Never saw it coming

One of my favorite skits from “Saturday Night Live” when it was good was the “Who Shot Buckwheat” skit. What made it so funny at the time was when people who knew the killer, John David Stutts, were asked “Do you believe he [Stutts] killed Buckwheat, they all said, “Sure! That’s all he ever talked about.” It was a great play on the old interviews about serial killers and assassins where neighbors would say that they killer was such a good kid.

Funny then. But now?

There was another killing spree this weekend. The killer* used a knife and a gun to kill people because he was pissed off at life. Timeline to ‘Retribution’: Isla Vista attacks planned over years He starting spiraling out of control three years ago. Yet, very little was done. Everything was passed on and passed on and passed on.

Does this sound familiar?

September 16, 2013 – Washington Navy Yard 

December 14, 2012 - Newtown, CT

July 20, 2012 - Aurora, CO

April 12, 2012 – Oakland, CA

January 8, 2011 – Casas Adobes, AZ

April 16, 2007 – Blacksburg, VA

February 23, 2001 – Isla Vista

There are those who want to blame the guns/politicians. There are those who want to blame video games. No matter what the weapon of choice, it will get in the hands of the person who wants to do harm. If not, another approach will be taken. But that is a post for another day.

Pure and simple, I blame these selfish assholes who think that killing those they perceive have dissed them for everything.


However, that being said, has our mental health system failed? Just 50-60 years ago, people would have been put in a mental institution for epilepsy. Now it seems that those, like myself, who realize they need help are gladly getting the help they need, while those who need the help the most are just sliding by. Maybe even playing the system.

I hate this expression, but it is a slippery slope. Do we want to institutionalize someone who rants one day about how much their life sucks and how they wish people would just go away forever? Or do we continue to rely on the police to go by an unstable person’s home and have that person play off as being just fine?

But let’s see what we can do to prevent the next mass killing by opening our eyes and hearts to help those who will not help themselves.

*Note: I refuse to name the killers.


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Rotten Salad Days

Twenty years ago, I graduated from university. Seeing so many people post on social media about their graduation, a child’s graduation, or that of their students, made me burn the wax that’s supposed to be poetic about my years as an undergrad.

Basically, my college years sucked.

Sure, I made friends, dated a couple of guys, and was really involved in a student organization that, had it not been for that, I think I never would have survived.

A lot of it was me. Well, most of it was me. I had no study skills to speak of, high school was easy for me. And what I found later to be depression/anxiety, accelerated my pride to a point where I made my academic life a lot harder than it needed to be.

I came to university to study film in the Department of Communication Studies. Film was like the redheaded stepchild of Comm. Not a lot of classes and options. But I digress.

As a liberal arts person, I had certain core classes I had to take, math, science, and other crap I knew I would never use. My adviser was new and taught PR of all things and wasn’t much of a help. Instead of taking rocks for jocks, I decided I would take Chemistry. I would learn a programming language like FORTRAN. I would take the harder courses because I was proud and because I did not want to take the easy way.

What the hell was wrong with me?

Of course, my core curriculum grades sucked. I failed FORTRAN, partially because I had no idea what I was doing and partially because I dealt with two deaths that spring semester. The great news was that I could use the Freshman Rule and have the grade and course dropped.

But, you know, pride.

So my GPA suffered. The girl with the 3.8 in high school, now had a 2.5 or something stupid like that.

I remember having stomach pains all the time like I was going to throw up. The only thing that made me feel better was being around people I loved and sleeping. I went to the WONDERFUL socialized health center where I was asked if I was pregnant (no), was I rushing a sorority (no), and here is some Sudafed and vitamin C. Take this to feel better. Misdiagnosis #1.

Later I enjoyed the free healthcare of the military since my dad was retired Marine Corps Reserve. That was a blast. I went to them with the symptoms and in return, was given my first pap smear without being told what was going on. Nice! Misdiagnosis #2.

Truth be told, I don’t know if having a correct diagnosis would have helped anything. It would have explained a lot. Perhaps I would have been easier on myself and would have thought more clearly instead of flailing around with no idea what I was going to do after college. I couldn’t get into graduate school with my poor grades and the only internship I had involved me addressing thank you notes for a news producer at a TV station.

When graduation day came, I threw up. I remember sitting in the Communications ceremony feeling like I was going to pass out. Anxiety. I had no idea.

I envy those who know what they want to do after graduation and go for it. I wish I could go back and do it all again. I think that is why I want to get my Masters and why I want to work in academia. It is a way to make up for my years of stupidity and to help those who are flailing through the process called “college.”

Because I had no diagnosis.

Because I had no idea.

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Update: Justine Elizabeth Swartz Abshire

Justine Swartz Abshire
Justine Swartz Abshire

I have been very behind on my posts and I apologize.

In the early morning hours of November 3, 2006, 27-year-old Justine Abshire called her husband Eric at 1:19 a.m. to say that her car broke down on Taylorsville Road in Barboursville, VA near the Greene County line. He hopped on his motorcycle to get her. When he got to her, she was dead. Forgetting he had his cell phone, he ran to nearby homes looking for someone to call 911. The call was placed at 1:57 a.m. When authorities arrived, they declared her dead at the scene. The victim of multiple trauma from being struck by a vehicle.

On October 25, 2011, her husband Eric was charged with her murder.

Life behind bars: Eric Abshire defiant at sentencing

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The 33rd Victim

dankimWhen we talk about what happened on April 16, 2007, we talk about the 32 victims. 32 people who were killed when a guy with mental issues who slipped through the mental health system, whose parents ignored doctors’ warnings to send him to a smaller college, who managed to blame everyone else for his problems, decided it was time to shoot up his school.

But many forget the 33rd victim, Daniel Kim.

Daniel was Korean American, just like the murderer. After April 16, Daniel’s parents asked him to come home for a visit. Daniel went to get his hair cut and after told his father that he looked just like the shooter. He also lived in the same dorm where the first two victims were killed. He stayed in his dorm for two weeks. When he did go out he was hit and insulted by another student.

Daniel never reached out for help, but his friends did. They tried the university. They tried local police. Although he was a student, he lived off campus in the fall of 2007. When local police arrived, Daniel said he did not know the people who were concerned for his safety and that he was fine. What could the school or local police do? He was an adult and did not want help. (Source: Fisher, Marc,  “At Va. Tech, Near Silence For a Student’s Anguished Cry,” Washington Post, January 13, 2008.)

On December 9, 2007, Daniel killed himself in his car in the Target parking lot in Christiansburg.

The 33rd victim.

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NeVer ForgeT


About April 2, 2007, I met Jarrett Lane through a friend, Tammie. I was having lunch with Tammie and another woman who said she was Jarret’s second mom. There were hugs and laughter and Jarrett told us about his plans to go to the University of Florida for graduate school. I said it was nice to meet him and off he went.

Two weeks later, Jarrett was killed.

Rest in Peace Jarrett.

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The Umble Par-ah-dig-um

I admit, I have never had a fabulous vocabulary. I love to read. I love grammar. I love word play. I hate vocabulary.

So when people use big words to sound important, I get pissy because I don’t know what they are trying to say and it makes me feel stupid.

The word that irks me to no end is “paradigm.”

It started years ago in a former job when a grad student working with us would use that word over and over. I thought she was trying to impress our male boss and sound all smart and stuff while dressing well and looking hot. (Turns out I got that very wrong. He was convicted of sexual harassment of her and others a few years later. And when I say “convicted,” this was academia, so he was moved to another department). But from that experience and others, I have learned to hate the word “paradigm.” Just say “example” or “concept.” Imagine my horror, I mean, HORROR when my musical idol, the man whose voice melodically carries me to a world where I can get away from it all, used THAT WORD in concert. I forgave him since he loves language, (he uses phrases like “phantasmagoric splendor” in his songs).

Then there are folks who try to sound sophisticated, but really just sound goofy. Which leads to my mispronunciation pet peeve – “‘umble.” I know it is something done in the south mostly, but we are not British subjects anymore. Say the H in HUMBLE. I feel like Professor Henry Higgins, but you are not Audrey Hepburn. I know someone who says “umble” and it drives me up the freaking wall.

So tell me, what are your vocabulary and/or pronunciation pet peeves?

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Missing Person: Jamisha Monique Gilbert

Jamisha Monique Gilbert, missing since November 29, 2013 from Lynchburg, VA
Jamisha Monique Gilbert, missing since November 29, 2013 from Lynchburg, VA

UPDATE DECEMBER 4, 2013 – The body of a black woman has been found near the area where Jamisha disappeared. It is the body of Jamisha. 

This is starting to become too familiar in our area. Another young woman is reported missing.

Jamisha Monique Gilbert is 18 and was last seen the morning of Friday, November 29 by friends. Her car was found wrecked and abandoned on Concord Turnpike.

Jamisha is NOT considered a runaway. She had plans to attend the University of Maryland to study law. She was staying with and caring for a sick relative.

Jamisha is a black woman of medium complexion, 5 feet 5 inches and weighing about 140 pounds. She has brown eyes and black hair and was last seen wearing a white shirt, black jacket and brown boots.

Anyone with information is asked to call the Lynchburg Police Department at 434-455-6054.

There is no indication at this time that Jamisha’s disappearance is in any way associated with the disappearance of Alexis Murphy.

“Lynchburg police search for teen missing since Friday,” Steve Hardy, The Roanoke Times, December 3, 2013.

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Live Like You Were Dying

At some point in our lives, we find ourselves attending more funerals than weddings or baby showers. At age 41, I would expect this. At age nine, no so much.

In the past year, my daughter has had three friends whose parents have died. She only went to one memorial service, to be there for her friend. After all that she has dealt with after my father’s death, I have kept her away from funerals. Today, I attended one for the father of a boy she was friends with in preschool. I haven’t told her about it yet since she doesn’t see this friend that often, but man, what a year.

When I was young, I remember a friend of mine’s mom passed away when I was maybe six or so. Another friend’s father died when we were in high school. But nothing like what has happened in the past year.

And, yes, some of these folks had health issues. But they were still young and everything was sudden.

Last year, a classmate of DD’s mother died. Before that Kat had survived breast cancer. Kicked it in the teeth. But after giving birth to her fourth child, she died at age 37 from a blood clot.

In July, a ten year old friend of the family’s father, Greg, passed away. He was sick, but when he went to the hospital, they didn’t think he was THAT bad. He was 48.

Then Sunday, while spending time outside with his son, the one who had the crush on DD, Craig died. He was only 51.

The amazing thing about these three parents is the love and compassion they had for others. They came from different backgrounds, experiences, economics – yet all their services were filled, some were standing room only, with people whom they touched and loved. I didn’t know the mom who passed away, but I knew the dads. They were amazing people who loved, loved, loved their families.

I guess I should end this saying everyone should live their lives like they are dying. I know since I heard about Craig’s death, I have tried harder. The truth is, reality sets in. We will be who we are when we forget who we want to be. And that is OK when who we are is someone who loves others.

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Missing Person: Dashad “Sage” Smith

Dashad "Sage" Smith - missing since November 20, 2012
Dashad “Sage” Smith – missing since November 20, 2012

Missing Since: 11/20/12
Missing From: Charlottesville, Virginia
Classification: Endangered Missing
Age at Disappearance:19
Race: Black Male
Height: 5’11
Weight: 130
Eyes: Brown
Hair: Black ( Long)
Clothing: Black jacket,dark grey sweatpants,black scarf, and grey boots.
Full name: Dashad Laquinn Smith
Nickname: Sage, Sagey, Unique

Erik Tyquan McFadden wanted for questioning in the disappearance of Sage Smith.
Erik Tyquan McFadden wanted for questioning in the disappearance of Sage Smith.

It’s been almost a year since Sage has been missing from Charlottesville, Virginia. Sage was 19 at the time of her disappearance and is a transgender. She dresses as a man and a woman. She was to meet a man for a date that evening, but has not been seen since. That man, 22-year-old Erik McFadden, is wanted for questioning by Charlottesville police.

McFadden spoke with Sage several times the day of Sage’s disappearance. Whereas he is not a suspect, neither Sage or McFadden have been seen since.

Sage’s case has received some national attention, but her family is frustrated with the community’s lack of support in finding a gay, transgender, African-American.

If you have any information on the whereabouts of Sage or McFadden, call the Charlottesville Police Department at 434-977-9041 or Crimestoppers at 434-977-4000.

Dashad ‘Sage’ Smith Missing: Virginia Police Searching For Transgender Teen – David Lohr, Huffington Post, 11/28/2012
Erik McFadden Wanted For Questioning In Disappearance Of Dashad ‘Sage’ Smith – David Lohr, Huffington Post, 11/29/2012
Families of missing struggle onward – Barrett Mohrmann, Roanoke Times, 10/13/2013

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An Emotional Midsummer’s Night with the Monkees

This past weekend, I took my nine year old daughter to DC to meet up with one of my sisters to go see the Monkees in concert.

I am overcome with emotion. As I compose this post, I am crying.

You may think I am crazier than I already am because I am crying over a Monkees concert For Pete’s Sake (that’s a Monkee joke… look it up). But please read me out as I try to explain my feelings in words I know that will never be adequate.

When I was growing up, I watched the first syndication of The Monkees on TV. This was the 70s, so about ten years after the show was on the air. Ten years later, I became a nutso fan, fueled by my sister (mentioned above). We saw them in concert several times and went to conventions. We even saw Mike join them in LA. It was a fun time and a part of my childhood I will not forget. Although I seemed to forgot that I joined Micky on stage to sing Rio Rio Chiu. I also remember a couple of things about this time in my life… I remember being sick to my stomach before going to a convention in Chicago. I remember being ill in the hotel room. Looking back I realize that it was the beginning of the signs of the depression and anxiety I now live with.

Once I went away from college, I moved away from the music that had meant so much to me. About ten years ago, I started listening again to Papa Nez’s solo stuff, but kind of gave up on the group as a whole.

Most people have music that brings back incredible memories. The Monkees are my memories. Many true lovers of the 1960s music scene look upon them as bubblegum trying to imitate the Beatles. Sure, I admit that is how they started. But once they demanded they write and they perform, the quality of the music changed so much for the better.

So why am I so emotional about seeing them last night? I wish I had a straight answer, but I don’t. The best I can come up with I will write in the form of a note to each member.

To Davy Jones,
I will admit to you right here and now that you were my least favorite of the guys. Part of it was because everyone seemed to have you as their favorite and I wanted to be different. I guess I also felt that you seemed to always live off your Monkees glory days and not move on like the others. I remember seeing you perform in the show The Real Live Brady Bunch at Virginia Tech in the early 90s. You were hysterical and it was nice meeting you after the show. You were so nice, but I admit I was disgusted when I saw someone with you bring up two girls to you after the show. I made an assumption about why they were brought to you, and I there is a chance I am wrong, but somehow I doubt it.

I would like to take this time to apologize. I realize now that it’s not that you lived off the heyday, but that you really loved it. You enjoyed what you did and how you affected people. I read arrogance in what was humor. When you died, a part of my childhood died too. Two months and one day later, my father passed away. So hearing your voice and the tribute the guys did this year really hit me harder than I thought. You really impacted so many in your life and you are greatly missed.

To Micky Dolenz,
I still think you have one of the best voices in rock and roll. Your energy onstage brings out the best in everyone around you. I really admire your talents, but also that you take the time to speak with fans. The way you speak about your children and include your family in all that you do is amazing and something to be admired and imitated.

To Peter Tork, 
This will be the hardest one to write. I love watching you perform on stage. Your talents as a musician are to be envied. What instrument CAN’T you play? But I am going to tell a story on you that few people know. One that has touched me so much and makes me cry whenever I think about it.

It was April 17th or 18th, 2007. Our little community in Blacksburg, VA had just been shaken after a lunatic decided he didn’t want to live anymore and took the lives of 32 students, faculty, and staff at Virginia Tech. When people could not get through to VT, they would call our office in Blacksburg and we were tired, overwhelmed, and in mourning. The phone rang in the office and I answered. A lady called and said she was a representative for Peter Tork and that Peter wanted to come to our community and play a concert as a benefit and who should she speak with to make it happen. I think I sent her to the local theatre in downtown. Unfortunately you did not get to come. More “popular” performers came to VT and played for free in the stadium. But I will never forget your generosity. I am so glad I took that call that day. Peter, if you ever see this, on behalf of the Hokies, I thank you.

Dear Michael Nesmith,
I guess I could say you are my favorite of the guys. Your storytelling ability is the best I have heard. Sometimes it seems that your songs were written about me. The Crippled Lion is my favorite song because I know “my path is planned, but not rehearsed.” When I was pregnant with my first child, I was told to get a focus point for labor and I chose your music. In all honesty, you didn’t help the labor move along, but it did calm me down. Either it was your music or the pain meds, I don’t know. But you have helped me in times of emotional blackness. Your love for words, music, and your odd humor make you such a musical blessing. For someone whose talents mean so much to me, I am totally at a loss to say anything to you other than “Thank You” for bringing so much joy to my heart.

So I guess that is it. Once again, a poor choice of words for something so emotional.

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