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pattyinwood

The Last Weekend

On Friday, April 10th, Luke took himself off the Addy and proceeded to have the most spectacular weekend. He smiled and laughed his way through the next few days, including what is now deemed a legendary party at Thad’s. It turned out that everyone Luke loved somehow was there, but hey, the Universe is tricky that way. My thoughts are… if you’re going to go out… isn’t this the way to do it? What does that quote say? Something to the effect of you want to slide into heaven, totally exhausted yelling, “Holy Sh*t – What a ride!” ? Mission accomplished. It does a momma good to think that Luke’s last weekend was with his friends doing all the things he loved.

When I decided I was going to write about the big party and those four days, I knew it wasn’t for me to tell the story – that it had to come from the lovelies. So I reached out – asking if they had anything suitable for the blog that they wouldn’t mind sharing. And only if they felt like it. I know what it is for me to revisit memories and I would never ask the kids to go there if they didn’t want to.

I suppose I shouldn’t have been surprised when all I received was the sound of crickets, lol. Since middle school, Luke and the lads had a motto that you never EVER tell your parents what is really going on in your world, and so it goes. 🙂 I think you will agree with me that this is the way it should be. This larger than life long weekend, this beyond epic gathering, burned into their memories, but shared only between them.

So instead, today I leave you with a song. No, it is not a song to represent Luke and the boys because I can’t speak to that. It is a song that represents those unforgettable nights. You know the ones….because we have all had them. Where the vibe is just so incredible and you are looking around and thinking how amazing the night is and how happy you are and how people that aren’t there are going to wish they were there. The nights you talk about for the the rest of your life when you get together with your friends or your buddies. I don’t think any of the kids could have possibly known that this was going to be their last with Luke… and one of those nights. Xxx

The Rise and Fall

Who Knew

“You home/awake?”

Now, when my phone goes off at 8:30 am it’s something. I confess I am not a phone person – it doesn’t live in my hand and I don’t check it a million times a day to make sure I am not missing anything going on in the world, lol. When I am home it sits in a basket on the counter in the kitchen. If I hear it ding I will wander over and see what is what. Usually. My close friends and family will tell you that’s probably an almost never, HA! But hey, I am the one telling the story here.

So, as I was saying, I was sitting in my chair in the living room finishing off coffee number two when my phone dings. And then dings again. So I figure something is up and make my way over to the far counter and take a look at my messages. It’s Chris – one of Luke’s oldest and dearest friends.

“Hey Chris! As in you want to chat or you want to come over?” I replied. I am not surprised a young sir wants to visit or talk. As I have written before, many of the lovelies will come over or call me up when they want to hash out something going on in their lives. I don’t tell them anything different than their parents would… I am just not their parents, lol. And therein lies my popularity.

“I’m coming over.”

“Hey there… give me ten minutes. I will meet you out back.” What he doesn’t see is that I am still in my jammies and haven’t brushed my teeth OR put in my contacts and almost no one sees me in glasses these days. Well before I know it, I can hear footsteps clomping up the wood stairs and the screened-in porch door creak open. I quickly throw on a sundress (because what else does one wear to a morning chat session?) and head down to the main level. And there he is. Ruggedly handsome with dark curly hair, bearded up, and wait a minute… yep, smelling distinctly of *eau de Budwieser*, lol.

“Are we hugging?” I ask, although I am not sure I would have taken no for an answer.

“We’re hugging.” Chris gives me a very decent squeeze for a young person. I always say good hugging is a learned art and takes years of experience, but some of us are more gifted huggers, lol. We head out to the upper deck where it is shady and have a seat. Turns out Chris had spent the night with some Rutland friends. There were beers involved and he had crashed in town for the night. Smart move, I am thinking to myself. But hey, this kid has always been smart.

Iced coffee in hand, Chris starts to talk. And hey, this kid has always been a talker, too, so there is no shortage of conversation. We talk about everything under the sun – memories of growing up in Rutland, me being his librarian, a little about Luke, a lot about life, his job, his family. Turns out he didn’t need fixing, he just needed a fix – of us, of the Inwoods. And it was just such a good two or three hours. Honestly, I didn’t notice how much time had passed until I went in to get us all some water; John had joined us at some point. I eventually had to kick him out and send him on his way because I was taking a flourless chocolate cake to a friend’s house that afternoon and that dessert was not going to bake itself. We hugged, of course, amid promises of seeing one another soon. My fingers are still crossed.

What Chris couldn’t possibly have known was I was having a hard week. I look forward to the day when the Fourth of July doesn’t drag my heart down missing Luke and all the memories of the kids during year after year of our amazing small town celebrations. But it wasn’t to be this year. I was low, and truth be told, crying every damn day. Working out and crying, eating salad and crying, watering the flowers and crying. I just couldn’t keep my emotions in check. Even John recognized the direness of the situation and suggested we go up and see Logan – my surefire, feel better solution.

But after Friday morning, I felt better. Chris had come over and reminded me that my boy had one heck of a friend group and you know what I tell myself – if kids this great loved my boy, he must’ve been alright. By sitting in that wicker chair and sharing everything going on in his world, Chris made us feel connected and important and loved; like maintaining our relationship was a big deal to him. It is in those moments that John and I get a glimpse, even if just a small one, of life at 23. Turns out Chris wasn’t the only one needing a fix that Friday. I needed my 23 year old fix, too. Love you, buddy. Xxx

Things that help

No Light at the End of the Tunnel

We are almost at the end, friends, of what I call the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. If you’ve been following along then you know our main character is in a desperate place. It is March 2015 and there is not much right going on in his world. He is failing high school. He is being tormented with d-halls up the wazoo. Luke is not gaming at his usual level after being let go in January. He dislikes his job. He really dislikes his nagging parents – especially his mother because, well, she’s the one nagging all the time. His friends are all eagerly making plans for what happens after graduation and he is not. And thanks to the Addy and his anxiety, he is not sleeping and barely eating.

So, what is getting him up every day? What is motivating him to move forward? Turns out – nothing. He is hanging on by the proverbial thread because he has lost hope. He has nothing left to get excited about. All the dreaming and planning – just big idea bullsh*t that may never happen – is coming to a close because the crew is about to split up – each one headed in a different direction. But not him.

I am not quite sure how, but both John and I believe that Luke believed he was going to cross that stage with his friends in June for graduation. I don’t know if it was denial or plain misunderstanding of the dire straights he was in, but in March that news hit Luke like a brick. “I’m not graduating and everyone is going to know it.” I can hear that piece of information swirling around in his brain. Luke hated to look *less than* in anyone’s eyes and the whole world was about to find out. The King. Not graduating. He must have been scared sh*tless.

After Luke passed away and the police returned the laptops they had confiscated for review, John went through everything on them as best he could. One of the remarkable things he found was a single Google search at the end of March. It was called – How to Die like a Man. It outlined all the manly ways one might take one’s life: Gun shot, hanging, crashing your car. How to die like a man. My poor, sweet boy.

So here’s what I need you to know: Life is hard. Freaking hard. And we all know one of the things that gets us through is love. Giving our love to a few special people in our lives and receiving love and feeling like we matter to someone. But what also gets us through is hope.

Hope is an optimistic state of mind that is based on an expectation of positive outcomes with respect to events and circumstances in one’s life or the world at large. As a verb, its definitions include: “expect with confidence” and “to cherish a desire with anticipation.”

– Merriam – Webster

Luke had lost hope. There wasn’t one thing he was feeling good about and I can only imagine his anxiety and his Adderall were one big negative committee in his mind. And we missed it. We all missed it. Now, our Luke was one helluva good actor, but still. We knew everything was going wrong in his life at this moment, but our own life experiences had shown us that it would get better for Luke. He just had to wait a few years for things to change. Your twenties are a whole new world. He just had to hold on. The problem was….we knew that. He didn’t.

So what’s the moral of the story, you ask? Build the hope… for yourself and for your children. Maybe find the things that make your heart happy and spend time doing that – walking in nature, reading in a chair, woodworking, birdwatching, photography, whatever it is. Tell your children how important it is to pursue your passions and model that for them.

And friends, I am going to get a bit preachy here, but we need to change the narrative for our children around what’s important to hope for. What is the hope or the positive outcome you are showing preference to for your children? Popularity? College? What is society and social media pushing on our children as preferred outcomes? Might I suggest that it shouldn’t be their GPA? Or the number of likes on an Insta pic? Or the number of times you get invited to a party or whether you carry a Gucci handbag? Or whether you are a star athlete in your little hometown? Perhaps we should be setting our kiddos up to hope to be a good human being? What if that is how we defined success? I feel like Luke lost hope because all of the things he thought were important were not coming through for him -some he had put up on the pedestal to achieve; some, like graduating, we did. At the end of the day, he was a good kid with a big heart and that should have been enough. Sigh. Whether we know it or not, parents plant the seeds of what a child deems important; of the future they should hope for. Be careful what you show them. #NotOneMore

The Rise and Fall

What Happens in the Garage…

My boy turned 23 on Friday and because of this I have decided to be a little lighter this weekend with the blog. Luke’s preferred state of being was the pursuit of happiness and he was damn successful a good portion of the time.

Especially with his buddies. Luke had just the best group of friends and these lads practically lived at the house. At some point, I don’t know when, the garage became an extension of their hangout space. Maybe when some of them took up butts? lol Maybe when all of them discovered pot? lol Don’t judge me; they hid it well! #LifeWithTeenagers. I honestly don’t know, but this citified gal, who swore there would never be a couch in her garage like some sort of redneck family, suddenly had TWO couches, a Lazy Boy, and a coffee table in there! All that was missing was a bed, lol, and if one had been there, some of those lads would never have left. 🙂

And if those garage walls could talk! I asked the lads if they had any stories they wouldn’t mind me sharing and instantly one of the boys said, “Anything that happened in that garage isn’t fit for publication.” HA! Hilarious! And he probably isn’t far off. A few things did come up that were *safe* to share. Here’s the text thread:

“All I know is that we smoked a ton of weed and played poker once till 6 am. And Luke cheated I’m pretty sure because he got pocket Aces like 25 times.”

“He had to have been cheating. Kid had like 30 Aces literally up his sleeve, lol. We also used to try and freestyle rap when we were freshman which I’m sure was painfully embarrassing.” (There is video of this somewhere and it is HYSTERICAL.)

“Me and Luke and Eric got the chair that’s in there from the side of the road in Holden and Luke sat on the chair in the trunk of Eric’s Pathfinder the entire ride home, lol”

The infamous chair lives on….

“The garage was the spot to hang out and just shoot the shit with one another. Either after school or on the weekend. So many good times with the crew. I remember that we’d always end up freestyling on the couch. We’d all say a line or two and then pass it to the person next to you. The couch and the garage was our place and is something that I’ll never forget.

So, one Christmas, when I found the sign in the photo above, I just had to get it and give it to Lukester. And there it still hangs. I have so much more I could write, but I will leave the stories, as the sign suggests, right where they happened. And I suppose, friends, the walls of that garage wouldn’t talk as I suggested above. They would probably hoot and howl and shake with laughter. Good times. Xxx

The FIrst Days

Rage

As always, these views are my own.

Let’s just cut to the chase: Luke felt targeted by the administration at his high school. Now, read this carefully. I am not saying he was; I am saying this is how he felt. But as I always tell people- a child’s perception is all that matters.

I have had my own students over the years that I am not sure felt the love the way I wanted them to. One of them in particular, whom I adored, really struggled with understanding anyone’s else’s point of view. He was diagnosed ADHD and ODD, had difficulty with peer relationships and authority, and anytime he didn’t like what I had to say to him, which was often, he would respond, “Why you always want to fight with me, Mrs. Inwood?” 🙂 Now, we weren’t *fighting* lol, but at nine that was how he described confrontation or debate. Those were the feelings elicited when he struggled to accept something he didn’t agree with. And again, that’s all that matters. I worked my hiney off with this kiddo… he was post losing Luke -which makes me try harder…. but I am not sure I reached him.

Now my Luke did not make the situation between himself and teachers and administration any easier. And I know how hard it is to not lose your cool when confronted with a sneer and a smart remark. But two events are forever burned in my memory and have shaped me as an educator ever since.

Game Changer Number One. Luke had this teacher, let’s call her Mrs. Smith. Now Mrs. Smith had been a teacher for a good many years at Wachusett, but I am not sure anything could have prepared you for Luke Inwood, lol. From Day One, Luke and *Mrs. Smith* did not get along. She was old school and wanted him to fall in line and do what he was told and not sass her about it. Sigh. So THAT didn’t happen. Next thing I know, I am being asked to go to school to have a meeting with said teacher and Luke and a school administrator – also not one of Luke’s favorite people. Actually, let’s just say it. It was the admin he felt so targeted by. So, here the four of us are, sitting around a table for what I understand to be an opportunity for us to have a discussion around how to solve this relationship problem and get Luke through this class. But that isn’t what happened. For, I don’t know, maybe ten or fifteen minutes, it felt like a lifetime, Mrs. Smith sat there and berated Luke. Went on about how horrible he was in her class and all his shortcomings and how if he didn’t fix it, well, that was his problem. What did I do? Shamefully, nothing. #IHaveRegrets. I want to tell you I was in shock. And I was. Who talks to a child this way? A student? None of us said anything, really, after that. Luke mumbled something about trying to do better and we got up and left. We walked down a set of stairs and when we got to the bottom, I stopped, looked at Luke and said, “Wow. You were right. She IS a bitch.” I told him to try and have a good day ’cause THAT was going to happen and headed out to my car. All I could think of was, if that was how she spoke to Luke in front of his mother, in front of her boss, what kind of barrage was he facing in the classroom behind closed doors? It made me sick to my stomach just thinking about it. I honestly don’t remember what happened after that. I think we pulled Luke from the class. Or maybe he failed that one. We never confronted Wachusett about it, I can tell you that. We chalked it up to Luke being an incredibly difficult student and what could you expect to happen? UGH. I feel sick just typing the words.

And unfortunately, *Mrs. Smith* was not the only one Luke had issues with. In his mind, of course, it was all the fault of the teachers. I know better, of course, having had the pleasure of interacting with some of the educators who truly tried to reach Luke where he was. But perception is everything. And Luke had his.

Game Changer Number Two. It is March 11th. It is a Wednesday. How do I know? Kept the emails that followed. :/ So, I arrive home and make my way upstairs to change out of my school clothes. I know Luke is in the house because the Altima is in the driveway, but he wasn’t in the basement. As I top the stairs I look left and there he is. Laying in his bed, just shaking. His whole body is vibrating.

“What’s going on, bud?” I ask him and make my way into his room.

“I have never felt so much rage in my whole life,” he tells me. ” I feel like my heart is going to explode out of my chest!” He is clearly distraught and tells me about a run-in with admin over d-halls and other infractions and we will never know what else. I am desperately afraid for him and his mental health at that moment. I’m also not sure I am going to be able to get him back to school. He is that angry. And hurt. And disheartened. What is a parent to do?

Well, you write an email. John reached out to school about how outrageous it was they they were beating Luke down this way. Because that’s how he felt. Beaten down. But the email we get back does not address our son as an individual, as a child who clearly doesn’t look like the other students; nor does it try to meet him where he is . It is, quite simply, more of the same. Thank you for not helping.

So, the next day Luke goes to school. He goes to school. This in itself is worth something. And then he goes to D-Hall that afternoon to satisfy the system. He is THERE. And you know what happens? He gets in trouble. He gets in trouble because he didn’t bring work with him. “And as a senior he should know better.” That is a quote friends, from the email I receive that night warning me that if Luke doesn’t bring work to the d-hall, that he is finally showing up to, HE WILL BE ASKED TO LEAVE and issued another d-hall. Because you can’t make this sh*t up! So you tell me…. if you are Luke Inwood… how are YOU feeling at this moment? We all know the answer to the question. Four weeks later, he is gone.

So here’s what I need you to know: Now, don’t get your knickers in a knot. Are you blaming the school for what happened, Miss Patty? No. No, I am not. A lot of factors came into play losing Luke, but there is no denying high school had its role. But you know I like to say, when we know better we do better. So what’s better? We can’t simply be punitive in the education system. Behind every behavior is something and it is our job in school to do our darndest to figure out what the *something* is. I had the opportunity to go into my district high school and share my story and my thoughts about this and it was a fantastic experience and I believe it helped give the people present perspective. I will gladly visit your high school, TOO, to spread my message: No child gets up in the morning and says “Today, I am going to go in and really going to F*@# with that teacher.” That is Never the case. They get in there and talk themselves into a bad situation and then we back them up into a corner and like a caged animal, they don’t always make the best choices. They feel trapped. They lash out. WE have to be the adults. Remember that student I shared with you earlier? Well, every once in a while I would have to look at him and say to myself, “Breathe, Inwood. He’s nine. You’re fifty. You have strategies to deal with this. He does not”. And then I would give myself a time out, lol. Or call for back-up. I love my school psychologist. Or talk to his parents. Or sometimes I would just hug him. And he would be so shocked lol, he would roll his eyes and giggle and we would get passed it. Or sometimes we wouldn’t. But we need to remember who the adult is and who is the child. And they may be six feet tall, with facial hair and a potty mouth, but on the inside… they are six. They are children. They are somebody’s baby. And he was mine. #NotOneMore

The FIrst Days

Addy

4:15 pm. Monday, April 13th. I arrive home from work after a visit to the Rutland pharmacy. As I climb out of the car I can hear the lads in the backyard hooting and hollering and having a great time. And I smile. Because there is nothing like young sirs living it up to make a momma’s heart happy.

I climb the stairs to the kitchen and as I am coming in to the kitchen, Luke is strolling through the patio doors. He is soaked because he has fallen through the ice after one of the boys threw his chap stick in the pool and he tried to bear crawl to retrieve it. Sigh. Kids. But there is a smile on his face so it can’t be all bad.

“I picked up your prescription, bud” I tell him as he heads to the bathroom to grab a towel.

“Meh, I stopped taking it on Friday.” he responds, already heading back out the door.

“You could have told me and saved me a trip!” I holler after him. I shake my head and shove the prescription in my basket in the office. In case he changes his mind. But the next day, Luke is dead.

Adderall. My good friend Jane was the one who alerted me to the issues around Adderall and suicide. I don’t even know how it came up, I think maybe when I was filling her in on the ins and outs of Luke’s hardships over the past few months and mentioned he had been taking Adderall and lost a shit ton of weight. Jane started to cry, right there at my island. Jane was experienced with Adderall and the negative effects it had on people she loved. Jane was convinced the Adderall had pushed Luke over the edge.

And so began my research. My son had been taking Adderall since September and friends, it pains me to say, I didn’t know much about it. We have that blind trust in physicians sometimes, you know? But when you do an internet search for Adderall and suicide, well… it will make you cry. Adderall is no freaking joke, it’s essentially speed, and to take yourself off it cold turkey like Luke did… let’s just say, it can have serious consequences.

For those of you that don’t know, Adderall is prescribed for ADHD. It is one of many medications, Ritalin and Concerta to name a few, that aim to help with focus. And I don’t take issue with that. I recognize that ADHD medications can be very successful for some people. My issue is that I didn’t know. I didn’t know that suicidal and psychotic thoughts were a side effect of this med. More importantly, Luke didn’t know. And it makes me want to SCREAM. Did you know that doctors are not required to share side effects with patients. YOU have to ask. You have to read that sheet that comes with your pills. And I do. I’m sure you do, too. You read all those side effects, but you don’t really worry about it, because surely nothing bad will happen, right?

But we are talking about suicidal thoughts, here, friends. We are talking about kiddos who have diagnoses who are already struggling with anxiety or depression and then we put them on a drug and we don’t say, “By the way.. if you start having thoughts around suicide, that is not normal. That might be the medicine and you need to tell me about that immediately.” At ten or twelve or sixteen, if we don’t warn the kiddos that this is a side effect, they aren’t going to think it’s the medication, they are just going to think that they are *f’d up* as my boy liked to say, and they are going to be skinny and sleep deprived and listen to that voice in their head telling them to just end the hurting. Suicide.

So here’s what I need you to know: The photo for this blog is Luke’s prescription. Yep, still have it. This is one of those things I have kept to torture myself. #IHaveRegrets. We have called the conditions that came together in losing Luke the perfect storm – between his anxiety and depression, the issues with school, and the lack of sleep… and going off the Addy cold turkey was the straw that broke the camel’s back. Sigh. But Luke didn’t know. I want the people you love to know! So, if you or someone you love is on medication, please talk to your doctor about the side effects, no matter how minor. Talk about what suicidal thoughts are, even with your young kids. In my humble opinion, if they are old enough to take the drug, they are old enough to have the discussion. And lastly, make sure your loved one knows and understands the dangers around quitting medication without talking to a doctor first. Many meds need a gradual withdrawal from your system. #BeInformed #NotOneMore Xxx

The FIrst Days

Better Late Than Never

Buckle up, friends. I had discontinued my telling of the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood because we were handling all that Covid stuff. Spirits were low and I didn’t want to add to it, but… here we are. It’s time.

Speaking of time, I have had a number of parents tell me one of the things they are relishing during this period of Learning at Home is not having to fight every morning with their kiddos about getting up and getting out the door to go to school. Is this maybe one of the biggest battles we face with some of our children? Preach, sister! lol

I feel like you are either a morning person or a night owl from birth, and for kids who are night owls that daily struggle to wake up and get on a bus for school is excruciating. EXCRUTIATING, I say! I have detailed to eternity my daily routine of shaking Luke’s leg and my whole schtick I would go through to eventually get him on the bus. UGH. In those last years, either I was driving him to high school or he was driving himself, but despite our best efforts and intentions… he was ALWAYS late. Curse you, Dunks! Lol.

Now truth be told he usually wasn’t late by much. I don’t do tardy, so when I was his driver he usually slid into the lobby of Wachusett just on the bell or barely after. Minutes. When he was driving himself his number of minutes increased to ten. Consistently. It was like he was just a beat behind. If School started at 7:20, that boy would roll up at 7:30. Every day. But you know what, friends. He was THERE.

Unfortunately, there is no gray and no exceptions to the “You must show up at school on time” rule. If I remember correctly, and I may not, every three times Luke was late, he got a detention. And he was always late. Now let’s just think about this. How many detentions can one child serve? And to what point? And if they don’t serve, they go to Saturday school. No, it is not as glamorous and cool as the scenes you remember from the Breakfast Club, lol. And for our boy Luke… it was another brick in the wall.

I think you have probably come to some conclusions around what Luke looked like in a school environment and I think it is safe to say…. he didn’t look like the usual kid. But our school systems are SO RIGID, we can’t think outside the box and ask, how do we make this work for this child? He’s here, at least. Maybe we let the tardies go? Maybe we say no tardy unless he’s twenty minutes late? Flexibility? Unique cases consideration? Pshhh… That is not the reality of our school systems, friends.

In February of 2015 Luke was DROWNING in tardies and d-halls. DROWNING. When you hate school you can’t sit through classes all day and then be expected to sit through d-hall and then be expected to go to Saturday school on top of all that. John and I were concerned about Luke’s mental state and we wrote an email to the school hoping we could *figure something out*. There was no light at the end of the tunnel for Luke and we were desperate. Rules are rules are rules, Mr. and Mrs. Inwood. Sigh. Thank you for not helping.

The last Saturday in March, two weeks before he would die, Luke had Saturday school. I am sitting in my chair drinking my coffee when I realize the time is getting late and Luke is not going to make it to his d-hall. Because you can also be tardy to Saturday school, friends. They lock the doors and you can’t get in. See you next week, sucker. SO – I am panicked, because I am the MOM and panic is my job. I jump up from my chair, start yelling “LUKE, YOU’RE GONNA BE LATE!” at the top of my lungs and promptly smash my left foot into the hand weight that I had left in my path post-workout. True story. It is one ugly toe now, lol, but it makes me giggle and sigh every time I look down at it. Luke? He didn’t make it.

So here’s what I need you to know: I am a rule follower. Well, my boss will tell you I like rules that work for me, lol. But truly, I am the one you find walking between the lines. I do not suggest that we take individual circumstances into consideration lightly. I like my kids in a row at school, I want homework turned in on time, I want you to raise your hand if you have something to say. I like expected outcomes. Control. But what I have learned- in the years of raising Luke and then losing him – is that life is not a one size fits all experience. Kids have changed, friends. Whether we like it or not, they are more sensitive, more complicated. And we have to respond. Educators are taught to meet a child where they are academically and then work like hell to get them to where we need them to be. Why should it be any different for behavioral and mental health concerns? And I want to be clear, here. This is not a Wachusett thing. This is an everybody thing.

I am going to say when we know better we do better. And we damn well know better now, folks. If you are raising your own Luke Inwood, don’t just ask what can be done differently, demand it. #IHaveRegrets. If you are teachers or administrators, don’t be afraid to get out of the box and really, truly consider the needs of these special circumstances kind of kids. There are only ever one or two Luke Inwood kind of kiddos in a grade. They don’t need more discipline. They need help. I dream of a future where we identify each of these kiddos and meet them where they are. You might be only asking to add minutes to a start time, but it might just add moments to a life. #NotOneMore.

The FIrst Days

I Am a Rock…

A few individuals have crossed my path these past weeks, all of whom are struggling – struggling due to trauma, Covid19, heck, just LIFE. I have offered to help, as one does in these situations, but my services were declined. “I’m fine,” they tell me. “It’s okay.” “I’ll be alright.” And so I go on my way. But I have a nagging feeling in the back of my head, that perhaps this is not the whole truth.

Somewhere along the way we have been taught that it is weak or unacceptable to share our feelings or to ask for help when we need it. The goal is to appear strong and capable. Was I the only one taught that you don’t share your problems or your *dirty laundry* as it used to be called? I am not sure where all this managing on our own, or “faking fine” as I like to call it, has gotten us.

Trying to cope in challenging times makes me think about the people we love who have died from suicide. I spent countless nights wondering why Luke didn’t tell somebody he was hurting and needed help. So many of the things that weigh us down are not easily handled at seventeen. What kind of strategies does a teenager have? WHY didn’t he ask for help? I have been thinking about the doctor in New York who recently passed away, also from suicide. I can only imagine how overwhelmed with her job she was and what it would be like to be surrounded by so much sadness and suffering. I wonder if she told anyone how she was feeling or just carried on until… well, she couldn’t. Xxx

I would like to tell you I have become a master of asking for help when I need it, but folks, it would be a gosh darn lie. And I give help for a living! As a teacher and with Hope Lives Here, lending aid is my business. Accepting it? Not so much. The reality of this smacked me upside the head not so very long ago. Here’s the story.

John and I are away with friends one weekend in early Winter. We love these couples and have created some pretty fantastic memories over the years. On this given evening, we have been out all night eating and drinking and laughing our heads off. After I drive everyone home (’cause someone has to be the voice of reason, lol ) we are back at the ranch, as I like to say, and winding down. My girlfriend and I are sitting on the couch together and we get to talking about Lukester.

“I read every one of your blogs, you know, and well, I can’t believe that I never even knew some of those things were happening; that things were so hard with Luke.”

“I know,” I replied, well aware that I had kept things pretty closed up.

“We have this great group of friends here for you and we love you and yet, you’re an island,” she announced.

Cue the theme music…. –

I am a rock, I am an island

My friend’s pronouncement didn’t upset me because, well, she wasn’t wrong. Isn’t wrong, as not much has changed. I AM an island. I TRY to share, but it is damn hard, friends. And I think I feel the same emotions everyone else does that doesn’t want to ask for help:

I would rather do it myself.

I don’t want people to know what I am going through.

There is guilt with asking for help.

I don’t want others to think less of me for not being able to handle things.

Should I go on?

I get so upset when I hear about one of my lovelies going through something difficult and I don’t know about it. “What do you mean you lost your job?” or “What do you mean your parents are getting divorced?” or most recently, “What do you mean you just got back from rehab?” I chastise them and remind them I am here for them, but isn’t that the cat calling the kettle black? Of course they’re not talking or asking for help. Why should THEY be any different? We are a society of silent sufferers.

So here’s what I need you to know: Being vulnerable is quite possibly the most challenging of human emotions. It is the purest form of trust and being open. But if we are ever going to forge a generation that leans on one another instead of trying to handle all of life’s predicaments solo dolo, we need to change our mindset and we need to show the kiddos what it looks like. One of my favorite artists, Charlie Mackesy, has a print where a young boy asks his horse, his mentor – “What’s the bravest thing you’ve ever done?” And the horse replies, “Asked for help.” Brilliant.

So in the spirit of that, I am going to try to be more brave, more vulnerable, in the hopes that it might inspire one young lovely to ask for help when they need it most. My first step has been to try and find a few people that I feel can handle my darkest moments and I am working to be as honest as I can with them. Who will be yours? I also continue to be so grateful, to all of the people who ask me how I am doing… and really listen. Even if I’m not giving them the whole truth, lol. #Faking Fine. Lastly, I want to say thank you for the wake up call, my beautiful bestie. I am STILL an island, but at least now it has a landing pad where my friends can swoop in and save the day. With love, Xxx.

The FIrst Days

A Mother By Any Other Name…

Ah, Mother’s Day… for those of us who have lost a child or lost a mother… it is no easy day. But this year, I made an intentional choice to focus on what I HAVE instead of what I am missing. And friends, I have a lot.

I like to think about all the people in my life who have loved and nurtured me… like a good mom would…. like my mom did. As the old adage says, it takes a village. I have had teachers, bosses, and friends of the family who have encouraged me, and supported me, and picked me up after hard days. And what about girlfriends? My goodness! My ladies are incredible women who modeled what it is to be strong, and purposeful, and FUN human beings… as well as good mothers themselves. Heck, even my sister mothers me to death (in the very best of ways, lol)! Telling me what to wear or more importantly what not to, cheering me on with my teaching and non-profit, talking me off the proverbial ledge ( You’re alright! she likes to say). All of these important people, right there when I need them, surrounding me with love, accepting me as I am. Isn’t that the definition of a good momma?

I have been blessed with two boys to love. When they were little I slathered them with cookies and kisses and all the attention they would let me give them. I still do with Logan, lol, but at 20 he is a much harder sell. These days my love extends further than just those in the Inwood home. I love my students… UGH! So, SO much. I help them to grow and blossom and understand right and wrong – just like a parent. And we can’t forget my lovelies. Those freaking kids… now young adults… who let me check in on them and joke with them. Who stop by to visit and share a meal. Who let me get on my soapbox or give them much unsolicited advice. lol Are they not my *children*, too? We may not share a last name, but they have my heart forever.

So, on this Mother’s Day, let’s extend our definition of what a momma is. I asked my students this week what makes a good mom and the answers were priceless:

*A mom has to be kind.

*A mom has to be loving.

*A mom has to be fair.

*A mom shouldn’t have favorites.

*A mom should have personality. (I don’t know what this means, but it is HYSTERICAL!)

*Bake, a mom should be able to bake.

Definitely a list I can get behind. 🙂

So here’s what I need you to know: The role of mother is sometimes played by different people over the course of our lifetime. Just because yours is not a relationship of blood , doesn’t make it any less important. We need all our momma figures! May you remember and love on them today. And call, don’t forget to call! Moms, in all their forms, like that stuff. Xxx

The FIrst Days