Celebrating Life and Grieving Loss

I know the tone of our blog has taken a downward turn as of late. Unfortunately, in spite of great joy in most aspects of our life, we have had more than one instance of bad news. My last post about our dear friends moving was sad to write. But even sadder still was the news of the passing of my sister Brittany at the age of 29. This is our family blog, so we document the thoughts, experiences and happenings of our family. Even though I debated much about adding anything to the blog about her death, it is one of the most affecting events in my life and can’t be excluded. I’m not ready to write much detail about the actual passing, and perhaps I never will be. But I do want to include the eulogy which I shared in Akron at her memorial service in front of at least 100 friends and family members who have known us since our earliest days. I also want to share a letter which she wrote me to accompany my birthday present two years ago, but that will be saved for another post. Below you will find what I wrote for her memorial service:

My Dad gave the eulogy for Brittany at the service we had in Austin. There were over 300 people at there and I hugged each of them, which was hard at first but got easier as the hugging went on. My dad wrote out every word which I don’t normally do when I speak in front of people, but this is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to say to a room of people so I’m going write the whole thing out. I’m going to begin with the poem he read on Thursday. It’s not a poem I would have picked, but when he read it in that room it just made sense. Here it is: Continue reading

A Tale of Two Jennifers

When we had been in California just a few weeks I surprised Rob by sobbing myself to sleep. I have had many wonderful friends in my life, but I was particularly missing my great friend Jennifer. She’s the kind of friend who takes you just how you are. The kind of friend who invited me over for giant salads for lunch while the kids play and we chatted on the couch and folded laundry together. She was the woman I was doing the business of motherhood with. We traded piano lessons for my kids for doula support during her fourth daughter’s birth. My 6 year old stood on her porch in a temper tantrum and refused to take lessons from her. I almost had to catch her baby girl because she was birthing so fast the midwife nearly missed it. We have been in the trenches of life together.

brunch:jenniferI was lonely for her company and the comfort of knowing she was just 5 blocks down the road and I could meet her in the park at any time. I was sad that her sweet children would be growing up and I would only see it on facebook.

We grew close after years of hanging out with a wonderful group of ladies for regular brunches. We both lived in the same neighborhood so we had set up a weekly lunch on Wednesdays so we could have consistent babysitting for doctor appointments and such, and on the weeks we didn’t need a sitter we just enjoyed our time together. We took zoo trips and saw children’s theater performances. We canned tomato sauce and peaches. I loved all the women from our brunch group, but losing Jennifer’s company was like moving away from family.


It was quite a surprise to me when, after moving to California, I met another Jennifer who became like family. We met at a homeschool park day and we were both new to the area. I invited her family over to dinner because we were desperate to make new connections and I thought maybe they’d be lonely for friendships too. That first dinner together we became fast friends. We joked comfortably. Her husband Ben and Rob had a great time as well, and the kids trampled all through the patio playing like long-time friends.

beach:jenniferOver the course of the year and half I have known my California Jennifer our friendship has grown dear. Our kids are like cousins. She’s seen my kitchen loaded with dishes. I’ve seen her floor scattered with orphan socks. I can call her when I’m stuck in a horrible mood, and she can stop over for impromptu dinner on a week night. We have been in the trenches of life together. She’s not my only friend here in California, but she’s grown to be like a sister. Just like my Ohio Jennifer.

And just like my Ohio Jennifer, my California Jennifer and I will be living our friendship at a distance. Jennifer and her family will be relocating back to their beloved Pennsylvania. Though I am happy for them that they are going home, I am sad because they are taking a large piece of my sense of home with them.

So this post is an ode to the two Jennifers of my heart. Ohio Jennifer and California Jennifer. O.J. and C.J. My life is sweeter because you are in it, even if I will have to count on social media and phone calls to stay close.

Bigger and Better

While I ran errands today I drove through Highland Square, the little town center I’ve called home for the last 10 years. In that time, I have seen it change a little here, a bit more there. For example, the closing of Two Amigos. Or, the knocking down of the Star Market to build the shopping center with Chipotle and the new Highland Square branch of the Akron Library. The development that has happened has been controversial, but over all, I would have to say the Square is improving.

I moved to the West Hill/ Highland Square area with my pseudo-sister Sharon after we graduated from High School. We rented an apartment which we named “Spiritual Rehab,” and lived there for a year. After our lease was up, she got married and moved in with her husband to a two bedroom apartment in the Crescent Apartments right in the heart of the Square. When we’d visit together we’d sit on the grassy spot between the Crescent and her twin building the Von and drink coffee from Angel Falls. I always wished I had gotten an apartment in one of those buildings.

Instead, when I married Rob we moved into the second and third floor of a century home in West Hill. Sharon and my sister Brittany planned my bachelorette party. We met in Highland Square (can anyone remember where?! I am drawing a blank) first, and Sharon introduced our event for the evening. We divided into two groups and each group was given a penny. We were given a two hour time limit and told that we had to ask strangers to trade us the penny for something “bigger and better.” Then to trade the next thing for something else bigger and better. Hence, the name of the game: Bigger and Better.

One group took off in their cars. My group crossed the street and went into the Crescent apartments and started knocking on doors. In one apartment we traded the penny for a quarter. In the next a man in his underwear holding a cat traded us the quarter for a frisbee. We knocked on a few more doors only to get rejected, so we crossed the driveway over to the Von.

We were much more successful there. At the first door we tried we were invited into a home which was decorated with neon green walls and a spiral of microwaved CDs on the wall. Not only were the renters super nice, but they traded us the frisbee for a plastic 80s elementary school chair. We thanked them and tried another apartment on the third floor. Those renters traded us the school chair for an oak desk.

We carried the desk down three flights of stairs, just about out of time, and shoved it into the back seat of Brittany’s car. We ran out of room in the back seat for people, so my friend Eliza rode in the trunk. When we got to the restaurant we where we had agreed to meet up, the other group had traded their penny for another friend of mine who came along to the party. I decided that was cheating, so we won. Besides it was my bachelorette party, so I got to win no matter what. In the end we ended up giving the desk to the friend who the penny was traded for and it was a successful night for everyone.

So that’s my story of the Crescent and the Von. Today I watched a backhoe knock them down to rubble. I couldn’t help but wonder if what was going there in their place will be bigger and better. Or maybe it’s just more parking. Does anyone out there in Akronville know the story? What’s going to live in the footprint of the great twins of Highland Square?