My sister-in-law, Rachel Schulenberg was a sweet, thoughtful girl who loved everyone she met. When Rachel left us to go to heaven on January 19th, 2021, we knew that nothing was ever going to be the same again. Rachel left a huge hole in our lives. Rachel wasn’t perfect…none of us are, but she never quit trying to make the lives of those around her happy. As I thought about her birthday this year, I decided to talk to her classmate, Jennifer Durante, who agreed to tell me about the Rachel she knew in school.
Jennifer first met Rachel in gym class, and they became good friends from that time forward. She was impressed the fact that Rachel was always “put together” at school. While most teenagers are lucky to get out of bed and get to school in sweatpants and a t-shirt, Rachel made sure that her hair and makeup were always perfect. She always dressed in skirts and heels, and always looked like a model. She was a classy lady, and anyone who knew her would agree to that statement. Rachel took pride in who she was, and that always showed. One day in gym class, a classmate made a rude remark about Rachel having stretchmarks on her legs, and Rachel, who didn’t like or allow bullying, immediately put that girl in her place. She told her that her stretchmarks came from her pregnancy, and that she was proud to be a mom. I can hear the silence now. That snotty little girl who thought she knew something, and knew nothing was immediately shot down. Rachel stood up or the little guy, and she was not about to be made a victim herself. That rude classmate knew nothing about Rachel’s life, and she had no right to bully her.
Rachel worked hard and got good grades in school. She was also very proud of being a mom, who wouldn’t let the circumstances of life hold her back from being the best she could be. She was determined to make a good life for her and her daughter, Cassie. In her Junior and Senior years of high school, she went to school during the day and worked at Wendy’s in the evenings and weekends to support herself and Cassie. Like most teenagers, Rachel didn’t always see eye to eye with her father, Cliff Franklin and her step-mom, Jan, but she never doubted their love for her, and she was always thankful for their support of her in being both a teenager and a mom.
Like most teenagers, Rachel liked to live life fast and play her music loud!! She loved to dance and because of her bubbly personality, she brought a ray of sunshine everywhere she went. Rachel was a great comedian and knew how to make people laugh, or even how defuse a bad situation. Those are such great qualities to have. Rachel was a mom first, and she didn’t really get to go out much, but on the rare occasion, when she was able to go out and be a wild teenager, Jennifer tells me that she was the life of any party. It was as if she walked into a room, threw her arms up in the air and proclaimed “I have arrived, let’s get this party started!!” Rachel lives in Heaven now, but I can just hear her as she walked into Heaven saying that very thing. Today would have been Rachel’s 46th birthday. Happy first birthday in Heaven Rachel, we sure love and miss you here.
There are people out there, who are just always happy. My niece Kellie is like that. Things just don’t get under her skin, like they do for most of us. I guess there just isn’t room for bothersome things with Kellie, because silliness and giggles live there. Don’t get me wrong, Kellie is a hard worker, and she can be serious if the situation warrants it, but she much prefers to be funny. She loves to make people laugh, and what better trait to have than that. Of course, Kellie comes by it honestly. Her whole family is like that. The girls have nicknames for each other, like Jeff for Jessi, and Lance for Lindsay. And their mom, my sister has nicknames for the kids too, like Baby Jessi (which she still is called today) Squirrel (which Lindsay is also still called), the boy (for Ryan, of course), and Pretty, Teeny, Sweet, and Little (which definitely doesn’t fit Kellie now, as the tallest girl). And Kellie also has a nickname from her sister-in-law, Chelsea…Keeker, which I think is quite cute too. And Kellie makes sure she gets in on the nicknames too, because since several of us are on the short side, and she is tall, we have been dubbed the wee ones.
As I have said, Kellie is tall. She is actually 5’11” tall. When she was in high school, and playing basketball, her coach used to say that she was 6 feet tall, as a way of intimidation for the other team. Well, as I said, Kellie likes to laugh, and that always struck her as very funny, so she would be out on the court, playing, and she couldn’t stop laughing. Of course, the coach had a different plan in mind for Kellie. When he said that she was 6 feet tall, he was envisioning a mean looking player that would scare the socks off the other team. Kellie was a good player, but she didn’t have a mean or intimidating bone in her body, so he tried to help make that happen…by yelling out to her, “Kellie! Stop smiling!” Now telling Kellie to stop laughing or smiling, is like telling her to stop breathing. It just wasn’t going to happen.
And Kellie had the same problems in her gym class. She just can’t stop laughing. One time in gym class, the teacher heard the normal bout of laughter, and of course, knew exactly who was doing the laughing. The teacher yelled out, “Kellie! Shut up!” Suddenly, there was silence in the room…pretty unexpected I’m sure. Then, out of the silence, someone said, “Kellie isn’t here today.” Now I don’t know about you, but I would have totally lost it right about then…as I’m quite sure the rest of the class did. I would have loved to see the teacher’s face right then too. Hahahahahaha!! Classic!!! Today is Kellie’s birthday!! And just as soon as I stop laughing, I’m going to tell her happy birthday. Love you Kellie!! Happy birthday, and have a great day!! And…don’t be so serious…smile sometimes!!! Hahahahahahaha!!!