Winning for Kayden

“All Day.

Every Day.

No Sleep.


– Kayden D. Williams

I love basketball.

Not college basketball or pro-basketball.

High school basketball.

There is something about the passion the players exude on the court.

The sound of basketball shoes squeaking on the court.

The sound of the basketball hitting the backboard before swishing through the white net.

But on Saturday night, in Elyria, Ohio, there was something more.

Something almost … magical.

That night, two rivals came together to honor one family whose connection to both communities was as strong as the bond shared between siblings.

It was one of love and hate.

The love was for Kayden Williams, and his family.

The hate, well it wasn’t really hate. It was more of a passion burning inside both teams to get the “W” for Kayden.

You see, he and his older brother, KJ, were Wildcats.

His sisters – Pioneers.

Kayden was a Wildcat when he passed away on Dec. 27 from injuries sustained in a single motor vehicle accident on a country road.  KJ graduated from Keystone several years ago.

The Williams family now has two daughters left in high school – and they are both Pioneers through and through.

But on Saturday night, both teams came together to honor Kayden and what he stood for – high school sports – leaving it all on the field/court – and an unwavering dedication to both.

As the game started, the Elyria varsity team ran onto the court wearing a T-shirt remembering Kayden. Moments later, the Keystone varsity basketball team did the same. For several minutes, the two teams just seemed to blend together.

The rivalry paused as the crowd gave a moment of silence for Kayden.

Then, it was game time.

To say both teams gave it 110 percent is an understatement.

It’s as if Kayden was fueling both teams on the court.

But, in the last seconds, it was Brody Kuhl’s three-point shot that gave Keystone the edge they needed to win.

And then, the unthinkable happened. Keystone fans ran onto the court before the game officially ended.

A technical foul was called on Keystone for charging the floor.

Yet, a small miracle happened at the same time. Just as Keystone was charged with a technical foul, the referee determined that Brody had been fouled during his three-point shot.

He was going to the free-throw line.

And he scored.

Elyria also had the opportunity to score due to Keystone’s technical foul, but in the end, the player only made one shot.

The night belonged to Keystone.

It also belonged to the Williams family.

To see Kayden’s brother, KJ jump up and down, cheering for his alma mater was a sight I will never forget.

To watch players run over to the Williams family after the game ended, embracing parents, Sarah and Keenan – I was filled with such pride to be a Keystone Wildcat.

Then, finally to witness Coach Jeff Holzhauer walk over to KJ, saying, “I told ya didn’t I?”

It wasn’t just a win for Keystone Saturday night.

It was a win for the Williams family because I am pretty sure Kayden was whooping and hollering from the heavens just as his family was down on Earth.

Somehow, I think it was his way of letting his family know that he was just fine.

And that in time, they will be too.




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.



A Letter to the High School “It” Girls:

Twenty years ago, I took my final walk on the track of my high school as I received my diploma.

You didn’t know me then and you don’t know me now.

You never even bothered to ask my name.

To you, I was invisible. A nothing.

But today, I am here to prove you wrong. To tell you that your silence spoke volumes.

I never really wanted to be a part of your group, but the least you could have done was at least pretend that I existed. That I mattered.

I was afraid of you. Afraid that you would never accept me for the person I was in high school. I wasn’t cool and popular like you were. We didn’t click in your clique.

But then something amazing happened.

I graduated from high school and forgot you existed until about six months ago when I saw your name appear on a Facebook posting announcing our 20 year class reunion.

I graduated from high school and left the “old Melissa” behind. She stayed in high school. But, in college, she blossomed. She found people that belonged in her own clique. She found people that accepted her for what she is and what she would become later on in life.

Simply put, she flourished.

Eventually, she accepted a job with a local newspaper. Today, she is an award-winning journalist. She has won awards for her columns and newspaper stories that touched thousands of people.

But, will that even matter to you? Do you even care?

My guess is no.

You are still stuck on yourself. You still think you rule the roost. You still think being cool and popular 20 years later makes a difference.

It doesn’t.

What matters is I have a loving spouse, three children and a life that pales in comparison to what you thought I would ever become.

Sure, you have a kid now and I hoped that you may have changed. But no, you are still striving to be the most popular girl on the block … and I don’t want to be anywhere near your or your block.


About the author:

Melissa Linebrink is a reporter/bi-monthly columnist for “The Mommy Wars” printed in The Chronicle-Telegram. She has been featured as a blogger on the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Conference site, She also writes, edits and manages her blog, She can be reached at





‘Only the Good Die Young’ — RIP Lo’


Photo credit – Kristin Bauer

Take a deep breath, take a look around. Enjoy every day as if it’s your last. Life goes by too fast.

Rain showers are expected today and it’s supposed to be humid – I am guessing Logan Stiner had a hand in planning today’s weather forecast. He probably wanted it to rain a little so those who are mourning him and crying can do so without wondering if they are the only ones shedding tears.

That’s the way Logan was … he wanted everyone to feel loved and safe, no exceptions.

You see, Logan died on May 27 – just days before he was set to walk with his classmates at their graduation from high school. Before Logan’s death, the Class of 2014 agreed on Trace Adkins’ “You’re Gonna Miss This” for their song. It’s a song telling the story of a young lady who can’t wait for the next phase of her life to begin – high school, college graduation, marriage and kids. For Logan, this is what he would want for each of his classmates and it’s what he wanted for himself too.

The Keystone Class of 2014 was thrown a curveball when Logan died last week, but they handled it with dignity. They were forced to grow up far more quickly than other graduating seniors.

On Friday, they graduated. On Saturday, a benefit was held in Logan’s memory. On Sunday, the visitation at the funeral home went on for hours. Vehicles lined the parking lot, street and grass. Everyone who wanted to say good-bye to their friend did. Today, the Stiner family is lying to rest a son, brother, nephew, grandson and to Morgan, her boyfriend.

As a journalism student at Bowling Green State University, none of my professors taught us newbies how to cover deaths. There was no clear cut way to make a phone call or walk up to a house. No one told me it would be the hardest job assignment of your life. No one told me how to approach a family whose loved one died. But, you can’t teach compassion. It’s learned.

But on the evening of May 29, I became much more than a reporter as I sat on the garage floor, listening to 20 teenagers tell stories of the one they grew to love and admire over the course of 18 years. I became a sounding board.

I heard stories of Logan being terrified of spiders. I learned he loved chocolate milkshakes – minus the whip cream and cherry. He loved to fish in a local pond. To avoid edging grass at the golf course where he worked, he played, “rock, paper, scissors” with his co-workers – “BEST TWO OUT OF THREE.”

And, I learned he met the girl of his dreams one year and six months ago.

“She was his world,” a close friend said of the couple.

My hope is that Morgan carries the love she had for Logan in her heart forever, but that some time down the road, she lets a new love in. It’s what Logan would have wanted for her. And he will be with her through her life journey – never too far away – he will be there, because he wouldn’t want to miss it.

“These are some good times, so take a good look around … You may not know it now, but you’re gonna miss this”

‘Let It Go’ – a lesson for all of us

“Let it go … Let it go … Can’t hold it back anymore. Let it go … Let it go …” is the refrain of Disney’s “Frozen” theme song.

“Don’t let them in, don’t let them see. Be the good girl you always have to be.”

I think at some time or another in our lives, we have all felt this way.

To hide the true person we are for fear of showing others who we really are – or who we can be.

But instead of merely putting on magical gloves to hide our true selves, we become a one-person “show.”

For me, that time was in high school.

Puberty is such a difficult time and no one knows that better than those of who have survived it.

If you were pretty, popular, smart, athletic or simply, “cool” in high school, chances are, you thrived for those four years.

But, if you were more like me – a wallflower – high school probably dragged on – and on and on. And, if you were like me, your diary tells the true tale of, “I CANNOT WAIT TO LEAVE HOME AND GO TO COLLEGE!”

In high school, if you weren’t part of the “in-crowd” you were left out – perhaps trying and clawing your way to get IN the in-crowd.

Don’t get me wrong, I tried to fit in. I tried to belong. But honestly, it was exhausting.

There was no way I was going to attempt to do a back-flip in an effort to be a cheerleader. You are either flexible or not. You can’t go both ways.

There was no way any amount of extra practice with my clarinet was going to bring me up to “first chair.” A little secret … I only memorized the music and once that song was over for the year, I think I literally felt it leaving my brain, as if to say, “I am SO DONE with that piece … let’s make room for more you won’t ever care about shall we!?”

There was no amount of studying that was going to be put me on the “4.0 honor roll” list. It took everything in me to make it into National Honor Society, and I succeeded. But no, I was never going to be the valedictorian or salutatorian. Or any other “torian” for that matter.

The only thing I had going for me was my ability to write … and even that I didn’t put to good use because I didn’t feel worthy of it. Sure, I held the title of “editor” but I had no idea what that meant for a school newspaper. While everyone else on my “staff” bee-bopped around writing the gossip columns or the advice columns, I was busy trying to edit all of their stuff. The one column I did write I did “anonymously” and it garnered a lot of attention. I should have just slapped my name on it like I do with everything now.

But back then, I didn’t know how to “Let it Go” because I was still holding on for dear life.

The thing is, those closest to me in high school know the real Melissa.

And those I met in college met the Melissa I was meant to be in high school.

And for those who are meeting me now … well, just LET IT GO! I have! Life is too complicated to live in a perfect box set by society’s standards.