Coping with community deaths

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Death …

I don’t even know where to start.

But I do know this … while searching the Internet, scrolling for the right inspirational quotes to help me get my start, I came across two.

The first one read: “Keep your head up. God gives his hardest battles to his strongest soldiers.”

The other read: “Today only comes once.”

Well, in our tiny village, we must be the BEST strongest soldiers because within the past five days, we have endured two life-altering battles.

And we are still here for one another, holding each other up through all the pain.

We will not break, oh no … but we are allowed to hurt.

And we are.

On Saturday, a mom whose children once attended the Keystone Schools, passed away. She was 36; and left behind two children. Her smile was infectious and her hair, stunning.

While parents were left wondering “Why?” and “How did this happen?” all while trying to explain to our children that Jessica is “in a better place” we are really trying to understand … is she really? Is there a better place other than being here on Earth with her two little ones?

So, for five days, parents living and working in the same community that Jessica once did, did the best we could to enjoy the Christmas holiday with our loved ones, all while trying to cope with our own grief.

We put on smiles, ate too much and watched as our kiddos opened presents on Christmas morning.

I’d like to say we were slowly coming to realize our worst fear had come true – Jessica was indeed gone too soon – but I still think most of us are in a state of denial.

Then, just as we began to piece our lives back together, our community and spirits came crashing down.

On Wednesday morning, the word that a 17-year-old Keystone High School student died from injuries sustained in a single car crash spread through the LaGrange and Elyria communities like wildfire.

Kayden Williams – a football player with a heart of gold who was loved by all families in the area – will never step on the football field again. He will never walk the halls of Keystone High. He will never live the life his parents dreamed of for him.

The worst part of Kayden’s death? I had to tell my son, a freshman at the same school, that a fellow student who he saw on a daily basis, died. How does a parent even do that? There isn’t a book, outlining the steps on how to tell your son that someone who had his entire future ahead of him has died. That there is no rhyme or reason why Kayden is no longer spending the holiday break with his parents and siblings.

My 9-year-old daughter said it best … “I know he’s in Heaven with Jesus, but Mom, he didn’t even get to play with his presents from Santa.”

So, on this Thursday – a day when I will be paying my respects to the York family – I will keep my head up.

I will be a soldier for my children, to let them know that bad things happen to good people, and there really is no explanation.

And then, then I will remind them to live each day like it is their last … because TODAY only comes ONCE.

RIP Jessica and RIP Kayden

 

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An infectious smile, and stunning hair

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“And with a broken wing, she still sings
She keeps an eye on the sky
With a broken wing, she carries her dreams
Man, you ought to see her fly”

– Martina McBride, “With a Broken Wing”

The infectious smile was the first thing I noticed about her.

And then, then it was her stunning hair.

But her life was more than her smile and hair.

She was a devoted mother, sister, niece, friend and employee.

Everyone loved her. And she loved them.

The last time I saw her was at a Jennifer Nettles concert at Lorain County Community College. She wore a vibrant pink dress, pink lipstick and white hair spiked up an inch high.

Never in a million years could I pull off that trendy/hip look. She OWNED IT!

Like a lot of people in our small community, our paths crossed mostly through Facebook or at local functions/sporting events.

Every day, she posted a new selfie on Facebook. She was the Queen of Selfies. But not in a vain way. She just wanted to give everyone a smile. It was her way of giving the world a gift. My personal favorites were of standing next to a country singer. Oh, how she loved her country music singers!

And her gift of going out of her way to help others in need. She would take a moment out of her busy day to help others by listening to their concerns, offering advice and just letting them know she would be there for them.

One time, after volunteering to help a local family in need by way of a benefit, she told me: “I wanted to help but wasn’t sure how. Apparently a couple other people felt the same way. I didn’t hesitate for a single second to offer my help in any way that I possibly could!”

And that was Jessica. In a nutshell.

Now the world is left without her smile. We will never see her vibrant hair – whatever color she wanted it to be – because she left Earth far too early. No one knows why. No one will ever understand the reason.

So, to you Jessica, may you Rest in Heaven. For those of us who knew her, I pray we will come together as a community and never let her kiddos forget the woman who smiled to all of us every day.

 

A ‘Gramma’ for all of us

We were not the “cool kids,” but we certainly thought we were.

In reality, we were Catholic-grade school kiddos who twice a week walked about two blocks from our private school to the public middle school just to “be in the band.”

Not a rock band either – concert band.

There were seven of us – Lisa, Fidel, Devon, Allison, Matt, Michelle and myself. Lisa played the drums; Fidel, Matt and Allison were trumpet players and rest of us, clarinets. And none of us were THAT great. But, twice a week we got to mingle with the PUBLIC school kids.

And that alone made us “cool” in our minds.

I don’t remember what time we had to leave, but I do remember we always told our private school teacher that “we had to be there early” … that was our code.

We never had to be there early. In fact, most of the time we didn’t want to go – we just wanted out of school.

So there we went – in the rain, snow and any type of weather in between. The seven of us.

But, secretly, we were making a pit-stop.

You see, in between our school and the public school, in a two-story white house Lisa’s grandparents lived.

If I close my eyes, I can still remember walking into the side door and then up three steps into the small kitchen. Inside the kitchen was a table – making it even smaller, but no one ever sat in the dining room. Everyone congregated inside the kitchen.

And there would be Lisa’s grandma – we all just called her Gramma Sanchez – offering us nothing short of a meal. Wearing her button-up smock, Gramma Sanchez gave us warm tortilla shells – made with love and tasted like heaven.

Eventually, we forced ourselves to leave her house, but we knew we’d be back.

After we all graduated from Catholic school, the seven of us were never in the house at the same time ever again. But, that didn’t mean we never saw Gramma Sanchez again.

She was everywhere in our hometown – what with having six kids and too many grandchildren, great-grandchildren and nieces and nephews to count – she stayed busy.

Gramma Sanchez was the most loved Gramma in my opinion. No matter how busy she seemed to be, she never shooed us band kids out of her kitchen. She never told us to stop coming. She never stopped making tortilla shells or tamales. She was a gramma to all of us.

Today, Nov. 2, she was called “home.” There, she was welcomed in the arms of her daughter CeCe, her husband and countless other relatives. I am pretty sure she is smiling down at her children and grandchildren left on Earth – watching them with that careful eye that only a grandmother has – all while telling stories of those crazy kiddos from St. Mary’s who never wanted to leave her kitchen.

 

 

Time is slipping away

It’s happening.

On Monday, my firstborn will enter high school as a freshman.

Wasn’t I just feeding him a bottle and putting him down for a nap?

Weren’t we just in the beginning stages of potty training?

Weren’t we just teaching him how to read a book and write his name?

Somewhere after July 17, 2008 time seemed to blur – that was the day the twins were born and life as I knew it before being a mom to one kiddo evaporated.

Within a few short hours, I went from devoting all of my time to one kid to sharing it between three.

What I would give to have a few moments left where I just had one child. That’s not to say I don’t love my other kids. I do. I just miss the one-on-one time spent between my firstborn and myself.

Sure, we make time to chat, but gone are the days when I was his world.

For more than five years, he was my everything.

He was my errand-runner, picnic-partner, pool-entertainment and my only son.

Then in one quick swoop, I had to share my time, energy and love.

Eight years seems to have gone by in eight seconds.

One day I was watching him get on the school bus at the end of our driveway, crying as the bus drove away. The next, I sat in the back of a classroom listening to all the required requirements for graduating from high school.

Excuse me. No. This cannot be happening! I refuse to believe I am old enough to have a freshman in high school. In my mind, I am still 25 years old. I don’t feel old enough to have a kid in high school.

But I do.

During orientation, I saw his name on the PowerPoint presentation as class treasurer. At varsity soccer games, his name is announced over the loudspeaker as goalkeeper.

I am just a sideline spectator now – watching with baited breath that he makes the right decisions and chooses the right path in life.

And while I am not 100 percent OK with that status, I accept it because after all I was a high school freshman once – 24 years ago – and I’m pretty sure my parents felt the same way.

 

 

Top 10 things you should experience before parenthood

Parenthood is not a walk in the park. Is it rewarding? Absolutely – especially as your children age and you realize you didn’t scar them for life.

But, before embarking on the longest journey of your life, there are a few things to consider, or experience:

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COMMON CORE MATH

#10: Find a First Grade Math book and start studying it now. Common Core is the worst form of math ever created. Start learning it now, before you have kids. Maybe by the time you child enters first grade, you will understand it enough to form a support group in your kid’s school. You will have a bigger following than the school’s PTA.

#9: Store a container of milk on the kitchen counter. Leave it there for a week. After it’s set out in the heat, open it up and take a whiff. That is will be the same odor you will smell after you realize your kid dropped their sippy cup in the car, and you can’t find it for a week or longer. It will smell like death, and probably, so will your car.

#8: Ask a friend to borrow a bin of Legos. Drop them over your floor. Walk on them without shoes. Walking on Legos is a rite of passage into parenthood. If you can walk over Legos with bare feet and not bat an eyelash, you will survive parenthood.

#7: Borrow a child. Attempt to take a shower or simply go to the bathroom. Listen as that child screams “MOM” or “DAD” 10,000 times in a matter of minutes. That will be how you use the bathroom for the rest of your life. Enjoy showering and peeing in peace now.

#6: Buy stock in the following items: tissues, toilet paper, napkins, Band-Aids, plastic cups, diapers, baby wipes, milk and hot dogs. Those items will magically disappear right before your eyes. And if you think you have “one more gallon of milk stored away” – think again. Eventually, a neighbor may see your FB post about being out of milk … yet again … and they will drive down to give you theirs.

#5: Be prepared to no longer have a social life with friends. Your social life will now consist of playdates, baseball games, softball games, tournaments and birthday parties. The days of making a split decision to grab a nice dinner and movie are gone … at least until you can afford a babysitter and escape for four hours.

#4: Learn how to control your gut instinct to throw up at the first sight of … well, throw up. Kids cannot control their bodily fluids. It doesn’t matter if the trash can is right next to their bed. They will miss and the vomit will end up on their floor. Hold your breath and pray as you are forced to clean up the mess at 2 a.m. (Because that is when kids get sick the most often – in the middle of the night.)

#3: Take a class in negotiation. It doesn’t matter how many children you have … you will be forced to bribe them to do the most mundane activities – like brush their teeth, pee before bed or get dressed.

#2: Take a VACATION with your partner. Once you have children, and you take them with you, it’s no longer a VACATION. It becomes a TRIP.

#1: Before having kids, set your alarm for every three hours. This is how often you will be up once you bring a newborn home – probably less in reality. And you will never get a full night of sleep again.

Melissa Linebrink is an award-winning blogger. Read her blog at http://parenthoodthenewcrazytrain.com. Follow her on Twitter @train_crazy or Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/ParenthoodthenewCrazyTrain/

 

 

Hey you there: Are you stressed?

My mom broke the unspoken rule of motherhood the other day.

She asked me if I was stressed.

I lied and told her everything was fine.

She didn’t need to know that I can’t even go to the bathroom without someone screaming, “MOOOOMMMM!!!” Most summer days, I don’t shower until 10 p.m. My husband comes home to a ragged, dark-circles-under-eyes, exhausted as hell wife with her dirty hair in a clip, pulling her bangs away from her face. The days I do appear showered and put together, he wants to know where we are going that night.

She doesn’t need to know that every day my kids fight, whine and argue like they are trying to set a world record for “Aggravating Mom the Most.”

She doesn’t need to know that me working from home when my kids are home is getting increasingly more difficult as my kids age. I thought it would be easier, but it’s because my children no longer take naps. Back, long, long ago, I had two to three hours of peace and quiet during the day. That was MY time. A time when if I needed to nap, I could grab 20 minutes and feel rested. If I needed to work, I could. Now, my kids surround me like a bee to a flower. Buzzing, buzzing … all the time.

She doesn’t need to know that rather than be a mom to my 14-year-old son, I am now his personal taxi service for all high school sporting events. Who has practice at 5 p.m. on the weekdays? Answer … my son.

She wanted to know what she could do help ease my stress. She let me know that she is there for me if I needed to talk. I actually told her I have no time to talk – that is what talk-to-texting is for where I don’t need to have a conversation for 20 minutes, explaining why I am stressed.

Besides, no one cares!

A day later, I confessed I was stressed. Who isn’t?

Moms are all in the same boat – making our way through muddied waters called Motherhood. Day in and day out, we experience the same problems. And it doesn’t matter if you are a stay-at-home mom, working-mom or whatever-type-of mom.

Being a mom is stressful enough without adding all the extras – like laundry, cleaning, cooking, dishes and sleeping (if we are lucky).

To know that we are responsible for our children is an insane amount of stress – especially if we don’t want our kids turning into Neanderhtals later in life.

We have to dole out the chores, the punishments, the rewards, the explanations. We have to set good examples.

We have to make sure they are associating themselves with the right kind of people.

We have to make sure they receive proper nutrition and the right amount of sleep.

We have to control how much screen time they have on a daily basis.

The list is endless.

And it’s not just moms … this goes for dads too. Parenthood is the hardest job I have ever had in my life. Some days, I yearn for my college days where the only person who I was in charge of was me. I’d give anything to pull an all-nighter, cramming for an exam. I’d give anything to have two days to write a 10-page-double-spaced paper on revolution. I’d give anything to live in dorm with 200 other people.

This isn’t saying I don’t wish I was 19 years old again. Because, I don’t. I don’t miss my teens, 20s or what’s left of my 30s (which is six months). Those years are who made me the crazy, loud, fun-loving, honest, hard-working mom I am today.

So, yes, I will continue to pretend everything is fine; and that I am not stressed because no one wants to be weighed down by my problems because we all have them – it’s just how we deal with them that makes us … us.

If it slithers, creeps or crawls …

Apparently my kids never got the memo about my strong dislike for nature.

It should be noted that I live in the country with a creek running behind my house, surrounded by farmland.

For most, this would be paradise. And 80 percent of the time it IS paradise.

Until I start seeing creatures that slither, creep along and otherwise scare the living daylights out of me.

Last night was perfect for a stroll through the park. Trees, fishing ponds and benches dot the two-mile loop of the paved path.

It was perfect until I saw something flopping out of the corner of my eye near the tree-line.

I screamed and did that pathetic “girly move” where I moved my hands up and down in a super quick motion while jumping in place. I was trying to make the creature more afraid of me.

I looked like an idiot.

My friends walking behind us quipped up, “You OK??”

“Yup, sure am … it was a bird!” I said picking up the pace.

Later that same evening, while sitting on our deck underneath the pergola with twinkling white lights, our son presented us with a gift.

The tiniest frog known to man-kind.

I moved away in my chair. My husband gathered the small frog in between his two fingers and put it on my friend’s toe.

She also screamed.

And all of us live within a country-block of each other. You’d think by now we’d know what to expect living out here.

Snakes are slithering through our yards. A craw-daddy with large claws has taken up residence in a mud-hole behind our basketball hoop. The coyotes hold nightly conventions in the woods behind our house.

Two weeks ago, while on her riding lawn mower, my friend ran over a snake.

This week, I almost stepped on a snake in our yard.

And granted these snakes are mostly your small, yard snakes that eat bugs, but a snake is a snake is a snake.

Why did I think moving to the country would be an ideal environment to raise our children?

And now we have tiny frogs that are multiplying in and around our house at lightning speed. And our son has a keen eye to find them.

“Hey mom!! Quick!! GET ME A JAR!”

Then he plopped the frog inside. I thought it was dead … until it hopped … and scared me half-to-death.

I hate living out here in BFE.

The author, Melissa Linebrink, was recently awarded first place in 2017 Ohio’s Best Journalism in the “Best Overall Blog” category. She also placed first in the same category in 2016 for her blog, “Parenthood: The New Crazy Train.”