When you live in Anchorage, Alaska, and the sixty days are (this year) cold and rainy, what can you do?
Anchorage is an artsy place. And while I like the balance of trying new things while tending old routines, there’s nothing as satisfying as enjoying a good book.
Stories are like an empathy pill. You get to learn about the experiences of others. Even when reading fiction, you learn so much about the writer, and sometimes, more about yourself.
Below is a perfect example.
“Her job as a mother—she believed this then, believed it now—was to make sure that her children would be loved by the maximum number of other people. This was the source of all her anxiety”–Elizabeth McCracken, Thunderstruck & Other Stories.
I read this. Stopped. Re-read it. Then called both my grown daughters and read it to them. And apologized for the many times I’ve forgotten that they’re not extensions of me.
In the past many days, I’ve read a lot of books.
Below are just a few. Memoirs. Novels. And yesterday, a neat piece from the Haftorah at a friend’s son’s Bar Mitzvah.
“Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
― Dr. Seuss
Just as I was packing for my Portland book event, I got the call that a friend died. Jim was more than a friend. To my little girls, he was a hero that defended their right to safety when they were in Greece, a rare rescuer who tried to stay in regular touch with them as they grew to be women. A great lawyer. An even better uncle. We will miss him, and will always be grateful for his love and support.
Portland was a comfort. From my hostel owners to the bookstore owner (thank you, Elisa at Another Read Through!) to the community at large and the other authors from She Writes Press, I couldn’t have had a more restful/low stress venue.
This May I joined Zonta International, and am excited at the many people and possibilities that membership will provide to work empowering women and children around the globe. Since Zonta has chapters virtually everywhere, the opportunities will follow me into retirement, wherever I am.
Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughtersis a finalist for the International Book Awards! That, and a finalist for the USA Best Book Awards and a silver medalist for the IPPY’s in memoir/personal struggles. If I had endless personal leave and cash, I’d be flying to New York right now for the fancy IPPY ceremonies. Instead I’m plugging away at work and other writing projects, excited about next week’s event in Louisville Kentucky, the city of my birth. I’ve not ever had two sides of my family under one roof. I’m sure I’ll be a nervous wreck in the moment, but for now, it’s exciting to think about.
And that’s life in a nutshell. Still loving book groups and other events, but finding time for rest. Eight months after publication, I’m able to finally take a deep breath and look at both my book life and my regular life with calm energy. I stayed in my PJ’s last Saturday until 3PM and made myself an amazing smoothie, and was mindful to appreciate each ingredient-the spinach, the avocado, the raspberries, and the chia seeds. I let myself listen to my cats purr and didn’t worry about the messy house.
If you have friends or family in Louisville, Kentucky, please tell them I’ll be at Barnes and Noble-Hurstbourne soon! And I’ll speak with Rachel Platt at Great Day Live! even sooner.
Life zips by quickly. It will forever be a mixed bag. It is so important to make a point of smiling before it’s over.
March used to be one of those months for me that held dreadful anniversary dates.
We all have those dates. Whether it’s the dreaded anniversary of a death, or a divorce anniversary, or maybe even a natural disaster like a hurricane, there are the dates that split our lives in two. There was life before the traumatic event, and life after the traumatic event.
I left my husband on March 5, 1990. He abducted our daughters on March 13, 1994.
There was life before the abduction. There was life after the abduction.
This March, I’ve been busy with book events related to my memoir. The events have given me time to think not just about those anniversary dates, but the phenomenal amount of kindness my family was gifted that helped put trauma back in our rear-view mirror.
My coworkers at the battered women’s shelter donated their leave. Friends threw every kind of fundraiser imaginable to help with expenses. My Alaskan lawyers donated their time and resources, and then my Greek friends donated their time and opened their homes to me. People of diverse backgrounds, cultures, beliefs, sexual orientations, and ages worked along one another to help us achieve the impossible. When I look back on that awful period in my life, I am filled with gratitude.
What is it about a disaster that brings out the best in people? And would I have the same experience today, in this age of social media where too often we camp up and talk about each other rather than to each other?
Often, people do show up when help is needed. Think of a car accident with people inside a smoldering vehicle. A human is in peril. In that moment, it’s all that matters.
Alaskans have long had a rich history of helping one another, especially in the 90’s when my daughters were kidnapped. The weather, the location, the physical isolation serve as reminders that we need each other to survive.
After the girls and I returned from Greece in 1996, we resumed living small, quiet lives. And then two decades later, as I began promoting Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters, all the memories came back. Not just the bad memories, but the beautiful memories of all the grace and love we’ve received.
I wish we didn’t need to go through hard times or traumatic events for people to unite for a common goal. But I’m so fortunate to have once been witness to the miracle of unity inside my community, both in the states and overseas. And to have commemorated that period in my book makes me both humbled and proud.
Today marks the 23rd anniversary of my daughters’ kidnapping. A reminder that I am one of the lucky parents whose kids returned.
Just before the holidays, I spent some time discarding and donating stuff I no longer wanted when I came across this tattered list. It is an outline of wishes and goals I hoped for in my 39th year.
It was just the distraction I needed to stop de-cluttering.
Thirteen years ago, when I crafted the list, my kids were nearing adulthood, so I aimed high. I hoped for things like a fake wood floor, a better car, a book deal, $500 more a month, travel opportunities, a soulful community, lower cholesterol, and a promising relationship. And then I scrawled all of the qualities I wanted my suitor to have.
I think I’d listened to some motivational guru Tony Robbins cassette tapes that inspired me to be focused and intentional about what I wanted.
There’s nothing wrong with being focused, so long as it’s tempered with flexibility.
So how did I fare, achieving my goals?
Well, that year (2003) I was fortunate to enjoy a soulful community and I completed the first draft of my memoir.
And over the next ten years, I did get a fake wood floor, a better used car, and more money. I began to travel, and completed more drafts of my memoir, finally publishing it a few months ago.
My cholesterol is still high, but my good numbers increased while the bad decreased.
And my promising relationship?
Songwriter Leonard Cohen once mentioned in an interview that perhaps his greatest goal was to recall what he’d hoped to achieve as a young man, compare it to what actually did happen in his life as he grew older, and then accept the gap between the two with grace.
Of all my resolutions for 2017, this is perhaps what I want most of all.
Accepting the gap. And keeping hope and faith alive for the future.
It’s deep December, and I’m a bit late in checking in.
Then again, I’m also late on Christmas shopping and cards and decorating and the like. But I’ve found my Christmas cheer and am enjoying myself silly instead of feeling engulfed in guilt about my failings.
Yesterday, I saw Collateral Beauty at the theater with a friend. It’s a sweet film with a not too subtle message that has always resonated with me: In the middle of a tragedy or even a prolonged period of bleakness, don’t forget to look around for the splendor that’s right there in the middle of it.
I’m pretty good at finding collateral beauty in the midst of tragedy, having had much practice. But when life is simply too busy, or when it’s dark out around the clock in Alaska, or when my car stops working, it’s a different story. The little stuff bugs me. A lot.
But lately, I’ve found myself at so many events related to my memoir this season, recounting the endless acts of collateral beauty I’ve experienced. I can’t remember a time when I’ve cried more or felt so vulnerable. And so grateful.
Just this week, I met with two classes of high-schoolers for a discussion about the book and on recognizing signs of unhealthy relationships. Their insights were both sharp and gentle. I was in a daylong online dialogue on We Love Memoirs, and finished the week with a book signing at Kaladi Brother’s Coffee, my second home and the place where I logged many hours of evening writing. New and old friends joined me and settled in for a relaxed talk about our community, twenty or more years ago to now, and where they were when my girls were abducted, and the role they played to aid the recovery.
Holidays can be tough. I remember feeling stung in years past when I’d look at social media posts or holiday letters from what appeared to be closer or wealthier or just happier looking families than my own here in Anchorage. My friend and blogger Jen Singer wrote a beautiful post about her similar sentiments here in The Holiday Card No One Ever Sends.
Isolating during the holidays is a tradition for some of us. I don’t enjoy big groups, especially when I’m feeling blue, but this year, there’s been no time for that. Whether it’s been through book events or my day job, volunteer work or time spent doing nothing in particular with my girls, I feel a part of something great. And I can’t even begin to say how much love I feel with every email or post on social media and Christmas cards I’ve received. Thank you.
Truth is, I still live an imperfect life, but so long as it’s filled with love and connections and purpose, I wouldn’t trade it.
I wish to you that same feeling of connection. I hope you know that if you are alone, you don’t have to be. I recognize that just you stopping by to check in with me here is a wonderful effort. There are volunteer opportunities and other people around, looking for connection and meaning, looking for you.
Later today, I get to meet up with a woman who phoned me after a book signing a week ago. She reminded me that in 1990, she’d sold me her TV at a garage sale. I was in my mid-twenties then and was already on my own with my little girls. It took me a moment to place her, now nearly 30 years later.
“Don’t you remember?… I let you pay me for the TV in installments.”
I can’t wait to see her. Anyone who is kind enough to allow a broke young woman to essential rent-to own a garage sale item is definitely a part of my collateral beauty.
Merry Christmas. Happy Holidays. Thank you for being here with me. I’m happy to report that Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has been a popular Christmas gift this year. Thank you!
“I don’t understand how you can do that work. It must be so depressing.”
You get used to hearing that sort of comment when working in the trenches of domestic violence (DV). I used to hear it a lot 20 years ago when I was a DV advocate, but now the question was posed to domestic violence advocate/program manager at Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC) ,Nicole Stanish, whom I worked with during some DV Awareness Month events.
She answered graciously, but later I followed up with a few questions of my own. It took her nanoseconds to respond, a sure sign of someone who loves her job.
What led you to working with domestic violence victims?
When I was 12 I read a book about Covenant House and knew that one day I would be a social worker. When I was in college, working towards my social work degree, my professor gave us an assignment to write a paper on a social service agency and she suggested that I might like AWAIC. So I interviewed the Shelter Manager for my paper and she suggested I come to volunteer training, which I did, and then I fell in love with AWAIC and began volunteering a couple of nights a week. Later, when a position opened up I applied.
What do you like best about your job?
The best part of DV work is connecting with people. I enjoy hearing people’s stories, even though they can be sad, and offering them whatever strength, compassion and understanding that I can. We are all human and we all have our struggles and people benefit the most from having a non-judgmental person support them through a hard time.
What is the worst part?
The worst part of DV work is seeing someone who has so much potential continue to go back to her abuser, back to her addictions, lose her children, and continue to spiral farther down. It is hard to have high hopes for a person only to see them continue to get into worse and worse situations. I wish that there was a way for me to transfer all of my hope and faith into them to help them succeed.
What are some things you want people to know about how they can help?
We all have the power to make a difference. We are all humans and have struggles and fall down. And we are all capable of compassion, understanding, and the ability to reach out to someone who is having a hard time and help them.
Domestic violence can happen to anyone. If you are fortunate enough to never have had it happen to you- do not judge those who are currently experiencing it. Domestic violence is very complex and very hard to break free from. If you know someone who is living with domestic violence, just be there for them. Let them know that they deserve all the good in the world and that you will always be a person that they can turn to. Don’t give up on them.
For more ideas on how you can get involved with Domestic Violence Awareness Month, click here. Thank you to Nicole Stanish for doing great work to impact change.
The why now question comes up a good deal, and there’s more than one answer:
I waited for all the signs of healing to be in place, and when they didn’t come, I knew it was time.
I fiddle-farted around with writing it. Then one of my brothers gave me a nudge, telling me if he worried that if I didn’t finish up, he wouldn’t be around for it’s release. (No pressure there!)
I couldn’t ignore the feeling that there was a cloud over my head. I’d committed to tell the story of addressing intergenerational patterns and then didn’t do it. It felt like I was one class shy of a degree for more than a decade.
But the bigger question is– why bother to write a memoir at all?
At first, it was based on the fact that I loved to write, and thought the double-abduction theme would make a great story. But I was angry for a long time, at the kids’ dad, at the failed judicial system. It would have been an angry book.
It took me a while to figure out that writing a memoir is as much about connecting with readers as it is sharing my story. And during these last few weeks, I’ve heard from family, friends, and new reader friends about parts of the book that resonate with them, triggering memories about their own challenging times. “During my divorce…” or “After my wife died…” or “When my insurance didn’t cover the chemo…”
Stories of strength and survival are what join us as humans. We all have them. And I’ve been so honored to hear other people’s stories as I share my own.
Thank you so much to everyone who has posted, texted, e-mailed, or published reviews. I would be lying if I said this has been an easy and stress-free process. It has not. But I’m increasingly convinced that now was a good idea to publish my memoir, thanks to you.
Special thanks to Dorit Sasson, Tracy Sinclare at KTUU, and Carol Krein for making this past week successful in getting the word out about my book.
I’m thrilled to announce that Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was released a little early!
In fact, today some of the pre-orders were filled, and I was so touched to see the Facebook posts about it. It’s equal parts exciting and terrifying.
Below is a revised letter my terrific team at Sparkpoint Studio gave me. If you’re a writer, feel free to keep it on file to use it as a template for your own use later.
I hope after reading Pieces of Me, readers will better understand domestic violence dynamics, glimpse the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, and experience the incredible difference a caring community that spanned the globe made to me and my daughters.
Thank you always.
Dear Friends and Family,
You’ve all been so supportive of me during this journey. This is my first memoir, and I am thrilled by the positive reviews and reception it has already received. Now that Pieces of Me is available in both print and eBook, I hope you will support me by buying a copy for yourself, a friend or family member, or to donate a copy to a local library.
Below, I have listed the 5 easiest ways you can help me spread the word about Pieces of Me. If you’ve already done any, or all, of these, I can’t thank you enough. If you haven’t had the opportunity yet, now’s your chance to celebrate with me on this very special occasion.
How you can help support Pieces of Me:
1. SOCIAL MEDIA: LIKE my author page on Facebook (https://www.facebook.com/lizbethmeredithfan/), follow me on Twitter (@LizbethMeredith), and share news about the book via social media (tag me when you do, so I can thank you, and please be patient while I catch up with thank you’s!) Also, feel free to join the conversation by using the hashtag #PiecesOfMe when posting.
2. BUY THE BOOK: Please consider buying the book! The first few days it’s on sale are VERY important for a new book release. You can order it through your local bookstore, at Barnes and Noble or online, and through Amazon. Amazon sells it in the U.K. and Australia as well.
3. REVIEW: After you’ve read the book, post a review/rating of the book on Amazon. Reviews like yours will help potential readers decide whether or not to buy the book, and the more reviews, the better. If we’re friends or family and/or Facebook friends, please acknowledge that or Amazon may erase your review. Full disclosure is the best policy.
4. GOODREADS: Add Pieces of Me to your shelf on Goodreads and rate it honestly.
5. FOLLOW ME FOR INFO ON READINGS & EVENTS, OR SET AN EVENT UP YOURSELF: Join me at one of my upcoming events, and keep an eye on my website for more updates at http://lameredith.com/upcoming-events/. Or feel free to schedule your own event. From civic groups to fundraisers, book groups, faith communities, the possibilities to connect in person or via Skype are endless.
Whatever you decide to you, how big or small, it helps and it means so much. Thank you for your continued support and encouragement, and please let me know how I can pay it forward.
Next month, my memoir will be published, and just after that, I’ll have my book launch.
It may not seem like much, writing 80,000 words (give or take) and getting them published, but for me, it’s been monumental. And while I went to great effort to thank people in my Acknowledgment section – those who helped me find my kidnapped daughters, the people who later helped me to raise them, and who were above-and-beyond supportive as I wrote my story- it turns out that it doesn’t come close to a complete list.
Four Thank You’s.
Thank you to my family, near and far, from daughters to siblings, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins, I’ve been so fortunate to have your support. The book covers my childhood and young adulthood when family dysfunction ruled, when I felt all alone and believed I always would be. Each of your social media shares, every text, email, or contact through my website has positively made the stress of this effort so worth it, and I hope in the end, you’ll be proud.
To my fellow She Writes authors, thank you for connecting daily on our Facebook page. I’ve loved learning from your experiences, getting to know some of you and exchanging our books for blog interviews or reviews, and sharing the journey on our path to publication. It’s become a sisterhood I will always treasure.
Thank you also to the non-profits and other sponsors partnering with me to launch Pieces of Me: Rescuing MyKidnapped Daughters in October:
The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s (UAA) Consortium Library
UAA’s Pre-Law Society, Alaska Book Week, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC)
Green Dot Anchorage
Victims for Justice Eva Project
Thank you for joining my effort to kick off the launch during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Together, we’ll make a positive impact on our community.
To my friends, old and new, thank you for your excitement about Pieces of Me. It’s contagious. Your shared enthusiasm has resulted in two gift shops asking to consign books, a radio interview, book clubs, and more speaking engagements. Finally, I have confidence in my book.
I was so tickled last week to get a late night message through my website’s Contact button from the Republican Women’s Group in the MatSu Valley, requesting I speak about the late Senator Steven’s efforts to aid me in rescuing my daughters in the mid 90’s.
And then it hit me: I’d completely forgot to thank Senator Stevens in my Acknowledgments section.
Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens was haunted by my Alaskan support network from 1994-96, especially by my former supervisor and now dear friend, Heather Flynn. At one point, Heather arranged a calling tree to his office. My friends at Faith Daycare and Learning Center took turns ringing his DC number all day long when my case heated up. After my arrest in Greece, he called the American Embassy to make sure the girls and I were safe, reinforcing to the Embassy staff that we were important to Alaska.
I’m sickened by the omission, and will do what I can to get this error corrected in the second printing.
Thank you, always and forever to Senator Stevens and his talented staff.
Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is available now for pre-orders through your local bookstore, library, or on Amazon. The first launch is on October 5,2016 at the UAA Bookstore upstairs in Anchorage from 5-7PM.
Click here to find out what others are saying about my book.
It’s hard to explain in a sentence why I was so hurt.
My bedroom was a crime scene. Pinky, my 49 year-old stuffed rabbit, had been taken from her shelf of honor by my cat, her throat ruthlessly slashed, and her innards splayed all over my bedroom floor. I was crushed.
Pinky is one of three relics left from my childhood. She’s survived countless moves, a house fire, and an early violent marriage which ended with most of my belongings being destroyed.
Her first near-death experience came at the hand of my mother. My mom, whom I write about in my memoir, was often a domineering and tortured soul who worked hard to pay the torture forward with her kids. And yet it was Mother who went to the dump to find Pinky after her efforts to dispose of my hard-loved Easter bunny, replacing her with a newer model left me as me sleepless and bereft. I don’t know how many hours it took to find Pinky among the rubbish, but it meant everything to me to have her back. She lost an ear and her button eyes, but the core of her remained.
Pinky represents everything I’ve agonized over writing about in Pieces of Me. Did I give my mom enough dimension? Were any of my former husband’s charms shared in enough detail that my reader would know why I married him? And does my meddling sister’s good intentions ever seep through my anger?
Amye Archer, author of Fat Girl, Skinny wrote a wonderful piece in Brevity Magazine about this in her article Writing the Truth in Memoir: Don’t Skimpon Objectivity after struggling to write with balance about her first husband.
“Through revision, I have learned two important lessons. First, it was more important for me to be honest than vengeful, and to show the reader why I fell madly in love with this boy, to build a connection to him emotionally, a connection that would break down that wall I had put up.”
None of us are fully angels or fully devils. I hope I’ve succeeded in my first book to add dimension to my characters.
I look forward to hearing your thoughts once the book is published.
Meanwhile, thank you to my childhood friend Marti for mending Pinky back to her former old self.
Next post will be author Ann Anderson Evans about her book Daring to Date Again.
And here’s Pinky’s perpetrator. A handsome, flawed fellow himself.