Polly’s Guide To A Safe Halloween

happyhalloween

With Halloween once again upon us, parents concerns about their chldren’s safety is paramount. In order to alleviate lingering fears we have created a pro-active list of child safety tips designed to ensure a safe and sane Trick-or-Treat experience for all.

 

  • Check Megan’s Law for sex offenders in your neighborhood and ensure that your children avoid their houses
  • Children under twelve-years-old should Trick-or-Treat with a group and take along a parent or a teen-aged brother or sister
  • Tuck a GPS enabled cell phone equipped withe the Track N Treat smart phone app into your child’s interior pocket so that you can track them in real time
  • Trick-or-Treat in neighborhoods that you know, that you trust and that are well lit. Avoid dark alleys, dark stairwells, or remote locations
  • Discuss your Halloween route with your parents and the time you will return
  • Wear make-up instead of a mask that can inhibit vision
  • Wear clothing that is light in color and not too long. Add something that glows in the dark or is reflective
  • Carry a glow stick or flashlight to to see and be seen by drivers
  • Walk on the sidewalk, cross the street at crosswalks, and stay away from cars
  • Stay outside the homes that you visit
  • Be sure all treats are wrapped and sealed. Eat them only after a parent checks them first
  • Trust your feelings! Avoid strange situations
  • If you do not feel safe Trick-or-Treating, don’t Trick-or-Treat
  • Have a fun and SAFE Halloween!

My Dinner With Lisa

MariposaLisa Dahl’s 23-year-old son, Justin Wesley Jones, was murdered when he tried to break up a robbery in San Francisco’s Haight-Ashbury district on March 27, 1994. Shortly after Justin’s killer was convicted of second-degree murder, Lisa packed up her belongings and left the Bay Area for Sedona, Arizona, where she opened a restaurant. Inspired by the red rock majesty around her and Justin’s indomitable spirit, Lisa now owns and operates Sedona’s award winning Dahl & DiLuca, Cucina Rustica, Pisa Lisa, and the newly opened Mariposa restaurants. She is the queen of Sedona.

Lisa 1 Last Friday night Violet and I had an opportunity to eat at the Latin inspired Mariposa restaurant and then visit with Lisa for several hours. We both opted for steak. My NY Strip was perfectly cooked over an open flame: charred on the outside; moist, succulent and pink on the inside. However, it was the mashed Potatoes with Canadian Cold Water Lobster Meat that totally spun the top off of my head. Similarly, Violet’s Chimichurri marinated Skirt Steak with Frijoles Negros and Yucca Fries was the bomb. Particularly the Yucca Fries. OMG! They were so crisp and salty on the outside, and so piping hot and creamy inside. All in all dinner was dreamy.

Lisa 2After dinner a long ranging conversation with Lisa and her long-term boyfriend Scott Yates covered familiar ground. We spoke of our fallen children, how they inform and inspire our lives, shared experiences, but most importantly the future. You see, many people who have lost children never experience the future. Their pain is so great, their loss weighs so heavily on their souls that they are unable to move forward with their lives. Instead, they are held in the grip of a past that they cannot change, that compounds depression, and refuses peace or relief.

2That is what is so remarkable about Lisa Dahl. I would never argue with the long held belief that Sedona a magical or even spiritual location. However, stepping into one of Lisa’s amazing restaurants takes spirituality to a whole new level. Justin’s altar, which exists in each of the restaurants reminds you of the gentle soul who lost his life while in the act of being a Good Samaritan.  His beautiful face and buoyant spirit is reflected off of the walls, the art, the ambiance, the staff, and the amazing food. It is a feeling so strong that it cannot be denied or overlooked.

1Like so many before her, Lisa refuses to be bowed by tragedy. Instead, like the namesake of Arizona’s capital, Lisa Dahl has been transformed from the ashes of catastrophe into a stronger, more focused and enlightened than she was before. Oh, and man, can that woman cook!

They Took Our Child: Leah Henry

One Third Of All Abductions Occur On School Routes
On May 1, 2001 at 3:45 p.m., 11-year-old Leah Henry stepped off the school bus about a block from her home in Houston, TX. Within moments she was lured into her kidnapper’s small, hatchback sedan. Leah’s parents called the police when they could not locate her by 8:30 p.m. Within two days the authorities had tied Leah’s disappearance to the recent kidnappings of two other little girls. Fortunately, those girls had been released after several days of captivity. However, the abductors behavior had become more violent with each victim.

 

On May 4, 260 miles away Sheriff’s Deputy David Billeiter responded to a tip about unusual activity at a shack near rural Kerrville, TX. Upon arriving, he blocked in the small hatchback. Deputy Dilleiter knew that he had his man when the driver exited the vehicle with gun in hand. When the perp opened the passenger door to pull Leah out, she instead scooted out the driver’s door. With his weapon pointed at the Deputy the kidnapper told Leah to, “Run to the cop”. The deputy secured Leah inside his vehicle and backed away from the scene. Moments later a single gunshot rang out. The kidnapper had committed suicide.

 

“He shot himself and it sucks for the victim,” Leah recently told me. “I knew that he wouldn’t be able to hurt any more children, but I was left with all that pain. Nobody knows, nobody can imagine.”

 

LeahHenryTherapy
“I hated therapy. I started going as soon as I got free, but I didn’t want to talk to anybody. I just wanted to close up. I felt like the therapist just smiled at me while I cried, so I stopped going. Instead I locked myself in the bathroom and did homework until my hour was up. I had to find my own therapy.”

 

“I struggled to find my voice, but in high school I finally connected with an art therapy teacher. She said that whenever I thought of him, whether it was an emotional or physical trigger, to write it down. For two years I collected those notes in a box. When I felt like I didn’t have any triggers left my two closest friends joined me for a little ceremony where I burnt the box. It symbolized my ability put being a victim behind me. It felt good, because I was a survivor and not a victim any longer.”

 

“About 2 ½ years ago I decided to move to Washington to start over, but I put off my trip because my best friend, my dog, was sick. When he finally passed it rocked my world. I lost weight and I wanted to give up. I needed change, so I put everything I owned in my car and took off. I drove 16-hours straight to Colorado where I stayed for a week hiking mountain trails with a friend’s dog. Then I drove another 16-hours to my destination. Moving to Washington State was the best choice I made in years, because the solitude was cathartic.”
10985431_1627965650751446_6313703640179960303_n“I still struggle and sometimes I can feel myself fall into victim mode, but that is not me. I am strong and I have a voice. There are certain places I visit, like a waterfall in the mountains, where I can forget everything bad. I bought another black lab and he goes everywhere with me. I no longer have to surround myself with people because I have finally learned to appreciate my own company. Washington has turned me into a boring old woman and I kind of like that.”

 

Perfect Timing
“The opportunity to do They Took Our Child came at the perfect time, because I was finally ready to tell my story, my way. When you contacted me about doing the show, I was very open to sharing my full story and felt it was an opportunity to also visit my mentor, teacher, and dear friend Art Letourneau. After agreeing to do the show, I texted him to tell him about my upcoming trip and was also hoping to see him while I was in Los Angeles. Unfortunately, he passed that very morning before he could read my text, but I know he would be very proud of me. Last week, I was sitting on the lake finishing the book ‘Hope’ by two of the survivors of Cleveland abduction. I closed the book to a rush of unsettling emotions. Moments later Katie from They Took Our Child called to tell me that my show would be airing a week later. Participating in this show has brought about a lot of powerful healing moments for me.”

 

“I now know that it is okay to have those feelings, and to share them so that I may help the next person who is afraid to speak out or face difficulties. In turn, it helps me to know that I can make that kind of difference. My story, along with every other survivors story, is powerful and worth being heard becauseiIt could save someone’s life.”

They Took Our Child: Midsi Sanchez

Midsi signedThe August 10, 2000 kidnapping of 8-year-old Midsi Sanchez was as typical as it was unique. Like 1/3 of all attempted child abductions in the United States, Midsi was taken by a dangerous predator while walking home from school. However, unlike most who went before her, Midsi utilized her own skills and street smarts to escape almost certain death.

 

“In the beginning, when I came home, everybody wanted to know what happened from A to Z, but I didn’t want to share my story for other people’s entertainment,” she told me recently. “That included kids at school and counselors. Pretty much everybody but my family.”

 

Because she refused to share her story Midsi did not receive psychological counseling and she became an object of ridicule and bullying at school and on the street. She responded to these abuses the same way that she responded to the kidnapper: defiantly fighting her tormentors almost daily for the next several years.

 

Her family, on the other hand, swept her ordeal under the rug. “They didn’t want to talk about it. Even now, when they interviewed for this show, it was very hard for them,” she said. “I was a hot mess. I was stuck, stagnant and in turmoil for all those years. I couldn’t move forward. I didn’t care about myself or anybody else. At one point I thought I was so gangster that I wanted to go to prison.”

 

“I got drunk at 12 and didn’t sober up until Sandra Cantu went missing in 2009. I knew that if I shared my story with her family it would give them hope because I got away successfully. So I did. Things started falling into place because I got to see what happens on the other side. For 10 days I felt connected and powerful, because I was part of something bigger than myself. I was connected to the community and God and Sandra. Her soul was with me. I felt her in me. We were similar in so many ways and I was sure that she would come home alive.”

 

Midsi and Marc“When Sandra was found dead I was devastated. I took it personally and started drinking again. Six months later I was almost killed in a DUI automobile accident. Then I found out that I was pregnant. I cried when the doctor said that I was having a girl. Life was so hard and I feared so for her safety, but you know what? Had I not gotten pregnant I probably would have stayed on the path to destruction, but now I needed to be strong and sober for my little girl. I needed Annelyse so much. She saved my life.”

 

“It helps to work with a good production crew because I have worked with other people who are not so nice. My experience on this show was amazing. I felt like they really cared about me and my family which is very important because my mom and sister were re-traumatized by getting in front of the camera to tell my story.”
Midsi They Took Our Child“Now I tell my story because there is a purpose, it is not about entertainment. I share my story because it is necessary for others to understand that survival is possible and that one can become positive in life because of it. I represent every victim and I am the voice for every missing child because I have been there and I have done that. Marc, each time we put ourselves in these positions to help families, I get stronger and it gets easier and I truly think that we grow by helping others.”

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back

In January 2015, I began informally consulting on a projected “True Crime” television series called They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back. It premieres this Wednesday, October 7, 2015 at 10:00 PM on the Lifetime Movie Network.

 

The one element that totally differentiates this program from all other True Crime television is that it is guaranteed to have a happy ending. Watch as victim after victim recounts their ordeal and the circumstances that enable them to escape almost certain death.

 

They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back tells the stories of abducted children who escaped from the hands of their kidnappers; and the families who never gave up hope on getting them home safely. Each episode features a single story, told by the formerly kidnapped child and the family members and investigators who tirelessly searched for them, according to the network. Viewers will hear about the parents’ frantic and relentless search for their child, and how they worked with law enforcement to bring them home.

 

The premiere episode of They Took Our Child: We Got Her Back recounts the story of kidnap survivor and KlaasKids volunteer Midsi Sanchez. Please check back to read my blog on Midsi, where we discuss the crime, life after victimization, and her experinece on this very cool new television series.