The Transformation: Signs a Victim Has Become a Survivor

You can now order  my e-book THE SANTA NEXT DOOR on Kindle for 99 cents!
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Have you ever survived something that you feel completely defined you? The event defines how you divide your life?
For some of us, it’s a break up of a relationship, the death of a loved one, getting a cancer diagnosis.
For me, it was the day I left my husband after getting strangled. Then it was replaced by the day my daughters were kidnapped.
For my daughters, it was replaced by an act of violence a year ago.
8/6/2011- an hour before the assault/robbery
At the end of summer 2011, I dropped my college-aged daughters off reluctantly before midnight in downtown Anchorage, where they were meeting up with five friends for drinks. Our conversation just before went something like this:
Me: “Nothing good happens after midnight. You girls should stay home.”
Girls:“Mom, knock it off. We’ll be in a group. We’re safe. Don’t worry.”
Less than twenty minutes later, I got a call. The girls and their five friends had been victims of a random attack on the street by three Polynesian gang members, two of whom I knew from my work as a juvenile probation officer.  My youngest daughter’s date Joe got his head stomped into the cement repeatedly. The police told us he wouldn’t likely survive. My daughter had tried to protect him and was subsequently beaten and robbed. My oldest daughter intervened to protect her sister, becoming the complainant and the state’s key witness.
In all, six of the seven kids in my daughters’ group were hurt.  Six hurt by three, you say? You have to picture the size difference. Something akin to grizzlies attacking koalas.
Joe spent nearly a month in intensive care.  With multiple skull fractures, he’s still in the process of healing.

The many months since have been filled with court, bail reviews, problems at the District Attorney’s office, a change of plea, trial, and chronically rescheduled sentencing hearings.

But that’s just the bad stuff.

The surprisingly good stuff?

Watching how they came through it.
I knew the girls moved easily from victim to survivor by a few markers.
The return to everyday routines
My daughters returned to their jobs and university courses nearly immediately. No fanfare or theatrical displays of sadness. They refused to let the perpetrators steal from them what they were working towards before the robbery and assault. Added to the everyday routines were visits with Joe in intensive care, court hearings, and doctor appointments, but that simply became the new normal.
Reaching out for support
Without hesitation, both contacted therapists to help them process the trauma. My youngest daughter contacted the Office of Victim’s Rights after all of the victims were repeatedly left out of court hearings they had a legal right to participate in (“Not enough staff to notify victims of hearings,” a staff person at the District Attorney’s Office said).
Why Me was replaced by What’s in it for me?  Not in an exploitive sense, but in the Look How I’ve Grown sense.
My oldest daughter, anxious in daily life, was a rock star at the trial, bravely facing two defense attorneys, the offenders, and the jury panel without flinching.
My youngest daughter told me, “I’m not glad any of this happened, but I know now that I’m stronger than I thought I was.”
Quite right.  I wish none of us would experience traumatic events, though they’re clearly a part of all of our lives.
But I hope we remember to honor the strength gained in the process.
My daughters and the other victims didn’t linger in that role. They’ve gracefully morphed into survivors.

Think back to your own trauma(s). What strength did you gain from the experience?

In Search of Gratitude


My work took me to beautiful Ketchikan, Alaska this week.

With flooding in my hometown of Anchorage and neighboring towns of Kenai and Talkeetna, I was fortunate to be a part of a nearly 70 degree heatwave in a place that’s nearly constantly rainy.

I should be grateful. Instead, I’m exhausted and outstandingly cranky.

Earlier today, I read Leo Babauta’s post in Zen Habits, and thought I’d share it. I myself need to find rest and grace, as I’m simply mean and grumpy today. So here it is.

The Only Way to Respond to Life

Post written by Leo Babauta.
I went for a run along the beach at sunset yesterday, foam kissing my bare feet, smooth sand caressing my soles, and the sky exploding with color.
I paused for breath, mostly because the sky, and the Pacific, had borrowed my breath from me.
I stopped and applauded.
This is the only response that life deserves: overjoyed applause.
This morning, wherever you are, whatever life has given you, take a moment to really appreciate this gift, and applaud. I mean, actually applaud.
Then give back to life, something, anything, to show your gratitude for this miracle you’ve been given. Do anything: be kind to someone, create something, be gentle with your children, do something where your body feels full of life.
We often not only take life for granted, but complain about it. Life isn’t perfect, work is boring, people are too rude, drivers are idiots, no one gets me, I have too many things to do. But goodness, look around you! What a wonder life is! If only we would take the time to see it, to really appreciate it, and to applaud.
This moment is a ridiculously generous miracle. Give it up, folks, for life.

Have a great week. I’ll be back to normal next Sunday.

My Path to Authorhood/ Alaska Writer’s Guild 2012 Conference

Have you ever gone to a conference or workshop that left you feeling invigorated, even in the face of apparent hopelessness?

At the Alaska Writer’s Guild’s 2012 conference this weekend, I learned that getting my memoir (about domestic violence and recovering my internationally abducted children successfully, fueled by the memories of my own kidnapping’s aftermath) traditionally published will be as likely as giving birth to conjoined twins. Post-hysterectomy. At age 48. Unless, of course, I do everything I can to have the book in perfect shape and develop a solid marketing plan before pitching it to agents.

It’s less discouraging than it sounds.

It turns out, I’ve been doing a number of things right already.

What I’ve done right:

  • Participating regularly in a writer’s group for peer critiques.
  • Creating  a blog that covers key word topics that are emphasized in my book. Domestic violence. International parental child abduction. Finding missing loved  ones.
  • Blogging consistently


But from each of the presenters I’ve heard thus far, there’s much more I must do.

From author/publishing guru Jerry Simmons ( I learned that it’s the breadth of writing that matters. Another words, my second book will boost sales of my first, provided their in the same genre. The third would boost the sales of the first and second book. And so on.

From literary agent Gordon Warnock from the Andrea Hurst Agency ( , I learned that that having a great pitch is key. He liked when an author of young adult lit told him her books was as if  “David Lynch met Juno.” He gave some great websites I’d  never heard of to assist debut authors to find an agent, and said writers should go to bookstores every week to look at titles and sales of books similar to their own.

Author Susan Meissner suggested fiction authors consider giving their characters the free version of the Myers-Briggs test and write the results so they can keep their characters consistent, and gave an outline of how to write 300 pages in 30 days.

Author Jan Harper Haines provided engaging writing exercises for writing both memoir and fiction, and gave out a handout that offered some challenges. My favorite? Dare to suck!

So, dear blog readers, you are an integral part of my future.  I plan to follow the directions given, but will need your help.

What I can do better:

  • My pitch: Betty Mahmoody meets Erin Brockovich. Does that sound alright? 
  • Commit to grow my blog traffic to 10,000 hits a month
  •  Locate guest bloggers on relevant topics to the book.
  • Offer a short story on Kindle for the holidays excerpted from my book for 99 cents.
  •  Strive to connect with other writers and readers, and increase the number of comments left by my weekly blog readers.
Do you have any tips for burgeoning authors? Any feedback is welcome.
Thanks goes to the Alaska Writer’s Guild for hosting accessible and affordable annual conferences in Anchorage. With the help of the annual conference and the connections I’ve made through this blog, I know that my goal of becoming an author is within reach.
Agent Gordon Warnock


Publishing guru Jerry Simmons
Author Jan Harper Haines

How to Collect Treasures During a Difficult Journey Like Cheryl Strayed

I just finished reading Wild by Cheryl Strayed, a gorgeous memoir about a woman in her twenties whose life falls apart after her beloved mother dies. Strayed can’t seem to pull it back together until she decides to hike more than 1,000 miles on the Pacific Crest Trail in the mid 90’s. Alone. It was an amazing feat for a financially strapped non-hiking heroin user. She had a few scares along the way, but noted that she met far more kind people on her journey than mean or scary ones.

All the time that I’d been fielding  questions about whether I was afraid to be a woman alone-the assumption that a woman alone would be preyed upon-I’d been the recipient of one kindness after another.-Cheryl Strayed in Wild.

When you think about some of the worst times in your own life, who were the people who unexpectedly stepped up to help? Did you collect them as treasures, or let them slip through your hands?

As I read Strayed’s book Wild, I had some chance meetings with a few of the treasures I’ve lost touch with. People who supported  me when I was a battered and isolated young wife. Then helped me when I was a welfare recipient and struggling college student with two little daughters. Who celebrated with me when I got my first degree and job. Who cried with me when my daughters were kidnapped to Greece. Who fought along side me, loved me, and helped me raise money to get the girls back. And who didn’t judge me when I fell apart after the girls finally returned home from Greece.

I ran into Mary H, a former coworker who organized garage sale fundraisers while I was stranded in a Greek hotel I could no longer pay for while waiting for the Greek courts to rule.

I ran into Crystal E, a fellow journalism student with me in the early 90’s who was just 20 years old when she  became an important staple in the girls and my life, even helping me pass statistics on my fifth try. And I got to see Anne L, a dear friend who listened to me, abstained from giving advice, and babysat the girls.

Through Facebook, I heard from Popi, my Greek friend who opened her home and heart to me when I searched for my internationally abducted children. And from Mimi, my American friend living in Greece that helped me plan an escape through Turkey when the Greek courts ruled against me.

I’ve often said that sometimes it takes the worst in life to bring out the best in people. And I’ve had plenty of opportunities to see the best in people.

The key to collecting treasures during a difficult journey is being open to simply accept the love and support offered all around.

Below are just a few of the faces who were/are my treasures.



Pam and Heather


Anne L
Crystal E (with husband)
Julie R

This week, think about your own difficult journeys. Who became your treasure?

Thanks for stopping by.