And Contentment for All/Reflections from a Protest-Weary Woman


I surprised myself by getting a little protective of my estranged mother at a book event recently as I answered  readers questions. While my mother made a complicated and fascinating character in my memoir as she did in life, I know it wasn’t only her children she made miserable.

By the time my memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters was published, I was years past being angry with her for her wackadoodle and sometimes sadistic parenting. It helped to assume she was mentally ill, and to look at the time from whence she came.

Being stuck in a trailer full of their unending demands threatened to choke the life right out of her. She fancied herself a Hollywood starlet waiting to be discovered. But the discovery never happened, and her home became littered with ungrateful children.—page 78.

My mother was born in a time when women’s choices were defined by gender. The expectations of women were, in short:

To marry. To have children. To be satisfied with being married and having children. To turn the other cheek when struck by the father of those children. To accept having as many children as she became pregnant with.

That didn’t turn out too good for those who had different wants.

Not everyone is cut out to be married, and not all people are built for parenting. Just ask my mom. Better yet, ask any of her children.

When I went away to college in my late teens, I first heard the term feminism. It surely didn’t fit into my then-conservative belief system. Sure, I was pursuing an education to do something beyond having children, like working, but I was no feminist. Or was I?
When I looked up the definition of feminism in the dictionary, I found it to be pretty simple:

The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.

Oh. That’s it? Nothing in there about not liking men or rejecting God like I’d been told feminism was. Just a simple belief that we should have equal rights and opportunities.

Today, I shudder when I hear young women today disavow feminism. “I’m not a feminist, but…”

Do you enjoy the right to vote? I want to ask them. Are you glad you can work and have kids, or not have kids? Or have kids and stay home with them?  Are you tickled that you can stick with having pets instead of children? Pleased not to replicate 19 Kids and Counting unless you want to? And are you grateful that it’s no longer legal in the US for a husband to beat his wife?

In this loud and divisive time in history, it’s easy to get overwhelmed by the constant images of protests. Then I’m reminded of role protesting has played in our nation’s history, and that those who’ve historically risked their lives for our freedoms weren’t only soldiers. They were also the soldier’s brave and sometimes unruly wives and mothers and sisters who wanted better for us all.

I like to imagine who my mom would have been had she been born a generation or so later. I picture her as an artist of some sort, living a quiet yet contented life, although given some of  her other issues, that’s  unrealistic.  Still, I remain committed to appreciating mine, a most imperfect life filled with more work than I can  accomplish balanced with a spectrum of friend and familial relationships and hobbies of my choosing with no pressure to get remarried.

And I want nothing less for my own daughters.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thanks always for stopping by.

 

The Collateral Beauty of This Christmas Season

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.

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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.

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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.

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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!

Channeling Gratitude

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I really have to work hard  this time of year at being grateful .

It’s bitter cold outside here in Alaska at the moment.  My lips are cracked and bleeding, my refrigerator is empty since it’s too frigid to shop, and I find the constant darkness to be oppressive.

Add to that the holidays-something I loathe-and the pre and post election fallout and I’d say it’s been a stressful and overwhelming time. It feels like the world has gone crazy and we’ve stopped listening to one another.

I’ve been forced out of my shell the past many weeks  with my book events. I’ve met a lot of new people and attended several book groups already. I’d  spent enough time alone the year before that my social skills had atrophied. How refreshing it has been to see people choose  to congregate, to agree, to disagree, and to do it with respect and often with affection.

Hopefully, I’ll keep my new social chops after the book events wind down. We’re all navigating this sometimes ominous-looking future the best we can, something I lose sight of when I spend too much time alone,  scrolling through social media, reading instead of relating.

Here are some key players who make my life enough.

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I have gratitude. It just needs to be defrosted.

Thank you for your support.

The Benefits of a Writer’s Retreat/#swpretreat2016

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I recently returned from a few days in Scottsdale, Arizona at the She Writes Press (SWP)Author Retreat 2016 at The Boulders Spa.

I love writers conferences, but  found this retreat, similar to the Wild Mountain Memoir Retreat I attended in Washington almost four years ago, to be more restorative.

Like writers conferences, there were opportunities for learning craft at the SWP retreat. Author Rebecca Skloot of The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks was the keynote. She taught a workshop on structure, and panels of industry insiders later presented on topics like getting our books into libraries, bookstores, and ways to get collateral rights sold.

But at the retreat,there was built in time for solitude and writing.

There was also the comforting feeling of support in the air. No conference story-pitching  and competition. Just more experienced writers mentoring the newbies, and the newbies reaching out to the newer newbies.

Good food and nice trails for walking were all around. A chance to get new head shots and promo video was offered, not required. And after working closely with the terrific staff  from She Writes Press and SparkPoint Studio, it was a real treat to finally meet them all in person.

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Authors were invited to give three minute reading of their work by the fire pit the final evening.

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Perhaps that’s the most welcome difference I’ve noted between a writers conference and writers retreat. There are invitations extended, but no hard expectations expressed.

I returned home, refreshed and focused with a new group of  authors to add to my friendship bank.

A worthwhile investment, indeed.

After the Release/Balancing Expectations with Reality after Publishing My Memoir

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In life, I like to keep my expectations low.

It may sound negative, but I learned a long time ago that if did, I would rarely be disappointed. Instead, I’m often happily surprised when things turn out better than I could have expected.

I didn’t know what to expect when I published my memoir. Picking apart memoirs seems to have become a national pastime over the last decade, and I braced myself for a challenging launch and turbulent landing afterward. I decided early on that I wouldn’t whine when people gave me negative reviews, and I wouldn’t check my Amazon ranking often enough to make myself nuts. Above all else, it wasn’t wise to assume that simply because I spent two decades writing a book, the world would pay it any mind.

I’d carefully identified my target audience. If I was lucky, women readers from ages 35-75 would be interested (and maybe a brother or two of mine).

I’d carefully planned the release date to be timed close to Domestic Violence Awareness Month since it’s a theme in my book.

And I decided to be intentionally open to new experiences, not simply including local agencies in my launch, but welcoming their invitations when they included me in their fundraising or awareness-increasing efforts.

So how did my expectations measure up to reality?

First came the heartfelt messages from family and friends, in Alaska, then in Kentucky, followed by other states,and finally in Australia and the UK.

“As you probably already know, dad bought 7 of your books to give all of his kids and grandkids. I got mine Sunday night and could hardly put it down.”

“We’re at the cabin. Dave was up early. I found him downstairs, riveted, by the time I needed coffee. He is engrossed! Liz — it’s really, really good. No surprise, but still needs to be said.”

“I’m so impressed, and I just can’t say how proud I am!  I hope you feel that way too and are walking two feet taller!!!”

That’s just a few. Meanwhile, my amazing public relations team at SparkPoint Studio made sure that Pieces of Me met the rest of the world.

“A stunning, adrenaline-inducing memoir that could double as a thriller, Pieces of Me is the story of one mother’s spiritual fortitude and the limitless measures she takes to protect her children.” —  She Knows

Also-

10 MEMOIRS FOR FALL BY TRAILBLAZING WOMEN   – The Spark  

5 Memoirs That Remind Us Of The Meaning Of Family- Buzzfeed  

THE TOP 10 inspirational books to take on your next journey – The Culturalist

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I’ve been so grateful for the reviews on Amazon and on Goodreads also, and from them learned that my readers are from men and women alike. And within a month of its official release, a local high school student made international parental child abduction her topic to report on at school after she read Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters and interviewed my youngest daughter about her experiences.

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In all, I participated in 14 events related to Domestic Violence Awareness Month, reconnected with old friends and family, and was even joined by my daughters for some of the events.

Thank you for every bit of it. Thank you for being with me and cheering for me and for advocating that others read my book. Thank you for the reviews. I am truly surprised and honored.

But if you’re wondering if I might change my approach to expectations, the answer is a resounding No.

I went to treat myself to a hair color and style at an Anchorage beauty school as a reward to myself for making it through the hardest parts of publishing my memoir.

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I think you’ll agree that the results below validate how I manage expectations.

See you soon.

 

A Very Big Dream for a Very Small Life/ Book Buzz for Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

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It’s the end of September, and the beginning of my dream.

Pieces of Me:Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters has found itself a home with some readers around the globe already. Thank you so much for that, and thank you also to those of who’ve reviewed it on Amazon or Goodreads. It is truly a gift.

 

In the past two weeks, I’ve been interviewed for television with Tracy Sinclare at KTUU  in Alaska and enjoyed speaking with Lori Townsend at Alaska Public Radio Network.

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Buzzfeed included Pieces of Me in their Five Memoirs that Remind Us of the Meaning of Family and the Culturalist named it in the Top 10 Inspirational Books to Take on Your Next Journey.

Books by Women kindly published an essay I wrote about the journey to becoming an author,

None of these things would be possible without the work of Sparkpoint Studio and a receptive writing community, social media shares by family and friends, and the local community around me.

My memoir has had a promising start. And I hope it will continue to start important conversations about domestic violence.

I timed the actual book release and upcoming launch carefully. October is Domestic Violence Awareness Month in the US, a chance to shine the light on a problem that impacts all of us, directly or indirectly. It’s a chance for victim-serving agencies to connect with the community. I’m proud to be involved and I hope you will do the same.

Click here for more information.

It was well over 20 years ago when I grabbed up my little girls and found safety at an overcrowded dormitory-style battered women’s shelter. Back then, I dreamed of safety. Then of getting my own place. Having mattresses to sleep on. Getting off food stamps. I’ve been so very fortunate that all of those dreams came true, and many more for both me and my daughters.

But there are a lot of other victims who need help. Offenders who need support and accountability to change. Children who need hope.

Before dreams can come true, the nightmares must end. All of us can make a difference.

Thanks always for stopping by. Next month, I’ll have at least one advocate serving domestic violence victims as my guest.

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Why Now? When is the Right Time to Publish a Memoir?

Why Now?

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It’s a natural question. My memoir Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters will be officially released on September 20, 2016– nearly four months after the anniversary of the event it’s based on.

The twentieth anniversary.

The why now question comes up a good deal, and there’s more than one answer:

  1. I waited for all the signs of healing to be in place, and when they didn’t come, I knew it was time.
  2. I fiddle-farted around with writing it. Then one of my brothers gave me a nudge, telling me if he worried that if I didn’t finish up, he wouldn’t be around for it’s release. (No pressure there!)
  3. I couldn’t ignore the feeling that there was a cloud over my head. I’d committed to tell the story of addressing intergenerational patterns and then didn’t do it. It felt like I was one class shy of a degree for more than a decade.

But the bigger question is– why bother to write a memoir at all?

At first, it was based on the fact that I loved to write, and thought the double-abduction theme would make a great story. But I was angry for a long time, at the kids’ dad, at the failed judicial system. It would have been an angry book.

It took me a while to figure out that writing a memoir is as much about connecting with readers as it is sharing my story. And during these last few weeks, I’ve heard from family, friends, and new reader friends about parts of the book that resonate with them, triggering memories about their own challenging times. “During my divorce…” or “After my wife died…” or “When my insurance didn’t cover the chemo…”

Stories of strength and survival are what join us as humans. We all have them. And I’ve been so honored to hear other people’s stories as I share my own.

Thank you so much to everyone who has posted, texted, e-mailed, or published reviews. I would be lying if I said this has been an easy and stress-free process. It has not. But I’m increasingly convinced that now was a good idea to publish my memoir, thanks to you.

img_1480img_1483unnamed  Special thanks to Dorit Sasson, Tracy Sinclare at KTUU, and Carol Krein for making this past week successful in getting the word out about my book.

Five Easy Ways to Help Launch My Book/Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters

Spotted by my friend Ruth at Cabin Fever
Spotted by my friend Ruth at Cabin Fever

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,index

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.

Thank you so much,
Lizbeth

Four Thank You’s and An Apology/Publishing My Memoir

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Next month, my memoir will be published, and just after that, I’ll have my book launch.

It may not seem like much, writing 80,000 words (give or take) and getting them published, but for me, it’s been monumental. And while I went to great effort to thank people in my Acknowledgment section – those who helped me find my kidnapped daughters, the people who later helped me to raise them, and who were above-and-beyond supportive as I wrote my story- it turns out that it doesn’t come close to a complete list.

Four Thank You’s.

Thank you to my family, near and far, from daughters to siblings, aunts, nephews, nieces, and cousins, I’ve been so fortunate to have your support. The book covers my childhood and young adulthood when family dysfunction ruled, when I felt all alone and believed I always would be. Each of your social media shares, every text, email, or contact through my website has positively made the stress of this effort so worth it, and I hope in the end, you’ll be proud.

To my fellow She Writes authors, thank you for connecting daily on our Facebook page. I’ve loved learning from your experiences, getting to know some of you and exchanging our books for blog interviews or reviews, and sharing the journey on our path to publication. It’s become a sisterhood I will always treasure.

Thank you also to the non-profits and other sponsors partnering with me to launch Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters in October:

  •  The University of Alaska, Anchorage’s (UAA) Consortium Library
  • UAA’s Pre-Law Society, Alaska Book Week, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC)
  •   Green Dot Anchorage
  • Victims for Justice Eva Project
  •  YWCA Alaska

Thank you for joining my effort to kick off the launch during Domestic Violence Awareness Month. Together, we’ll make a positive impact on our community.

To my friends, old and new, thank you for your excitement about Pieces of Me. It’s contagious. Your shared enthusiasm has resulted in two gift shops asking to consign books, a radio interview, book clubs, and more speaking engagements. Finally, I have confidence in my book.

An apology.

I was so tickled last week to get a late night message through my website’s Contact button from the Republican Women’s Group in the MatSu Valley, requesting I speak about the late Senator Steven’s efforts to aid me in rescuing my daughters in the mid 90’s.

And then it hit me: I’d completely forgot to thank Senator Stevens in my Acknowledgments section.

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Alaska’s Senator Ted Stevens was haunted by my Alaskan support network from 1994-96, especially by my former supervisor and now dear friend, Heather Flynn. At one point, Heather arranged a calling tree to his office. My friends at Faith Daycare and Learning Center took turns ringing his DC number all day long when my case heated up. After my arrest in Greece, he called the American Embassy to make sure the girls and I were safe, reinforcing to the Embassy staff that we were important to Alaska.

I’m sickened by the omission, and will do what I can to get this error corrected in the second printing.

Thank you, always and forever to Senator Stevens and his talented staff.

Pieces of Me: Rescuing My Kidnapped Daughters is available now for pre-orders through your local bookstore, library, or on Amazon. The first launch is on October 5,2016 at the UAA Bookstore upstairs in Anchorage from 5-7PM.

Click here to find out what others are saying about my book.

Thanks for sharing the journey with me.

The Beauty of Balance in Memoir

It’s hard to explain in a sentence why I was so hurt.

My bedroom was a crime scene. Pinky, my 49 year-old stuffed rabbit, had been taken from her shelf of honor by my cat, her throat ruthlessly slashed, and her innards splayed all over my bedroom floor. I was crushed.

imagePinky is one of three relics left from my childhood. She’s survived countless moves, a house fire, and an early violent marriage which ended with most of my belongings being destroyed.

Her first near-death experience came at the hand of my mother. My mom, whom I write about in my memoir, was often a domineering and tortured soul who worked hard to pay the torture forward with her kids. And yet it was Mother who went to the dump to find Pinky after her efforts to dispose of my hard-loved Easter bunny, replacing her with a newer model left me as me sleepless and bereft. I don’t know how many hours it took to find Pinky among the rubbish, but it meant everything to me to have her back. She lost an ear and her button eyes, but the core of her remained.

Pinky represents everything I’ve agonized over writing about in Pieces of Me. Did I give my mom enough dimension? Were any of my former husband’s charms shared in enough detail that my reader would know why I married him? And does my meddling sister’s good intentions ever seep through my anger?

Amye Archer, author of Fat Girl, Skinny wrote a wonderful piece in Brevity Magazine about this in her article Writing the Truth in Memoir: Don’t Skimp on Objectivity after struggling to write with balance about her first husband.

“Through revision, I have learned two important lessons. First, it was more important for me to be honest than vengeful, and to show the reader why I fell madly in love with this boy, to build a connection to him emotionally, a connection that would break down that wall I had put up.”

None of us are fully angels or fully devils. I hope I’ve succeeded in my first book to add dimension to my characters.

I look forward to hearing your thoughts once the book is published.

Meanwhile, thank you to my childhood friend Marti for mending Pinky back to her former old self.

Next post will be author Ann Anderson Evans about her book Daring to Date Again.

And here’s Pinky’s perpetrator. A handsome, flawed fellow himself.

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