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 Root.org (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.

Black and Missing More Alike than Not

This week, I’m prepping to attend the Wild Mountains Memoir Writer’s Conference in Washington state, where Cheryl Strayed and other amazing staff members will (hopefully) help me improve my craft.
Given that, I was sure I might skip posting something for the blog this Sunday.

Then tonight, I stumbled upon a very sad story from the Black and Missing Foundation’s blog  at http://www.blackandmissinginc.com/wordpress/category/bamfi/.

Maayimuna  N’Diaye, Dr. Noelle Hunter’s daughter  from Kentucky,  went missing  in 2011 by her father and taken to Mali.

Who is the Black and Missing Foundation? I wondered.

According to the website, the Black and Missing Foundation, Inc (BAM FI) has been established as a non-profit organization whose mission is to bring awareness to missing persons of color; provide vital resources and tools to missing person’s families and friends and to educate the minority community on personal safety.

Founded in 2008 by a veteran law-enforcement official and public relations specialist, BAM FI will create public awareness campaigns for public safety and provide parents and loved ones of missing persons with a forum for spreading the word of their disappearance, with pictures and profiles of missing individuals. BAM FI will use a variety of media, including print, television, and the internet, to help locate missing persons of color for this severely under-served population.

Despite me being a white woman located in Alaska, I instantly felt a bond with Dr. Hunter.We’re much more alike than different.

*We are mothers of internationally abducted children.

*We are writers. http://themoreheadnews.com/local/x530790504/Physician-program-to-improve-rural-health/print

*We are from Kentucky.

*And we are STUBBORN!
 Dr. Hunter is using every type of social media and resource available to her to bring her daughter home. 

A people-pleaser, faced with the conundrum of an international parental child abduction, will not succeed in bringing their child home.
And that’s the good news about being a human who experiences a crisis. You find more connections than ever with people you might not have met otherwise.

Best wishes to Dr. Noelle Hunter, and all of the parents who are seeking the return of their children.
And wish me luck at the conference.

See you next week.


Sunday Roundup – My Top Three Stories for the Week


Liz’s Top Three–

  • Local Women Fight to End Domestic Violence

When 20 year-old Shannon Shockey was murdered by her former boyfriend 15 years ago, her aunts agreed never to let her memory fade.  They’ve created a website–  http://www.winservices.org/ –and an annual event to empower women with the hope of preventing similar tragedies.

  • Law Firm Backs New International Child Abduction Campaign

In Britain, the acknowledgement that international child abduction is steeply increasing has resulted in a new information campaign.http://www.bournemouthchamber.org.uk/news/chamber-news/item/799-law-firm-backs-new-international-child-abduction-campaign

  • Siblings reunited after 65 years with help of 7-year-old Facebook user


When Clifford Boyson confided in a seven year-old boy that he’d been separated from his sister, he had no idea the boy would employ his knowledge of technology to solve the problem.

Family is important”, little Eddie Hanselin said. “I went on Facebook and I typed in Boyson. There were a whole bunch of pictures that showed up. One of them kind of looked like Clifford and I zoomed in on it and it started to really look like Clifford, [so] I showed it to my mom and dad.”

It’s amazing what the faith of a child can accomplish. 

Have a great week. 


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 http://www.alaskawritersguild.com/events?eventId=451830&EventViewMode=EventDetails 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 (nothingbinding.com) 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 (http://www.andreahurst.com/) , 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.http://www.cherylstrayed.com/

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.


International Parental Child Abduction, Then and Now

Did you have the chance to watch young Sean Goldman on television Friday night on NBC?  He’s the adorable little boy who was snatched from the states by his Brazilian mother in 2005. She died four years later. Still, her family refused to return Sean home to his heartbroken father, who’d been fighting all along to have his son returned to his place of habitual residence.
Through legal means, the Brazilian courts ordered the return of Sean Goldman in 2009, and NBC kindly chartered a plane that skirted them both out of Brazil and safely home. He wrote A Father’s Love, and has a website, http://bringseanhome.org/
After the show, I looked at author Peter Senese’s site. http://www.chasingthecyclone.com/CHASING_THE_CYCLONE_Home_Pa.php
He wrote newly released Chasing the Cyclone, a work of fiction based largely on his own experience of parental international child abduction. Again, after a long struggle, international law supports the single father whose son is safely returned home.
And I couldn’t help but wonder, Did I do it all wrong? What dramatic changes have occurred since the mid-nineties, when I sought the legal return of my abducted daughters, only to go for broke, have my legal custody overturned, get arrested, and sneak out of Greece like a thief in the night with my girls.
I spent the weekend inventorying the factors that may have contributed to their success
Gender   Had I been an American man seeking custody of my stolen daughters in Greece, would that have helped?     It horrible to think about, but I wonder.
Class        I didn’t have any. These gentlemen both appear to be well-bred.
Wealth     I had even less cash than class.
Internet   In the mid-nineties, information was much less accessible. Other countries didn’t have internet available in their homes, and search engines were useless for a layperson’s investigation. Now, it’s so much easier to get instant information, rally supporters, and lobby for change.
Passage of time  Each parent’s experience of international parental child abduction paved the way for the next hopeful searching parent. Legal precedents are set. Attorneys build their new cases on old ones. My failing may have been a tiny bit of help for these current happy endings sixteen years later.
 If you had to guess, which factor would you give the most weight?
Take a look at their websites and books if you get a chance. I’m impressed with their stories of survival, but the greater systems changes that both Mr. Goldman and Mr. Senese have made for other victims of international parental child abduction.

Child Abduction’s Anniversary

Eighteen years ago today, my daughters were snatched and taken to Greece.
There are certain details I’ll never forget. I remember waving goodbye to them as they climbed into their father’s jeep for their two day visitation.   I remember meeting my friend Julie for lunch that day to celebrate her birthday. I remember feeling slightly guilty for enjoying the much-needed break from the constant demands of single motherhood, not realizing that this break would last just over two long years.
March 13, 1994 is one of my life’s uglier anniversaries.
But there is much about the next many months and years that are important to remember. Important enough that I’ve written them down so that our history will not be erased.
I remember the support from my friends, my coworkers, and the Anchorage community at large. The tireless work of local attorneys Michael Schneider and James Gorton. And I remember the trips to Greece which led to new and lasting friendships, and to finding my daughters. Only to be arrested.
International parental child abduction is on the rise. Less than half of the parents whose children are taken from home countries ever see them again.
But thanks to the help of so many, I became one of the luckier ones.
So what’s the anniversary I do celebrate?
May 24, 1996. The day the girls and I returned home to Alaska.
 In truth, I celebrate just a little every day that this crisis from our past could not prevent us from enjoying a fabulous future.