“The greatest part of a writer’s time is spent in reading, in order to write; a man will turn over half a library to make one book.”—Samuel Johnson
Do you ever feel guilty for needing time alone?
I love nothing more than to read a good book or blog entry, or watch a movie, now that my kids are grown. And the more I read or listen to how others tell their stories, the better mine become. Here are my top ten from past twelve months.
(I feel bad about losing Nora Ephron recently)
THE HELP by Kathryn Stockett
THE FIVE LOVE LANGUAGES by Gary Chapman
Dr. Oz Web Blog http://www.drozweb.com/category/dr-oz-blog
What’s on your list of recent favorites?
Stay tuned for my interview with author Lisa McKay in a few weeks.
- Food grows and dies. It isn’t created.
- Food rots, wilts, and becomes generally unappetizing, typically rather quickly.
- Food doesn’t need an ingredient label (and probably isn’t in a package either).
- Food doesn’t have celebrity endorsements.
- Food doesn’t make health claims.
|Liz’s banana dessert|
Can you estimate how many F’s are in this piece?
|My father Kova Meredith|
Today is Father’s Day.
It’s a time when those who have one remember and (ideally) honor their fathers, those who had one remember their fathers, and those who had none mourn their losses.
In my work with juvenile delinquents, it’s common to talk to kids who’ve never met their fathers. Sometimes, their moms don’t know who or which one he was. Other moms, like mine, deliberately cut contact between the child and father.
Such a shame. Everyone needs a father.
What is a father, exactly? I looked at Dictionary.com today http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/father and found the following:
[fah–ther] Show IPA
But so do all fathers.
To my daughters, I wish for you a borrowed father like Hank.
To those who haven’t met their fathers, I sure hope you can find yours.
And to all dads, Happy Father’s Day.
Your importance can never be overestimated.
Within a short while, through the considerable efforts of many people (and I am honored to have played a small role), he was able to locate his father. When he and his father reunited and I had a chance to spend time with them, I was struck with awe as to how much they were alike – not just in physical resemblance, but in posture, speech, mannerisms, and in every way imaginable, yet they had never had any contact whatsoever or spent one moment of time together before the reunification. I then took it upon myself as a mission of sorts to do whatever I could to help facilitate this type of reunification whenever possible.
Back in the ’70s and ’80’s, it involved a good bit of detective work…numerous phone calls, searching out newspaper articles, mailing letters to possible relatives or even past business contacts. It sometimes took many months to even come up with a clue.
Of course, things like the WARM Confidential Intermediary System make this all much easier, but I dealt with many cases as an attorney where the adoptee or the parent did not want to use the services of any organization, perhaps because these organizations were still relatively new back then and there was still a large degree of societal opposition to reunifications. Fortunately, these organizations are much better-known these days there is less hesitance for the parties to seek out their parents or children, and society is recognizing these reunifications as something that can be very important to the birth parent, to the child, and to the adoptive parents as well.
When my friend Libby told me she had been adopted, I asked her if I could help her search for her father. She had very little information about him …only his name and her city of birth. Libby was one of my best friends in the world, and I would have done anything for her, so though this seemed a daunting task with so little information, I set out to find her dad, thinking all the while that I might meet with failure, but not accepting failure as an option.
I’d like to say that it was my brilliant investigative techniques that led me to finding Libby’s dad, but it was simply luck and/or divine intervention. The very first thing I did was to call directory assistance in the town where I expected he might be living (thinking I might find some relatives who could help me), but I was completely surprised to find that he had a listed phone number. Imagine further the joy I felt when I called that number, spoke to him, and told him that his daughter would like to meet him. He told me he had been looking for her for 20 years.
Oh…about the divine intervention part, I should add that had I made my call to directory assistance just an hour earlier, I would have come up with nothing, as he just had his phone service connected that day and it was a brand new listing. In fact, my call was the very first call to that number, and he had assumed it was the phone company calling to see if the phone was working properly.
I have done many reunifications that were far more difficult, but I can tell you that reuniting Libby and her dad was quite probably the most rewarding thing that I have ever done in my life. To this day I keep in my desk a copy of Libby’s Name Change Order that was entered on June 7, 1985 (exactly 27 years ago to the day as I type this) which allowed her to once again bear her birth name.
How has technology changed the location process?
In the years that have passed, the Internet makes these type of searches much easier…I suppose that is obvious. And the widespread use of the Confidential Intermediary System in my State is a great help as well.
When I was sworn-in as a Superior Court Judge (coincidentally, in the same courtroom where I got the name change for Libby), I became the Judge in my county who is primarily responsible for all of the Confidential Intermediary requests. And each time I sign one, I am able to re-live to some extent the joy I shared with my college roommate, with numerous friends and clients, and, most of all, with my friend Libby, in reuniting parent and child — sometimes for the first time ever.
|Two Barrow apples = one night’s stay in Laos|
Side note: I didn’t pack quite enough food for Barrow, and dashed into the store to pick up three apples and two zero waters for $20! I realized too late I paid $4 per apple. So two apples equaled one night’s stay in Laos at the eco lodge. Ouch!
Let travel cost help you choose your destination. Without question, France is on my bucket list. England, too. I breezed through London once, and would adore taking my time and spending a week or so. But right now, with my kids still needing some support, and the economy in the crapper, these destinations are out of the question for me now, and will be until circumstances change or I join one of the house swap companies. Southeast Asia? This year, with the average cost of a room in Vietnam and Laos running between $ 8 and $20 a night, it was a perfect match for me.
Mother’s Day last weekend was especially terrific.
My youngest daughter graduated from college in New Mexico the day before, so I was there to spend it with her. It’s been at least five years since we were together for Mother’s Day, and she went to great lengths to make it special. We agreed it would be more convenient to celebrate in advance of the actual day, when restaurants and the like are over-crowded.
The morning began with coffee. Then pedicures. We got a massage together, followed by an ionic cleanse, and lunch at a Turkish restaurant. Such fun.
On the actual Mother’s Day, we drove to my sister’s gorgeous farm in a nearby town and relaxed with her and her husband. Again, so special.
That night, back at the dorms, I caught up on emails and blog links. I read about the R.O.S.E. Fund’s success in helping Crusita Martinez reconstruct her entire face after a former boyfriend threw battery acid on her face as a punishment for leaving her when she was just 18 years old. Now, seven years later, she is mother to a little girl who understands that her mother’s strength is her beauty.
What a wonderful story of survival.
I’m partial to the R.O.S.E. Fund. They helped me reconstruct my life, and, as their acronym indicates, they’ve helped scores of survivors in Regaining One’s Self Esteem.
Founded it 1992, the New England-based non-profit has directed resources to helping survivors of domestic violence while raising public awareness about the issue. In the 90’s, the R.O.S.E. Fund gave awards to a few nominated women a year, and in 1998, I was one of those lucky few.
At the time, I worked as a domestic violence advocate full-time, but couldn’t afford medical insurance for my daughters. I hoped to complete a graduate degree in psychology and write a book about my experiences.
Then came the call. I had won a $10,000 R.O.S.E. Award. The girls and I were flown to Boston, where we were presented with the award at a banquet. I gave a talk in front of 500 attendants, including the entire team of the New England Patriots. It was a dream come true.
Thanks to the award, I finished my degree in psychology, which allowed me to get a job that provided medical benefits for my daughters. That allowed me to give up my paper route and focus on writing. Which allowed me to complete my book.
Today, the R.O.S.E. Fund focuses on helping victims of domestic violence who need reconstructive surgery, and assists educators with tools they can use in high schools to prevent and/or address teen dating violence.
To me, their gift was enough to give me a leg up without promoting any kind of dependency upon them.
Thanks to the R.O.S.E. Fund, I had the courage to chase a dream. And watching that transformation helped my daughters chase theirs.
Would you like more information on how you can help? Feel free to peruse the link below.
Happy Mother’s Day and Father’s Day to all.
How to Quit Your Job, Move to Paradise and Get Paid to Change the World
How to Live Well
What have you read lately that’s caused your heart to dance? I’d love to hear from you.
The connections I’ve maintained with my childhood friends taught me how a lot about how family could be, and equipped me to find my missing family. I met Susan Sommer when we were in grade school, and am so pleased to have her as my first guest blogger.
By Susan Sommer
I’ve done battle with my share of remote controls, new TV set-up instructions, and computer software glitches, but I have to say, technology is my friend—especially the internet. Yep, I’m Googley-eyed and face Facebook daily, I’m LinkedIn and loving it, I cheer along other “losers” on LoseIt!, I read blogs from A to Z, and my comments are scattered across the globe.
Now, I’m not some loner dork who sits all day at the keyboard and doesn’t know how to converse at
parties. I have plenty of real-world friends and do get out enough to know, for example, whether it’s still winter or not.
Seriously, though, the internet is a thing of beauty, IMHO (and just a few short years ago I didn’t
know what that stood for). I’ve reconnected with people from my past who I thought I’d never see or
hear from again. And not just old boyfriends either, but true friends—people I’d traveled with, a
childhood pen pal, high school classmates who are now as (gulp) middle-aged as I.
I treasure my family and friends who live near enough to see on a regular basis—these are the people
who know me best and who I know I can always rely on no matter what. They are the base of my days, weeks, months, and years. Without them, I would be the loner dork. But getting reacquainted with old friends online—as well as making new ones who I might never meet, but could, if one of us happens to be passing through the other’s town or attending the same conference, and you never know who is destined to become your next old friend—has broadened my world.
I grew up in Alaska, sometimes in the far reaches of the Alaskan bush. I always felt sheltered. I remedied that by traveling as a young woman, but now that I’m married and stable and I work from home, I’ve once again become somewhat cut off from new experiences. The internet offers me the web of friendship outside my immediate sphere of existence. I trade thoughts on editing with LinkedIn members; I learn fascinating tidbits about farming from a Facebook group (like the best way to kill a chicken before plucking and processing, and that you can use goat placenta in a facial mask); I receive encouragement to keep shedding those extra pounds from my LoseIt! friends, only one of whom I actually know in person; and as a member of our 30-year high school reunion planning committee (which I sucked myself into by being the first to open my mouth online about the upcoming event), I can’t imagine trying to find old classmates by perusing the telephone book (you now, that big heavy paper tome plopped unceremoniously at the end of our driveways each spring?).
Despite the fact that for some reason my husband seems to think I’m just goofing around on Facebook all day (not ALL day, I tell him when I stagger down from my office and open the fridge and think hmmm, what am I going to make for dinner?), social media and search engines have changed my life for the better in unique ways. Our rural-ish neighborhood has drawn closer through use of a handful of closed Facebook groups—one for wildlife sightings, one for bartering, and another for general ramblings. I recently, finally, found my old pen pal from when I was ten years old. We’d met once, traded a few holiday cards over the years, then lost touch; turns out we’re leading very similar lifestyles, right down to how many and what type of pets we have. And just this week when I was doing research online for a freelance article, I “met” a woman who had visited Alaska several years ago and was familiar with my parents’ old trapping cabin from the 1950s.
It’s a small world out there. I don’t panic when I go off-grid for a few days like some people do. My
phone is dumb so I can’t check email. But if the internet ever disappeared, for whatever reason, I would surely miss its power to connect.
Susan Sommer is a freelance writer and editor who lives in Alaska. She holds a Masters of Fine Arts in Creative Writing & Literary Arts. Visit her at www.akwriter.com