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January 2019

Strong Is As Strong Does

This Lady. You meet her and you are immediately struck by her deep, green eyes. She has a low voice that turns into the most amazing sound when she laughs and she does love a good joke. She is constantly complaining about her looks, curse those hips lol and really has no idea how incredibly beautiful she is.

This Lady is the child of trauma. She grew up in a time, however, where you just don’t talk about this stuff and so she pushed it down and kept going. I didn’t find out she was broken until I was way into my adult years – she hid it that well. I don’t know who modeled strength for her, but she had it even as a little girl.

This Lady was married at seventeen and had three kids by 21. How did she do that? lol Young moms today might turn to medication, but not This Lady. Nope, she didn’t even drink then OR swear, although she has always loved a cigarette. Very glam in the 1970’s. I am in awe when I think about how self-centered I was at that same age and yet here she was taking care of a family and putting herself last on the list. Did she necessarily know what she was doing? Probably not, but she was getting it done.

This Lady is a tremendous example of spousal support. Her husband chased promotions and dreams and she followed him for every one. To big cities that scared the crap out of her, to a province where the different language paralyzed her, to the stage of Amway where being in the public eye was her own worst nightmare. But her husband wanted it, so there she was – waaaaaay outside her comfort zone – for him. Wallflower? Maybe. Wimp? Not on your life.

This Lady raised not one, but two tough kids. One hopped up on anxiety, the other oppositional like crazy. Thank goodness for that third child with no issues lol. Tough kiddos have tough problems and This Lady did her darndest to love them through it all. She also taught them to put their heads down and just keep pushing through. You can call it denial or determination, but either way she showed them that strength is not always a grand event, but sometimes just getting up and going through the day.

This Lady had hip replacement surgery this week. With only an epidural. “I could hear the saw and the hammering” she tells me and I think any other human being would have called ‘Uncle’ and begged to be put under. She cried and fought her way through her first few days of recovery because morphine doesn’t affect her and they couldn’t cap her pain. I think I would have curled up in a ball, but she kept setting her jaw and just getting at it. ‘Cause that’s what This Lady does.

I am not sure what words This Lady would use to describe herself, but if Strong isn’t at the top of the list I don’t know what word would be. This Lady is mentally tough and as I am fond of saying, the just don’t make them like her anymore. They say struggle makes you stronger and This Lady is living proof of that. Whatever you do, don’t ask her to arm wrestle. My money’s on This Lady every time.

Love you Mummy Xxx

I need you to know

It Wasn’t All Bad

There was this brief moment in time when all was right with the world. Luke was in fifth grade, Logan in second. Both boys were happy – playing Pop Warner or up for grabs with friends at school or Manhunt in the neighborhood. I was the good ole Loud Librarian with no pressures outside of the school day. John was about to turn 40 and perhaps not loving his job, but at least enjoying the time it allowed him to golf, boat, and fish. Life was, in a word, uncomplicated. I wish I had known that summer would be my last truly carefree moments.

Paula Atlas, Luke’s fifth grade teacher, was kind enough to reflect upon Luke at this time. Thank you, Paula! As I read her words it reminded me that there were days, a lot of days, and even one whole year where raising Luke Inwood and perhaps even being Luke Inwood, was not all that bad. Hindsight, as they say is 20/20, but what I wouldn’t give to go back and squeeze out every drop of joy we had back then so I could bottle it up and carry it with me through the dark parts.

“Luke was quiet when he first came to our class but he certainly came out of his shell as time went on. He was a hard worker but I remember that he loved to read and would often pull out one book or another. (Like mother like son, I guess.) Luke definitely developed some leadership skills in 5th grade and would often take the lead in group projects and such. He loved a good joke – being on the giving end and receiving end. He was very particular about his hair. He wore it longer at that time. He loved to laugh and smile. He seemed to embrace all experiences with open arms and was willing to try anything. Luke hung around with Jeff and Justin. I do remember that the 3 of them sometimes struggled with the friendship and sometimes there was one feeling left out but at the end of the day they had fun together and had each other’s backs. Luke liked all subject matters and school came easy to him. I was always concerned that he be aware that at some point things might get harder but that working hard would pay off. (Effort makes you smarter – my favorite and oft used phrase.) I hope, hope, hope some of it sank in in later years. Luke had a light in his eyes and kindness in his heart that made everyone want to be his friend. I just would like you to know that once a child is in my class I’ve always felt like they were “mine.” I’ve always felt extremely lucky to have parents such as yourself share their child with me. I appreciate those 10 months we had together and the connection and bond we had at that time. Although life continues and circumstances shift, each child, including Luke had and still has a special place in my heart. I still think of him often and even tear up at times. I also think that maybe God needed Luke in heaven somewhere to do something important. I don’t think anyone ever really gets over the loss of a child. But I can say that Luke was loved by many and his spirit lives on in you and all the good things you do in honor of his memory. I’m sure he’s watching over you.”

💓

So here’s what I need you to know: Don’t take any day for granted: the lazy days, the busy days, the hard days. Each one is a memory in the making. Quit being so busy and just be. Be a wife, be a friend, be a mom. Be together and relish, really treasure those small moments that you will never get back: bathtime with the kids, a quiet hour reading a book, laughing with your bestie as you go for a walk, sipping a cocktail with your sweetie and watching the sunset. You just never know, friends, when your circumstances might change. Xxx

I need you to know

For better or worse

I met a woman this week with the most heartbreaking story. Her husband of many years had suffered from a mental break a few years ago and although she had tried to keep him at home, eventually his condition progressed to where he is now in a supervised environment. As she shared how incredibly hard it is to be the caretaker in this situation, she also made it very clear that in her mind there was really not any other option. “He is a gentle, loving man and we married, we promised, for better or worse. This just happens to be worse. ” My heart! If this isn’t the most beautiful example of love I don’t know what is.

I was inspired by her story because raising children, like growing a marriage, is hard work. Children don’t come with a manual and there are plenty of times – sleeping through the night, potty training, PUBERTY! – when the difficult days far outweigh the easy days and it feels like you are never going to get to the other side of this challenge. You talk to everyone you know hoping somebody has the magic answer to what you are going through. I believe the lack of control coupled with an unknown outcome is what makes it so excruciating.

We went through all the typical stages with our boys and as I tell new parents facing the challenges of child-rearing, everything is a phase and it may be “hell in the hallway”, but it WILL come to an end and one day you will look back and hardly remember how hard it was. Logan? Worst sleeper on the planet. That boy didn’t sleep through the night for the first eighteen months of his life. I was so exhausted I started having physical symptoms and the doctors actually diagnosed me with MS! Those were rough days, but then at probably eighteen months plus one day lol, he slept through the night and we never looked back and it was like it never happened. (Your turn is coming Logan Dean Inwood) 🙂

Raising Luke was… well, it was a lot, and you will read about it in the blogs to come. Suffice it to say that from seventh grade on there were many days when I wondered what the hell I was doing wrong and what I had done to deserve a child who was so damn difficult. At our most frustrated point John and I were actually researching some of those places for troubled youth where they come in and snag your child in the middle of the night because, God knows, he or she isn’t going willingly. Yes, it was that bad and yes, he was that tough. Ultimately, we made the decision to just love him to death. And we did. Xxx

So here’s what I need you to know: Having kids is like a box of chocolates. Sorry, Forrest. There is no guarantee what you are going to get. Sometimes it’s a chocolate covered caramel and you chew on it and love every minute and it goes down so easy and you think it might just be the best thing you have ever had. God bless the easy kiddos. And sometimes you bite into it and it’s that weird pink crème filled kind and you want to spit it out or put it back, but you can’t. And that’s kids, too. Sometimes we have children that really make us earn our parenting stripes every. single. day. It’s a different kind of love story, but it’s still for better or for worse.

I need you to know

He Lived and Loved and Laughed…

When I decided to chronicle the rise and fall of Luke Inwood I always knew I would want my readers to hear from voices other than my own. Human beings are complex and who we present ourselves as at home is not always the same as we present ourselves at work, is not the same as we present ourselves with our friends, and so on and so on. In my opinion this is not a bad thing. I think we need or should be allowed to take on different characteristics dependent on what the situation and relationships require. I do think that true happiness finally occurs when who you are on the inside matches most closely to who you present to the world.

So, we have hit the middle school years and today I wanted you to hear from someone who interacted with Luke every day. I am not sure what I expected when I reached out to Olivia Watson to write about what she remembered about Luke. I can tell you it wasn’t what she shared. But that is the point of perspective. Luke was a complicated human being and when you raise a challenging child it can be hard not to get caught up in remembering the tough moments. But it is not the whole of who he was. My thanks to Olivia for sharing her Luke. I love you, girl.

“When Miss Patty reached out to me and asked if I would write about Luke, I felt obliged to say yes. Of course I could do this for her. I sat down in front of my computer and tried to write and came up blank. Okay, I’ll come back to it later. And again I tried, but still I had nothing. Why was I coming up blank? Luke and I did hang out in middle school and for the beginning of high school, we were actually pretty close. I confided in him and sincerely enjoyed his company. After a little bit of time, I stopped trying to describe who he was in the time we were close and started to think about memories that we had that would do that for me.

The first one that popped into my head was the day we were hanging out uptown, I think I was with Isabel Richards. It was middle school, seventh or eighth grade, Camden and Luke were together and for some reason my mom was getting lunch at the Tavern with my sister Julia and we all went. So here we all are, three of my friends, my sister, and my mom. And Luke is sitting there talking to my mom. Obviously, as a middle school girl I was definitely a little self conscious. Taking my friends out to lunch with my mom? And BOYS at that. But Luke sat, and he ate, and he said please and thank you and he talked to my mom. Later that day I got home and she told me how polite my friends were and how she had a great conversation with Luke. He did not have to come to lunch, and when he did he absolutely did not have to sit next to my mom and talk to her. But that’s just who he was when I knew him well. A polite guy who liked to make people laugh.

Cue high school, oh god. I was having a bad day. School was hard, I definitely was having trouble with friends, and I did not really know what I wanted. I shared with Luke I was feeling this way and next thing I know he and Dominic Spinelli are at my house! We sat in the basement with my camera that my mom had bought me for middle school graduation and we took pictures and we joked and we laughed and by the time they had left I had forgot why I was upset. And Luke texted me that day and the next day and for weeks after, to see how I was doing and to see what I was up to. We grew apart, we ended up in different friend groups and eventually our communication was birthdays and whenever we saw each other. But that time, when I was so nervous and felt so alone, to have someone like him was to have someone who made sure you knew you always had someone.

He lived, and laughed, and loved, and then he left. Not a day goes by I do not think of him. I am so thankful to have known someone who could brighten up my worst days and, behind the tough guy comedian he was, he was also just a friend who wanted what was best for everyone he knew.”

The FIrst Days