Lizbeth Meredith shares her remarkable story and shows what you can do when you reach out for help. She details the huge brick she faced of her ex-husband kidnapping her children and taking them to Greece. Lizbeth describes the people and whispers that helped her find and rescue them, how she helped her kids deal with the trauma and how she has used her experience to help others.
Ari: Welcome to whispers and bricks. My name is Ari Shonbrun. I’m your host. I have my special guest today. lisabeth Meredith. She is an author speaker, an online teacher who recently relocated from Anchorage, Alaska to Chattanooga, Tennessee. Her memoir, pieces of me rescuing my kidnapped daughters is in production and expected to be on Lifetime Television. As stolen hearts. The Elizabeth Meredith story, you can connect with her at La meredith.com. Please help me welcome Lisbeth. Meredith. Elizabeth, how are you? I am so well. Thank you, Ari. I’m so happy to be with you tonight. Well, thank you so much. I’m very excited about you coming on the show. I think you’ve got a lot to offer my audience and I think they’re going to be really, really excited.
Ari: So but before we begin, I have to ask you, okay, your first name is Lizbeth. Yogi, at the beginning? No, Elizabeth No. A in the middle. Okay. Oh, is that how your parents named you? And is there any significance to that? You know, what my parents weren’t the people that you would rely on to tell you why the name was the way it was. But I always said later, like, my parents could not afford the vowels. And that was that’s stuck. You know, we were poor. They meant well, they wanted something different. So I lost the E and the A, and I’m just playing all this back. Wow. Wow. That’s great. That’s really great. Okay, that was I was been wondering about that. Okay, so Well, let me ask you this, then what are your parents names?
Lizbeth:: My dad was Cova, which I love that name. Kate ov a beautiful name. And my mother was Mary. And somehow or another those two happened together and thought that I should be Lizbeth. So for that, I am grateful. Now where is where was your father from?
Good question. He was from Kentucky and I was born in Kentucky myself. And my mother, I’m thinking was Louisiana, but I cannot be for sure. Now that you just said that. I think she was born in Louisiana. That’s where her kin folks are. But I may be wrong about that. Uh huh. Okay, so the purebred Americans basically. Yes, exactly. Very interesting. And I’ll tell you why. Cova or ICAO, VA in Hebrew in Hebrew means hat. Really? Yep.
Ari: It means hat. I love the name Koba. Koba and marry I love those names. Yeah, go. That’s that’s a good thing, because they’re your parents. So it’s actually like, quite right. I didn’t meet my Mayakoba till I was 20. But what a fascinating me, you know, I was fascinated. He wasn’t a SAM, he wasn’t a John, he was Cova. Wow. Okay. Well, as you know, the name of the podcast is whispers bricks, and the whispers of those voices telling you what the right thing to do is, and they represent the good in life. The bricks represent the bad things we go through in life. And God knows everybody, at some point in time in their life has a brick thrown at them, some bigger bricks, some smaller bricks, some more bricks, some less bricks, but at the end of the day, we people, people in general, go through something. Now,
I asked you to be my guest on the show. Because there are people in my audience who are, believe it or not, are probably going through some of the same things that you have gone through. They’ve been hit with, you know, brick after brick, much like what you had gone through. And they needed to hear and to know that they could get through the trials and tribulations, the same way that you did. They needed to know that there were whispers out there that could save them. Now in your life, you’ve had many bricks thrown at you from a marriage that ended in divorce, with children being kidnapped or taken to a foreign country just to name a few. But before we get to that, can you tell us a little bit about about you in the formative years? You went to college?
You know, what’s what what did you major in? What’s your story?
Lizbeth: Sure. And thank you, I love being here at whispers and bricks. And so my story
Is that I was a young, you know, kid growing up in a home where, you know, we inherit our parents, we didn’t ask for them, but we’re glad for them. And I felt like as a young child, like, wow, I’m going to be a little bit different than the parents that I’m growing up with, I’m going to be somebody who is intentional about the way things turn out because I was a child of divorce. I felt like divorce was chaotic. It was bad. And then my parents split, and I didn’t meet my dad till I found an attorney to find him. So he’s 20 years old before I met my father. And so I just, I felt like you know what, I’m going to be a different person, and really didn’t realize that you have to do much more than just wish for something better, to create something better. And so, even though I wanted to be someone who, you know, had a stable life, and a college education, my parents were smart people and hardworking people, but they didn’t have the benefit of getting to go to school. And to choose what they wanted to do. They sort of were born not necessarily rich, and did what they could to survive. And they were scrappy, and I admire that about them. But when I was growing up, I thought, Why waste my home life so chaotic, what is wrong with these people? And, you know, I was very judgmental, and then realized later, oh, they were living out their inheritance. And so when I was looking for stability, what I did was I landed on, like, what would be the ideal, I wish that I was married. I wish I had kids, I wish that I would never get divorced. I wish that my children would have everything I did not. And so the first person that really gave me a lot of attention, I was like, perfect. You know, you love me, you think I’m great. Good enough. And that’s what happened was, you know, I hadn’t I frankly ignored the whispers. And there were people trying to tell me when I was young, hey, maybe you want to rethink the choice you’re about to make? Hey, maybe you don’t want to end up marrying this person you knew for very little time. Hey, maybe you want to recalibrate and decide how you want your life to be. And I was like, No, I’m smart. I’m doing different. And bricks, bricks pummeled me after that. Wow. So
Ari: what what were you doing? In other words, what kind of job did you land? What were you doing in your work life? When I was a young person, you mean when I was about to get married?
Lizbeth: Yeah, I had gone to a little bit of college, which like I said, my parents didn’t have that option. So they were they hadn’t graduated high school, either one of them. And here I was, I graduated high school. And I went to college for a little bit. And you know, was going to school and then realize that I didn’t have any direction. So I went back to my home state of Alaska, where I had grown up mostly, and got a job in a hotel.
I love tourism. I love hotels, I love all things travel. And so there I was in a hotel thinking, wow, look at me, I’m so fancy, and met someone a little bit older, and from a different culture and thought, he likes me perfect. Let’s get married. He wants to get married. We’ll get married. So that’s where I was. I hadn’t finished school yet. Didn’t have any assets just had good intentions and a lot of dreams. Wow. Okay, so,
Ari: so far things sound pretty good. Yeah. Right. I have to admit, you know, if I was looking at that, I’d say Hey, she’s pretty she’s got a pretty good, she’s got a good job. She’s got a nice husband. Okay. What happened next?
Lizbeth: Well, the thing is, I just I don’t know that I had a nice husband, I had a husband. And for me when I was young, it was like musical chairs. Like back in my generation. There were certain expectations. And when the music stopped, you jump to the next thing. So I graduated high school I tried to go to college hadn’t finished quite yet. Then the music stopped and I’m like, I’m 20 years old. Marriage. And, you know, I was at a job where there were some interesting people and I went with the first person who showed intense interest in me. And there I was married at when I first turned 21 Little dating experience that mattered really no, no long term boyfriends that were real significant.
I just got married, and boom, there it was. Alaska, marry. Okay, so you’re in Alaska and you’re married. Alright.
Then, along came the two kids. I was so excited. I knew that I wanted to be a mom. Soon after I married, I knew I had married someone that would never make me happy. And that sounds horrible. But it was true. I married someone and I thought I won’t be divorced, I will not look at the marriage so much. But children. Yes. And so I had two little girls in rapid succession. And they were and are amazing. And what I thought because it wasn’t too wise, and it wasn’t very educated. I didn’t have a family system that supported it deep thinking. I thought, you know, kids, that’s my consolation prize, my husband may be mean, and may not be the person that I thought he was, but
I will be a good mother. And that will be enough. And I will give them a two parent family, not like I grew up with. Wow, it sounds. You know, it sounds like
you know, trying to make the best out of a bad situation.
That’s That’s what it sounds like to me.
arI: So there must have been some troublesome years, I assume. You girls growing up and and then the proverbial big break hit?
Lizbeth: repeatedly? It did. You know, I don’t think I thought deeply about what it was that children needed. I thought what it was, that would make me happy. I knew I wanted to be a mom. I knew I’d married the wrong person. I was young enough to think children. Wow, you know, consolation prize, how incredible will it be to be a mother. And so I had these amazing children, and a marriage that just got worse and worse and worse. And so while I was focused on them, he was focused on why aren’t you focusing on me, and what’s wrong with you, I am your husband. And
I didn’t realize at the time that there were people in life and had nothing to do with his culture and a lot to do with him. But there are people in life who will try to strip you away from everything you knew, to make themselves feel bigger, to make themselves feel powerful, and strong. And so I was with someone who did not appreciate that we were having children, he was threatened by it. And so as I grew stronger, and loving the role of being a mom, he grew more and more jealous, and scary and controlling. And so while I started out with some friends and interests and goals, couple years later, I had nothing except for these two beautiful kids, and a husband, who was monitoring my friendships, my spending my movements, and threatening that if I ever left him, that would be the end. Now, you talked about, you talked about his culture.
Ari: What culture was that? What’s what what was he from, I mean,
Lizbeth: I married someone who worked with me at the particular hotel I worked at, and he was Greek. And so he was an American citizen when I met him, but he was from Greece. And he was a different generation, he was older than I was, and very intent on him ruling the roost, and me falling in line. And not all Greek men are like that. And Greece is a beautiful place. However, he was someone with a lot of baggage. And I felt like you know what, whatever he needs so that we can stay married and I can raise children in a home that was, quote, unquote, intact. That’s what I’ll do.
And that’s what you did. And I actually did. Okay. Now.
Ari: What was your obviously I read your bio when it said something to the something to the effect of
your children being kidnapped? Yes. All right. What was that all about?
Lizbeth: So eventually, so here I was in my early 20s, having two little daughters and a marriage. And I was committed to staying until the day came when he strangled me in front of our oldest child, and she was only two.
Back in the day in 1990, when this happened, I think modern psychology believed that if a child was super young, they would never remember what happened traumatic events if they were too young.
have memories, it would not impact them. But here was my little girl watching me be strangled. And I knew at that time, I’m not sticking around for any more. They don’t deserve this, I didn’t believe I deserve better. I knew that my kids deserve to grow up better. And so I decided to leave. And
you know, this was 1990. In America, we didn’t talk about what happened in the home, we didn’t talk about violence in families, you know, Nicole Brown Simpson, quite frankly, had not yet been murdered. And so we that was a huge pivotal point in our history and talking about domestic abuse. So we weren’t there yet. I got a protective, I went to a shelter took my kids got a protective order. Just thought, I’m going to look forward and get a college degree, I’m going to not ask for child support, I’m not going to remarry right away, I’m going to make good choices, and do something different and get my girls a different future. Not realizing that the stronger I became, the more threatened he became. And so I finished college two years later, I got a degree in journalism, I got a job, I loved my life, I didn’t get any child support. I made $10 an hour, and supported two little girls. And the happier I was, the scarier he became. And then four years after I left him, so I left in March of 1990. In March of 1994, he took the children on a visit and left the country.
Ari: And that was that a collateral? A bit of collateral damage, and an unintended consequence of me leaving.
Wow, now, I guess,
you know, that’s not something that you can do. Today, let’s say,
Lizbeth: I know, way back when
it was easy, you know, you took you wanted to take your kids, you know, on an airplane, it was no big deal. I took the kids on an airplane, there was no there were no checks and balances, so to speak. There was nothing there was nothing going on. It was a free for all,
like something that that could not happen today. I don’t think he would be able to get on a plane, you know, they’d have to get well, you always needed a passport. But
you know, but even so, I mean, it’s you know, I think that would be a a problem. Okay. But back then I guess there was there was no problem. So he, so four years later, he upped, and he took how old we kids at the time, the best ages, like those ages that we pray for in life with our kids. So they were four and six, and they could not have been any cuter. Yeah. And I will say this, it is harder today to take kids and leave the state or leave the country, but it’s still possible. And so there are 1000s of kids every year taken out of our country by one parent who’s decided that they want to what go to their home country or retaliate against the other parents. So it still happens. But it was much easier than right. So my former husband was smarter. I mean, he’s a smart man. So he knew to change the girls names by a couple of letters. And to apply for passports and then saying, Oh, I don’t know why this birth certificate doesn’t match their spelling. But this is their true names. Right? That kind of so he was very wise. And you know, was able to do that. And for my children, it was terrifying.
Ari: how long? How long did that last?
Lizbeth: I said goodbye to my daughters in March of 1994. When they went to have a weekend visit with him. I didn’t see them again until 1996. And by the time that I coordinated and got back with them, and of course I was on a very small budget. Having to travel across the globe. These girls didn’t speak English any longer. They had lived in hiding. They barely attended school, and they no longer spoke the language where that I spoke. Wow, how did you how did you find them? How did you know what they were?
I didn’t and so I hired a private investigator and a couple of lawyers on my tiny little budget and we had fundraiser after fundraiser. One awesome thing and many amazing things happened at the time. But you know, this was pre internet. This was a time of like, Hey everyone.
Do do a GoFundMe and find my kids. Yeah, you know, I really relied on people who cared about what happened to the suffering of another person. And so people across the globe literally extended themselves to help me to connect with my children. And it was pretty incredible. You know, $10 an hour doesn’t get you much for $100,000 problem. Wow. Yet I was able to hire interpreters hire lawyers, go across country, and eventually find my daughter’s. Wow, did he? Did you ever? Like, did he ever?
Did he ever stand trial for kidnapping? Or did he ever come back to this country? Did he stay in Greece? Do you know what happened to him? Yes, I went over, you know, a couple of times. I mean, it’s a longer story. But I went over a couple of times to try to get my kids. First time I failed. And second time, I was able to reconnect with my children. And he was briefly arrested in Greece for child kidnapping, but released before I could leave the country. And then I was arrested for kidnapping. My daughter’s when I was able to take them out of country. He pressed charges against me. I’m in a foreign country, and I was arrested. Oh, my God, a mess. Right. So let’s go. Yeah, so got out of that mess, and travelled home and then went through federal courts to stand my ground, it was very difficult. I think the hardest thing seemed like getting my kids out of a foreign country dealing with different governments and agencies and all of that. That was nothing that was baby food. The real heavy lifting came when my daughters were home had to learn to speak the language. And we dealt with their old traumas. That was the hard part. But again, with support with resources, you know, that are we’re in the community with amazing people in Alaska, and in Greece and other places. And with persistence, we were able to make a new life.
Ari: Wow, I’m gonna ask a question. I think I know the answer to it. But I’m gonna ask it anyway. Was there ever a point in your life where you just said to yourself, you know what, I can’t do this anymore. I just give up. It’s too hard. I just, I’m given about my dreams, you know? And, and if you did get to that point, all right. How did you overcome? What was what was the you know? What pushed you What motivated you? Such a good question.
Lizbeth: I definitely have hit those spots in different times in my life, no question. I didn’t have a parent to rely on, I didn’t have that silver lining in the family was not there. And there were a lot of deficits in myself. So I hit spots where I think, if I can’t pull this off, if I can’t rescue my daughters, if I can’t reconnect, I won’t continue to keep trying after X amount of time. And so I would tell myself, you have two years to find your kids, and then figure it out if you can’t. And so I maybe would extend a deadline. But I would give myself sort of a fake deadline, and then work really hard to be sure that I did my best for my daughter’s and for myself, it was selfish, as much as anything else. It wasn’t just for them. I’m no mother, Teresa. But this was these were the most inspirational people I’d ever met these little girls. And so they need, they gave me something to live for. And I owe them so much for creating a life that was beneath them. You know, I married chaotically I married because it seemed like that’s what you did. I didn’t put enough thought into so many things. And I knew that I owed them better. They deserved more. Wow. So you finally got him back. And you started teaching them English again. But the school and today, Where are the girls today? They’re amazing people. And you know, when I was like I said back in the early 90s and the mid 90s. Even when they came home from Greece, modern psychology would have told you that while they were young, then they’d be just fine. It will never bother them. They won’t remember. We know more now. And so eventually I got a graduate degree in psychology, and later on realized, oh, wait, they remember everything. It’s written in their bodies. And so they have suffered plenty in adulthood and one has a lot of
Problems physical, the other has more mental health concerns. But they’re both mighty Phoenix’s. They both graduated college, neither of them decided to marry early. And to this date, no one has kids yet. But their girls and their young women in their mid 30s, who are just fabulous humans, and they’re making a difference in their world. Wow. And for that I am so grateful just to know them much less to have been able to parent them imperfectly as I did. Wow. And they’re both married. Neither, neither are married. Yeah, no, they’re married both, you know, longer relationships, neither married and neither choosing parenthood at this time, they’re making choices, rather than living in a musical chair society where they just live with other people’s expectations. Right. So wow, that’s just an amazing, amazing story.
Ari: So but you, you went to college for journalism, and then you got a degree in psychology?
Lizbeth: I did, like, you know, was that because of what you were going through at the time? I don’t think I would have said, so when I was going to school in psychology, I felt like even as a young kid, like I was always fascinated and why people did what they did. And so eventually, when I got my graduate degree, I’ve never regretted it. I didn’t want to be a therapist. But I loved the inner workings of the human mind and intergenerational traumas and what it would take to change them. So I loved the schooling I did. I went to graduate school. And some of it was bad reasoning. But my poor parents weren’t even able to finish high school. They were brilliant. But I think both of them very smart. But they didn’t have that opportunity in their generation and what was going on in their families. So for me, I always looked at, like with travel that I’ve done, or with schooling, what can I do to go as far as I can, and get as far as a way far away from my origins as possible, and make different choices, you know, what can I do? And what opportunities should I not take for granted? That I have now that they just frankly, did not?
Ari: Wow, that’s, that’s just amazing. So did you do anything with a psychology degree? Did you? Did you IT job wise? Or?
Lizbeth: Oh, gosh, yes. I mean, not only did I write a lot about, you know, the stuff that I’ve been through in essays and the book, I’m with some reflection on things that we know now, but I worked in as a domestic violence advocate for many years still work in the field a little bit. Also then as a child abuse investigator, and then later, 20 years as a juvenile probation supervisor. So I absolutely worked in the field and loved it. Oh, my, that’s, that’s, that’s absolutely amazing. That is totally, totally amazing. That’s, that’s great. And I’m sure that helped you as well with, you know, re acclimating with your children, and you know, helping them to grow up basically, because you’ve seen so much and you studied so much, that you able to deal with it and work with it. And that was, those were the whispers that you were getting, I think, you know, after being hit with such breaks, those were the whispers telling you, you know, hey, this is what you need to do this, how you need to take care of your kids. This is how it’s going to be all better. And it’s never all better. I know that right. Okay. But, you know, at least you had the tools to deal with it in a way that needed that it needed to be dealt with. And I think that’s, I think that’s terrific. I really do.
Ari: So, before we go, all right, let me just ask you this. Do you have any words of wisdom words of advice for my audience?
Lizbeth: I do. And I think, you know, I loved working in the field, because I saw people with much more difficult lives than I could ever imagine living who still survived and showed up in life. And I feel like
if people understand that they there’s always someone available to reach out and grab their hand and go through a tough time them, whether they have substance abuse problems, or intergenerational traumas or domestic abuse or whatever, maybe different things. Maybe it’s a learning disability, mental health, whatever, there is help out there. And they don’t have to go through it alone. And in fact, that’s never a good idea. You know, we are pack animals and even if your family of origin isn’t able to help you recalibrate with whatever it is, you’re
going through, there are people out there who are just two steps ahead of you, who would walk with you across a bridge. And I think that’s something that’s helped me because I’m not very strong. I’m not as you know, superhero, I’m not terribly strong or smart at all. But I find that there are people who are, who can help. And they’re willing to. So just by being shy about going ahead and asking for help, there’s nothing to be gained by trying to go through things by yourself.
You don’t have the wisdom, the collective wisdom that others can offer you.
Ari: Wow, such words of wisdom, I gotta tell you, my wife is my wife is in the education field.
She’s got a master’s in special ed. And she’s been running a program within a girls school girls use Shiva. And it’s, you know, it’s, it’s hard. But she talks about the successes that she has with, you know, even, you know, parents coming to her, you know, she, she works with the kids for the most part. But, you know, she obviously, she deals with parents, because kids need certain things, you know, special needs and the like. And she says, she tells me all the time about these, you know, different parents who come in, they say, No, you know, we could never have done this alone, you know, how can we possibly Thank you, you know, it’s so wonderful to have an advocate to have somebody who knows what we’re going through, that can be there to help us that can help us, you know, through all the red tape, you know, because when you talk about education, there’s a whole bunch of red tape that’s there. And, you know, so I get it. And I get what you’re saying that, you know, you’re right, you don’t have to do it alone. And you’re now that person that people can talk to, that they don’t have to go it alone, because you did. And you’ve been through it’s you know what it’s all about. And that is, don’t tell me you’re not a superhero, because in my book,
You’re a superhero.
Lizbeth: Thank you, Ari, I, I don’t feel like I am. But I have a lot of support. And it’s been just so gratifying to then be able to give some support.
Ari: Absolutely. Absolutely. So let me ask you this. If people want to get a hold of you, how can they do that? You know, what’s, what’s the best way? Do you have a website? Do you have an email Do you have? What’s the best way to contact you?
Lizbeth: All of the above, and I have a podcast also. So la narrative.com. They’ll find out about my podcast my writing and how to get a hold of me right there. La Meredith calm. My middle name is Anne with an E. So it was my first two initials and the last name Veritas. Wow.
Ari: That’s amazing. Elizabeth, thanks so much for sharing your story with my audience. I’m sure you’ve touched the hearts of many of my audience. Good luck going forward. You been listening to whispers and bricks, and I’m your host, Gary shum. Remember, if you feel like you’re stuck in the mud, like you’re spinning your wheels, wasting time in your career, your business your life. If you know you’re not enjoying all the success and satisfaction and significance that you desire, then it’s time for you to book a call with me at call with ari.com. Check out my whispers and bricks Academy and until next time, listen to the whispers avoid the bricks and never ever give up on your dreams. Bye for now.