The Power of Love / Mother Hides Under Burqa and Rescues Son in Egypt and other sweet examples

Love is a force to be reckoned with.

This week, I was mesmerized with the story of the mother who went to Egypt, currently one of the most treacherous places for Americans to travel, donned a burqa, and rescued her kidnapped son.

Image from

Pennsylvanian Kalli Atteya had spent over two years and $100,000 to seek the return of her son, kidnapped by his Egyptian father, without success. Rather than give up, she took matters into her own hands.

Love can cause you to spend money you don’t have. Ms. Atteya spent $100,000. I did too, and I can tell her from experience, that’s just the beginning of the resources it will take to help her child recover from the kidnapping.

On a much smaller scale, I’ve been at it again, spending money that should go towards getting a 4 wheel drive to combat the Alaskan winters, or a flat-screen TV that my kids would love. On what? More writing classes! By the time my book’s ready for sale, it will need to be a best-seller to recoup my losses. But it’s been so much fun.

This weekend, I took a First Ten Pages Bootcamp from Writer’s Digest and the Anatomy of a Scene Workshop from  author Andromeda Romano-Lax at 49 Writers. Both were fabulous. I discovered I would have to dump my manuscript’s first page. Ouch. I had worked so hard on it. I loved it so. But for the love of the story, the love of learning to write, and the hope of publication, it’s gone. Ode to my preface. Here it was:

Sixteen years have passed since I brought my kidnapped daughters home from Greece. That’s just over a third of my life. My girls have re-learned to speak English, finishing grade school through high school. One graduated from college, and the other is closing in on her degree.
So why wait so long and tell the story now, when the crisis ended in 1996?
I didn’t want to share my story until I was comfortable that each of the three of us was doing well enough in our healing that we’d learned to incorporate our experiences into the present without imploding.  All that took time, and was even more work than making our way back to Alaska from the other side of the world.
 I believe that sharing my story will lift the intergenerational curse. My past will no longer be my daughters’ future.
           My daughters may choose to tell their own stories one day, but this is what I remember of mine. How I, an abducted child myself, grew up to experience my own children’s abduction. It’s about how I found my children, all by myself, and with the help of many.  And how during that journey, I found that underneath my layers of self-doubt was the capable person with the ability to 
endure that had been there all along.
Goodbye, Dear Preface.
And to end on a happier note, here’s evidence that love can push us to bravely moving out of our traditional roles. Here’s my kids’ friend and his family. If I knew where he lived, I would kidnap his cat.
All photos by Nicole Gaunt Photography
What crazy things has love inspired you to do?
Thanks for stopping by.

Take Root / The Wisdom of Child Abduction Survivors

This week, I found a gem.

Photo from Take Root’s site of survivor’s holding their own posters.

I’d been reading an article published by the U.S. Department of Justice that linked to Take Root. Take (1-800-ROOT-ORG) is a non-profit designed for adult survivors of child abduction.

I found my tribe at the Take Root site. As a stolen child who later had her own children stolen, these virtual friends were speaking my language. There, the now-adult victims write about their loss of a parent, and the challenges they faced when they were returned to their lost family.
Especially touching was a vignette by a man named Sam M.
Imagine this: You were told that your mother is dead. you’ve lived for years without her in your life. One day someone takes you from your father and puts you in an unfamiliar place and this woman walks in. She looks uncannily like what you remember of your mother but she is older… and your mother is dead.
My youngest daughter was told  I had died by her father when he snatched she and her sister and fled to Greece. When I found her two years later, she looked like she had seen a ghost. I didn’t understand. I thought she should be overjoyed to see me, and I was crushed.
As a parent who recovered stolen children, there were a lot of things I’d wished I’d have known back in the day. Here are a few of the highlights I gleaned from Take Root’s members.

1) Recovering children from an abducting parent feels to the child like a second abduction.

They lose their parent, their toys, their friends, their routine, all without warning. Again. So their joy about being reunited with their parent is quite naturally overshadowed.

2) The lying a child was forced to employ to survive a parental kidnapping does not magically cease when the child is found.

Think about it. A stolen child has to lie to teachers, to neighbors, to law enforcement, and  to new friends in order to start a life without drawing attention to their circumstances, angering their abductor.
Had I known what to expect, I’d like to think I wouldn’t have been so angered when dealing with what I thought was gratuitous untruths. My poor girls.
3) Minimizing the impact of a parental abduction on the victim only makes he/she feel worse about their suffering. 
People mean well. But when they say things about my girls’ kidnapping like, “Oh, it was your dad? Aren’t you glad it wasn’t a stranger?” it tends to make my daughters feel like they’re big babies for not being over it.
In truth, when one person a child loves and trusts takes them away from the other parent the child loves and trusts, the impact is life-long.  It’s an unexpected betrayal of trust.
It’s fabulous to have a clearinghouse of information from abduction victims to know what to expect.
This year, more than 1,000 children a day in the US will be victims of a parental child abduction.
Finally, there’s a place for left-behind parents, friends, extended family and teachers to hear what all the struggle to reintegrate will entail.

The Story of Luke and Other Favorite Works of Art

This week, I saw a fabulous movie  I just had to share with you, and I realized it’s been awhile since we’ve swapped favorite movies and recent reads

My Top 3 Movies

April is Autism Awareness Month, and I saw The Story of Luke at a local theater honoring that fact .  Please Netflix this movie if it isn’t showing at a theater near you. What a joy. It’s a fictional account of a young autistic man whose guardian dies, leaving him to fend for himself in a world that didn’t embrace his quirks.

West of Memphis was a long yet perfect documentary about the West Memphis Three juveniles arrested and convicted of murdering three little boys in 1993, and how Arkansas handled finding  all evidence to the contrary.

Silver Linings Playbook. What can I say? The main character reminds me of my oldest daughter. This is a funny and compassionate movie with some heavyweight actors.

My Top Three Recent Books

I  confess, I love a depressing memoir, and I think my love of women’s memoirs about dead husbands may have been replaced by divorce memoirs.

How to Sleep Alone in a King-Sized Bed  by Theo Pauline Nestor

Split: A Memoir of Divorce by Suzanne Finnamore

Vow by Wendy Plump

And my favorite three blogs?

I like So many great things are going on around the globe. Here’s a great place to read about it.

Alexis Grant  is still a favorite.

And I’m adding Nina Amir to my list.She wrote How to Blog a Book, something I’m really interested in doing.

(I have to read upbeat blogs after filling my head with negative memoirs.)

What are you looking at these days?

Thanks for stopping by.

Recipe for Danger: Factor’s that Influenced the Acquittal of Lisa Donlon

Happy Sunday!

Often, I write my posts while tuning in to Dominick Dunne or Snapped  on television, where the message that Violence is Never OK is reinforced.

I agree.

I worked with battered women in the ’90s as an advocate, not too long after I myself was a battered woman. It was an exciting time of change. Shelters for domestic violence victims had popped up everywhere, and laws like the Violence Against Women Act were enacted to address what was then one of the  leading cause of injury to women in the United States

A funny thing happened when women were made safer. Men and children were safer, too. The need for the self-defense claim  of Battered Women’s Syndrome by psychologist Lenore Walker  decreased sharply.

But last week, a jury acquitted Lisa Donlon, an Alaskan woman who shot her husband  six times, killing him while he slept peacefully.


What were the factors that led to the acquittal for murdering her husband Jason?

* The couple lived in a remote part of Alaska where they were isolated from accessing support. 

Lisa had been held hostage in a shed by her husband. Had she wanted to go to a shelter or have law enforcement respond lickety-split, or had her husband wanted to attend a batterer’s rehabilitative program, their remote location would have been an impediment.

* There was a  documented history of the husband’s violence against his wife that occurred over years, evidenced by a restraining order, some pictures a medical doctor took of her injuries, and witnessed by one or more of their children.

Say what you will about restraining orders, but they tell a story that can be helpful later on. 

* The jury was likely schooled on domestic violence dynamics.

Domestic violence escalates with time, and is more likely to become deadly after the victim decides to leave the perpetrator. Lisa told her husband she wanted a divorce, and he allegedly responded by holding her hostage for three days and torturing her.

Do you know someone impacted by domestic violence?  

Tell them to call the National Domestic Violence Hotline at 1-800-799-SAFE(7233)
We’re all safer when the needed help is available.

Billy Ray Harris Finds His Family / The Unintended Consequences of a Single Choice

Have you ever made a really tough decision that took you off-course in a positive direction?

I’d read about a homeless man named Billy Ray Harris in Missouri who returned an engagement ring that had accidentally been dropped into his donation jar. Harris had been offered $4,000 for the ring by a jeweler, and admitted to considering it pretty hard. In the end, he gave the ring back to its rightful owner.
The ring’s owner was so touched that she told her friends, who were inspired and wanted to give to him. A fund was set up for Mr. Harris with the hopes of earning the $4,000 he would have made from the jeweler.
Today, the fund sits with more than $183,000 in it. But that’s not all.
Mr. Harris now has a home. A part-time job. And, most importantly, he’s been re-connected with his long-lost family, who had not seen him for 16 years and feared he had died. The TODAY show surprised him by flying his three siblings to see him.
“This is a big payoff,” he said on the TODAY Show. “I got it all right here now.”
So what can we learn from Billy Ray Harris’s good choice?
 To me, there are three lessons learned.

1) A good choice may bring many unintended consequences.

2) The people who donate money also benefit by the very act of giving.

 3) A monetary reward is wonderful, but reuniting with lost family is life-changing.

If watching the news has you convinced the world is going to hell in a hand-basket, then stories like Billy Ray Harris’s is a good one to reflect on. 
Happy Easter.