Tuesday, November 9, 2010

For the Quiet Girls

For the Quiet Girls 

     Elizabeth Smart was a quiet 14-year-old girl when she was abducted from
her bedroom in June of 2002. Now 23, she is testifying this week at the trial
of the man who abducted, raped, brainwashed, and terrified her for nearly 10
     As I read through the transcript of the trial, I was horrified at the depravity
and cruelty she endured. But I was deeply moved by the grace and conviction
she displayed as she responded to questioning. A crime of insanity took her
from her family but, thankfully, the watchful eye of a passing motorist allowed
Smart to be reunited with her family.
      Antinette Keller, of Plainfield, will never be reunited with her family.
Keller is the 18-year-old art student at NIU in DeKalb, Illinois who made the
mistake of taking her art supplies to a park to work on a project. While there,
Keller ran into a 34-year-old man who sexually abused her, killed her, and
then set her body on fire. The newspapers are calling it a crime of opportunity.
     Keller, like Smart, was also a quiet girl.
     Andrea Faye Will, of Batavia, died in February of 1998. She was a
freshman at Eastern Illinois University when she was strangled to death with a
phone chord by Justin "Jay" Boulay, of St. Charles, Ill. Because of a crack in
Illinois' legal system, Boulay, Will's former boyfriend, is being released from
prison on November 16 after serving only 12 years of his 24 year sentence.
While incarcerated, Boulay married another girl from Batavia, Rachel Rivers.
The two are planning on living in Hawaii, where Rachel Boulay is a professor
at the University of Hawaii.
     It is Andrea's story that hits far too close to home for me.
     I will never forget that February evening. It was just after midnight when
my son, Graham, arrived home with his girlfriend, Stephanie. I remember her
as a sweet,  quiet girl. I know now that she is much like her best friend and
cousin: Andrea.
     I will never forget the look on Graham and Stephanie's faces that night as
they stood in the darkened hallway. He did not have to tell that something was
wrong. I had heard about Andrea's death on the news. But I didn't expect my
son, then in high school, to look at me and say, "Stephanie is staying here
tonight, Mom. Her cousin Andrea was just murdered."
     Tears welling in my eyes, I simply nodded.
     And so the rules were broken that night as their adolescent forms
disappeared up the stairs. I could not hear them, but I imagined them crying
and holding each other in my son's childhood bedroom down the hall. Trying
to get some sleep before Andrea's wake the following day.
     The majority of faces inside the funeral home at Andrea Will's wake were
young. A crowd of adolescent boys hung in the back of the room, white-faced
and somber. The adolescent girls openly wept and held each other.
     Sorority sisters. Classmates. Childhood friends.
     I came with two friends. Mothers. To offer my inadequate condolences to
another mother I'd never met. To stand in line. Look into the open coffin at
the front of the room. See the lovely, lifeless body of 19-year-old Andrea
Faye Will.
     A quiet girl, with visible red marks around her neck.  

Please visit the Voices for Andrea Faye Will Facebook page for more 
updates on the worldwide candlelight vigils held in Andrea's honor on 
Tuesday, November 16. . . the day Justin Boulay was released from 
prison and left with his new wife for Hawaii. As of this posting, 3400 
people from around the country and world have joined this site to 
remember Andrea and take a stand against domestic violence. Sign
up as a member today to take a stand against the victimization and 
suffering of quiet girls like Andrea Faye Will. 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Learning to Hum


                             Or How D'Atra Got Her Ring Back

     "It feels bad," said President Obama of the "shellacking" Democrats got
in the midterm elections.
     I feel bad, too.
     I feel bad seeing President Obama's former Senate seat being filled by a
member of the opposing party. I feel bad knowing President Obama is
going to have an uphill battle for the last two years of his presidency. I feel
bad that so little good news about what he has done so far ever made it to
the people who needed to hear it the most. I blame that in large part on
the industry I once turned to for guidance during elections. An industry
that,  in my opinion, has imploded and become as polarized and jaded as
the politics it claims to cover.
     To help ease my post-election pain, I sought out like-minded people
on Wednesday.  Over drinks, we groused and grumbled as the defeat
sunk in.
     But on Thursday, I found myself ready to move on and be cautiously
hopeful. Moreover, I needed to purge from my head the vilifying
verbiage from this year's midterm election campaigns. Figuring a workout
might help, I headed to the health club.
      Normally, I time my workouts at the end of the day so I can watch
Jeopardy while I sweat. Thursday morning, I changed it up and found
myself arriving at the club just as the midday news was beginning.
    It was the last thing I wanted to watch. So, after flipping through the
channels, I landed on Divorce Court. I'm embarrassed to admit that I
stayed there and became completed engrossed in an episode that oddly
resonated with me. Best of all, it made me laugh out loud for the first
time in days.
     Enter Dietra Hicks (also known as D'Atra Hicks) and Loren Harper.
Hicks began, telling the judge she needed to divorce her husband
because he was a "lyin', cheatin', deceitful, Internet whore." Harper
came to court seeking compensation for therapy sessions he said he
needed after years of physical abuse at the hands of his wife. Hicks did
not deny the abuse and argued that it was Harper's chronic lying that
drove her to it. Or, as she put it, "Every time he lies I just have to punch
him in the face."
    Then it was Harper's turn. But as he began, Hicks, who is a singer,
began to hum. Not just random humming but a low, Gospel-loaded,
plaintive moan that all but drowned out her husband's testimony. While
the courtroom erupted in laughter, the judge told Hicks she had to stop.

For a while, she did. But as her husband continued talking, Hicks soon
was humming again. Admitting she had anger issues, she explained to
the judge that humming was an anger management exercise she used
to calm herself whenever confronted by her husband's lies.
     Hicks was then told that Nortice, Harper's girlfriend, was on her
way into the courtroom wearing a ring Harper had given Hicks. Harper,
afraid of his wife's temper, had staged a burglary in his home to steal
back the ring and give it to his girlfriend. Seeing the other woman
wearing her ring threw Hicks into a string of warbling lamentations.
This time, the judge did not silence her.
      As the drama continued to unfold, I couldn't help but draw political
parallels. For several fleeting moments, I even convinced myself the
anger, deceit, and hurt of the midterm elections mirrored the bizarre
elements found in the dysfunctional American marriage of D'Atra Hicks
and Loren Harper.
      It didn't take me long to realize I was out in left field on this one.
Although there were moments of high drama, this was really just the
story of a woman scorned, a man caught in a web of lies, and the
questionable ownership of a ring.
      In the end, the girlfriend was shamed by the judge into giving the
ring back to Hicks. As the three involved individuals stood outside in
the hallway following the hearing, Hicks lapsed back into song, waving
her ring in the air, singing, "I got my ring back. I got my ring back."
     I, for one, am happy D'Atra Hicks got her ring back. It proves there is still
justice in the world. A ray of hope. And when that hope seems out of reach
I will think of Hicks.
     Maybe, I'll even hum.
     To watch the episode of Divorce Court mentioned above, cut and paste 
     the following link into your browser:

Monday, November 1, 2010

I Will Miss You, Mr. Sorensen

                                          I Will Miss You, Mr. Sorensen         

     “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.” 
As any American knows, those famous words were spoken by President John F. 
Kennedy at his 1961 inauguration. What many people may not know is that those 
words were written by Ted Sorensen, President Kennedy’s Special Advisor and 
    Sorensen died on Halloween at the age of 82. 
    I find it both ironic and oddly fitting that the man whose eloquent, moving words 
still make me cry, died just two days before our country’s midterm elections. Elections 
whose campaigns have been more base, insulting, and hateful than any I can 
recall. Campaigns that have been completely devoid of the eloquence of  JFK's 
    Which is why I will miss Ted Sorensen.
    Growing up, it was Sorensen's words that blared from our blonde-wood television 
set. I may not have understood everything I heard, but I recognized that the words 
were thoughtful and inspirational. Words that held my parents' attention with rapt interest.
Important words that frequently caused them to shush me whenever President Kennedy 
spoke to the nation.                                                                                               
    Sorensen wasn’t even 25 yet when Kennedy hired him as an assistant in 1953. 
In his 2008 memoir, Sorensen says of Kennedy during the interview,  “I was struck by 
this unpretentious, even ordinary man with his extraordinary background, a wealthy 
family, a Harvard education, and a heroic war record. He did not try to impress me with 
his importance; he just seemed like a good guy."
     By comparison, Sorensen was born in Lincoln, Nebraska. A staunch pacifist, he 
registered for the draft as a conscientious objector. Although their backgrounds were 
very different, Sorensen and Kennedy shared the same passion for serving their country. 
Their intellects and turn of phrase were so in tune with each others that biographers are 
still arguing that Kennedy’s Pulitzer Prize for “Profiles in Courage,” should have been 
given to Sorensen instead.
     Sorensen was also one of President Barack Obama's biggest fans and publicly 
endorsed his run for the presidency in 2007. Initially, he suggested Obama consider 
waiting to run for the presidency because he felt Obama would,” inherit a country in bad 
shape, a presidency and a federal government in bad shape after eight years of what I 
call 'shame and pain.' "
     He certainly did.                                                                                        
     But I still believe in President Barack Obama. I believe he is the best hope we have. 
And those who are hoping to dismantle his dreams at the polls tomorrow may be in for a 
shock. Because I think the younger generation that helped elect President Obama has 
been sitting back and listening. Watching, while this year's midterm campaigns escalated
 into the absurd. I think they are as sick of the mudslinging as any adult. 
      Maybe more so.       
      I think they want to hear words that inspire not insult. Words, like those of Sorensen, 
that offer a return to intelligent discussion, leadership, and guidance.   
       I just hope they haven’t been so nauseated by what they've seen and heard that
they stay away from the polls tomorrow.
       I hope they do what Sorensen would do.