Coping with community deaths

keystone

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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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.

Middle school dances — awesome or lame?

The year was 1990. I was 12 years old – not even a “teenager” yet when I went to my first junior high dance.
It cost $2 to get into the “Skylark” – the dance club for teens in my hometown. Inside the double doors was a coat rack that led to a small eatery that offered single slices of pizza, candy and pop for an additional fee.
Four steps off of the eatery was the dance floor. To the left was a small stage where the disco-type lights were displayed for special effects. And all along the walls were red and blue plastic-covered booths – ideal for “necking.”
The DJ sat in an actual booth high above the dance floor enclosed in plexiglass.
During the dances, girls typically mingled with the girls – on either the dance floor or primping in the bathroom. And the boys, they basically stood around like wallflowers.
Except when a slow song would boom through the speakers – this is when the boys who were brave enough to ask a girl to slow dance would walk up to her and silently pray she would say, “yes” to his one request. This was also a prime time for girls to have their girlfriends ask a boy to “dance with her good friend.”
That’s how my first dance happened with a boy.
The song, “More than Words” by the band Extreme began playing and I had a friend of mine ask a boy to dance with me.
He said yes.
I began breaking out into a full-blown sweat. Was my hair OK? Did I put on enough “Taboo” perfume for him to notice? Where was my last piece of gum? Quick, give me a mint!
Anyways, we danced together for the 4-minute song and then as soon as the song ended, it was like the parting of the Red Sea – boom – we scattered and ran to our separate corners of the dance floor.
Flash-forward 24 years later … my oldest, now 11, attended his first middle school dance. I know he is only in the sixth grade, but by today’s standards, sixth grade is really the new seventh grade.
The week preceding the dance, I asked him at least 10 times if he had any desire to go to the dance. And every time, he responded with the same answer – “NO!”
So, it was only fitting that three hours before the dance, he decided to go.
But, not only did he want to go, he didn’t want his dad to take him and drop him off. I was working in the newsroom, so I was of no help. Besides, I don’t think he wanted me to be the one pulling up to the school in my “mom van.” That just screams, “UNCOOL!” Lucky for him, another mom was taking her son, plus a few other boys and had one spot left for him.
As I was leaving for work Friday, he was actually getting ready to take a shower … without being asked 100 times! He even wore a pair of jeans and a white-stripped polo shirt.

He wasn’t too chatty about the dance, but I did learn that he hung out with a group of “guys” and the first dance was the “Cha-Cha Shuffle” where you “slide to the left, now everybody clap your hands” which is a GREAT song … and kinda made me wish I was on the dance floor with him instead of sitting in a newsroom. However, I am pretty sure he didn’t feel the same way.