Monthly Archives

March 2020

Anyone Can Do One Day

If Luke was to create a Top Ten list – David Letterman style – of Things That Irritate Me The Most, ‘Being Told What To Do’ and ‘Highschool’ would both jockey for the top position.

Getting Luke motivated and out of bed every morning was my job. He stayed up way too late, slept fitfully, didn’t use an alarm, and never once in the history of his life, popped out of bed eager to start his day, lol. I have written more than once about my role in getting Luke on the bus or in the car and on his way. Sigh. Good times.

During the course of my morning Luke routine, I got in the habit of cheerleading Luke by breaking down the school year into manageable bites. At first, it was fairly large bites.

“Only 3 months till December break, son. Anyone can do three months.”

I would encourage him and cajol him into thinking that he could manage his suffering for that length of time. Problem was, those timelines became insurmountable in his mind, as his ability to deal with the consequences and negativity in his life declined. Pretty soon I was reminding him that there are only five days in the school week and “anyone can do five days”.

In Senior Year, Luke was at his lowest and he was feeling crushed by his teachers and administration and schoolwork. With his hope at an all time low, I would go into his room in the morning, shake his calf to stir him a little, and when his eyes would finally peek open, I would give him the only piece of cheerleading I had left.

“Anyone can do one day, son. Six and a half hours. You can do it, sweetie.”

And he would. He would get up and get showered, grab his coffee, and go to Wachusett. He would greet his friends in the hall, sleep though a class or two, wander the halls, laugh through lunch. And at 2:10 pm, or whatever time they released the students, he would exhale and spend the next 12 hours doing what HE wanted. Chillin’ with friends, shooting hoops, gaming. At 6 am the next morning, it would start all over again. He kept doing One Day, One Day, One Day for seven months. I think it is a testament to his damn stubbornness that he got through for as long as he did, lol.

So here’s what I want you to know: We are just finishing our second week of the Coronavirus Quarantine. Social media is flooded with folks struggling to stay at home or struggling to stay sane in this new normal. As the experts caution that we may not peak for another month or so, I would like to suggest we take inspiration from the Luke Inwood play book to get through this time. Start your day by reminding yourself that anyone can do six weeks of this. Or, if you have to, you can break it down, to just the day. Because anyone can do ONE day. And if even the day is getting you down, like a rainy Sunday in Week 3, try and get yourself back to your happy place: maybe it’s listening to music, or reading, or television. Maybe it’s hiding under the covers for longer than usual. Whatever it is, IT’S OKAY. On the days when you are not feeling your best, you need to take the time to scale back and find the joy again. Now is not the time to be Superwoman or Superman and show the world how amazing you are and how much you can do. Breathe. Live simply. Put the joy first and the strength will come. And don’t forget – Anyone can do Just One Day. Or a series of Just One Days if that’s what you need. #HoldOn

I need you to know, Things that help

Johnny and Frank

In documenting what I fondly refer to as the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood, there have been a post or two that have been difficult to write. Emotional. I knew this post would be that. I knew I couldn’t write about Luke in his last years without writing about his relationship with Eric. In truth, I don’t even know if I know HOW to write the story of Eric and Luke. And yet here I am. Forgive me, Eric, for minimizing what I consider to be one of the great love stories to exist between friends. Sigh.

Actually, the reality is, Luke and Eric were so secretive (Bro Code -you don’t tell parents ANYTHING), we didn’t really know the ins and outs of their relationship while Luke still walked the planet. I’m not sure I do now. The words I am about to share are MY perspective of Luke and Eric. What truly transpired between them is for them and them alone. And I’m okay with that. Xxx

How many faces do you recognize? 🙂

Luke and Eric were in Kindergarten class together. I love this pic of the group! Eric looks so stinking cute in that holiday sweater! He wouldn’t be caught wearing that now, I can tell you. lol. I post this to show their history; how far back they share memories and experiences. Luke and Eric were not besties at this age. Truthfully, Eric did not grace my door step until high school. Luke and Camden and Thad had been besties, but it wasn’t until Wachusett that Eric and Luke gravitated to one another.

It was girlfriends that got in the way of Luke’s relationships with Thad and Camden. As much as Luke never minded being a third wheel, lol, I am certain his friends did. 🙂 And so while his besties forged relationships with those of the female persuasion, Luke did not. And along came Reidy. Eric was single and the perfect foil to Luke – he was also (secretively) sensitive, loved to be philosophical, loved all things sarcastic, could court the dark side, and most importantly…. loved Luke. HA!

I can’t even begin to guess how many stories these two share. They did a lot of driving (remember Eric’s face from my Driving post a few weeks back? lol), went to a lot of parties, and spent many a night in our basement talking into the wee hours of the morning. Unlike the rest of our family, Luke was a social creature and didn’t like to be alone. Eric was the same, so the two of them fed this need for one another – to be included, to be heard. I think this post from Luke’s Twitter feed, showing how much he was in contact with Eric, shares the truth of it: for a while there, it was all Eric, all the time.

I think what I loved most about the two of them was their ability to dream big. They talked about getting rich and buying an island together so they could be Kings. They adopted larger than life personas – Eric was Frank Sinatra, Luke was Johnny Cash – to define themselves by. Eric – suave and citified; Luke – the Man in Black – just a little bit naughty and not giving a damn what people think. Who knew how true both those tags would be.

Black Friday Shopping with Eric

One of my favorite Luke and Eric stories actually transpired the Easter before Luke passed away. As in two weeks before. Eric and Luke were out driving. Well, technically, Luke was driving and Eric was yelling out his window at the kids playing outside asking them if “they wanted any candy”. Cue the head shake, lol, but you see now why these two were so perfect for each other? IDIOTS lol. Back at the house we’re entertaining family when all of the sudden the phone rings and it’s a family friend who is also a POLICE OFFICER. Someone has reported these two jack-in-the-boxes!! Thankfully, the officer has vouched for the boys and assured the family who called it would be handled. I immediately stomp outside to where the boys are sunning on the deck and rip them a new one. They both are giggling and amused with themselves and when I look at Eric and say, “There’s a lesson to be learned here, you dorks.” He replies, ” I did. I learned it’s good to have friends with friends in high places.” AARGHHHH!!! I have to admit I smiled as I made my way back inside and I had to concede, he wasn’t wrong. 🙂

I started this post by saying this might be one of the great love stories of all time, you know, in this momma’s mind. I feel I know how important Eric was to Luke because I saw it – I saw how he wasn’t as happy when he was alone and Eric saved him from that. I know how important Eric was to Luke because he practically lived at my house for almost three years. I miss his damn paper towels strewn about the basement because he is allergic to everything – including our cats. I miss hearing the two of them talk non-stop for hours and hours and hours. I miss Eric’s Arnold Horshack laugh floating up the stairs. I also miss their silence. ‘Cause they got each other and could do that, too. I miss Eric coming up the stairs and barely acknowledging that the Inwoods existed. lol Because he really wasn’t there for anyone but Luke. I think the truest testament of their relationship is that there are hardly any pictures of the two of them together. One, because they both thought selfies were bullshit, lol, but mostly because they were living. Just being teenagers, you know? And that Eric gave that to my boy… all those memories? That Luke sits on the other side of the stars… fueled by tales of late nights and road trips to God knows where with Eric, well…. I have no words. Only a heart full of love. Lastly, I know how important Eric was to Luke because, well, he was on his note goodbye… He really loved you, Eric. Don’t forget it. Xxx

I keep telling Eric that writing about Luke could be the Next Great American Novel. Maybe for his birthday I will buy him an old fashioned typewriter and a pack of cigs and wait to see what happens….

The Rise and Fall

Life

I couldn’t figure out what to write about this week. After all, everyone is up to their elbows in thoughts about TP and Covid-19. Did I really want to add to their sorrows? NO THANKS.

So, I hemmed and I hawed, and by this morning, I thought I had a clue. I sat down to write, but just then John rose from a deep sleep (ahem, thank you Dudeks, lol) and decided he needed fresh air and a brisk game of disc golf. Barre Falls is our favorite spot to do this, so away we went! We passed a glorious two hours amongst the rolling hills and waterfalls and made our way home shortly before 5. As we came around the corner on Wheeler Road, Sunset Farm came into view and just there, tucked in with all the grown-up Highland cows, I spied a sweet black baby calf. It was tiny! and as it galloped awkwardly toward its momma, John and I both giggled. It was so stinkin’ cute! And suddenly there it was! My inspiration for the day and for the next few weeks – LIFE.

There is nothing like the babies – baby animals and baby humans alike – to make us gasp and giggle and appreciate our world. They represent hope and faith and trust – All the qualities we need so desperately right now. The blog picture at the top of this post was a gift given to me by Farmer Johnson. If you know me or have followed my blog, you know how much I love this man and this farm. Everyday after Luke died I would walk past this place. It is stability for my head and my heart and reminds that day after day, “the sun still rises – even through the pain”. Life goes on. George (Farmer Johnson) wrote to me that the pic of the baby calf puts a smile on his face and it surely does that for me. I love you, George!

So for today, for these next few weeks, when you are low or struggling, pull up those darn cute pictures of kittens, or rabbits, or baby foxes. It is guaranteed to put a smile on your face and lightness in your heart. Life is a miracle, friends, and perseveres no matter what we throw at it.

Just Google baby anything. It’ll make your heart sing. Xxx

Things that help

Shine On, Son, Shine On

We sat around the table Monday night, my angels and I. This is an incredible group of women – each dedicated to helping the lost souls who come to Hope Lives Here – all the while nursing hurting hearts of their own. They carry the sorrow of others and I am grateful to be in their company. Taryn, Kathy, Anne, Lori, Robyn, Nikki, Alison, Jen, Donna, Sheri, Bev, and Robin – I love you!

So there we sat. It had been a productive night and as we got ready to leave, Anne announced she had a gift for me. I immediately started to get a little anxious. My feelings have been out of whack since January and my instincts told me to brace myself.

“We know that an important anniversary is coming in a few weeks for you and we wanted to let you know we are thinking about you, ” Anne spoke as she reached across the table and handed me the present. With my head down, I carefully unwrapped the package. There was a cardboard box inside and it took me a minute to figure out how to open it. I slid through the tape on one end and reached inside to pull out what looked like a frame. Turning it over, I quickly read the words on the image in front of me.

Luke’s star is in Cepheus – also know as The King constellation.
Cause you can’t make this shit up.
#NoCoincidences

I couldn’t contain the sob in my throat. They had named a star after Luke. A STAR. I had never heard of anything like this and it was so perfect and so painful at the same time. Sigh. But isn’t that the way with grief?

Unless you have experienced loss you may not understand that sometimes it is the small acts of kindness that get to you the most. I can give and give and give… to my family, my students, my clients at HLH, and feel so strong, so together, but the moment that someone does something for me, I crumble. I continue to be shocked and overwhelmed to think that someone is taking the time to help me; to reach out to me; to hug me. Each one of these kindnesses makes me feel loved and held and this one was no different. What a beautiful gesture. Xxx

In that same brief moment when Luke’s star was revealed, I died a little inside. My angels will cringe to read this, but I know they will understand. Somehow as I looked at Luke’s name, a star in the vast beyond, his absence here and presence there – up near the Little Dipper – was slammed home. He is gone! My head and heart seemed to say in unison. He is really gone. And so I cried. My angels cried with me.

But what a perfect gift! Luke Inwood, my light, a damn fiery force on the planet Earth, now forever glimmering in the night sky. Haven’t I always said I will see you on the other side of the stars, son? And now, thanks to my beautiful friends, I know exactly where to go. Shine on, my sweet boy, shine on. Xxx

Milestones, Things that help

Harvard…Here I Come

There is a lot of talk this time of the year around state testing. As a teacher in upper elementary school, we eat, sleep, and breathe MCAS. Now people will try to tell you no one is holding you accountable for the results, but the fact is… they are. The district cares because the scores influence funding and the district’s overall rating; principals care, well, because their boss cares, lol; and parents care because everyone wants proof that their child is a gosh darn genius and headed to Harvard and they think the MCAS score tells them that. They think.

As I have recorded for all of eternity, Luke and school *broke up* lol in eighth grade. From that point on, Luke truly struggled to get any grade over a C and that darn F was everywhere on PowerSchool when I would check. He failed Physics and French in Freshman year and Sophomore year he added English to the list, so I think you will understand my surprise when the Grade Ten MCAS scores came out and Luke had a glorious ADVANCED stamped across the page. Advanced. Yep. Now, don’t get me wrong, Luke was a bright kid, but it seemed to me if he hadn’t been paying attention and learning, how could he possible know any of the material being tested?

“Some people are getting Advanced on the MCAS that SHOULD NOT be getting ADVANCED on the MCAS!”

This was on Twitter shortly after and it made me CRY with laughter!! I heard Danny J. was pissed that Luke had done so well and said this, but that’s an urban myth. 🙂 Dan did confirm that Luke taunted him, saying he was going to get a higher score, lol. Not sure if THAT actually transpired, but it’s funny to think about.

Junior Year is all about the SATs. As Luke continued to try and follow the same path as his peers, he signed up. He definitely didn’t do any practice tests or try any sample questions. lol Actually, looking back it was a miracle he got there on time that day. 🙂 Anyhoo, The results get emailed to you and when Luke got his, I am sure the whole neighborhood heard him whoop. I don’t remember the number now, but John and I want to say it was 1390 or something like that. It was beyond decent. It was *buy your kid into college* kind of good. Between Luke’s MCAS score and his SAT score, suddenly our mailbox was FLOODED with college materials from all across the country. Like stacks and stacks! I secretly hoped that one of these pamphlets would appeal to Luke and inspire him to get his act together so he could actually attend one of them, but he barely gave them a glance. More school was not on his agenda.

As Canadians, this whole SAT score thing didn’t mean much to us. We didn’t know anything about the whole college process including timelines or requirements or test scores. I’ll never forget standing on the back deck of the Sachs’ house talking with Mike Fiorelli. He was asking about Luke and I was sharing the drama of the day and happened to throw in a comment about his SAT scores.

“Apparently that’s pretty good,” I remarked. Mike’s eyes sort of bugged out a little and he said, “With a score like that, he could get into any college he wanted.”

“Maybe, ” I returned, “but the fact that he is FAILING every class in high school might be a problem.” Mike softly shook his head and laughed.

“Kid’s freaking smart, man, ” he said. Tell me something I don’t know, I thought to myself.

So here’s what I need you to know: MCAS scores and SAT scores and ACT scores are not the measure of a child. They are also not a predictor of success – in school or in life. Luke performed above average on both of these assessments. Did his teachers do an outstanding job at high school? Nope ( no fault of theirs of course, lol). Was Luke going to attend the best colleges Massachusetts has to offer? Nope. He Wasn’t even going to graduate high school. Did these scores mean Luke was a well-adjusted, achievement-oriented young man? Well, we all know the answer to that one. So, do they mean ANYTHING, Miss Patty? Sure. Data always gives us something to reflect on and use to make decisions – as a district, as a school, as a teacher. But it is ONE thing. It is ONE day. My recommendation? Keep a balanced perspective. Don’t put TOO much weight on those standardized tests. Let’s promote JOY and CURIOUSITY in our schools. Let’s raise our children to be KIND, HAPPY, and LIFELONG learners. Let’s measure our school systems, our communities, ourselves, EVERYTHING by their HEART. Forever and ever. Amen. lol

I need you to know