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.
This was how I knew my recent two week trip to Kentucky and Indiana, a combined book event and family reunion, was a success. Moments after getting home after sixteen hours of travel including layovers I was home, diving in to chores I often dread.
What a trip it was. I wish you could have been there. First, there was time with my niece and her kids, and with my sister, her mom. Then Great Day Livewith the amazing Rachel Platt. What a terrific opportunity, and how lucky was I that my brother Danny encouraged me to reach out to her.
Then time with my brother, more nieces and nephews, a cherished ritual of driving to family reunion with my favorite aunts, family reunion, and more sister/ brother time. And a trip to Berea, a place I’ve felt a magnetic pull to, was the icing on the cake.
But the single thing I’ll never forget was my book event itself at Barnes & Noble. The arrival of family, one by one. Some I knew. Some I’d never met. And I finally got to meet my brother Bill.
It had been five decades since I’d seen Bill. I was a wee one when we were separated, and don’t remember he and I hanging out as kids. But he did.
And then on June 8th, thanks to the intervention of my sister Maddy, I got to meet him. The final introduction. No more missing pieces in my sibling puzzle. Sure, I blubbered as I read from my memoir about a time when I was looking for my little girls in Greece without the benefit of family. But they were good tears. Tears of appreciation for the family Alaska was to me, and tears of joy for the family I later fell in love with. My big, loveable, sometimes dysfunctional, always colorful family.
Never did I believe I’d meet all of my missing siblings. We’d been scattered across the country growing up. But it happened. And it was spectacular.
Returning to Alaska, I tackled my little life with gusto. I mopped. Slept a bit. Went to a memorial service of my daughter’s old kindergarten classmate. And slid in to my first tango lesson. More relaxed and centered than I’ve been in a long, long time.
Thank you for joining me today. Thank you always for the Facebook shares and online reviews also.
Next stop: Washington, then Sitka after a summer break.
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’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 https://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.
Today is winter solstice, the longest and darkest day of the year. Nowhere is it felt more powerfully than here in Alaska, near the top of the world.
I’ve spent years loathing this time of year, which regrettably falls right on the holidays. This has been an especially great year for me, and I’m more than a little sad to say goodbye to it.
Do you ever look back at the things you were most grateful for before the New Year? Doing that, rather than making lots of resolutions, has been a boost.
So for the chart toppers on my 2015 gratitude list—
Facebook helped me to reconnect with two young men I knew and loved as children, and I missed them after their dad and I broke up fifteen years ago. So what a surprise to hear from them, and to have them back in the fold.
My family reunion in Kentucky and Indiana is always a hit. I have eleven siblings, plus aunts and uncles and cousins, and see most of them ever two years. I actually rented a car and drove on an interstate for the first time. Yay, me! And learned my anxieties are too strong to repeat that effort.
I loved spending time with my grown girls last January in Mexico. It’s rare that our schedules sync any longer for vacationing, and our trip was filled with sun, silliness, and no family irritations.
rs when I make the journey. This time, I was able to see my old dear friends in Ohio and squash 30 years of catch-up in the space of a couple of days.
I adore traveling alone, and this October, I zipped over to Australia for a long-planned trip. What I didn’t plan was getting ill on the way over. I chit-chatted with an Aussie couple at my layover in Los Angeles, and they invited me to train over to see them the following weekend. When that weekend came, I was sicker still and wondering if they’d hate me for bringing sickness to their door. It turned out, the wife was a medical doctor. I got the best treatment and company and hopefully, lifelong friendships. I met a new friend, artist Will Stackhouse at a train station, and spent time with several other Aussie friends I’d made over my years of traveling.
And then there’s my book. My baby! Pieces of Me is due on September 20, 2016 for publication with She Writes Press.
My year, probably like yours, was also filled with normal life stuff. Disease and car accidents, unexpected expenses and unexpected losses. But on rewind, it was still a banner year.
So goodbye 2015, and thank you endlessly for the new and the old connections.
And I do resolve to stop slouching in 2016!
What are you grateful for today? Leave a comment below.
It had been thirty years to the day since I met my father, a fact I mused only when I boarded the plane to see our shared kin in early June.
I got to see my dad less than a handful of times before he died in 1995 after we were separated by a parental abduction in the late sixties. And in all that time, I’m pretty sure he’d said less than 400 words total to me. Then he was gone.
From our first meeting, I could tell my questions about him would remain unanswered. My father was old. Worn. Tired. Mostly silent.
Who are you? Who were your parents? Why so many marriages, so many kids, so much chaos? And why didn’t you look for me?
Dad, then on the verge of his seventieth birthday, was content to sit in the corner of the room, slumped in his chair, mouth slack, intermittently lost in thought or slumber. He filled in some gaps for me, like why he hit my mother so long ago, how sorry he was for it, and how no one has the right to hurt another person. He injected humor to conversations around him whenever possible. There was a time after my father died that I gave in to a sense of hopelessness. Now I’ll never get toknow him sort of thing. And then I got caught up in the chaos of my own making and lost track of my new family altogether.
Ten years ago, I committed to make the journey from Alaska to Kentucky to visit family on my dad’s side every other year, and I’ve held to it. And with each trip, I’ve had the chance to get to know my dad just a little bit more each time through his family’s eyes. Conversations with his siblings. His first wife. With my siblings. And now, many trips later, I feel like I’m coming to know him.
I learned that my father was a different person between his first marriage and the second, and different still when he created a third family, so although I have six siblings by my dad, we all had different fathers.
And there are some interesting facts I’ve learned that helped shape him.
My dad was born almost 100 years ago in a small home in rural Kentucky to a teen mom and her husband. The oldest of the eleven children who survived toddler-hood, he lived through some rough times, including the Depression, and likely absorbed a lot of the violence and unrest in the home as older children do. I’ve learned that he married young the first time, and that fidelity in a marriage came to him later.
I’ve learned that despite being forced to quit school in the fifth grade, my father was whip-smart and hard-working, which helped him survive the rough terrain of marriage and remarriages, accepting his wives brood in to his life while subsequently losing track of the children from the just-ended union. I learned that my father served in World War II, and became a machinist for the government and a business owner.
I’ve learned that my father’s father was no prince. On a visit to my grandfather’s grave, a complete stranger approached me at the cemetery and told me that he still remembers when my grandfather got mad at his farm pig and sewed his eyes shut to punish him.
If a man sewed the eyes of a pig shut for disobedience, what do you think he’d do to his oldest son?
I learned that my father was a respected brother and loyal son to his mother. I learned that he was committed to evolving over his life time, and became a faithful husband to his final wife, an involved church member, and a gentler version of his former self to his younger children.
We didn’t have much time together, but my dad left me a lot. I inherited his brown eyes and the ability to get a suntan in nanoseconds compared to my friends. I inherited a host of cousins and siblings and aunts and uncles. I’ve inherited dad’s quick temper, his dislike for holidays, and his belief in redemption.
I’ve got a few friends with missing loved ones who tell me they can’t relate to my need to connect with missing family. “Too much trouble. I’ve heard bad things about my missing family,” or “What good with knowing my missing family do me now that I’m grown?”
And while I can’t say it’s a good thing for every person to find their missing family members, I can say this; every time I return back to my small life in Alaska from visiting my dad’s side, I carry a little less baggage and bank a few more cherished memories with family.
My goal over the next couple of years is to connect with some of my mom’s extended family.
Who’s missing from your life? What’s stopping you from finding them? Leave a comment below.
These days, since I’m working on a few different projects, I’m not always certain which direction to focus my blog posts.
I’ve revised my memoir and given it to my editor (yay, me!) for an assessment, and I’m giving my novel a last tweak, now that it’s done. And I wrote the mini-guide for men and women on online dating safety to help with my platform. So do I write on my favorite topics the memoir covers, like domestic violence, finding lost family members, child kidnapping? Or do I focus solely on the novel and explore different ways we find love, like online dating?
And then I read about long-lost siblings Josephine Egberts and Erik de Vries, who recently reunited in the most peculiar way: through online dating site Tinder. Touche! It’s a perfect blending.
A family divorce had the siblings living in different countries fifteen years ago. And though the two didn’t recognize one another’s profile pictures, their stories mirrored one another as they began getting to know one another and sharing details about their parent’s turbulent divorces
I found my own father in 1985 through my dear friend and attorney Ira Uhrig. Ira dialed the phone number listed to my father in Louisville, Kentucky. The phone had been connected for less than an hour. Through that call, I learned I have scads of siblings and aunts and uncles that had been missing me. It all seemed so surreal. Thirty years later, as I prepare to see the family in early June, it still does.
But meeting a long-lost sibling on an online dating site? Now that is truly shocking. And wonderful.
Every New Year, I like to recap one thing I’m proud of that happened over the past year.
On New Years Day in January, 2014, I made a bucket list item come true. I went to France and Italy alone and made memories, some of which were transformational.
Then I came home and wrote about them, and my essay got published in A Girls’ Guide to Travelling Alone by Gemma Thompson, which instantly became a Kindle bestseller in the UK! And through that book, I made more lovely connections with other contributors that were equally transformational.
Yes, 2014 was punctuated by many deaths of family and friends and professional challenges. It was also a year of home renovations, and the year I turned 50! But what I love so much are the connections- old and new- that have been solidified.
Truth be told, if someone would have told me in 1990 when I was filing for a restraining order and signing up for food stamps, or in 1995, when I went on my first solo trip overseas to find my kidnapped daughters, that my life would ever be this rich with family, friends, work, and adventures, I would have told them they were hallucinating.
It’s been a far from perfect life, but I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
What did you accomplish or live through in 2014 that you want to remember? And have you read any great books lately?
Have you ever read an article in the paper that you just can’t forget? I’ve been stuck on the story of these sisters for five years now.
That’s when I read a piece in Newsweek magazine in 2009 called the Power of Two, about the emotional reunion of Chinese fraternal twins who reunited after being adopted by two different American families. Their mother had abandoned them weeks apart in a Chinese park when they were newborns, so no one involved in their adoption knew that the girls were twins.
Sure, I had an obvious attraction to the story. Both little girls, living states away from one another, had been named Meredith by their adoptive parents. In Illinois, Meredith Grace lives with her family. Meredith Ellen is being raised with her family in Alabama.
(My last name is Meredith, a name I reclaimed when I found my missing father at age 20, and then subsequently named my second daughter Meredith Eleni as my father died. Grace is also a name that runs through my family for generations.)
But it’s greater than that.
The moral of their story for me is boiled down to three lessons.
1)The longing for our missing family members is universal.
Both of these girls individually mentioned either wanting to be a sister, or to be with her sister. Meredith Ellen had said as a toddler, “I’m so lonely. I wish I had a sister.” And at three, Meredith Grace told her preschool teacher about her sister in China. A year later, upon hearing her sister’s voice on the phone, said, “I think we were born together.” This, well before their parents had told them of their suspected sisterhood, which DNA tests later confirmed.
2) Our shared DNA can translate into shared quirks.
These sisters had a distinctive tilt of the head. The tilt of the head led the father of Meredith Grace to recognize that Meredith Ellen was his daughter’s twin as he perused an adoption website online. Though the twins were non-identical, their mannerisms matched them together spot-on.
3) Connecting with family builds strength.
I know I’ve brought up the benefits of finding missing family members before. And I love The Locator Troy Dunn’s slogan, “You can’t find peace until you find the missing pieces.” But no one has stated this more eloquently than little Meredith Ellen, who at ten, journaled,“I feel close to Sissy because she has been with me since the beginning and when we were put in orphanages I knew that it was sort of hard but I knew that I would find the missing piece in my heart. I found the missing piece.”
Do yourself a favor. Read the story from Newsweek. Read updated information about the Tale of Two Meredith’s in Jim Rittenhouse’s online journal. And this week, celebrate your own family connections, however they’re defined.