biological father.)
Ms. Lomborg believes she would not have landed in Florida or met Mr. Wiley if it wasn’t for her otherworldly communications with her mother. “She basically told me, if you’re going to channel people, then do it to help others,” she said. “I told her, you’ve got to send me somebody to help me. I need a soul mate.”
Los Angeles no longer seemed the place to find one. “I had no family, and I was kind of done with modeling. I said to myself, Let’s wrap this whole thing up and pick a brand-new city,” she said. She grabbed her cat, Lyra, and pointed a U-Haul toward Clearwater, a place that looked pretty in Google Images, while Seven stayed behind in California (he has since moved to Clearwater). By the end of the year she had set up an apartment and her psychic business.
She also started making friends, including a neighbor, Debbie Good. When Ms. Lomborg wasn’t seeing clients hoping to reach deceased loved ones, she and Ms. Good solidified their friendship over regular meetings for coffee at a nearby Starbucks.
Mr. Wiley is not sure what drew him to the Starbucks on Gulf to Bay Boulevard on the morning of May 24, 2017. Normally, he picked up his coffee at a different Clearwater Starbucks. Ms. Lomborg, meanwhile, wasn’t sure why she was in a hurry that morning to catch up with Ms. Good over lattes.
“I was texting Debbie, ‘Hurry up! Let’s go!’ But normally I’m the one who’s late,” Ms. Lomborg said.
Mr. Wiley was about to leave the store holding his usual venti cup before Ms. Lomborg and Ms. Good arrived. Then his phone rang. “That call ended up lasting 45 minutes,” he said. “It was fate. It delayed me.” When he hung up, he got in line for a refill and noticed Ms. Lomborg looking his way.
“I saw this beautiful woman with this huge smile, and I thought, ‘Who’s she smiling at?’ Then I realized I was the only guy in line,” said Mr. Wiley, who was divorced in 2007 and has three children, Elijah, Maya and Cairo, who live in California.
A few yards away at the counter, Ms. Good was preparing to clear out so Ms. Lomborg would appear more approachable. “V whispered to me, if I pick up my cup, that means that cute guy in line is coming over here,” said Ms. Good. “Sure enough, she picked up her cup. I grabbed my phone and walked away so they could talk.”
An hour and a half later, they were still talking. Ms. Good, who was pretending to take pictures in the parking lot all that time, eventually grew impatient and came in to retrieve her car keys. She sensed, instantly, that her friend had found a soul mate.
“V had been in several failed relationships, and it was clear to me that the people she was meeting in Clearwater were inappropriate,” said Ms. Good, who had been hearing regularly about Ms. Lomborg’s local dating adventures. “The men she was going out with were unreliable, or rude, or dismissive. There was something really different about how she was interacting with Matt. I could feel it.”
Deepening the grooves of Ms. Lomborg and Mr. Wiley’s instant connection were a series of coincidences they uncovered. Mr. Wiley was born in Alaska and raised in California, for example, before moving to Florida as a teenager. Both are vegetarians. And he had just told his best friend, Eric Paongo, that he would like to meet an ethnically diverse woman whose zodiac sign was Aquarius because Aquarians are a good match for Libras, his sign. Ms. Lomborg is an Aquarius. Then there was the No. 5 he had tattooed on his shoulder, a nod to his quintet of best friends.
“I would always joke that it would be great if people had a number stamped on their forehead so you could identify them as your person, because I kept meeting the wrong guys,” Ms. Lomborg said. Mr. Wiley happened to be wearing a shoulder-baring tank at Starbucks. “I saw the No. 5 on his shoulder and I thought, close enough.”
By the time they left Starbucks, Mr. Wiley, who had consumed three venti coffees, was so intrigued by Ms. Lomborg he texted her from the bathroom. And even though her history seemed unlikely and he wasn’t entirely sure about the supernatural, he sensed her beliefs were genuine. Within weeks, he too began believing. “I know it’s weird, but her mom is definitely a presence in her apartment. I could just feel her there,” he said.
A month later, he was comfortable enough with the late Mrs. Lomborg’s presence to move in to Ms. Lomborg’s apartment. A difficult adjustment ensued. Not because of their spectral roommate.
“I’m one of eight kids from a very frugal household, and V is an only child,” Mr. Wiley said. “Onetime I had some of her cereal, and she said, ‘That’s my cereal!’ I had to tell her, share!”
Ms. Lomborg admits she needed a sharing refresher course. “I really wasn’t used to it,” she said. “Matthew taught me how to compromise.”
In May 2018, Ms. Lomborg and Mr. Wiley flew to St. Lucia for a vacation. Mr. Wiley had told Ms. Good a few months earlier, in confidence, that he wanted to marry Ms. Lomborg. Around the same time, Ms. Lomborg also confided in Ms. Good.
“V said, ‘Why hasn’t he proposed? Maybe he doesn’t love me. Maybe he doesn’t trust me.’ I had to bite my tongue,” Ms. Good said.
Ms. Lomborg was able to set her worries aside in St. Lucia, at the site of one of her favorite episodes of “The Bachelor,” the Jade Mountain Resort. After a volcanic mud bath, she and Mr. Wiley went for a walk on the beach, where they found a hammock to climb into.
“Then Matthew all of a sudden says, I have a poem I want to read you, and he jumps out of the hammock,” Ms. Lomborg said. She swiveled to sit up, feet in the sand, as he read. At the final handwritten verse, he dropped to one knee and presented a diamond engagement ring. “Stay with me and tell me true/Love will you marry me?,” he recited.
The evening had been cloudy, but both swear the clouds dissipated the moment Ms. Lomborg said yes. “Every single star was all of a sudden shining down on us in full brightness, and I felt the approval of my mother and father,” Ms. Lomborg said.
On Jan. 5, Ms. Lomborg and Mr. Wiley were married before 65 guests at the Earthscapes Garden Room in Palm Harbor in a star-themed outdoor wedding, a nod to their belief in astrology and the coffee chain that united them. Bonnie Sanchez, a minister through the American Marriage Ministries, officiated.
Ms. Lomborg, in a long champagne gown with sequins meant to mimic the stars’ twinkling, walked down an aisle flanked by tropical trees and plants, alone, to the “Star Wars” theme. Two attendants, a best friend from Florida, Hazen Witemeyer, and a best friend from Los Angeles, the fitness guru Ana Caban, wore flowing purple ombre gowns and sneakers while clutching lavender rose bouquets.
Mr. Wiley, in a glittering purple sports coat with black Puma sneakers, was attended by Mr. Paongo and his older brother, Aaron Wiley, in black suits with lavender vests. Ms. Sanchez read several short blessings, the first a traditional Bahai passage in a nod to Mr. Wiley’s religion, the next a Buddhist blessing representing Ms. Lomborg’s faith. After a sage cleansing and a moment dedicated to gazing up, hands raised, to the universe, Ms. Sanchez finished the ceremony with a Viking prayer, recalling Ms. Lomborg’s Danish heritage.
She had already summed up the chain of events that brought the assembled together on a clear but chilly Florida night: “As we all know, the stars and Starbucks aligned for Matthew and Valentina,” she said.
ON THIS DAY
When Jan. 5, 2019
Where Earthscapes Garden Room, Palm Harbor, Fla.
Special pair Seven and Ms. Good sat together, in the front row, during the ceremony. Ms. Lomborg stopped to hug her son on the way to the altar; as she and Mr. Wiley recessed, they paused for a teary group hug with Ms. Good.
Dinner in the garden A reception was held on site amid tiki torches, bamboo and tropical orchids. The vegetarian buffet included a roasted pumpkin salad and vegetable lasagna.
Wiley reunion Mr. Wiley’s large family, including his children, parents and siblings, traveled from various states to the wedding. Cecil Wiley, his father, came with his wife, Wynona Wiley, from Hattiesburg, Miss.; Debbie Wiley, his mother, came from Orem, Utah. Both parents said they had never seen their son more in love.
Major moment The couple’s first dance was to Major’s “This is Why I Love You.” As the dancing continued, Seven, a D.J. in training, helped spin reggae and pop for appreciative guests.
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