Monday, October 29, 2007

the story I'm telling

I'm speaking on campus tomorrow to a group of freshmen who think because they're "grown" it's nobody's business what they do, where they go, and when they're comin back. I'm telling the story of my cousin, who was killed in her dorm room last December. Here's the text:

My name is Misty Cline and I work in the office of Marketing and Communications here on campus. I’m here this morning to tell you a story.
But first, I’d like to say congratulations. For many of you, beginning college is your first foray into adulthood. So, well done.
How many of you live in the Wildcat Commons?
How many of you live in another dorm on campus?
How many of you have your own apartments?
Living on your own, another big step into adulthood. Congratulations.
But I promised you a story.
And the story I’m here to tell is one of another young adult, like yourselves, who stepped out of her parents’ home for the first time to attend college. Far enough away from her hometown that she had to live on campus, but not so far away she couldn’t come home for a long weekend, or that her hometown boyfriend couldn’t come visit.
Laura settled into her new life as a first-semester freshman. She joined an athletic team. She made friends, attended classes, did all the things you are doing now. And then, the week before finals, she disappeared.
She went to a Secret Santa party with her rowing teammates on the night of December 12. She drove a couple of teammates home, returned to her own dorm room, and talked to her boyfriend on the phone. She logged onto her Facebook account and looked at some photos from the party she had just attended. Then she went to bed.
Two and a half days later, her dad finally convinced someone in the University administration that not hearing from his daughter for two days was not normal. That not getting phone calls, or e-mails, from her in two days was not normal.
And I can’t tell you how many times we get that phone call from YOUR parents. Either the President’s office, my office in Marketing, but especially the Student Affairs office. A couple of times a day, someone in Fort Valley State University’s administration gets a phone call from a frantic parent, desperate to find one of you. And then we have to embarrass everyone by tracking you down, in class, in your dorms, in your friends’ rooms.
And now that I’ve gone and interrupted my story, I have to tell you that now that you’re adults, you have some responsibilities you might not have expected. You have the responsibility to show up for class, if that’s where you’re supposed to be. You have the responsibility to show up at parties and group events, if you’ve told someone you’ll be there. You have the responsibility to answer your phones and return messages. Because when you don’t, other responsible adults worry about you.
I promise you, if I drop off the grid, people will notice. If I don’t show up to work, my boss is going to call my cell phone. And if she doesn’t get an answer from my phone, she’s going to call my husband’s phone. And if he calls me and doesn’t get an answer, then he’s going to leave his work and come find me. If I don’t show up at my sorority events, someone is going to call me. If I say I’ll be at a party, and then change my mind and don’t go, the host will call me at some point, not just to bawl me out for not being there, but to find out why I wasn’t there. So, as a responsible adult, if I’m not going to be somewhere I’ve promised I will be, I have to call. My boss, the doctor, the party host, whomever I have an appointment with, I call. Okay, if I don’t want to talk to them, I e-mail, but hey, I make contact.
Because a responsible adult doesn’t just “get missing” and not tell someone where they are going and when to expect them back. As an adult, you may not be living with your parents anymore, but you are still part of a community. Those of you living in the Commons, you are a community. If you live in an apartment, you are part of a community. In this class, you are part of a community.
And that brings me back to Laura, and my story.
Missing two days, and no one at her school bothered to check after her. A girl who normally is in every class suddenly misses two days the week before finals, and her professors don’t raise any kind of alarm. Her friends just assumed she was either sleeping or studying. Her suitemate, a girl she shared a bathroom with, didn’t think anything of her sudden absence. She did, however, notice a funny smell in the bathroom.
So, instead of knocking on Laura’s door and saying, “hey, what’s that smell, did you leave something in here?” she cleaned the bathroom.
When that didn’t take care of the smell, she thought it might be a broken sewage pipe. So she calls housekeeping.
It’s December 15 and Laura’s dad has finally talked University officials into opening Laura’s room. But the housekeepers beat the administration to the door. Laura’s in her room, alright. She’s been lying on the floor, dead, for two and a half days.
Laura’s community failed her. Not only did they not check on her when she went missing, they failed her in a larger sense. They let her killer into her living space.
Laura was sexually assaulted and murdered. There’s more to the story, but this is the part that affects you:
Those of you who live in an apartment: if you saw someone hanging outside your apartment door, would you let them in when you opened your door?
Those of you who live in a dorm, why do you let people who don’t have a key in? And I know you do it. You’re going into the Commons, someone is suddenly right on your heels. Instead of turning around and asking “Do you live here?” you let them tailgate into your living space. In some cases, you hold the door for them! Your buddy calls – “I’m outside, come let me in” – and you do. But when he leaves your room, do you walk him out, to make sure he leaves the dorm? Like your “boys” all you want, but know that some of them can’t be trusted.
Ever prop your door open for a visitor you’re expecting? Your boyfriend is getting out of class before you and wants to just meet you in your room? Unh uh. He should meet you at YOUR class and walk you home, ladies. Waiting for your cousin to drop by? Your cousin can wait for you in a common area, you don’t prop your door open so they can “come on in.”
Laura’s killer wasn’t supposed to be in any of the dorms at her school – he’d been kicked out for dealing pot. But the night she was killed, police found security video of not one, not two, but three of his buddies letting him into different dorms, through different entrances. Stairway entrances, not the main ones with RA’s on duty to sign visitors in.
But no one let him into Laura’s dorm. At least, no one he asked to let him in. He tailgated into her dorm behind a student who opened the door with a key. Then he went to the fifth floor – not the first, not the second or third or fourth – the fifth. He took the stairs, which opened right in front of her room. He broke into her room, suffocated her, and sexually assaulted her body. When he left, he took her keys so he could lock the door from the outside.
And no one checked on her for two full days. Even with a funny smell in their common bathroom, Laura’s suitemate didn’t think anything of not seeing the girl she lived next door to and spoke to almost every day.
If I accomplish nothing else today, I want you to not leave here that naiive. I want you to accept the responsibility that comes with being a part of a community of grown adults. That means you care about each other. It means you pay attention to each other. It means you communicate with each other. If you don’t, well that’s a whole ‘nother kind of warning sign. Remember, the one thing generally acknowledged about the Virginia Tech shooter was that he didn’t talk to anybody. He deliberately wasn’t part of any community.
So if you don’t see your buddy for a couple of days, find out why. If your suitemates suddenly drop off the grid - and you live with them, you know what’s “normal” – don’t ignore it.
Likewise, if you’re going to “get missing” for a couple of days – we all need vacations – tell someone when to expect you back. I was 24, decided to drop out for a long weekend. Didn’t want my parents knowing where I was going, but I gave my roommate my flight information. In my case, if the plane went down I wanted someone to know I was on it! But if I didn’t return on time, she’d have raised the alarm.
Now why am I so adamant about this? Why do I care what happened to some girl not on this campus, not even in Georgia?
Laura was my cousin. Her dad raised me until I was three. He has a part of my heart. And losing his only daughter has broken his heart.
Further, Laura’s killer is still free. Because no one checked on her, because she lay for two days in a hot room, her body decomposed to an extent where evidence that could have been used to convict her killer was destroyed. Real crime isn’t like CSI: fingerprints don’t stay where they are placed forever; evidence of assault is destroyed when a body isn’t found right away.
So it’s possible Laura’s killer will not be convicted for his crime. And while her death is his fault, several people share the blame in her tragedy. The person who let him tailgate into her dorm, for example. The suitemate who couldn’t be bothered to check on her. The administration that took two days of convincing to open her door. Laura’s community failed her, and now I’m here telling you her story so you don’t fail your community.
I know you’re grown. I know you don’t want anyone checking up on you. I know you aren’t yet comfortable checking up on anyone else. But if you’re going to be an adult, you have a job to do. And that is to take care of yourselves and the people who care about you. So answer your phones. Return your messages. Be where you say you’re going to be. And when you take a vacation from your life, let someone know when to look for you back. Don’t just be grown up, be an adult.

Feel free to share.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Tying one on in celebration

Hooray! Faith can now tie her shoes. After she struggled last year, she finally has it down. I admit we haven't been diligent in helping her learn as we had this right hand-left hand compatibility problem. But somehow, she's got it down now. Amazingly, while she couldn't quite remember how to get the loops just right over the past few months, somehow she didn't forget that one of us must have mentioned a trip to the prize closet somewhere along the way. While Matt and I didn't recall, Faith insisted we offered the reward. She's not one to lie and her memory has newer batteries than ours, so she was able to pick out a coloring kit from the closet. I stash goodies I've picked up over time and dole them out when needed. Now our mission is to get her riding her bicycle without training wheels. While recently visiting relatives we stopped at garage sale and found a big girl bike in really good condition as her training bike is almost too small. A tumble over the handle bars slowed her progress on that old bike and she's moving slowly on her new bike as long as we hold on to her. The pressure is now on as we just found out her cousin who is more than a year younger recently took off his training wheels and started flying! While still on the phone, my husband told Faith the good news about cousin Conrad. "Uncle John took of his training wheels and he just flew," Daddy said. Without missing a beat or conceding defeat she asked: "Did you tell them about my shoelaces?"

- Liz Fabian

Thursday, October 25, 2007

out of the Halloween loop

I have to admit Halloween has snuck up on me this year. Daniel decided he wanted to wear last year's costume, so I just haven't paid much attention. What are your little monsters going as? I hear Supergirl costumes are hard to come by. Is that because Smallville brought the character on board? What's going on in the goblin world this year? Let me know if you want to post photos of your best costume efforts.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Sleeping like a baby?

Daniel has never been a great sleeper. As a baby, dad would put him to bed and I'd get homa about 1 a.m. to feed him. That 1 a.m. wake-up call continued until he was about 3. When he finally started sleeping through the night, he stopped taking naps. And I mean any nap at all. His day care and preschool teachers had a time with that! Every other child in the room asnooze on their mats, and my child tearing through the library area.
Well, he's stepped it up to another level. On a Saturday night two weeks ago, and again last Friday night, the child did not go to sleep. And I mean at all. Up all night, destroying his room in a flurry of activity, keeping me up with him. This past Friday night, I finally collapsed about 4:30, leaving him playing happily in his room and trusting that I'd hear him if he opened his bedroom door.
I though surely this must be a side effect of the ADHD medications we have him on. And thus I made an appointment with his doctor. But no, the doc says, if it were the meds we'd be going through this every night. More likely, he has allergies.
It's like this, stuffy nose, lay down, can't breathe, so he gets back up. And the party's on.
So we tried some allergy medication before bed last night. And lo and behold, we all slept like babies.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Splintering the family

When driving up the driveway last night I noticed an open window in the bathroom. "Mommy stop," I heard Faith's voice call out. I stopped the car and put it in reverse to get back to the open window. "Mommy I have a splinter and Daddy wants to use a needle to get it out. I'm hiding here in the bathroom so please come and get me," she said with only the top half of her face showing out the window. She was genuinely afraid of the needle, but I couldn't help but laugh at her desperate tactic of barricading herself in the locked room. When I told my husband what was going on, he laughed too as he didn't realize where she had gone. While in the bathroom, she got the tweezers and managed to get the little shard out of her foot, but was still afraid her daddy would want to "operate" anyway. My mind flashed back to those days of my mother striking a match and burning the tip of a needle for her own splinter-ectomies. If only I had known about hiding in the bathroom...

- Liz

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

When it doesn't sound so simple

As Faith struggles to learn to read, I've been telling her to sound out the words. That's fine when you hit something as straight forward as "cat." But what about when it comes to a word like "was?" Phonetically it should be spelled "wuz." When she struggled with the word "that" she was sounding it out as "t-hat" instead of putting the t&h together as one sound. I don't mean to confuse her but I can imagine that's how she feels. Last night when she was reading to us, I noticed there are words that she has learned that she stumbles over. I told her there are many words that you just have to memorize and forget about sounding them out. What's even more dangerous is that I see her get frustrated that she doesn't know these words. Then she gets discouraged. I really want her to be open to learning and not shut herself down. She wanted to give up as she was reading her book. Now I am want to come up with a way to motivate her to continually study her list of words. She has a tendency to think she already knows words she learned a couple of weeks ago, so she doesn't want to review. Perhaps setting up a regular time to study even when she doesn't have homework will help her on her way. Any ideas on how to spell relief?


out of pocket

I've been distracted all this week - the trial in my cousin's death started Monday and is being broadcast on Court TV. So I've been glued to the computer, just not BlogSpot.

Monday, October 15, 2007

The name game

Naming your child is probably the most personal thing you can do for them - aside from giving birth. So when everyone asks a pregnant woman "Have you picked a name?" (I'm guilty of this!) and then proceeds to offer their opinion on that name, I know it's got to work the expectant mom's nerves. Chris and I picked Daniel's name, but we also picked a girl name because we opted to not find out gender in advance. And of course, we didn't tell anyone the names we had chosen, either. It drove the grandmas-to-be a little crazy, but unitl she was born doctors swore my sister was going to be my brother, so I was quite content to not get anyone's hopes up (including mine).
I'm thinking about names this morning after a discussion with my adoption class. Up to what age is it OK to change a baby's birth name? We're adopting an older child, so the question is moot for us. He'll come with the name he's got and we'll learn to love it. But there was heavy discussion in class.
What do you think?

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Birth announcements

Want us to feature your new addition? Send me a pic and all the stats:
and your little bundle will get his or her own post.

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Guilt trippin'

A comment on my "old school" blog came at the right time. When I dropped Daniel off at the day care this morning, he went all clingy on me. And there's nothing like a healthy dose of guilt to start my work day off right.
I like working. I don't do well sitting at home all day with laundry and housekeeping. And while I wish I could be home when Daniel gets out of school, he enjoys his afterschool program and the friends he makes there. As an only child, that's his primary social life with kids his age. And I can't tell you what a relief it is with my new job, to be able to actually pay all my bills and have money for things like the "Day With Thomas" event coming up this month. So I'm going to be a working mom for all of Daniel's little life.
But I find balance and, in that balance, comfort. For Daniel's first three years, I worked at night and my husband worked during the day. Daniel didn't have to go to day care during that time. And I feel like we are closer for having had that time together. And because he knows mommy works, he knows he has to "work," too. His work is school. He has to do well at his job, just like I have to do well at mine. And he understands chores, too. I have work at the house, he has work at the house. So I feel like I am teaching him something there.
And that's nothing against stay-at-home moms. Some of the hardest-working women I know are SAHMs. And don't get me started on homeschooling moms. To run a household AND teach? Your own children? God Bless you. As much as I love Daniel, being with him 24-7 tends to make me a little nutty.
So I choose to work. And I'll accept the guilt that comes with dropping him off at day care when he's not in school. Because not two minutes after I walk out of the room (I know, I've sneaked a peek) he's happily playing and making new friends.

Monday, October 08, 2007

old school

I waited until yesterday to tell Daniel he wouldn't be going to school this week. That instead he would be going back to his "old school" at Children's Friend this week.
"The whole week?" he exclaimed, counting off the days. Yep, the whole week. And, I sweetened the pot, you'll get to see Ms. Melinda again.
So this morning as we stepped into the day care, I wasn't expecting any problems. Silly mommy. HE clung to my leg, acting like he was 3 again instead of my confident kindergartener. He hid shyly behind me in a move from days long past. And I couldn't leave without giving him a big hug, just like when he used to go to that school every day. Amazing, the things that pop back up.
So, Houston County moms, what are you doing with your young this week? Wish I could take the week off with him, but it's Homecoming in the Valley, so I'll likely be putting in longer hours, not shorter.

Friday, October 05, 2007

moms online, unite!

As part of my "homework" for this blog, I belong to some other online moms groups. Also, I drop in on a few sites designed for moms regularly. But I've noticed an unnerving trend on some of them (you know which ones they are):
Moms, and women in general, use the comments and features on these sites to complain about their men. On one site, a woman asked "what's the one thing your spouse does that drives you crazy?" And oh, did she get answers! Some of these women, it seemed, didn't like anything about their men! One actually replied "the list would be shorter if you'd asked what he does that doesn't drive me crazy."
Here's the thing: If you've got a partner, a helpmate, a husband who does hubandly things and lightens you load, shouldn't you be - for the most part - happy you have that helper?
Now I'll grant you I've done my share of raving about Chris on this post and to my girlfriends in person. And yeah, he's human and he screws up occasionally. Guess what - so do I. So do you. So do our kids. But last night, when I got after him an hour after asking him to unload the dishwasher and he was lurking in the living room watching "Grey's Anatomy" with me, he said "I'll get to it. I'll unload the clean dishes and load the dirty - after all, you've been doing laundry all night." Well, hallelujah. He noticed!
So if you've got nothing nice to say about your man, maybe it's time to have a discussion with said man. Venting your spleen online isn't going to solve your problem.
Or am I wrong?
Feel free to comment...

Thursday, October 04, 2007

Homework hassles

My latest parenting challenge comes in helping my daughter with homework. When she goes over her schoolwork, she is supposed to practice the answers she gets wrong. The other day, she forgot her practice so we made it up the next day. Faith nearly filled the lined page with repeated letters she had previously gotten backwards and corrected her spelling words. "Mommy, how do you spell sorry?" she asked me. I proceeded to help her spell out - "I'm sorry for not doing my practice." She signed it - "Love, Faith." Although I didn't ask as she was writing, yesterday I asked if the teacher had asked her to write the apology. No, Faith had done that on her own. "What did your teacher say about your practice?" I asked. "I forgot the paper," Faith replied. "I had to do it over." I couldn't believe she didn't make it to school with the paper that was with her folder when I left for work that morning! I'm still not sure what happened to it. If only her teacher had seen that sweet little note. I've got to find a way to increase Faith's concentration. She's been such an intelligent and mature child that I'm surprised when these things are overlooked. We are still struggling with transposing some letters and numbers. On one of her papers, the teacher wrote she was going to start taking points off for those infractions. "But that's the way I make them," Faith said. But that's not the "right" way. Let's hope practice makes perfect.

- Liz

Tuesday, October 02, 2007


I've come to believe a Higher Power is telling me Chis and I are not meant to adopt. Of course, that isn't stopping us. But consider the evidence:
Our DFCS coordinator has taken ill and we're being "contracted out" to someone we haven't even met, or heard from, yet. Other couples are done with their first home visits!
There was the whole incident with Daniel's teacher reporting us for suspected abuse. While the DFCS investigator had no trouble filing it as an unfounded suspicion, it still made both myself and Chris leery of the System.
I had pneumonia and the inhalers I was given made my drug test come back positive. A more detailed test - on my hair - came back negative, but still.
My TB skin test came back with a false positive. Turns out I have been exposed to someone with TB, so my blood carries the antibodies that make the skin test come up just a little. The health department says I don't have TB, so I've been cleared, but come ON!
All of our fingerprints were erased in Atlanta. They are taken digitally with this testy little machine, then transported to ATL to be put in the DFCS system. Only someone hit the wrong button. So we're retaking the prints.
I mean, really. Is Someone trying to tell us we're not ready for another child or am I just hexed?