Browsing Category

I need you to know

It’s Never Just One

*Names have been changed to protect the identity of the subject of the story.

John and I were sitting on the couch across from Heather Lee, medium extraordinaire. It was one year after Luke had passed away, and during the course of our *conversation*, Luke began to describe one of his friends to Heather. John and I managed to figure out he was talking about Sami, someone we had been close to since Luke died. And then Luke said, “You need to take care of her.” Well, this young miss had not struck us as the kind of gal needing help, but we tucked the request away, and went on with the daily work of coping with grief.

It was only a few weeks later that John was driving home from work, when he came across a situation on the side of the road. He was rounding the corner of Quinapoxet, and, in a dangerous curve of the road ( and a hill to boot), a car was parked. John’s headlights swashed across the figure of a young woman standing out front of her automobile. In the seconds it took John to pass the scene on the road, he had processed it, and quickly made the decision to turn around to see if the young lady needed help. He parked safely and made his way over. John couldn’t believe it when he saw another young friend of Luke’s, Allie. He called out to her and she quickly responded.

“Mr. Inwood, It’s Sami! She tried to kill herself.”

Now, I know what you are thinking because it was the same thing I felt at the time. Wait, WHAT?! But it was true. Sami had been suffering with intense anxiety, and when the grief of losing Luke was added to that, it became too much. But her guardian angel was looking over her and when her attempt at suicide was unsuccessful, she knew she was in trouble and reached out to her bestie and her mom. Seeing Sami that night was incredibly emotional for John. And how the heck had HE been the one to land on the scene first? Coincidence? Not in my world. John stayed with them until Sami was in the care of medical professionals. Sami spent a few months in the hospital working on the issues that had landed her in such a dark space. Luke had given her to us to hold and protect, so we went up a few times to visit her. It was during our first visit, when Sami was describing the night John found her, that she shared her final thoughts that led her down the rabbit hole.

“I was hurting and I just wanted to be with Luke.”

Sigh. Suicide clusters are a thing, friends. The Lancet Child and Adolescent Magazine defines a suicide cluster as the situation where more suicides than expected occur in relation to time, place (or both), and includes three or more deaths.

In recent years, suicide has become one of the top five causes of death worldwide for children between the ages of 15 and 19 according to the World Health Organization.   A 1987 study of youth suicide by the Centers for Disease Control found that 1 to 5 percent of all youth suicides occur in clusters.   Since the suicide of a friend or age peer is often a traumatic experience for adolescents (many of whom are left bewildered by the lack of warning signs), the death of one teen might influence other teens feeling suicidal.     Media influences, including the suicide of a well-known celebrity or personal idol can have a similar influence on depressed young people (also known as the Werther effect),

– Psychology Today

Thankfully, Sami’s attempt was unsuccessful and she was able to get the help she needed. But another young man at Wachusett did not. I’m not sure if you know this or not, but about a month after Luke had passed away, a freshman at Wachusett died by suicide. Someone’s baby. So incredibly sad. And these are the kiddos we know about. It is hard to determine how many others may have attempted or thought of attempting suicide in the year following Luke’s death. Just one more ugly consequence of mental health.

So here’s what I need you to know: If your community has been rocked to the core following the loss of a young person to suicide, you know it feels like an earthquake with tremors that just won’t quit. I didn’t realize how much the kids that loved Luke struggled with trying to process his death until we talked about it two or three years after the fact. Young lovelies don’t always recognize the depth or severity of what they are feeling after they lose someone or that they may need help. Remember to tell your kids what I always say – Thinking about suicide is NOT a normal thought process. If even one sneaky, the planet- would- be- better- off -without- me thought pattern is initiated, you are already playing catch-up. That child NEEDS professional help to get to the other side. Because there IS another side and it takes all of us watching out for one another, taking care of one another, as my boy asked, to get through. #NotOneMore Xxx

I need you to know

Sometimes I Say the Wrong Thing

Last weekend I had the pleasure of seeing a couple of former students. Sigh, It makes a teacher happy to see her kiddos grow up and do well. We were creating a sidewalk chalk mural of Welcome Back greetings at school and their siblings still attend B.E.S, so these young ladies came along to help. Once a Kindness Club member, always a Kindness Club member! As I was getting ready to finish up and head back home, I took the opportunity to check in on one of the girls

“How are you feeling about going back in person?” I asked.

“I was okay, but I am started to get worried,” she replied. And then she launched into what sounded like a million concerns she had circling around her brain. Now this young lady has always struggled with anxiety. Her thought process can jump to a worse case scenario in t-minus ten seconds and despite being AWESOME, she believes every negative word her brain tells her. I spent the time we were together in a classroom building her confidence and her strategies to cope with her anxiety. Naturally, I jumped right into these old ways.

*You’re stronger than you think.

*You are an excellent mathematician.

*I know your best friend is in the other class, but there isn’t any mingling anyway so you will make new relationships with the kiddos in your cohort.

*Remember how worried you were about starting middle school? This isn’t any different. One day in and it will feel like business as usual.

And on and on. She listened, but I could tell from her body language and the look on her face, she wasn’t quite convinced. And in hindsight, I realized I didn’t blame her. I had said all the wrong things.

Now don’t get me wrong… what I said to her wasn’t horrible. I was trying to boost her up and remind her of all the things about her that are fantastic and able to help her in this situation. But that wasn’t what she needed from me in that moment. I was trying to cheerlead her and downplay her emotions. UGH!! Classic quickdraw response, but I know better.

What she needed from me in that moment was to let her speak her truth. She needed to get all those fears and worries out of her mind and off her chest without someone, me in this instance, trying to fix those emotions. It is incredibly difficult to bear witness to someone who is in pain, but just listening is such an important help to that individual. How many times have you heard me say it doesn’t matter whether a person’s perspective is your truth? It’s true to them and we have to honor that. When someone shares a vulnerable part of themselves all they want in return is for someone to say… I hear you.

The next thing she needed from me was to make her feel like she wasn’t alone in those feelings and concerns. I should have said, “You know, B, I think we are all a little afraid right now about going back to school…” and maybe talked about my own hesitancy. When we are in the height of anxiety we feel like everyone around us has their act together and that we are the only one freaking out and that is never the case. Raise your hand if your emotions are on high alert going into this school season? Yep, too many of us to count! I missed an opportunity to help her understand that just because she isn’t privy to reading the thoughts of her classmates, doesn’t mean they don’t share her same concerns.

Instead of trying to fix her thought process with my words, I wish I had asked her about other times she had felt this way and how she handled it. Young people need to recognize that life is full of challenges and as hard as it can feel, we have it in us to push through and get to the other side. Nothing teaches this like experience. Maybe it was a soccer game, or a dance recital, or those damn MCAS tests, that she remembers being afraid of, but doing it anyway, and living to tell the tale. This is another one of those reasons why, as parents, we shouldn’t be handling our kiddos challenges. They NEED them to build confidence in their ability to handle a tough situation.

And finally, I wish I had reminded her about the joy. When Life is handing you a shitstorm, so to speak, one of the best strategies you can adopt is to identify the activities that make your heart happy and spend time doing that. This young lady loves to read. And tap dance, lol. She used to tap her whole way down the hallway. I should have told her when she starts to hyperventilate thinking about lockers and math assignments, to give herself an hour of *her* time. Of joy time. When I can’t stop the tears or the terrors or the tenseness of my life… I throw my schedule to the wind and get outside. Walking in the woods, laying with my face to the sun.. or the stars… slows my breathing and lifts the weight off my chest.

So my beautiful girl…. I messed up. Even Mrs. Inwood says the wrong thing every once in a while. But I do know my last words to you were the most important and I hope you remember them and hold them close.

You’ve got this.

I believe in you.

I love you.

Words we should say to each other every day. Together we get through. Xxx

I need you to know

Eric

Once upon a time, in a small kingdom in the countryside, there was a Queen. She had recently been thrust upon the throne after the death of her son, King Luke. King Luke had been a popular ruler and his death had caused the people to turn to his mother for guidance and support. What they didn’t know was behind the closed doors of the palace, the Queen herself was lost without her boy.

Enter young Eric. Eric and the King had been best friends and had traveled the countryside together on many a joyous adventure. King Luke’s death was unexpected and left Eric a bit untethered in this world. He spent much time at the palace in the days and weeks following, and observing the Queen’s distress, made it his job to take care of her.

When the Queen was having a hard time, no matter the hour, she would text Eric and he would always respond. ALWAYS. The Queen tried to keep these exchanges light, as she didn’t want to add to Eric’s own distress and frankly, the goal was to lighten her own heart, so the humor was a distraction. He would share crazy stories of his times with her son, favorite movies and books, gossip from the Kingdom. Eric was the Queen’s connection to all things “Luke” and being seventeen and it made the Queen feel like she was right there living her son’s life vicariously through Eric. He called her Bro and Dude… most unconventional as she was Queen, but it made her giggle so she allowed it.

After spending that first summer in almost daily contact of some sort, young Eric went off to college. Their correspondence abruptly came to an end and although the Queen wanted to reach out, she knew how important it was for the young man to go forth and learn. She didn’t want him to be stuck in the past with her – she wanted him to move forward. You can imagine her delight when one cold November day, waiting patiently for her carriage to be gassed up, she heard the words “I would recognize that hair anywhere, lol” and it was young Eric! Somehow, seeing one another in person reminded the two of how much they missed the other, and their relationship picked up where it left off. Eric would try to visit the Queen whenever he was in the Kingdom, almost always bringing a sidekick or two. These visits were cherished by the Queen and her husband, the Duke of Barry. They appreciated that the young lads made time for them, especially with Luke being gone.

Eric not only took care of the Queen, but he also adopted Luke’s younger brother, Logan, as his own. Logan adored Eric. They shared a taste for fashion, hair, music, philosophy – all things young gentleman should be aware of, lol. It made the Queen’s heart swell to see Logan and Eric together as she understood the void left by Luke. Eric’s favor grew as he took the young Prince under his wing.

One day, the Queen posted on Social Media that she was having a “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.” It had been a particularly dastardly day where grief was concerned and upon seeing this message, Eric quickly reached out to the Queen. “What’s wrong?” he wanted to know. Unbeknownst to Eric, the Queen’s sadness had been lifted by their mutual friend, Billy. Billy had a job at that time, tending to the Kingdom, and so he was close by and delivered a most wonderful hug to cure the Queen. Eric, although happy to hear the Queen was better, admitted he was disappointed it wasn’t HIM that helped the Queen in her distress. “I like to be the one to save the day,” he told her. ” I want to be the white knight.” And there it was. It turns out young Eric had created his own quest – to serve and support the Queen, in honor of his lost friend, no matter what the cost. A gallant quest, indeed.

Like all fairytales, this one, too, has a happy ending. The friendship between Eric and the Queen only grew in depth and love over time. They understand one another and accept each other – faults and all. She forgives him when He forgets to use his manners every once in a while.. okay OFTEN, lol. He tolerates it when She nags him about love and life choices. Still, whereas at one time, Eric filled the role of the *missing son*, now he has his own space in the Queen’s heart. He is family of his own right.

Time passed and although Eric moved to the big Kingdom of Boston, he still made the trek back to the countryside when he could. The Duke of Barry dominated Eric’s visits to the castle, (they share a love of ale), but the Queen didn’t mind. That Eric still came to visit and catch up was the most important thing. It was on this last visit that the Queen decided on an act long overdue and a scribed a proclamation.

“On this day, let it be known that for some five years, Eric has been a steadfast protector of the Queen’s heart. For this service and for his unwavering love and support, he has earned the title of knight of the Rutland Round Table. Arise, Sir Eric, and thank you for undertaking such an important quest. You have my thanks. You have my heart.”

And so, Sir Eric took his rightful place in the palace and they all lived happily ever after. THE END.

So here’s what I need you to know: There is no way Eric would tolerate me sharing most of what has transpired between us these past five years. How embarrassing, he would say, lol. And I realized I will never be able to put into words what having Eric in my world means to me. If you see me when I am with him, you know I never stop smiling. If you see me when I talk about him, you know I practically beam. This kid… well, this young man now… has brought me through some incredibly difficult days. He is my friend, my son, my pain in the ass, lol. I love you, Eric. Forever and always. Xxx

I need you to know

Signs

John and I were just discussing the other day how, after Luke passed away, we spent every minute reading and researching about *Heaven* or what happens after you die. I had always believed in a life after this one, but John was a bit more scientific and struggled around the where and the how of changing planes, so to speak. We read a number of books by mediums, books by people who had made successful connections with their loved ones on the other side, and books by people who had near death experiences and could describe what *Heaven* looked like. What we really wanted was to understand how to maintain our connection with our boy who no longer walked on the Planet Earth. And to know that Luke was okay wherever he was. This. SO MUCH.

Signs frequently come up in grief books and talks as validation from a loved one that they are near by and thinking of you. When you first lose someone, I think you look desperately for those signs – a dime on the ground, a cardinal, a feather – these are considered traditional tokens from the other side. I joke about this now, but when Luke first passed away EVERYTHING was a sign, lol. Every song, every bird, every combination of numbers represented my boy trying to send a message to his momma. And that is OKAY. I tell fellow grievers that if it makes your heart feel a little bit better believing that something is a sign, then IT IS. Grief is a personal journey and anything that makes it more tolerable is truth for you. Lukester for me now is a blue jay – Canadian, loud mouthed, pushing his way into the feeder squawking as much as to say – Look at me guys! I am here! I love that kid and I love that darn bird.

I think the signs that catch you by surprise are the most satisfying for the soul. You know the ones you just can’t quite explain, but there it is? John and I have had a number of incredible experiences that have solidified our belief that Luke is still in our lives and messing with us.

It was July 2015. Three months after Luke had passed away and I was eagerly anticipating our upcoming visit with Heather Lee, a local medium. It was like we had scheduled a meeting with Luke and I desperately wanted him to come through and tell me he loved me and he was sorry. (Sidebar – so that didn’t happen. Darn kids. He did come through, however. See my blog, http://pattyinwood.xyz/are-you-there-luke-its-me-merm/ to read about this visit.)

In the week leading up to our appointment, I was making my regular daily treks to the cemetery. On one of these days, I happened to move a plaque, placed by Luke’s grandma by his headstone, to clear away some dead grass and lo and behold, a teeny tiny frog was sitting there. Now, if you know my son’s story you know his gaming handle was…. wait for it, Froggir. Little tiny frog hanging out at the cemetery – coincidence? I believed not. That little frog was there every day for the week or so before we went to see Heather, and every time I saw it, I smiled a little secret smile. I see you son, I would think to myself. It gets better. The day we were going to see Heather, it was a gorgeous summer day and so Logan and John and I headed out to Long Pond for a boat ride. We pulled the boat behind the Durango the few short miles to the water, backed it down the boat ramp, and got ready to jump in. And as I swung my leg over the side, I spotted it. Sitting smack dab in the middle of the boat… was a frog. I know, I know, its a lake, Patty, surely that can happen. But in the history of our adventures on Long Pond, some seven years perhaps, NEVER had a frog come along for the ride. Think what you want, but that it happened on this of all days? Luke. Definitely.

Luke and I have quite a connection over music. He likes to mess with me and throw *his* songs on when I am in the car or listening to music at home or school. I will never forget one particularly hard day I was at B.E.S. I had a student who was giving me a run for my money and to regroup during my prep period, I put on Pandora to relax and refocus while I graded some papers. It was my Dierks Bentley station – country – and about two songs in, See You Again came on. ‘Cause THAT’S country, lol. Oh, Lukester. I had a good cry and felt like my kid was saying, “Hey, you raised ME. This student is a piece of cake, lol.” It helped.

John feels Luke when he sees hawks. My man loves to golf and there is a red-tailed hawk that often shows up when John is on the course at Quail Hollow. It likes to perch on a branch nearby and look at him. John likes to talk to him when he is alone. I love this image. Sigh. <3 Once John was golfing with two of our bestfriends and the hawk literally followed them around the course, flying over them from hole to hole. Tim and TJ noticed the bird and remarked on how odd it was. John didn’t come out and say, uh huh, that’s my boy, because that would sound crazy, lol, but we were both in awe when he shared the story with me later that evening.

Last story. It was my birthday this week. Yep, another year older. Logan and his girlfriend, Cailyn, came out for dinner on Saturday. It was Cailyn’s birthday this week, too! We had elected to order from a local restaurant, Ladd’s, because the boys were in charge of dinner and this was just easier for them, lol. We ordered pizza and I had a hankering for Hawaiian. I love pineapple and don’t often order something that only I will eat, but hey! It was my birthday. We did that newfangled contactless delivery and John and Logan set up all our munchies on the table in the screened-in porch. Only problem was there were three pizzas, but no Hawaiian! Logan and Cailyn had their pepperoni, John had his Dishboy, and my pizza? Turns out the last one was a Buffalo Chix pizza – LUKE’S favorite! HA!!! Still f*cking with you, mom. Especially on your birthday.

So here’s what I need you to know: If you haven’t lost someone you love, you have just read all of my words and thought to yourself – this woman is certifiable! lol And you are allowed. Talk to me when death graces your doorstep. And if you have lost someone you love, you have read my words and know exactly what I am talking about. Trust in YOUR signs, whatever they may be. May they bring peace and lightness and maybe even a little laughter to your heart. Keep’em coming, son. From this world to the next – I love you. Xxx

I need you to know, Things that help

No Chance for Goodbye

I believe one of the hardest things about losing a loved one suddenly is the lack of closure. When you don’t have a chance to say good-bye or tell someone you love them or hold them one last time, it weighs on you. It is like one big regret that you simply can’t get past.

From the moment I understood that Luke was truly gone, I wanted to see him. I wanted to lay my eyes on his seventeen year old face one more time; maybe hold him in my arms and cradle him like when he was a little boy. I asked the poor officer who drove me to the high school, a number of times, when I would be able to see Luke, unaware of what had actually happened at the crash scene. He somehow danced his way around answering that one. It wasn’t until we were all sitting in the conference room at Wachusett that a female officer explained that it wasn’t going to happen – and that I shouldn’t see him – for my own sake. I am grateful for this advice now because I am not sure I would have recovered from seeing Luke after he had been in the fire. My beautiful boy was consumed in the flames, you see, and they needed dental records to confirm his identity for the autopsy. Sigh. I am able to delete this thought out of my mind, most days, at this stage in my grief journey, but I know others who found their loved ones – after heart attacks or suicide – and they have to live with the image of their loved one at the end. To have to process this type of trauma, on top of the feelings of loss, leaves me in awe of those of you doing it.

So here’s what I need you to know: We are not gifted with the knowledge of the day and time of our own passing or of when you might see someone you care about for the last time. Usually. I mean there are those situations where someone has been ill and family and friends have the opportunity to gather and say their final farewell. There is peace in knowing that love has been expressed as someone leaves this world. That someone is closing their eyes and knows full well they were loved.

But that isn’t always the case. So, as we get back into a new school year, and the chaos of mornings and rushing to after school activities is upon us, might I suggest we slow down just one millisecond to see each other off. That we take the time to hug. Say I love you. I think I hug Logan every third step he takes as he makes his way from the kitchen to his car when he visits, lol. I don’t want their to be any doubt in his mind that his mother loves him. She’s a little extra, sure, lol, but she loves him.

So maybe make it a rule! You know how you tell your kids they can’t leave the house till they brush their teeth and put on their deodorant? Add *give parents a hug* onto that list. Especially for those surly teenagers, lol. Take it from this momma, you’ll be glad you did.

I need you to know

It’s Okay to Not Be Okay

Writing my blog last week was like saying good-bye to my son a second time. Truthfully, I had put off telling this part of Luke’s *story* because sharing his life with you all has made him seem more *here* than when I am holding him to myself in my heart. It has been incredibly healing to go through this experience and I am beyond appreciative to everyone that has shared their words of support over the two years it took me to get to this place. You have my love. Xxx

PLUS! I knew writing this sh*t would be hard, lol. And therein came the inspiration for this week’s blog. Here’s what happened last Sunday:

John had headed out to golf with a buddy and the time seemed right to pull out my laptop and get the blog done. I often write when John is out of the house because I know how hard it is for him to watch me drag myself back down the emotional path of losing Lukester. When I hurt, it hurts him, too. Sigh. He is a good man.

So, I sat in my fuzzy chair in my girl’s room and finished the final chapter in the Rise and Fall of Luke Inwood. And with my last keystroke, I wailed. I am usually a quiet cryer, but when the whole horrible reality of Luke being dead hits me, it rises up and comes out of me sounding more like a police siren. Alert! Alert! Mother with a broken heart coming through! “You’re okay!” I can hear my sister saying, and I want desperately to make it so.

I am still crying as I put my laptop away on the table, and I decide to try and remove the heaviness of my heart by floating in the pool in the sun. There is nothing more therapeutic for my soul than being in the warmth of the sun with nothing but the chirp of the birds and my own quiet breathing to still my emotions. But to do that, I need to put in my contacts and change, so I head up the stairs to our bathroom.

Standing at the vanity, contact case in hand, I catch myself in the mirror, and the woman staring back at me just looks so forlorn, so tired, that I start to cry again – because that woman is ME after all. “I’m okay,” I keep whispering to myself, gulping for air, ” I’m okay.” It was comical, really, because I am trying so hard to convince myself when all evidence points to the contrary. I am not okay. I have lost a son. I have relived it for all to see and it has dragged out all the old trauma and emotions. Today, after feeling Luke die a second time, I am definitely not okay.

So here’s what I need you to know: Whether today is your Day One or Day 100, you need to know that sometimes your sadness just has to get out – it’s okay to not be okay. Perhaps you haven’t lost a loved one, but the stress of these Covid and quarantine times are getting to you – it’s okay to not be okay. Maybe you are one of my lovelies and you are feeling the pressure of supposed to be having your shit together, when really you don’t –it’s okay to not be okay. I know we don’t want to fall down the rabbit hole in a trail of negative thoughts, but everybody experiences a day or two. I feel like society demands we put on a brave face – keep calm and carry on and all that – and I think all that does is push the pain down. And you know it’s going to pop up when you least expect it, lol. And what about social media? As we struggle to contain our feelings of sadness or being overwhelmed, we feel like less than others, because, hey… all those people on Facebook and Instagram are totally together. Right? UGH. When was the last time you saw a mother’s pain on social media? Never happens.

It’s okay to not be okay. It is not weak to let your emotions show. The important thing is to acknowledge that space – Take a moment, breathe, let the feelings out. Tell someone how you are feeling: A friend, a teacher, a therapist, a helpline, Miss Patty. Connecting and sharing our feelings reminds us we are not alone. I was lucky a few of my besties reached out to me last Sunday.

“I am wrecked,” I told them.

“We love you and we’ve gotchu,” they told me. And it helped. It’s okay to not be okay today… and maybe even tomorrow. Better days are coming. Hold on. Xxx

I need you to know

Baby Steps

I wrote a blog last week; I promise you I did. I worked away on it for the usual two hours on Saturday and as I reread it for maybe the fourth time, I realized something was not sitting right with me, but I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. So… I let it be. If you write, even something as simple as an email, you know that you sometimes have to step back from the keyboard to get a fresh perspective and make sure, as I like to tell my students, that is says exactly what you want it to say.

Early the next morning, I asked JB if he wouldn’t mind giving it a read. I am not sure I have ever asked for a second opinion before hitting *publish* as I can usually feel in my heart when I have put down the right words for the week. But like I said, something was tugging at me about this blog. John gave it a slow once over and as he finished, I pressed him for his feedback.

“It’s depressing,” he finally said, “You may have felt all that sadness at one time, but that is not who you are now. Five years later, you represent, you know, HOPE.”

And there it was. He was right, but don’t tell him that, lol. The blog was titled, “This is Hard” and it was all about well, how hard going through the grieving process is. Because it is. Truly. It is a darkness and a despair I wouldn’t wish on anyone. But to John’s point, the heaviness of grief is not what I want to focus on as I blog. It is not the core message I believe in and it is not who I am in my heart. It is not why I created my non-profit. I believe in the power of HOPE and LOVE and MOVING FORWARD. Those who know me know that I am an eternal optimist – proud wearer of my rose-tinted glasses! When Luke first died, choosing HOPE was all I had and I hung on like a kitten clinging to the dining room curtains, lol. It is not to say I didn’t have my fair share of tough, emotional days – of course, I did, I had lost a son! But I just wanted each day to be a little lighter, a little less painful. And with the love and support of my family and friends, that’s what happened and I got through. I continue to get through. Baby steps.

So here’s what I need you to know: If today is your Day One, I am so very sorry. The pain is excruciating. I remember it well. I also remember questioning, every day, how I could possibly ever learn to live a life without my boy in it. But I did. And I know you don’t believe me, but you will, too. Let me be your therapist and I will listen to the aches of your heart as you make your way. Let me be your cheerleader and I will walk beside you and remind you of how far you have come. Getting through grief is like baby steps. And just like your momma stood across the room, while you tottered and fell and tried again, finally crashing into her arms with success – so do I wait for you. Baby steps. You’ve got this. I’ve got you. Xxx

I need you to know

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

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

There’s Always Time For Dunks

I was caught in a long line of traffic the other day – the cars were backed up almost to Howe’s Farm stand- as inexperienced drivers navigated their way to the high school after a night of freezing rain. Sitting in the midst of this made me think back to all those days I drove, first Luke, and then Logan, to high school every morning.

Both boys hated the taking the bus and the fact that they had to be ready by 6:30 in the morning did not help. Mornings were always challenging for Luke and before he had his license, I drove him to school. It wasn’t a huge deal as I was already driving that way to go to Boylston to teach. Logie was still at Central Tree so Luke and I had this time together every morning. Luke was always making the mad dash out the door, but no matter how late he was, he would INSIST we stop at Dunkin’ Donuts. I would holler and protest and remind him he was going to end up with a TARDY slip, but his very chill response every day was…”There is always time for Dunks, mum.” I laugh thinking about his now. ‘Cause how right is he? As a society we are always so rushed and stressed about time, when in truth, in the grand scheme of things… what IS ten minutes? Especially to grab a bagel and a coffee and start your day off just right? lol Well, in high school it turns out it is a lot, but that is for another blog. :/

I loved the time I spent driving my boys to school. It really is true that kiddos spill more sitting in the car with you then probably any other time. We would talk about music or class or the gossip of the day (as long as it didn’t involve them, lol). Logan loved this radio morning show where the announcer calls up random people and pretends to be asking them survey questions. They were ridiculous and listening to Logan giggle at 14 and 15 years old made my morning. That time in the car was precious and looking back, I am glad it was never a big deal for me. I liked being needed and relished the opportunity to have each boy to myself, even if it was only twenty minutes or so a day.

So here’s what I need you to know: I heard a quote the other day that really struck me: Love is Time. We show someone we love them and that they are important to us, by making the time to include them in our day, in our lives, to spend time doing things together. This speaker said, “Isn’t it the most important thing we can do for those we love? As we stretch and start our day shouldn’t we ask ourselves – how will I make time today to be with those I love?” So for all you parents out there – forget work, and house chores, and the mowing the lawn – how many minutes will you give your child today? To be with them, to show them that you love them? Some times we may have to push to be included – like when your son is at college and would rather hang with his friends (ahem, Logan!) but you figure it out because it’s important and you’re the MOM gosh darn it. 🙂 And for some of us, we would give the world to read a bedtime story for the millionth time, to go to a soccer practice in the rain, or make a last minute dash to Dunkin’ Donuts. I think that’s what my time at the cemetery is, quite frankly. It’s my time, every day, when I choose to be with Lukester, to let him know, even though he is on the other side of the stars, I love him. Love is Time, friends, and we don’t always have all the time in the world. Xxx

I need you to know