Monthly Archives

May 2018

School

Well, my Logan is officially done high school.  Wednesday of this week was his last day and we were all a little verklempt over it.  Logan and I are always up together first thing in the day and I asked him how he was feeling about the end of this phase of this life.

“Honestly, I’m a bit sad.  I like school.”

Yep, you read that right.  Logan is one of the kids that enjoys everything about education.  He is an active learner, loves the structure of the day, and appreciates the opportunity to interact with kids that he wouldn’t normally see around town.  He has enjoyed challenging conversations with his teachers and he loves to be funny.  As a parent and an educator, my heart swelled when he articulated those feelings.  How lucky is he that this environment we spend so much time in makes him happy? Well, the answer is very.  Because for every Logan Inwood in a class, there are four others who are hating every moment.

Enter Luke Inwood.  Luke began to dislike school when it started to infringe on his social life. lol.  Right about seventh grade.  Luke had been an introverted kid until he was ten, and then, as Mrs. Atlas likes to tell it, he came waaaaay out of his shell. Like, “let’s get him back in there” kind of way out. lol Luke became beautiful and smart and popular and athletic all at the same time.  And when the hormones hit, he became beautiful and smart and popular and athletic and a jackass.  The EGO on this boy.  And the mouth.  And all of those qualities can make for an incredibly difficult dynamic between a teacher and a student.  Or a parent and a child, truth be told.

To say that Luke had a rough experience at school from eighth grade on is somehow an understatement.  He swore, slept, and sassed his way through five years.  I tell people Luke had 27 dhalls the first month of high school and they wonder how that’s even possible, but if you knew Luke and witnessed his singular hatred of authority, it’s a miracle he wasn’t expelled.  Because despite all this, Luke showed up for school.  Almost every day.  The boy just wanted to be with his friends and make them laugh.  That’s all.  But school overcomplicates things and we need you to look like you’re learning, and we need you to do homework, and we need you to pass state tests, and we want you to graduate and go to a good college, and we definitely don’t want any lip while you’re doing it.

There was a time when Luke was so incredibly beaten down by the system that we actually begged him to quit.  He wouldn’t because he always wanted his crew to think the best of him.  The pain he endured was worth it if his friends still thought highly of him.  King Luke Forever.    

Sadly, school turned out to be the final straw for my boy.  Now don’t get me wrong, there were a lot of culminating factors that lead to Luke’s decision, but school did not help.  Raising a boy and losing a boy who had such a rough school experience changed me as an educator.  In my short tenure I have had more than a few Luke Inwoods in my class.  I would like to think my peers would tell you I love the ones with “personality”. lol.  I’m not perfect or better than anyone else, but my intention is more clear because of my experience.  Love them, love them, love them.  Joy in the learning, joy in the learning, joy in the learning.

So here’s what I need you to know:  If you have a Logan Inwood, thank the Universe every day.  We go to school for at least thirteen years of our lives and if your child loves it, the path is so much easier.  Thank your child while you are at it!  Thank you, Lolo!  And if you have a Luke Inwood… well, thank the Universe every day. Trust me when I say, when they are gone, the silence left behind in the wake of their huge personalities is deafening.  So embrace it and love them for it and remind yourself and your child that school is not the end all be all.  Who you are as a student does NOT define who you are as a human being.  Value their kindness and their dancing and their karate chop and their fast ball AND THEIR HEART as much, or more, than their grades.  Luke Inwood may not have been the world’s best student, but he loved who he loved fiercely.  And isn’t that the whole point?

Xxx

I need you to know

Finding Support

So, at some point after your child has passed away, after days on end of tears and sadness and darkness, you decide you need some help.  You wake up one morning and realize it is just not getting any easier.  Some people reach to medication; others to therapy and support groups.  Any and all of  these things have a place and I think it’s important to recognize that what works for one person, may not work for another.  You have to do what feels right for you in the place you are in and there is no shame in any solution.  In my humble opinion, losing a child is the hardest thing any human being could be asked to endure, so anything that numbs the pain is a blessing in my book.  Early on, I would proudly announce that I hadn’t needed medication, that I was handling my grief all on my own.  It makes me laugh, now, thinking how blind I was to what the grief was doing to me on the inside, but my descent into darkness is a tale for another day.

I think with the onset of grief, the biggest concern as a bereaved parent is how do I make this hurt less. That was definitely John’s number one question when we went to our first Compassionate Friends meeting.  Compassionate Friends is a national organization dedicated to helping families who have lost a child.  They meet monthly and after it was recommended to us, we decided we had nothing to lose and hopefully, some peace to gain.  I think John and I were both a little nervous that first night.  You need to know that everyone was very welcoming.  You need to know everyone was very sorry that we were there.  You need to know it was very sad.  Incredibly sad.  I have said often, since Luke’s death, that it can always be worse, and this was a perfect reminder of that.  There was a couple there whose son had passed away under difficult circumstances and this mom was beyond devastated.  It was taking everything the husband had to hold her, and himself, together.  How does this possibly help? I hear you wondering.  Well, two things.  One, this family needed to share what they had been through.  By putting words to their experience and to their pain, they released it.  When you bottle up your pain and push it down, it takes an immense amount of emotional energy to keep it there.  So coming that night and sharing launched their healing.  Two, for John and I, even though it was only two months after losing Luke, we were able to look at the rawness of their grief and realize that we were actually a little bit better.  We could look at them and see where we had been and where we were now and recognize the small step forward we had made.  It was teeny, but it was Everything.

So here’s what I need you to know: I have begun my own non-profit organization, Hope Lives Here.  As helpful as Compassionate Friends was, I wanted to create a group whose focus would be on moving forward through grief and healing.  For John and I, our biggest fear was that we would be stuck in that place of pain forever… and I don’t want anyone to ever feel that way.  If today is your Day One, you are not going to believe me when I say this, but it gets better.  Being with others who have walked your path truly helps.  You are not alone.  Maybe, just maybe, you will come to one of our meetings and I will see you soon. I will hug you, and listen to the love story of you and your child, and we will both cry, and most importantly, we will both feel just a little bit better.

Wishing you peace. Xxx

Compassionate Friends

Hope Lives Here

 

 

 

The FIrst Days, Things that help

To Moms, With Love

When I was a little girl, the only thing I ever wanted to be was a mother.  Well, I wanted to get married, be a mom, and do a little volunteer work to fill my day.  I wanted four (yes, you read that right, lol) beautiful babies to love and raise as my family, and then I wanted to be surrounded by their families for the rest of my life.  It didn’t turn out exactly like that, but I did get to be a momma.

No one tells you being a mother is so freaking hard.  It is late nights, and early mornings, and tears – theirs and yours.  There is the worry.  You spend so much time worrying that you’re doing it right, worrying every time one of them has a problem, worrying about driving, and school, and having friends.  Suddenly, you carry not only your own troubles, but those of each of your children, as well. I think what is the hardest, as a mom, is the fear.  Fear of them getting hurt, fear of them getting sick, fear of them getting into a situation that you can’t fix.  You know that feeling in the pit of your stomach you get as soon as trouble hits?  That’s fear. But then that momma bear instinct kicks in and makes you do anything to just keep your child safe.  Because what we fear most, of course, is the losing.  And rightly so, my fellow mamas, rightly so.

So here I am, living out what we fear most.  And it is horrible – I won’t tell you it’s not, but the truth of it is, even if I knew this was how it was all going to play out, I wouldn’t change a thing.  Being a mom and loving my boys is my proudest accomplishment.  I am grateful every day that the Universe gave me the job of Momma Inwood.  It might hold some heartache, but it is worth it. There really is no greater love, no greater gift, than to grow and nurture a child.

So here’s what I need you to know:  Today is Mother’s Day.  If you are a mother, and no one has told you lately, you are doing an amazing job. 🙂  If you are a momma missing a piece of your heart, I am in awe because I know what it is to love across the stars.  Thinking of all the moms out there today, and wishing you peace.  Xxx

 

Milestones

Back At It

I teach.  I came to this career much later in life – forty-two years old to be exact.  I am grateful every day that Siobhan Dennis, my assistant principal at the time, walked up to me and told me I needed to go back to school and become an educator.  I’m not sure I would have left the library without her gentle nudge and support.  Teaching is not an easy calling, but it fills my soul and satisfies me in a way no other job has.  I am fond of telling people that if you are having a bad day, come visit an elementary school because nothing lifts your spirits like the smile on a child’s face.

The year Luke passed away it was the Tuesday before April vacation.  We had those few days during that week and then the break and then Logan, John, and I all decided to go back to work.  I know people thought we were crazy.  Everyone, and I mean everyone, encouraged us to take more time to process, grieve, whatever they thought we needed to do.  We, on the other hand, wanted to try and keep life as normal as possible.  I had quite a group of students that year, lol, and I hated the idea of not being in school for them.  So away we all went.

Going back to work after the loss of a child is definitely an individual decision .  Here’s what I know about the Cons: It is difficult to hold it together throughout the course of the day.  Every little thing can set you off and crying happens.  A lot.  It is also hard to look into the faces of your co-workers knowing that every time they look at you, they are thanking the universe that they are not in your shoes.  Going out into the world also increases the chances of running into someone who either doesn’t know and you have to break it to them (probably the single most awful thing ever), or it is the first time seeing someone since you lost your child and they want to talk about how sorry they are (probably the second most awful thing ever).  One of the things that helped was John and I both sent emails to our co-workers in advance of our return.  It basically expressed that we appreciated everyone’s support, that we didn’t really want to talk about it just yet, and that hugs would be appreciated.  Feel free to borrow this because it really did make life easier.  Plus, you know, there were hugs. 🙂

Here’s what I know about the Pros: Did I mention The hugs?  There is nothing that can change your day around like human contact.  Every hug reminded me that I was cared about and supported and you don’t always get that if you stay at home.  There is also the value of human connection. Mine came in the form of adults and children.  My co-workers were incredible. They left me chocolate and trinkets and offered support in so many different ways.  It all helped.  Nancy Olson – God bless Nancy Olson – worked with me in my classroom and protected my heart like the momma bear she is.  And the days when I wasn’t my best self she stepped up and made sure I was covered.  I love you, girl!  The children were like my ace in the pocket.  It didn’t matter how hard I cried on the car ride in, as soon as I saw those faces,  excited to learn and share their stories, my heart would expand a little more to let their love in.  It was incredibly healing.  That group of students will always mean the world to me for carrying me through such a difficult time.

The other upside is my brain was preoccupied for most of the day.  For those of you grieving right now, you know firsthand that this is the primary struggle.  How do you stop your brain from spinning in a million different directions, asking questions you can’t seem to find the answer to, including the most important one – How do I carry on without you?!  Work helps with this.  It gives you a reason to get up in the morning, get dressed, and move forward.  John and I attribute a lot of our early success to doing just that.  It’s exhausting, you don’t contribute as much as you used to, but it gets you through the day and sometimes that is all you can do.

So here’s what I need you to know:  I can’t tell you what to do about the whole work issue.  Putting my head down and getting back at it was the right decision for me.  On the flip side, I have an acquaintance who didn’t work for three months after her son died.  When she looks back and reflects, she feels she needed that time to navigate her emotions.  Whatever decision you make is the correct one for you.  That’s my only advice.  Be honest with yourself about what you need and then own it.  Don’t let anyone make you feel bad for choosing EITHER option.  And if you want to start getting back into the world slowly and need a place to start?  Come visit me.  I have a classroom full of hope and hugs just waiting for you.  Xxx

 

 

The FIrst Days