Archive for the Uncategorized Category

CASA in Florida

On Thursday, January 20th, I have the privilege of speaking to a graduating class for CASA, Court Appointed Special Advocate, also known as Guardian Ad Litems or GALS. This particular group is the 12th Judicial Circuit of Florida, advocating for children in Sarasota, Manatee, and DeSoto Counties.

CASA is an incredible organization where ordinary citizens volunteer to look out for the needs of children in the juvenile court system. The volunteers need to submit to a background check and go through an extensive training program. They are then appointed by a judge to advocate for the well-being of children who have fallen victim to parental abuse or neglect. The CASA worker (the GAL) fights for the safety of these children and often changes their lives in profound ways.

The GAL’s role is to get acquainted with the child and everyone in that child’s life such as the parents, teachers, relatives, social workers, etc. In the San Diego juvenile system where I practiced for twelve years, the GALs often worked very closely with the minor’s attorney. The volunteer then reports back to the court regarding the child’s needs and often with a recommendation for permanent placement for the child.

Being a CASA volunteer can be an extremely rewarding experience but it’s not always an easy job and it takes a serious commitment of time and energy. The volunteer must agree to stay with a case until it closes. I believe the average time is approximately one and a half years but I’ve certainly known cases to take much longer. I commend anyone who is willing to make that sacrifice for those innocent, little children.

I’m really looking forward to meeting with the next graduating class in Sarasota, Florida. I’m honored to be a part of their program.


The “N” Word–Nieces & Nephews

I have spouted off before about what a remarkable family I have, but I’m going to do it again because I just experienced another example of how this family pulls together and just does what needs to be done like a well-oiled machine. The launch party for my debut novel, The Advocate, took place last Saturday in Riverside, California. My sisters and their offspring, my amazing nieces and nephews (this includes great, and great, great nieces and nephews), just pitched in and gave me one of the most memorable days of my life. Their help and their support were incredible. And once the party was rolling they all bought books, from the oldest to the youngest. I can’t tell you the number of times I had to write “To my favorite niece” or “my favorite nephew.” Yup, they all wanted the same inscription.

But there were a couple of exceptional purchases. The first was my three-year-old great-great niece, Meredith, who convinced her grandmother to buy her a book. When asked what she wanted the message to read. She said, “To Baby Amelia & Meredith” (Baby Amelia is her little sister. What a sweet, thoughtful, little girl.)

Later when my sister gave a last call for the books, her granddaughter, Allie (Alexandria) said, “I want one.” She’s four years old, but hey, her three-year-old cousin had one. Within minutes, Allie was walking through the remaining crowd and asking for forty cents. We have no idea where she came up with the forty-cent value of the book, but apparently she thought that was what it cost. One of the older nephews conceded to give her a dollar. Then she brought it to me and asked to buy a book. What’s an auntie going to do? She wanted her book signed “To Alexandria” (too important, I guess, for Allie). Then her ten-year-old cousin got a dollar from his older brother and he wanted one. Another book went for a dollar…so though the cost of the book had diminished immensely by the end of the night, the experience had been greatly enriched.
Thank you all for making my launch party an experience I’ll never forget.

Auntie Tee

The F-Word–Family

I have the best family in the world, not the sanest, but by far the most loving. There were nine of us born to Forest and Clara in a little town in Minnesota called Fertile. (I’m not kidding.)

When my family celebrates, we feast, the Easter function at my sister’s house this year had over one hundred folks there. I counted one-hundred-four family members and friends and tables full of food.

When there’s an illness, not just the hearts reach out, but the bodies too. When my eldest sister was on her deathbed, every one of my brothers and sisters came to support one another. They came from Montana, Idaho, and different parts of California. We all huddled together in the hospital waiting room for five days. And when Sissy passed away we were all together circled around her bedside fingers entwined.

When there’s work to be done, they all pitch in. When someone has a dream they all encourage it. When someone gets married, graduates, is released from jail (I never claimed perfection), signs a book contract like “The Advocate,” or gets a job, no matter how big or small the event, this family cares and supports. That’s not to say we don’t fuss at one another. We have our share of feuds and fights, but eventually the love always overcomes.

We are one big, and I do mean big (at last count, I had one-hundred-fourteen nieces and nephews, that includes great-nieces and nephews), happy (most of the time) family—now that’s a Fertile family!

The D Word–Dance

Dancing is one of my favorite pastimes. I don’t know whether I’m any good at it or not, but I still enjoy the dance floor. The motion, the swaying, the lively steps, moving with the music, it’s magical.

My favorite Garth Brooks song is “The Dance.” You’ve got to love the line—“I could have missed the pain, but I’d have had to miss, the dance.” It’s really all about the dance of life. It’s the work. It’s the fun. It’s the accomplishments, the sweat, the deadlines, the creativity, and the laughs and smiles along the way. That’s what makes life so incredibly wonderful. They’re all part of the dance.

When I was about five years old I can remember going to town on a Saturday night with my parents. We would go to a bar called “The Sister’s Café” where mom would work and dad would drink. My sister and I would hang out. The old drunks would put money in the jukebox and then give us dimes if we danced. Looking back on it, I’m sure some of them were trying to help entertain us, others I’ve got to wonder. Anyway, as soon as we had enough dimes, we would go to the movies. Strange as it may seem, that dancing left me both feeling sentimental and scarred. But I still like to dance.

And what lyrics are better than Lee ann Womack’s “I Hope You Dance.”

I hope you still feel small when you stand beside the ocean,
Whenever one door closes I hope one more opens,
Promise me that you’ll give faith a fighting chance,
And when you get the choice to sit it out or dance.
Dance….I hope you dance.

I have few regrets with my choices in life, but those I do have are not because I chose to dance but rather because I sit one out. Just dance.

And best of all, my favorite quote. (I don’t know who to attribute it to but I’ve had it on my wall for years.) “The reason the rain dance works is because they don’t stop dancing until it rains.” This reminder has kept me going many times when I wanted to give up.

What’s your favorite dance story? Did you dance or sit it out?

A to Z Blog–The A Words

I’ve decided to write an A-Z blog. I’m starting with the letter A (because I’m too anal to start anywhere else). My “A” words today are: accomplishments, aspirations, author/advocate and a few other “a” words.

Aspirations: I’ve always had countless aspirations. Many people I know don’t seem to aspire to much of anything, or maybe they had aspirations, life got in the way, and they lost them. I remember as a small child playing in the snow banks of Minnesota and dreaming of a better life to come. Of course, back then I thought I wanted to be an anchorite, a nun to be exact. I sure missed that one by a country mile. I loved the nuns’ apparel and I longed to take a lap around those huge beads that hung from their habits. But most of all the nuns would give me bananas when I was good (and back then I was always good.) My sister wasn’t too crazy about the nuns and usually got in trouble—and to this day she abhors bananas. I think there’s a correlation there.

Accomplishments: So much left to do in my lifetime. I have accomplished quite a bit since I left the algid winters of Minnesota. I managed to get through law school, become an attorney, and have lots of adventures along the way. I traveled to every state in the United States, except Alaska (had to cancel that trip when my brother-in-law got sick—but still planning to get there.) I’ve been to the Americas (north, central, and south), to Amsterdam, Athens, Austria, Asia, Acapulco, and other places from A to Z. (I know you writers and editors are going crazy because I’m mixing cities and countries, but it’s not easy getting all these A’s in.) Now I’ve written a novel, The Advocate. But there is so much left to accomplish, and oh, so many places left to see. There’s that “A-list” to get on (the bestseller list,) The Advocate #2 to finish, the novel after that; there’s Alaska, Africa, Australia, and Aruba. I think I’ll wait on Afghanistan. And there’s learning to play Bridge. I know it doesn’t start with an “A”, but I’ve always wanted to learn so I threw it in anyway.

Author/advocate: So, I went from attorney to author and as a result, I wrote The Advocate. Although it is fiction, it was inspired by an actual case. I have been an advocate for children most of my life, through my teaching, my law practicing, for my amazing de facto son, and my awesome nieces and nephews.

Everything I’ve done in life I’ve done because I didn’t know I couldn’t. What do you still aspire to? What is that one thing you really want to do in life that you haven’t done—yet?

Get In Line

So, I wrote the book, The Advocate. Then I rewrote the book. Then I rewrote the book again…and again…and again. I finally found a publisher willing to take a chance on me and guess what? She had me rewrite it again. But I’ve got to tell you, this process is great fun, every step more exciting than the one before. Look at that book cover….It’s gorgeous! And here is a description about the story. I’ll give you a minute to read it….

For Sabre Orin Brown, life is good; she has it all…or would have, if only she could solve the mysterious disappearance of her brother. The search for her brother and her career as a juvenile court attorney collide when she defends a nine-year-old whose father will go to any length to obtain custody.

Sabre finds herself immersed in a case with too many unanswered questions. Her quest for the truth takes her coast to coast and five years into the past. Confronted with mysterious clues and strange occurrences, Sabre is threatened by someone wanting to make her suffer the unbearable anguish of losing everything—including her life.

As Sabre’s passion to find the answers intensifies, she discovers a twisted history of desperation, deceit, and revenge. And she discovers how obscure and treacherous the truth can be.

…See, isn’t that just the coolest? Makes you want to read the whole thing, right?

My head is spinning with news from my publisher. Right now, I’m thinking the only thing better than writing books is marketing books. We’re planning all these exciting things: speaking engagements, charity events, races, book launches, press releases, and other promotional activities that are brand new to me. I have no clue what I’m doing half of the time. I’m blogging, and twittering, and facebooking, and linking in, and linking on, and learning, learning, learning. Sheer excitement is carrying me through the process and I’m smiling like a Cheshire cat all the way.

The Advocate will be released in August 2009. Yes, I said August 2009! That’s just around the corner. So, you might want to get in line now at your local bookstore to make sure you get a copy.