The Storm before the Calm/Readying for South America, Solo

 The reasons I get so nervous are many. 

I’m about to leave for South America in a few days. By myself. It will be continent 6/7 for me, and I’m nearing my goal of finishing the research for a travel memoir and companion guide book for older, non-wealthy women who want to get out of their comfort zone and see the world on their terms.

I’m frightened of flying. I won’t know the language, despite my efforts to learn. And I’ll be on a clenched budget, especially since I just got my kitchen renovated.

But there is something truly humbling about leaving for a new adventure.

 

 

 

 

 

 

As soon as I fasten my seatbelt, I nearly always start to cry. Partly because I’m exhausted from my work and because I’m excited and scared, I’m flooded with thoughts of friends and loved ones who’d wanted to travel more but didn’t get the chance. Early deaths or bad circumstances. And yet, here I go. And I take none of it for granted.

Traveling alone away seems to bring out my best.

 I’ve worked really hard to engineer a future for myself, one that looked unlikely early on. In my struggle to attempt control over my environment, I’ve become an over-anxious control freak. 

Nothing crushes the false sense of control like travel. And traveling to someone else’s country, playing in their playground without officially having been invited, it’s clear that I have little influence or control. Feeling small and powerless can be exhilarating.

 So away I go. Far from responsibility of house and home, away from the security  friends and family, away from social media and television. I hope to meet new friends see some animals and sights. I hope I get lots of exercise and sleep. And on Thanksgiving, I will see with a new lens how grateful I am for all that I have waiting for me right here at home.

 Have a wonderful day. Thank you for stopping by.

 

 

 

 

 And thank you to Charlene at Soul Sciences podcast for the talk about writing.

    

 

     

 

 

Author Interview with Linda M. Kurth/When Abuse and Faith Intersect

 

There are many reasons an abused partner may choose to remain in their relationship. Faith and ties to their faith community factor in for many.

Author Linda M. Kurth

I’m honored to have author Linda M. Kurth sharing from her experience and upcoming memoir.

Crazymaking: A form of psychological attack on somebody by offering contradictory alternatives and criticizing the person for choosing. -www.yourdictionary.com

“Your husband is a crazymaker,” Susan, my new counselor declared.

Susan was one of several counselors Jim and I had seen during the last half of our twenty-five year marriage. Yet none of it seemed to get to the root of our problem. Jim was a “good Christian.” He was a good provider. He was smart and had a great sense of humor. His hugs were legendary. Yet I was dying inside, and my prayers had not changed our dynamic.

Susan had listened as I told her how Jim promised to change over and over again, and yet hadn’t. “I’m having difficulty believing him anymore,” I said. “He tells me one thing one day, then the opposite the next. When I try calling him on this stuff, he always denies giving me a double message.”

Susan sighed. “I believe Jim’s personality type will try every trick in the book to avoid taking responsibility for sabotaging your marriage. His type is good at keeping the opposing party off guard. I’m not optimistic he’ll own up to his behavior.”

I felt a mixture of relief and what? Resistance? Disbelief? I’m the kind of person who rips a band-aid off, but part of me wanted to cling to hope. Acknowledging that my husband was not going to change meant I’d either have to resign myself to being hurt again and again by his emotionally abusive passive-aggressive behavior. Or, I’d have to leave. I hated both options.

The thought of leaving left a churning in my stomach and a tightening in my chest. I was fifty-five and hadn’t supported myself in years. When I tried to visualize my future alone, the picture was dismal. Besides, as a Christian, I worried that divorcing was not part of God’s plan for me.

During this time, my husband accepted a new job that was near my home town. I agreed to move with him and engage in counseling one last time. Jim found Norma, a conservative Christian counselor, but we made no progress. I saw clearly I had only one choice if I was to survive emotionally.

“I’d like to discuss divorce,” I told Norma, my voice shaking.

“We don’t talk about divorce,” she replied, and then proceeded to talk about it. She quoted the Bible in Matthew 19 verse 9, in which Jesus said, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.”

“If you divorce Jim, Satan wins,” Norma explained.

Heat rose in me. I blurted out my truth. “Satan has already won. Jim may not have been physically unfaithful to me but he’s been emotionally unfaithful. He’s unrepentant, and I’ve lost all hope for reconciliation.”

Norma shook her head with sadness. “You’ll be making a huge mistake if you leave the covering and protection of your husband.”

I almost laughed. I certainly had not been feeling my husband’s “protection.”

That night, I threw myself on the Lord’s mercy and discerned his permission to leave.

As I struggled to regain my sense of equilibrium, I was met with a dichotomy of responses from the Christian community. I received a scathing letter from a Christian friend of my husband, condemning me for choosing divorce. For the same reason I was turned away from a church I had considered joining. On the other hand, my former church embraced me when I went back to visit, even providing me with a divorce ceremony. Best of all, I was welcomed by a new church that had a large singles ministry. There, I met many other singles, many of whom became my friends and support during my recovery.

Since that heartbreak time, God has blessed me in many ways. I bought a townhouse in which I felt secure. Eventually, I met a wonderful man while ballroom dancing. We’ve been married for fifteen good years.

I’ve recently completed a memoir, tentatively titled God, the Devil, and Divorce: A Love Story from which I’ve drawn material for this article. (I hope to see the memoir published soon.) I have a blog, “Help and Healing for Divorced Christians,” where I offer what I’ve learned about going through and surviving divorce, and where I encourage churches to welcome divorced people with love and grace. I pray both the book and blog will help people achieve a happier divorce recovery experience.

Linda Kurth is offering advice, “Ten Steps for a More Joyful Life after Divorce,” to subscribers of her blog. Click here for the link to download.

 

Would you like the chance to win a set of compelling memoirs about domestic violence? For the month of October, 2018, enter here to win!

How My Daughters Are Today/The Question I’m Asked Most at Author Events

It’s Domestic Violence Awareness Month.

As I prep for a few book events, including a FaceTime conversation with a Florida book group,

The question I get asked the most is always How are the girls now?

And just after that, Do your daughters mind you writing and talking about them?

They’re fair questions with dynamic answers.

At the moment, both my grown daughters live in the same city as me.  Neither have married. Neither have children. Neither appear interested in getting married or having children.

My oldest daughter, recently back in Alaska after a year in Mexico, is presently taking seven classes at the local university to finish her degree in psychology. I don’t know what kind of work she’ll go in to, but I’m so proud that she will have options, thanks to her hard work.

Life has been incredibly challenging for her, not simply because she was a child-witness of domestic violence or because she and her sister spent two years living in hiding in Greece. She manages anxiety and significant mental health problems that threaten her quality of life. This has been compounded by losing a shocking number friends to early deaths.

Still, she persists. She has a long-term relationship, adores her pets, and even at times when she’s shut off from other, she remains in close contact with her sister and me.

My youngest daughter finished college some years ago and works in finance. She too has a long-term relationship. She is athletic and busy, volunteering in the community and on a board of directors. She has a thriving dog-walking, pet-sitting business on the side. While her sister’s emotional wounds were deep from being the oldest child who shouldered adult responsibility early, my youngest has had medical leftover concerns.

 

Still, when I read the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study and compare their scores to the potential outcomes, I’m awestruck at how very well they’re doing.

Some of the resiliency factors after the kidnapping were having stable housing and kind neighbors, good schools, involved family friends, access to community mental health providers, team sports, and knowing they had family-far away-that loved them dearly. And their pets were a healing balm that reduced their stress levels every day.

All things considered, my daughters are doing exceptionally well. Funny and feisty, lovers of hiking and Greek food and good people, and able to incorporate old traumas into their lives while embracing new joys.

 I’m sure at times they mind the invasion of privacy of having a mom who’s a writer, but they’ve not said so. I’ve tried to minimize it by not using their names in essays and in local talks.

More often, they sincerely appreciate that people care to ask about how they are.

So do I.

Thank you for stopping by.

A Missing Girl/ A Found Helper

When I was a boy and I would see scary things in the news, my mother would say to me, “Look for the helpers. You will always find people who are helping.”—Fred Rogers

 

 

 

 

 

 

“Do you remember me?” came the message from Greece this week from a man I hadn’t heard from in more than 20 years. “…You were here (in Greece) for your daughters.”

And the heaviness of the days before began to gently lift.

***
Two weeks earlier, I’d seen the movie Searching about a kidnapped girl. (Mothers of abducted children would be wise to avoid such movies, but I gravitate toward them.) As I left the theater and turned my phone on, I read that little girl in the neighboring community of Kotzebue, Alaska had disappeared.

Over the next week, the local news reported the growing search. The family’s reaction to their missing girl. And the support that flooded in from all over the state, evidenced by food shipments for the search crew, Facebook shares, and volunteer searchers.

How excruciating it must have been. And yet, through their grief, the family expressed their gratitude daily as in this KTUU article:

“I want to thank them so much for doing the walks, like we’ve been doing here, and them getting us prayers and hope still,” Barr (the father) said. “I can’t imagine anything else, I have a loss of words of how many people around the state, as well as Lower 48, that are 100 percent behind us.”

And on September 14th, when the body of young Ashley Barr was found in a remote area and the man associated with her death arrested, again her family gave thanks to all who helped find her.

Given to KTUU by Scotty Barr

***

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

***

In 1995, I made my first trip to Greece from Alaska to bring home my kidnapped daughters. I was crushed when I couldn’t bring the girls home, not realizing that all the wonderful helpers I met in Greece would be critical in our eventual reunification. Like my friend Poppy and her group of young lawyer friends in her theater group.

The following year, I returned to Greece, but was stationed in a different city this time. There would be no easy resolution. Court hearings and private investigators and even police were involved. And at one point, my daughters’ father contacted my lawyers in Greece and promised I could visit the girls. And then cancelled the visit. Then he called and set up a visit last-minute, so long as I could find people to supervise the visit.

Who on earth did I know in Greece who would give up their Sunday to supervise a visit an hour’s drive away? It was sure to be emotional, unpleasant, and potentially unsafe for them.

I called on two of the Greek friends I’d made the year before, who immediately pushed their own weekend plans aside and took a long bus ride with me to a nearby village to give me the chance to see my daughters.

Days after, I was arrested in Athens when leaving with my daughters for Alaska, and these friends offered shelter, support, even legal consultation should I need it.

Eventually, I left Greece with my daughters in a hurry, losing contact with a few of the many heroes who made it possible.

And now it’s September 2018. My daughters are grown. And I get this lovely message from my old friend, who gave up law to become a pianist in Greece.

A second glance at the news showed little Ashley’s father dispensing hugs in a receiving line of friends and strangers who’d gathered at the airport.

From KTUU

There are no words to make such an unimaginable tragedy better. No silver lining to make it go away. But I am convinced that this family’s ability to lean in to the community support and find their helpers will propel them on the journey toward healing.

For information on preventing or addressing child kidnapping, contact 1-800-THELOST.

To aid the family of Ashley Johnson-Barr, a GoFundMe has been established.

 

 

 

Photos and fabulosity/ Remembering Vietnam and John McCain

With the passing of Senator John McCain, I was transported back to my first big solo trip at the Hanoi Hotel in 2012, when I began this blog.

Vietnam and Laos were appealing because they were inexpensive and beautiful. Plus, I’d worked with and around many people from Vietnam and Laos here in Alaska for the past 20 plus years. Why wouldn’t I want to see their home? But I made Hanoi home-base because of John McCain. I was drawn to the place where the senator had been held hostage for five long years during the Vietnam war.

It was something I won’t forget. And while I waited in a long and very quiet line to get in to the Hanoi Hilton, an American teen laughed and joked with his friend just ahead. Immediately, the armed guards perched nearby leapt to attention. I don’t know what they said, but I could tell from their expressions and tone that it wasn’t good. And it was something else I won’t forget.

In Vietnam, using Facebook, laughing in a solemn setting, and/or posting negative information online about  their government there can result in a myriad of consequences, including arrest. Which reminded me of how thankful I am to live in a country where we are able to make our own choices regarding media– social and otherwise–can chuckle at inappropriate times, and scrutinize our government without fear. All hard-won battles that many like John McCain fought to ensure.

I loved hearing the story of John McCain. That he was privileged, but found his his voice and his strength while suffering during the war, and then quickly reconnected with his sense of humor upon returning from Vietnam. An imperfect man with a strong sense of decency.

On the trip, I enjoyed time with my friend Jennifer who joined me from Ohio for a leg of the journey, and who insisted we hike the mountains of Sapa. I don’t like hiking and I really don’t like tours.

We had more fun than I could’ve imagined, and made new friends that I looked up in Australia a few years later.

So out of that one trip came a blog post, a deepened respect for freedoms that matter, and some lifelong friends.

Which leads me to today: It’s time to get out of my round-the-clock work rut and prep for new adventures. My daughters have had the audacity of doing fine on their own without me, and I’ve been forced to admit I’m sometimes mad at them for it.

The youngest is beginning a new fancy job next week, and my oldest has begun a new batch of courses at the university. I’m proud of them both.

So I’ve begun vlogging on YouTube and trying hard to learn how with an eye for promoting my writing and other loves.

And my next travel destination? Uruguay, with a quick jaunt to Argentina by ferry. I’ll go this winter and happily miss out on one of the holidays in the states. YAY!

Thank you for stopping by. I love getting your comments, concerns, and love that you chuckle with me and at me sometimes. You make my life richer.

XOXO,

Lizbeth

 

 

 

The Headlines We Can’t Ignore/Everyone Matters When Responding to Domestic Violence

 

 

 

 

The headlines keep coming.  

Buried between Chicago mass shootings and the primary elections and Denise Richards joining the Real Housewives of Beverly Hills cast (is that really news?), there they are.

This is one week. In one country.

Like many of you, I want to tune it out. Who wants to hear about something they can’t change?

Not me. And it’s not Domestic Violence Awareness Month until October anyhow, right?

But it’s impossible to ignore. Not only because of the brutality, but for the truths these stories underscore.

1) Domestic violence is not about a normal person with an anger management problem who takes it out on their intimate partner. It’s the deliberate use of emotional, physical, or sexual violence to gain control of an intimate partner. You only need glimpse the second story to see how carefully orchestrated the plane crash was. The husband was not crazed or out of control. Simply diabolical.

2) Children are not only victimized by witnessing violence, but too often harmed irreparably as they become collateral damage in the effort to hurt the mother.

I detailed my now-grown daughters’ experiences as both child-witnesses and as adult survivors in my memoir. It left scar-tissue that manifest in physical and psychological wounds. But at least they survived. Clearly, not all do.

3) And the third truth is one I stumbled upon quite by accident when setting out to read something cheerier. When researching travel writing opportunities, I came upon a wonderful story written by Ivana Haz titled A Sort of Homecoming.

I read her entire essay story before noticing the writing on the sidebar.

Editor’s note: The author of this story, Ivana Waz, and her son, Makani, were murdered in their Southern California home July 11. Authorities say Ivana’s husband shot them before turning the gun on himself.

A google search of her name revealed a series of articles on her and her son’s death, attributing it to her husband’s depression after his back injury. One entire article sympathized solely with him.

I guarantee you that Ivana Waz and her child were not killed by a back injury or depression.

Which brings me to my earlier question: Who wants to hear about something they can’t change?

The truth is, we can all make a positive difference in creating lasting change regarding abuse. When we learn about it, when we talk about it, how we talk about it, when we seek ways to get involved, we become a resource.

I decided just now to make a difference and donate several copies of my memoir, themed around intergenerational patterns of domestic violence, to my Methodist church for their silent auction, and will continue to volunteer at the local shelter. It’s not much, but it’s something I can do.

What will you do?

Do you know someone impacted by domestic violence? Call 1-800-799-SAFE.

Want to lend your time or resources to affecting global change? Consider attending a meeting at your local Zonta chapter or giving to the domestic violence agency near you.

For information about what to do when you witness or suspect domestic violence, look at your local Green Dot Program.

Together, we can make a difference.

      

Love at the Speed of Email-Interview with Author Lisa McKay

After sailing through her fascinating memoir in which issues of love, faith, work, and passion are examined, I interviewed author Lisa McKay. Lisa, who presently lives in Laos, answers questions about Love At the Speed of Email as well as the writing process, and her thoughts on traditional versus self-publishing. 

Below is an excerpt from her book.

What drives any of us to stick with something for years when it’s not a constant carnival? 

For many, a need to pay the rent and eat, clearly. But that’s not all. Few of us who live in the Western world must do exactly what we do to feed and clothe ourselves. Many times our career choices are really more influenced by a cocktail of duty, fear, apathy, talent, priorities, and passion. Alternate lives, at least one or two of them, often lie within reach.

  Thank you so much for your time, Lisa!

Can you describe LOVE AT THE SPEED OF EMAIL for us?

Love At The Speed Of Email is the story of an old-fashioned courtship made possible by modern technology. Here’s the back cover text:
Lisa looks as if she has it made. She has turned her nomadic childhood and forensic psychology training into a successful career as a stress management trainer for humanitarian aid workers. She lives in Los Angeles, travels the world, and her first novel has just been published to some acclaim. But as she turns 31, Lisa realizes that she is still single, constantly on airplanes, and increasingly wondering where home is and what it really means to commit to a person, place, or career. When an intriguing stranger living on the other side of the world emails her out of the blue, she must decide whether she will risk trying to answer those questions. Her decision will change her life.
While writing your memoir, you split your time between humanitarian work in several countries while being newly married. When did you actually find time to actually do the writing?
It was a challenge (although I must say I think it’s usually a challenge to find/make time to write, no matter where you’re at in life). I wrote the first draft during our first year of marriage. Mike was away for about a third of the year working on consultancies in different countries, so I had several months of free evenings. I was also only working four days a week – I had previously made the decision to drop down to 80% schedule and take a 20% paycut to concentrate on my writing. (Here I should pause to say that although that did cost us financially, it was a decision I never regretted. I loved having that extra time on Fridays).
The 2nd and 3rd drafts were a lot easier to find time to work on – we’d just moved to Laos, and apart from doing some consulting all I had on my hands was time. That first nine months in Laos was a huge luxury for me in that regard.
What’s the hardest part of taking your relationship, analysing it, and putting it into a book for all to read?
The hardest part of writing about my relationship with the man who is now my husband was figuring out what to leave out. We had written each other 90,000 words worth of letters before we ever met, and that was just the start of the raw material I had to work with.
Writing about my previous relationships was harder. One chapter, in particular, I must have rewritten a dozen times. I went over that story over and over again, trying to pin down what had happened during that time and, in particular, my own contribution to the unhealthy dynamics of that relationship.
How was the process of writing memoir different than writing fiction?
When I was writing my first novel (My Hands Came Away Red) I found myself getting surprised by what was happening. As I figured out the “what” of plot, however, an understanding my character’s actions and reactions followed fairly naturally.
Writing a memoir reversed this process. I already knew what happened – I’d lived it – but I had to work much harder to figure out what it all meant to me, then and now.
The plotting process was different, too. With the novel I wrote my way into the story blind, without an outline. As I wrote, the story gained momentum as events unfolded.
In contrast, I had a clear vision for the start and end of the memoir, but little idea of how I was going to get from one place to the other. Despite repeated outlines I continued to flounder in the middle until the very final drafts of the manuscript.
How has the process of promoting your self-published book been different than your traditionally published novel, MY HANDS CAME AWAY RED? What role has blogging played?
Self-publishing’s been more work than I had anticipated, taken more time, and has cost me more money. How’s that for a depressing summary?
In all seriousness, I don’t regret having self-published this book. I’ve learned a huge amount through this experience that I’m sure will serve me well. However, I also have even more respect for the role played by traditional publishing companies now. The editing and mentoring I received during the process of publishing my first book was invaluable – I am so grateful to all the staff involved in that process.
A word about money on this topic … Proponents of self-publishing often ridicule the royalty rates that traditional publishers pay (often in the range of 17%), and there is perhaps room for those to be increased. But on many versions of my self-published books I’m not earning a huge amount more than that. Amazon, for example, only pays you 35% on kindle downloads from a whole bunch of countries instead of the 70% it pays when a US customer downloads your e-book. Sure, that’s double what you’d earn if you had been published by a traditional company, but you’re also out there working to sell books without the benefit of marketing or publicity help unless you pay for it. (If you want to think more about money, jump on over to a pair of posts I wrote recently about costs and earnings associated with self-publishing. Here’s the link to the first one, Let’s talk money: What it cost me to self-publish my book). 
As for the role blogging has played … the blog has been a useful forum for helping me process the self-publishing journey and keeping people up to date. I also have no doubt that I’ve already reached more people with this story because I keep an active blog than I would without it. But I don’t have a huge audience by blog standards. I’m not nearly a mega-blogger, and it’s the mega-bloggers who are in a position to sell thousands of books just through the power of their own blog. So blogging for me has been something I do because I want to more than anything else, not a calculated publishing move.
Do you have any words of advice for others who want to write a memoir?
Screeds have been written on this topic, but here are a couple of points I tried to keep in mind:
Tell a story: When I started writing this memoir I thought I might be able to “glue together” a whole bunch of essays and blog posts I’d previously written and call it a book. A friend and editor bluntly told me that I was neither famous nor good enough to get away with that yet and that I had to tell a coherent story if I wanted to write a memoir. He was right. If you want to write a memoir and you don’t know anything about story arc, google it (for starters).
Write into the unknown: I don’t know who it was that said that if the author hadn’t discovered anything during the course of the book the reader likely wouldn’t either, but it’s stuck with me. If you want to write a memoir be prepared to do some soul searching and struggling to put into words some of your shadows and your fears. Work to learn about yourself while you’re writing.
Take your time: I know some people can write a book in a couple of months. I’m not one of them. My work is always stronger when I’m prepared to edit, edit, edit, and let it sit and breathe between drafts.
I’d love to hear about the Lao charities you support, and what you’re working on next.
A portion of my profits on this book will be going to support charities operating here in Laos. The two I have in mind at present are two organizations that focus on literacy and education, Pencils of Promise and the Luang Prabang Boat Library. Pencils of Promise builds schools and trains teachers. The Library Boat carries books up and down the Mekong to villages that can only be accessed by boat.

As for what I’m working on next, I’m not sure. Long term I know I want to write more books, but not in the next couple of months! A couple of things I know I will do in the next six months is guest posting to help get the memoir off the ground and starting to write more on the topic of long distance relationships. If you have a blog and you’d like me to guest post for you, do let me know! I’d love to hear from you. 

Lisa McKay can be reached at www.lisamckaywriting.com

 

Snippets of Beauty

I’d like to share some moments of beauty in my weekend.

I joined friends for a gorgeous kayaking trip for several hours in Prince William Sound this past weekend. Paddling through cool waters with nothing but the sound of glaciers calving was as calming as a massage.

Returning home, I spent time with my oldest daughter and her boyfriend for her birthday. (Thank you for the many of you who wished her well!). I’d love to report that she’s doing brilliantly and is finding her place in this chaotic beautiful world. But it isn’t so.

I think all parents have times where they struggle with how to let their grown kids be themselves and to celebrate them just as they are. To let go just enough. Enough so their adult child feels the love and support and pride from their parent. Enough to let the child be accountable for their choices without too much buffering from the parent. Enough to continue hoping without judgment and expectation.

My oldest daughter, like firstborns everywhere, has absorbed so much more of my missteps than her younger sister. When she hurts, I feel a stabbing pain, accompanied by defensiveness.

Self-care, like spending time with friends, kayaking, with a splash of detachment and a good bit of faith that things will turn out as they should, all help. That, and writing.

So that’s what’s up in my neck of the world this week.How about you?

If you have a favorite picture I’ve posted in this, please let me know. I’ll send it to Holland America’s photo contest.

Thank you. I’m always glad you’re here.

 

The Balancing Act: Working Tourism, Writing, and Working

Remember a while back when I mentioned I’d be working in tourism this summer?

I work in Whittier on Saturdays, an hour and a half drive from my home in Anchorage. I wanted to try a side hustle that fit neatly in to my already full workweek.

In a perfect world, this would be a job I return to after I retire and spend winters out-of-state or move altogether. It would allow me a connection to Alaska while keeping my brain engaged learning new skills, and hopefully earning me some travel credits for winter.

And in my imperfect world, this job would help me be a part of someone’s good experience. Having worked as a battered women’s advocate, a child abuse investigator, and now a juvenile probation supervisor, I’m ready to bring smiles instead of misery. And to enhance visitors’ trips to Alaska. It’s also a way for me to experience second-hand travel. All the excitement, none of the worries.

From the long cozy ride to the port with seven other workers to the crowded lines of stressed-out passengers, there is a theme of belonging. Maybe it’s the uniforms. Or maybe it’s the constant push to get people moved from train or bus to ship, or how we greet passengers. “Thank you for coming to Alaska,” or “Welcome to Whittier.” And then cram back into the van for another hour and a half drive.

There are lots of fun times. And there are a lot of other times. It’s very satisfying to stay in motion rather than sitting at a desk all day, and to help people with short-term, easy problems.I work with some terrific people, mostly women from young ones in their 20’s to others in their 80’s. We represent the full spectrum, and I love hearing their stories—of gardening, of fishing, of husbands and grandkids and pets. I couldn’t ask for a better group.

That said, I don’t have as much energy as I once did. I may need to re-think this plan until I actually have retired.

But there’s something so exciting about traveling, whether it’s going on a trip to a place I’ve never been, or hearing about someone else’s wild experience coming to Alaska. I think travel is better in the planning and in the retelling. I know I’m not alone when I say that while it’s exhilarating to reach a travel goal, amazing to keep the new friendships made, it’s just plain scary at times to be an uninvited guest in someone else’s yard.

So I’ll book a trip to a destination soon in South America. It’s long been my goal to hit all continents by 60. Time is moving fast.  When each continent is complete, a book of travel essays with a companion guide of how to travel on a slim budget will result.

In the meantime, I’ve began vlogging on YouTube, giving Alaskan tourists some travel hints, and introducing readers to characters in my stories, past and future. Alaska is a big character in my memoir. More than a simple setting, Alaska has been an adoptive parent.

I’ve continued to do interviews about Pieces of Me from home on podcasts and in publications, and work with an editor to completely renovate my forthcoming novel.

If you have questions or comments about Alaska, about travel, feel free to drop me a line. And if you’re so inclined, feel free to subscribe to my YouTube channel.

And please say hello if you pass through Whittier some Saturday afternoon, where I will say,”Welcome. I’m glad you’re here.”

And I mean it. Thanks for stopping by.

Preventing Domestic Violence/Interview with Dr.Sally Dorman


M
My longtime friend, Dr. Sally Dorman, will return to Alaska next week for a summer visit.

Twenty-something years ago, I worked at an agency that served battered women and children. Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis. Sally was one of my favorite coworkers. We worked in the trenches together with other dynamic staff members, facilitating groups for battered women, creating school curricula for grades K-12 on family violence, and giving countless school presentations on the topic.

In the late ’90s, Sally moved out of Alaska to advance her education, and I became a social worker. We lost touch. Two years ago, we reconnected through Facebook.

Today, Sally is Dr. Dorman, a school psychologist in Maryland specializing in violence prevention programming. Her research on the impact of training school personnel to recognize the signs of childhood exposure to domestic violence was funded through a grant from the Office of Juvenile Justice and Delinquency Prevention (OJJDP) and  published in the Journal of Aggression, Maltreatment & Trauma. in 2008.

Thank you Dr. Dorman, and welcome!

How did you go from working with battered women and children in the battered women’s shelter to the violence prevention work you do today?

I did clinical work for my master’s degree at a community health center while attending Mansfield University for a degree in Community Clinical Psychology. As a part of that, I worked at a local community mental health center for my internship, which got me thinking of the dire need for mental health promotion and prevention.

After the prevention work we did back in the day, it was only natural that my interests lie in violence prevention and decided to enter a doctoral program in school psychology. I wanted to do the prevention work through policy change.

What kinds of projects have you worked on to address kids affected by domestic violence?

I worked on a coordinated community response around domestic violence in western New York.  We used a public health model, looking at primary, secondary, and tertiary responses. The response focused on getting everyone in the community to realize domestic violence is a problem, and we all have a role in solving that problem.

As an example, if the police respond to a home in which 8 year-old Suzi is a child witness of domestic violence, they’ll make an arrest if applicable, and give community referrals to the family to address their concerns. The officer would notify Suzi’s school staff the next day so that they can follow up with Suzi to make sure she has counseling or supportive services that she needs at school.

With the coordinated community response, everyone in a community has a role in the intervention and will have training to know what that role is. The state of Texas has a project that outlines agency roles related to domestic violence. It is very innovative.

What’s the focus of educators today with regards to children exposed to domestic violence?

The study I worked on for OJJDP demonstrated the importance of giving educators information on how to recognize kids exposed to domestic violence and how to respond individually, in the classroom, and school wide through policy. It was important because those same kids were being mislabeled as having ADHD, and were getting medicated for symptoms that mimicked ADHD symptoms like hyperactivity, inattention to classroom work, and fidgety when they may be reacting to trauma.

I’m at a the US Department of Education’s Safe and Healthy Students conference right now, and yesterday, the topic of bullying was being covered. The definition given for bullying was just about the same as the definition of domestic violence; when one person uses emotional or physical force to gain control of another person. The behavior has to be repeated, intentional, and used to gain control in both cases.

That really surprised me, and I think we’ll be hearing more about the link between domestic violence and bullying in the future.

Please give some examples of how we can support kids we suspect are witnessing the abuse of one of their parents by an intimate partner.

I think it’s important to let them know that if abuse is happening, it’s not their fault. Domestic violence is an adult issue, and it’s not theirs to fix. Let the child know you believe him/her, and tell them where they can get support.

For more information about a coordinated community response to domestic violence, go to or Close to Home.

Please Like my author Facebook page by clicking. Thank you!