A personal story about family violence, resiliency, and hope.

In the last few months I have been interviewed twice in very different contexts…and yet they are oddly related.

The first I have been shy to share, but now, with the second, I feel it is a good time to share this personal story of sorts.

There is an organization called Dads of Daughters, started by a woman in Greece. In the founder’s own words:

In my 17-year teaching career, I often noticed that the father was the more silent, reserved and distant parent especially when raising daughters, as mom usually sorted girl-related matters. That was my impression – but I was wrong, thankfully. When given a voice, the acquired wisdom of dads of daughters deserves to be heard. I decided to hand them the microphone. I launched Dads of Daughters on Father’s Day 2019 to document the stories and experiences of dads, how they navigate and build their relationship with their daughters to shed some light on their ups and downs, their joys and fears, the challenges they run into, coping mechanisms and unedited reality of bringing up the women of the future. 

Dads of daughters come from all corners or the world, walks of life and family status. Their words, wisdom and voices are available on ihaveadaughter.com, an open, non-judgmental platform with content that’s relatable and benefits other dads and carers in similar situations.

~ Ihaveadaughter.com

The founder and I have a mutual friend, and when my friend was looking for women who had experienced violence in the home, I raised my hand. The website contains stories from dads, but also has a section with articles that may help fathers to be better parents.

They did a piece on aggression and I shared a little bit about growing up with a violent father. I thought I was open about growing up around violence, and yet, when this article came out, I didn’t want to share it with anyone.

Perhaps it’s because I feel fortunate. I was never physically harmed. Or I was shy. Or why would anyone want to read about agression?

I observed abuse on a regular basis, in both of my parent’s homes. While not physically devastating, it took a toll on me, in ways I have not yet fully explored.

Here is the article. It has some tips for fathers who are violent. That’s not enough. I am not a professional resource, but if you have or do face violence, I am happy to talk about it with you or to help you find professional resources.

I wish I had more to say. More answers, or something more helpful. Perhaps that’s why I didn’t share this until now, but I may never have answers, and maybe this will be a useful share for someone.

This leads to the second interview.

I am one of the luckiest people in the world. Not because of my parents. Though, I did learn plenty from them. But, because I had grandparents and an aunt who were looking out for me, and they ultimately gave me a better life starting in high school.

My grandparents had been saving up to help pay for my college. Instead, recognizing that my living situation was not very healthy, they started researching boarding schools and considered that it might be a better investment to pay for a different high school experience instead of helping with college. With the help of my aunt, they found the most amazing of places that ever existed.

And so it came that I attended the Colorado Rocky Mountain School (CRMS). At 38 years old, I still look at these years as the best in my life. It was the first time I could feel safe, be a kid, and thrive in the world. After years of cooking for myself, I no longer had to. I thrived with the independence, and met the bestest of friends. I was involved in the community, and campus activism, and events. I built fences, worked on a ranch, and helped to refurbish dorm rooms. I experienced leadership, leading backcountry trips and serving as a dorm head in my latter years. I went on regular backpacking trips, backcountry skiing trips, experienced kayaking, and we went skiing 5 days a week in the winter, attending night classes two nights per week after we all went skiing and then racing on Fridays during the years I was on the downhill ski racing team. And, that skiing, it was at the four Aspen mountains, all on our doorstep. All this in the most lovely of settings, regularly watching the stars visible on my evening walks back to my dorm.

Among these amazing experiences, and I could go on, CRMS helped to build a confidence that I credit with making me a happy, fairly well adjusted, adult.

So…my second interview of sorts was for an alumni newsletter for my high school. The interview is not available online, but it is shared below.

I want to share these two interviews together as a testimonial to the power of intervention, family, and community. And also resilience. I used to be involved in Child in Need of Aid cases, where the State takes custody of children. These children suffered horrible things, and most will suffer life long consequences. But not all. Children are resilient when circumstances are right. I know that mine is not the only family where one person is maladjusted to society like my father was. Their family often has no idea what to do, or how to help. Maybe this story will give someone confidence that there is something they can do, even if that isn’t paying for a fancy boarding school. Loving, solid, people in the midst of chaos can make a world of difference for that one individual.

Thanks for reading, and don’t hesitate to reach out if you have a story you want to share or a question to pose.

Five Minutes With…

Liz Smith ’00

The Basics:
Hometown:   Palo Alto, California
Currently residing in: Juneau, Alaska
Education:    BA, Economics, Earlham College; J.D. Vermont Law School

You recently launched a new legal practice in Estate Planning. What draws you to this field?

I went to Vermont Law School because I was interested in environmental law, and Vermont is always one of the strongest programs. But after graduation I chose to return to Alaska to work in the Public Defender’s office. I worked as an attorney for 10 years for the state, but I wanted to find something different. I hadn’t even thought about private practice. I became a health coach in 2017 as a side business, and realized how much I liked working with people to help them grow into a better version of themselves. Eventually my interest in starting a business full-time overcame me, I overcame my fear of private practice, and have found a field that I love. Estate planning allows me to engage in helping people by stepping into a true counselor-at-law role—while using my law degree.

What other interests do you have?  

I attended the Institute for Integrative Nutrition out of a personal desire to learn more about health and caring for myself. While we’re growing up, we don’t always learn good healthy habits along the way, and it was after attending the Institute that my interest in coaching grew. Come to think of it, that’s one of the things that’s great about the CRMS boarding experience, because you learn some of those habits before you head off to college. While I enjoy my work in helping people develop estate plans that can protect them in the future, I still enjoy the process of running a business, and eventually the practice might include a business coaching endeavor.

When did you last visit CRMS?

Gosh, it might have been 2007, when Quinn and I were married on campus…I am not sure we have been back since!  We had the reception in the barn and everything. 

A favorite memory of CRMS faculty?

Oooh, the trips, so many amazing trips! In terms of the meaning to me, while I was in school there was a formal dinner every now and then where you would draw a number and a few people would get a very fancy meal sitting at formal tables,  while most ate beans and rice on the floor. I think there was a middle area as well. The numbers were proportionate to those worldwide living in poverty vs. wealth. It helped you realize how lucky you are, no matter where you come from, if you’re at CRMS. I also loved AO Forbes’ Geopolitical Studies class—it was one of the most transformative of my life. 

You can learn more about Liz’s estate planning practice at her website:  https://lizsmithlaw.com/

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