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NFL approaching 4th Down and Ten: Neuro Furore Looming

By | NFL, Uncategorized | No Comments

Phineas Gage sounds like he could be a lineman for the New York Jets. Adrian Raine sounds more like a running back for the Minnesota Vikings. Neither are NFL players but they both are going to have some serious influence on the future of the NFL. When most of the talk this week has been about knees during the anthem, the fact is that brains are much more of problem for the NFL, potentially threatening the current system of play.

Phineas Gage was a railroad construction foreman in the mid-nineteenth century who ended up with a lump of metal through his forehead as a result of an accident. Although he survived for twelve years, Phineas completely changed his personality, becoming violent and emotionally out of control. He has become the poster child for how brain injury can lead to personality change and specifically violent and anti-social behavior.

Adrian Raine is the Professor of Criminology & Psychiatry in the Department of Criminology of the School of Arts and Sciences and in the Department of Psychiatry School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania. He is also a leader in the field of neurocriminology, the link between brain function and criminal behavior. One of Dr. Raine’s most established, and accepted, notions is that frontal lobe damage is common amongst offenders. The frontal lobe is the seat of reason as well as planning. When the frontal lobe becomes dysfunctional, violence and impulsive behavior often follow. These structural brain changes are clearly detectable.

Last week, Aaron Hernandez, the disgraced murderer who used to play for the New England Patriots and who hanged himself recently, was found to be suffering from the brain damage at the center of the concussion debate, Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy (CTE). Some of the symptoms of CTE include impulsiveness, poor judgment, depression and suicide.

Perhaps Hernandez was a psychopath from the beginning but more likely his brain damage almost certainly occurred from playing football. And that brain damage surely played a role in his violent and impulsive off the field activities.

So, here’s the point. Roger Goodell, the NFL commissioner, might well stand up and say that anti-social behavior has no place in the NFL, but the problem is that the game itself is likely contributing to the very behavior the commissioner abhors.

This goes way beyond concussion protocols. There is no question that any activity that risks serious head injury and concussions isn’t just about early dementia, depression and cognitive decline, it’s also about the very real risk of personality changes, impulsive, anti-social behavior and violent crime.

It has been convenient to this point to perceive that those NFL players associated with criminal acts simply represent a personality type who would be drawn into a violent sport like football. However, a more compelling argument is that their anti-social behavior is a result of, or a substantial function of, head injuries incurred when playing football.

Movie Lines and What They Really Say About Relationships

By | relationships, Uncategorized | No Comments

As a writer, I’m always searching for that great line that succinctly articulates a fundamental truth. As a writer, co-writer and ghostwriter of almost fifty books, I can say that it not always easy to come up with that great line. Sometimes the line is clever and accurate, sometimes it’s clever and misleading. Having tried my hand at screenwriting, I know that movie scripts lend themselves to great one-liners. In fact, many movies are remembered by their great one-liners. I know that you’re probably thinking, “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn,” but please read on.

Screenwriters are incredibly talented people who can create a captivating story by inventing situations, putting them in visually compelling contexts and then adding memorable dialog. And there are two movie lines that stand out for me, that reflect fundamental truths about relationships. One of the lines is brilliant, the other memorable for the wrong reasons.

You might have already guessed one of the lines, or certainly recognize it. It comes from the movie Love Story. The line is, of course:

“Love is never having to say that you’re sorry.”

What a clever line, except that it’s meaning is fundamentally flawed.

I understand the attempt to show that love supersedes everything, but that is a romantic fantasy. For me, the reality is the opposite:

Love is often having to say you’re sorry.

True love involves empathy and the ability to understand and respect the other person, and that includes apologizing when you have hurt them or offended them in some way. True love is appreciating the other person and going out of your way to nurture them, which includes apologizing when appropriate. True love is never taking the other person for granted.

So, my take on this one is that…

Screenwriting sometimes means having to say you’re sorry.

The other line comes from the great movie War Horse. One of the main characters has just done something completely irresponsible by spending a lot of money on a horse when he and his wife are about to go bankrupt and get evicted from their farm.

The irresponsible character asks his wife not to hate him for his recklessness.

She turns to him and maybe gives one of the great lines in movie history.

“I might hate you more but that doesn’t mean I love you less.”

Wow! Our binary brains assume that you can’t love someone AND hate them, but the reality is that you can, and often do. The binary brain’s arbitrary distinctions often cover up complex realities. People, especially our spouses, are complex individuals — as are we — and we will have various emotions about them, none of which are mutually exclusive from the others. Of course, it is possible to love and hate someone, especially someone that you are close, too.

One of the failings of the human brain is that it can only attend to, and feel, one thing at a time, so it is difficult to accept we can have conflicting emotions. When we do, we try to resolve the ambiguity by diminishing one of the emotions, which can be problematic. This can lead to thoughts such as “No, I don’t love him,” or “Okay, I’m not really angry, I’ll get over it.” Both feelings are legitimate and shouldn’t be dismissed. But neither should they be seen as permanent. Love is the ability to keep this perspective when driven by a brain that is trained and geared to come up with a simple answer rather than face the uncertainty of complexity.

The key here is that emotions are signals that reflect temporary, current feelings and the brain lives in the present and overreacts to, and overvalues, current feelings. Sure, you might be angry now but if you really love someone you will make the time and effort to consider their actions, realize that your anger is an important signal designed to help address and resolve a situation through love, rather than a replacement for love.

Sure, as Norman Bates says in Psycho, “We all go a little mad sometimes,” and it’s important not let today’s emotion ruin yesterday’s love. The problem is that often “what we have here is a failure to communicate” not a failure in our feelings.

May the force be with you.

7 Rules of Congressional Baseball

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    1. No term limits so 25 strikes before you’re finally out

    2. You can filibuster the game by arguing with the umpires for 24 hours straight

    3. A stolen base is immediately reported to the ethics committee

    4. Lobbyists allowed to appeal to umps to overturn calls

    5. Errors recorded as “conflict of interest”

    6. A foul ball is one that is hit outside party lines

    7. Russian umpires not allowed

An Important Life Lesson From My Friend Paul

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He came from Glasgow and joined my school, Harrow County in suburban London, in the upper grades and we quickly struck up a friendship. We had a few things in common, but mostly a shared sense of humor and a quick wit. Sometimes he was the only one who understood my “jokes” and it’s always good to have someone like that around to salvage your self-esteem. In the classroom and occasionally walking to and from the train station, we had little thought about the future. Then he went off to study at Cambridge and I went off to be a high school exchange student in California. He got a first class honors degree (this is really difficult to achieve, especially at one of the top universities in the world) while I introduced American Football to the University of Nottingham.

Years passed. He had graduated from law school and was running a practice and I was just getting my psychology PhD. Once I accepted a job offer in America, just before the easy access to computers and e-mail, our contact ceased. If you had seen us in high school you would surely have known that our real talents were in creative expression, perhaps even before we knew it ourselves. And so, the slow emergence of our natural gifts took root. At different times both of us left our respective professions, Paul as a lawyer and me as a psychologist, to become writers.

” We did not change as we got older, we just became more clearly ourselves.” – Lynn Hall

Fast forward almost four decades and now Paul is a heralded author and TV writer. His TV show Losing It is about a man, who like Paul in real life, had testicular cancer and is a master class in writing. Who thought that anyone could tackle the subject of cancer with such insight and compassion and still keep it light? Then there was his BBC comedy hit show From May to December that run for 39 episodes and was nominated for several TV awards. These were followed by acclaimed sitcoms So Haunt Me and My Hero. Meanwhile I was writing about dementia, stress, divorce and The All-American Red Heads.

Now, Paul has ventured into the world of novels, with his new book In the Matter of Isabel, and children’s books with Losing Arthur that will be released in August. Both are getting rave reviews. For example:‘In the Matter of Isabel has it all – humor, romance, and a compelling narrative. Paul A. Mendelson’s experience as a young Cambridge-educated lawyer and his decades as a successful TV comedy writer have enabled him to write a splendid novel. In the Matter of Isabel has the page-turning drama of a John Grisham legal thriller and the comedy chops of a Woody Allen script. Mendelson is a terrific writer.”

Miles Corwin, bestselling author of And Still We Rise, a Los Angeles Times Best Book of the Year.


And as for Losing Arthur…

“An exciting, roller-coaster quest of a book. For everyone who thought having an Imaginary Friend was something only little kids did…”

Elly Brewer. Multi-award winning, ex-Lead Writer of Tracy Beaker Returns and The Dumping Ground

Similarly, a few people have said they really liked my books. One of my best reviews was:

This is an awesome book that everyone should read,” by Phyllis Rankin, (my mother).

Chances are that Paul will win the Nobel Prize in literature before I finish my first screenplay but I still have hope for movie versions of In God’s Waiting Room and Searching for God in Syria, books due out later this year, as well as Breaking the Press the story of the All American Red Heads.

You really can learn a lot from very smart people. And one of the things that we can all learn from Paul is that it is never too late to find your true calling.

Thank you, my friend.

PS: See you on the bestseller’s list!

Pre-order your copy of In the Matter of Isabel now here

Psychopathology and Political Leadership

By | Politics, Uncategorized | No Comments

Could you drop a bomb that killed thousands of innocent people? Could you withhold information of an enemy raid even though you knew it would wreak havoc on one of your cities? The evidence is that if you have psychopathic tendencies you could, all in the name of pragmatic leadership.

Some of this work comes from what has been called the trolley problem, a thought experiment in which you are told to imagine that you’re riding on a trolley that is headed down a track and will kill five people. Your only choice is to switch the rails and have the trolley go down an alternate track and kill just one person. Most people can do that with some discomfort. However, in another version of the experiment, the only way you can stop the trolley and avoid the deaths of five people is to throw an overweight passenger off the trolley to his certain death. Most people balk at doing this but psychopaths don’t. As psychologist Kevin Dutton says in his book The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success, in the experiment psychopaths, without batting an eye, are perfectly happy to chuck the fat guy over the side, if that’s how the cookie crumbles.”

Neuroscience research shows that in these morally difficult dilemmas psychopaths can sometimes understand how others might feel but they don’t care. Areas of the brain that are involved in empathy and sympathy light up in “normal” people when faced with moral decisions, but in psychopaths stay as quiet as Bourbon Street on a Sunday morning.

So was a Harry Truman a psychopath for dropping the A bomb? And one of Britain’s finest, Winston Churchill, was reported to have offered no warning for the Luftwaffe’s attack on Coventry that claimed almost 600 lives, even though he apparently knew of the raid. Why? Because he didn’t want the Germans to know the British had hacked their communications code.

Look around the world and you will find leaders who might score fairly highly on tests of psychopathy. Could it be that leadership, specifically political leadership, demands the ability to put pragmatism above morality? Many of us could not put our moral concerns and consciences aside, which is probably why nice guys don’t get elected president. If we gave all presidential hopefuls an fMRI test to determine their empathy and psychopathy, would we elect the moral candidate or the one who could put morality aside?

As far as narcissism is concerned, if you weren’t a narcissist before you became president you’re likely to become one once you are elected. Psychiatry Professor Robert Millman first identified “acquired situational narcissism” to describe people who were once reasonable but because of their star status develop a sense of superiority. It would be hard to imagine anyone in the office of President maintaining their humility in today’s world.

Perhaps they shouldn’t?


Dutton, K. (2012) The Wisdom of Psychopaths: What Saints, Spies, and Serial Killers Can Teach Us About Success. Macmillan.

National Public Radio interview with Doctor Robert Millman on Talk of the Nation, August 21, 2002

First Down and Ten Commandments: What GOD Thinks about the NFL

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1.  He prefers Monday Night Football, and doesn’t think games should be played on a Sunday.

2.  He likes the Saints, and wants them to be joined by the Angels, Padres, Bishops and Deacons to form a separate NFC Spiritual division.

3. He likes the concept of the Hail Mary and suggests that if a team comes from behind by more than            21 points in the final quarter, the winning touchdown or field goal should be called a “Lazarus.”

4. In similar vein, the St Augustine Award should be given to the player who cleans up his act the most in any one season.

5. He doesn’t like Instant Replay as he doesn’t believe in going back. (See Mrs. Lot).

6. He is very busy and as a result suggests cutting out some ads so he doesn’t have to waste three hours watching 12 minutes of action.

7. He suggests that some selected games should be played in Rome and Jerusalem.

8. He thinks that the “illegal man downfield” rule should be scrapped.

9. He reminds us that, first and foremost, NFL stands for ‘Never Forget Love.’

10. He is still working on this one, so please leave your e-mail. Be one of the first to know when The Tenth Commandment is delivered!

Howard Rankin interviewed Pastor GODonnell for this piece.

 Disclaimer: The views expressed in this article aren’t necessarily the opinion of the writer or anyone else, neither are they necessarily the views of any platform or vehicle in which this article is replicated or reproduced which includes newspapers, magazines, all other print media, television, broadcast media, the internet (the ‘world wide web’), internet providers, cable operators and any other form of distribution which may or may not be regulated by the FCC. Any similarities to any living person, spiritual entity or current public, private, state or federal institution are entirely co-incidental. Any similarity to any current local, state and federal statues, laws and regulations is entirely co-incidental.This article is in no way intended as legal or medical advice. No animals were harmed in the writing of this article (despite the fact that the author’s cat repeatedly walked across the keyboard and was generally a nuisance, she was treated within the animal treatment guidelines stipulated in state and federal statutes.) Neither the author nor his assigns or heirs are responsible for any emotional, mental or physical reaction you may have from reading this article. Side effects of reading this article might include laughter, frustration, anger, boredom, insomnia, narcolepsy, chest pain, runny nose and diarrhea. If you experience any adverse physical reactions as a result of reading this article call 911 or immediately go to your nearest hospital Emergency Room. If you object to this article please contact your local or state Humor Control office and ask for the Lost and Found department.

The Five Things I Hate About Listicles

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You won’t believe number six!

Okay, I get it. In today’s crowded media environment trying to get attention is about as difficult as threading a camel through the eye of a needle. And once you get someone’s attention, keeping it is just as hard as most people seem to have the focus of a manic butterfly on speed. So, I understand the reasoning behind the listicle; I just don’t like where it leads. It capitalizes on lazy thinking and takes advantage of inherent cognitive biases. I realize they have some value and are here to stay but here are five reasons I don’t like lists with numbers in them.


  1. Just Seeking Attention. When I was a younger, I had an annoying friend who would do and say outrageous things. When I responded he would say in an almost poetic lilt, “I made you look, I made you look!” His sole purpose seemed to be in getting attention. After that there was nothing of substance. Similarly, the current preoccupation with getting “eyeballs” threatens to dilute the message and become more important than providing value and substance. So what if something has been viewed a few million times? I’d rather write a piece that has 50,000 views and 50% of readers value it, than a piece that has a million views and only 1% value it. (Do the math as well as think of the brand perception). In short, the medium threatens to destroy the message.


  1. Emotional manipulation. In their presentation, listicles take a leaf out of the advertisers playbook and resort to emotional manipulation in order to get attention. Marketers have known for eons that people aren’t logical beings, we’re rationalizers and story-tellers and are driven by emotion. Hook that emotion, be that fear or anger, and at least you can get some attention. But that process minimizes the product. If Moses had come down from the mountain and said, “I have here the Ten Commandments of the Lord,” and then added, “You’ll never guess number two and you won’t believe number seven!” it would have rather distracted from the enormity of the moment. It would imply that the material itself needed promoting in a somewhat manipulative and shoddy way. Emotions are like spices that provide interest and taste to the meal but the problem with a lot of today’s communication is that it’s all Tartar sauce and no steak.


  1. Listicles Trivialize. Listicles take advantage of binary brain simplicity and reduce content to the simplest of ideas. This is a problem with the development of social media in general — it doesn’t encourage critical thinking and discernment. We live in a sound bite world that minimizes and misrepresents complexity. Five Reasons You Shouldn’t Eat Junk Foods. Just five? There are five hundred reasons you shouldn’t eat junk food and identifying just five is a misrepresentation of the inherent dangers of a poor diet. This also plays into the anchoring bias — the first number you hear anchors your perception, like an ad or infomercial that initially anchors a product to an artificially high price so that subsequent offers seem too good to refuse. Despite the fact that most of us realize that the initial price is artificial it doesn’t prevent us from not just falling foul of this bias, but actually using it to justify our purchase!



  1. Steps aren’t the same as action. There’s something compelling about numbers and steps as they organize perception, but that’s the problem. They organize it in a way that distorts the material by reducing it into supposedly logical steps. The focus on small numbers, especially in advice about behavior change, also creates a framework that misleads. For example, here are five steps to conquering Mt. Everest. Purchase tickets to Nepal. Buy climbing equipment. Hire a Sherpa. Set up base camp. Start climbing. Easy, right?



  1. Number Hypnosis. Numbers have legitimacy but they fail to convey nuance. Take a look at Shakespeare. We could rename Romeo and Juliet, Five Ways to Resolve a Family Feud. Or how about renaming Hamlet, Three Ways a Ghost Can Influence International Relations? Rather than just enjoying the drama most of the audience would be partially focused on which step they were on at any one time.


In a complex world, binary brain simplicity and cognitive bias predominate and overall that’s not a good thing. It leads to uncritical thinking, stereotyping and bias of all kinds. That’s why I don’t like listicles. So there.


If you want to learn more, please visit my website www.IThinkThereforeIAmWrong.com where you can find 7 ways to think like a genius, but only for a limited time, while stocks last. You can also find 5 reasons why all ideas on that site are gluten-free.


A Match Made in Henna: How a group of Red Heads changed the perception of women and sports.

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Breaking the Press: The Incredible Story of the All American Red Heads

By Orwell Moore and Tammy Moore Harrison with Howard Rankin

One of the great things about being a writer is you often get to share history and sometimes it is important.

It started our partly as a gimmick, the brainchild of a man who was both a marketing genius and avid basketball player, and his wife who owned a chain of beauty shops. Beauty shops were an emerging market in the mid 1930s but women’s sports wasn’t. From Breaking the Press: the Incredible story of the All American Red Heads

“The Women’s Division of the National Amateur Athletic Federation (WDNAAF) took the position that basketball, along with other sports, were too competitive for women and launched campaigns to prevent the sport being played in schools, industrial leagues, or frankly, anywhere.”

This proscriptive approach actually paved the way for the success of the All American Red Heads by setting up the expectation that women shouldn’t be playing such a vigorous game and that there was no way they should even try to compete with men.

However, less than twenty years after women got the vote that marketing genius Ole Olson, not only put a women’s team together, he scheduled them to play by men’s rules and against men’s teams.

“Regardless of the Olsons’ intentions and how it evolved, the notion of combining athletic competition with beauty was a direct and bold challenge to the cultural view that competition and femininity were mutually exclusive. And the Olsons really threw down the gauntlet when they decided that their team would only play against men using men’s rules. If the notion of fielding a basketball team happened organically, at some point there was clear intent on the part of the Olson’s to deliberately create a different concept — having women play only against men using men’s rules.”

The Red Heads were a huge attraction wherever they went, and even some places they didn’t. They travelled to every corner of the United States, to the Philippines and Mexico and twice toured Alaska. Apart from a break during World War II, the Red Heads played for fifty years. They were featured in major magazines and on legendary TV shows. They once had a 96 game winning streak and they won most of the games they played. They had a bruising schedule that had them traveling across the country in a limo and playing games every night, and sometimes twice a night. They contributed enormously to the changing perception of women in sports and helped paved the way for Title IX that mandated equal opportunity for women in any federally funded education program, including sports. It took them half a century but the Red Heads ultimately provided the opportunities for girls to play basketball at all levels and in doing so, made their show obsolete.

They were the first women’s team inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2012 and this June there will be a book signing at the Women’s Basketball Hall of Fame, which also inducted the Red Heads and has an exhibit dedicated to them.

From the book, describing Tammy Harrison making her acceptance speech on behalf of the Red Heads at the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame Induction ceremony:

“As you have read, the Red Heads were trailblazers, pioneers who inspired women and defied the expectations of the time. They helped create a new image and perception of a woman. She could now be an athlete who could compete with men.

“It’s easy in hindsight to see the natural progression of things, to see how one step leads to the next, and to the next, until a small grain of sand turns into a beach, or an outrageous idea into an accepted norm. Hindsight minimizes the effort, courage and insight that is needed to get a ball — even a basketball — rolling.”

Listen to the radio show with Tammy Harrison who grew up with the Red Heads, daughter of owner and coach Orwell Moore and her mother Lorene, who just happened to score more than 35000 point over a decade long career with the legendary women’s team

Get your copy of Breaking the Press: the Incredible story of the All American Red Heads



Chile Trump Mexico.

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Mexico fails to build defensive wall, pays for it


Chile thumped Mexico 7-0 in last night’s Copa America quarter-final with an impressive world-class display that had El Tri and its fans wishing for the final whistle long before the ninety minutes was played. Four goals from Eduardo Vargas, two from Edson Puch and one from Alexei Sanchez did all the damage. Mexico had no answer to the swift and multiple incursions into its territory from a faster and more confident Chile team. Mexico’s midfield failed to build a defensive wall and as a result their back four were constantly exposed by a Chile attack that exploited Mexico’s undefended spaces. Chile peppered Mexico’s goal with 21 attempts — many good goal-scoring chances

Although the scoreline was surprising, the result shouldn’t have been. Much to my surprise, all four Fox Sports studio team members picked Mexico to win despite the fact that Chile rank higher in the FIFA World rankings and have arguably been the best team in the tournament. Was this political correctness? Corporate pandering to a significant part of its market? Or did the studio commenters get carried away in the emotion of the moment?

One rationalization for the picks — Mexico were on a year-long winning streak. When will commentators and analysts realize the ‘hot hand bias’ or ‘momentum’ fallacy? Streaks — either winning or losing — make a good story but they are talking points, and talking points don’t win matches. We overvalue those streaks but the fact is that if you’re on a long streak the chances are good its going to end sooner rather than later. There’s at least as much rationality in selecting a team to “lose” because they are on a winning streak which statistically is going to end. The concept of momentum has very little predictive value, generally.

Another rationalization for the Mexico picks was that they had the advantage of fantastic and overwhelming support. Again this is an advantage that is also over-rated. Fan advantage can indeed be a huge plus if you’re playing well and are winning. However, if you’re not playing well and losing, a massive fan turnout can quickly turn into an albatross around the collective neck. Even if fans stick with their team, the players themselves have to cope with the feeling that they are being humiliated and letting their massive fan base down when they get hammered. And frankly, for most of the second half Mexico players looked understandably forlorn and defeated.

Mexico will surely recover from this thrashing as they are a good team but this performance was as ugly as…..well, just plain ugly. Chile won hands down.


Howard Rankin is a freelance writer who writes about neuroscience, psychology, business and sports. He helped Barrett Murphy write Barefoot Bloodied and Bruised: The amazing story of Louisiana six-man football and is the co-author with Orwell Moore and Tammy Moore Harrison of Breaking the Press: The incredible story of the All-American Red Heads.

The Ultimate Adopted Child Reunion

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Seventeen years ago, a six year-old Albanian girl was abducted from her parents in a makeshift refugee camp in Kosovo. She was put on a bus by Serbian soldiers and watched in horror as those same Serbians beat up her father as he tried unsuccessfully to rescue her. Along with the other abducted girls, Njomza, had no idea where she was being taken. A few hours later she arrived in a strange place but instead of firing squads and soldiers, she found nuns and friendly faces. The Albanian girls had simply been shipped out of their home country of Kosovo and dumped, in Macedonia.

Terrified and alone, Njomza was taken by the nuns, cleaned up and put to bed. But before she went to sleep, a kindly man came by to see her. She looked into his eyes and instantly knew she could trust him. The next day, he came back and adopted her.

Njomza didn’t speak Macedonian but in any event was mute through the trauma of war and the separation from her family. But in her adopted family, she had a sister, Kana, kind adoptive parents and other young adults, who it turned out, were older children and their girlfriends and fiancees. The family was loving and generous, buying Njomza new clothes, making her feel loved and rescuing her from her war experiences and trauma. During the day, Njomza would play; at night she had horrendous nightmares. Gradually, however, she put aside the thoughts of war and her family of origin and settled into life in a new, loving world.

The bubble burst a few weeks later, when Njomza saw a photo in the newspaper of a girl waiting in line at a refugee camp. The girl looked vaguely familiar. And then Njomza realized: it was her sister Arbresha. Memories of her family, repressed for a while, now came flooding back. Njomza ran around the house clutching the newspaper and the memory of her family close to her heart. Later that day, Njomza refused dinner on the grounds that “if my family can’t eat this, then neither can I.” The rest of the adults agreed, and they all went hungry that night, too.

Njomza and her new family faced an agonizing decision. Did she want to stay on in the safety of the bosom of this loving new family or did she want to find her family of origin and rejoin the war zone? After very tearful goodbyes, her new father drove to the refugee camp at Stankovec in an attempt to reunite Njomza with her family. Miraculously, as they were entering the camp, Njomza saw her mother about to leave it, to go in search for her daughter. A   joyful reunion was the cue for her adoptive father to say a sad goodbye and head home to Skopje.

Over the years, the Macedonian family wondered whatever happened to that little girl they temporarily saved from the war zone. Where was she? Did she survive the war? What happened to her? These were burning questions that weren’t extinguished by the passing of the years. Njomza too, wondered about the people who saved her and showered her with love. She was too young and didn’t speak the language to know their names or address or have any contact information. In a bizarre reversal of the typical adoptive’s dilemma who ponder whether to go in search of their birthparents, Njomza wanted to find the people who had briefly adopted her.

Years passed. Njomza’s family came to America and gradually, after some terrible difficulties, Njomza grew into an amazing young woman, full of grace, compassion and forgiveness. She has even written a book about her experiences and is about to launch an IndieGoGo campaign to raise some money for the final edit and publication.

Last week, Njomza, received a strange Facebook request from someone in Macedonia. She was suspicious at first but whoever was trying to make contact was persistent but fluent in neither English nor Albanian. Eventually Njomza realized it was one of her family members, the family from Macedonia. A call was quickly arranged and for the first time in 17 years she was reunited with her saviors.

“It was incredibly emotional,” says Njomza holding back the tears. “We couldn’t really communicate through words, but our emotions said it all. There was a lot of crying and smiling — I just wanted to reach through the monitor and hug them all.”

“They told me stuff that I remembered; that I hardly spoke and that I played all day but cried all night. But there were things I didn’t know. For example, they didn’t know whether I was a boy or girl until they bathed me! My mom had cut my hair short and dressed me like a boy so that I wouldn’t be raped, like most of the Albanian women did to their daughters. Apparently, I also ate a lot of ice-cream. I also connected with one of the daughter-in-laws. She was the one who took me under her wing and took care of me. Seeing her again was incredibly emotional for both of us.”

Now they have found each other neither party will ever let go again.

‘They are family. I will never forget what they did for me both in adopting me in the first place and then returning me to the camp to find my parents and siblings. They are so loving.”

The timing couldn’t have been better.

“Now I can feature them more clearly in my book.” Blossom: Confessions of a Child of War is in the final edit stage and an Indiegogo campaign to raise funds to get it finished and published is about to start. To find out more, or to contribute or to merely spread the word, please go to:

IndieGoGo campaign