“Even children get older and I’m getting older too.” – Stevie Nicks, Landslide

People, we are ALL getting older. No matter where you’re currently at in your life – in your prime, or struggling to find purpose, or on a journey of self-discovery, or feeling overwhelmed, or daydreaming, or suffering, or goal setting, or swimming in circles, or soaking in the sunrise and sunset – I think it’s critical to remember that this time too shall pass.

None of us can escape the realization that this life too shall pass.

The years between when a child first picks up a ball out of curiosity to the time when he makes his last play in competition, that moment too shall pass.

So why do we, as adults, overly complicate the experience?

hour glass memories

I believe that a youth athlete’s hour glass life should look something like this. For the record, I’m defining “youth” as anywhere between 4-12 years old.

I realize many of you are in awe right now at my mad graphic design skills. Hopefully the point still comes across.

There should definitely be a cross (or some representation of a belief bigger than them), a lot of books, some play things, several musical instruments, drawing or writing utensils, and other forms of self-expression in there too.

I suppose there would also be more technological gadgets and gaming devices than I can even name…half of which will be considered new-to-market before I even finish this post.

What shouldn’t be included in a youth athlete’s hour glass life are crazy adults, unrealistic expectations, feelings of inadequacy, screaming parents, overwhelming pressure, or recruiters.

Leave that for high school.

I only half kid about that last statement based on what I’ve witnessed from the stands.

Parents, I implore you. This time too shall pass. How do you want them to remember it?

As I state on GiveTheGameBack.com, kids must learn how to win graciously and lose humbly. Adults must learn how to level set expectations. Because, at the end of their playing days, every athlete should feel pride in what they’ve accomplished, not shame for what never was.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Forewarning: This could be deemed by some readers as The NeverEnding Blog Post, but I’d like to believe it’s worth your investment in time if you’ve ever seen The NeverEnding Story.

I don’t know about you, but I decided to trip myself out this week.

My daughter is now almost the same age that I was when the movie The NeverEnding Story originally came out. I remember watching this epic childhood fantasy film and being totally engulfed, amused, and slightly disturbed by it.

A good mom would say to herself…hhmmmm, I recall being completely whisked away by the plot, but also being frightened and confused in parts, maybe I should wait until my daughter is a bit older than I was before I open the filmography flood gates to her.

I am clearly not a good mom.

I am, however, a curious mom who knows that her daughter is pretty much a mini version of thy self except much more independent and less naive as a result of growing up with two older brothers.

After realizing that Amazon is offering The NeverEnding Story free to viewers, we popped some popcorn, cuddled up in bed together, and let the magic unfold.

If you’ve never seen the movie, here’s a short description from IMDb: A troubled boy dives into a wonderous fantasy world through the pages of a mysterious book.

Here are my observations about this film now that I am an adult (according to my chronological age, not my footy pajamas). Note that each of these were recorded, in order, throughout the movie as I watched the action unfold through an older set of eyes.

…………………………………………………………..

Ohmeyegawwsh! This song! NeverEnding Stoorreeeeee! Ahhh-a-ah Ahhh-a-ah Ahh-a-ah!

Wait, what? Bastian’s mom is dead? How did I miss that when I watched this as a kid? That seems to be a pretty critical part of the narrative.

His dad is kind of an insensitive jerk. Telling your motherless son to “Stop daydreaming and start facing your problems” isn’t exactly what child psychologists would consider an effective way to help a child grieve.

Poor Bastian is relentlessly tortured by a set of bullies. The leader of the pack is the worst. How come every movie bully is either chubby, or red-headed, or both? I call this the “O’Doyle Rules! factor.” See Billy Madison if you don’t get that reference.

In order to avoid being tossed into an alley dumpster multiple times, Bastian runs into a bookstore to hide. The bookstore owner is probably the first thing that rattled little Heidi when I originally watched this movie. He was the epitome of Stranger Danger in my maturing mind. I can now see why they casted this guy. He made Bastian think the book he had been reading when the boy burst through his door was far too dangerous for a juvenile to enjoy, thus convincing the boy to steal the book and leave a note (with a promise to bring it back when he was done reading it).

NeverEnding Story – Your Books are Safe YouTube clip

Hold up. Was there a cob-webby, antique-filled, ginormous attic in my grade school that I never knew about where I could sneak away anytime I wanted to get out of a math test?! I would have established a permanent residence in such a hideout if it had existed.

Oohhkay, freaked out again as Bastian starts to read the story. The Rockbiter, the creepy mole guy, the oompa-loompa dude in the top hat with the Racing Snail, and THAT BAT. The premonition that there’s this force called The Nothing that is destroying everything in a world called Fantasia.

My daughter remains un-phased up to this point. Should I be concerned?

The makeshift crew of characters travels to the Ivory Tower to see the Empress and this is the FIRST time my daughter starts to mutter something to me about the weirdness that’s unfolding before us. As the crowd of onlookers listens to the man with the pointy head and the long, white beard talk about how the Empress is dying and their only hope is a young warrior called Atreyu, the camera spans over their features: Huge, incredibly realistic-looking heads on small bodies, four-faced people who can turn in any direction and still be staring right at you, spooky elephants and beaked creatures, all muttering indistinguishable comments in unison.

I glance down at her and am all, “I KNOW, RIGHT?!”

Here Atreyu finds out he’s being sent on a dangerous quest with no guarantee of survival. If he fails to find a cure for the Empress, which is necessary to save all of Fantasia, everyone will DIE. No pressure, kid.

My daughter is convinced that Atreyu is a girl because of his long hair and deep, plunging neckline. What kind of programs is she watching when I’m not in the room with her?

neverending_atreyu

The young warrior receives the auryn necklace and, at the same time, Bastian discovers an identical emblem on the front of the book he’s reading. And we all realize for the first time that the two stories, that of Bastian and that of Atreyu, are linked together.

At this point, I’ve lost track of the “freaktastic moment counts” when we catch a glimpse of the menacing wolf-like Gmork, who is basically a servant of The Nothing…as well as a mental mascot for every child’s nightmare in the history of mankind.

OH NO! HERE IT IS. The Swamps of Sadness scene, where Atreyu’s horse Artax gets sucked into quicksand mud and drowns. I kid you not, the first few seconds when I watched them starting to walk through the murky waters, flashbacks of me huddled in the corner sniffling and rocking myself back and forth flooded my mind.

neverending_atreyu and horse

My daughter starts to tear up. Evidence that she does have feelings after all.

Just when I don’t think I can be anymore traumatized, Atreyu runs into the oversized turtle who talks like he’s been in solitary confinement a little too long and repeatedly sneezes on the boy. The turtle basically squashes all of Atryu’s dreams by telling him the mission is impossible to complete.

Break back to Bastian in the attic as the school bell rings. This kid realizes it’s time to go home, but knows there is nothing more important in his life than finishing that book!

Now HERE’S where I start to regain hope for humanity. Just before Gmork is about to tear Atreyu to shreds in the same murky waters where the young warrior lost his best friend, a Luck Dragon named Falkor swoops him up and flies him to safety.

Falkor looks like a cocker spaniel, believes in the power of a little luck, and belly laughs like a grandpa who’s had a couple of beers. Pretty much the best thing that any kid could hope for in life. Bbuuuttt, still a little creepy in his own right.

When Atreyu awakens after being rescued, he meets this weird miniature old couple. They seem to love one another, yet they incessantly nag each other. Pretty much everyone’s parents, right?

The woman convinces the young warrior to drink a disgusting potion as part of his recovery. Atreyu announces he is on a quest to find the Southern Oracle and, upon learning this news, the old man reveals his love of science and his expertise in all things related to the Southern Oracle…including the two sets of Sphinxes that Atreyu must pass through in order to help complete his quest.

The Sphinxes are as burned into my childhood brain as Artax’s death is. Probably because they each looked like satisfied patients from any plastic surgery reality show featured on E! today.

neverending_sphinx

After passing through both sets of Sphinxes, Atreyu then looks into a mirror that shows him a reflection of Bastian and vice versa. Reading this causes Bastian to throw the book across the room in disbelief, and I hear my daughter laugh. I am proud of her for recognizing at an early age the joy of watching someone over act. She also cracks up more than once at Falkor’s over-the-top laughter and facial expressions.

Atreyu learns the only way to save all of Fantasia is to find the human child who can give the Empress a new name.

Perhaps the most disturbing series in the whole movie begins here. Atreyu and Falkor get separated in a violent storm, the boy loses his auryn necklace, and we are reunited with the Rockbiter who gives the most depressing speech ever about failing.

And that’s not all. Just when I’m ready to curl up into a ball (as a 39-year old) and crumble into a hopeless pile of nothingness…

Atreyu comes face-to-face with the evil Gmork. As all of the fears I experienced as a child come rushing back, my daugher tells me she doesn’t think the greenish-yellow eyed wolf is that scary and, if she was Atreyu, she’d just punch it in the face.

(two older brothers)

Gmork explains that he is the servant, the power behind The Nothing, and he has been sent to kill Atreyu. The boy then challenges the beast to come and get him, and when Gmork accepts and charges, Atreyu stabs the creature to death.

That brings the death total to three if you’re keeping track at home.

I love to go back to movies that were produced before computerized special effects. This is one such movie.

To see how those behind the magic made it appear that The Nothing eventually came and wiped out everything except for the Ivory Tower is a site to behold. It’s both impressive and funny at the same time.

We finally meet the Empress. How can I describe this girl? The poster child for dental office advertisements everywhere. Everything on her is perfect. Her eyes, her jeweled headband, her petite perfect features, her voice, and her dazzling teeth.

The next several minutes are a mashup of three child actors attempting to out-dramatize one another…and the effect is pure brilliance. I can see my daughter on the edge of her seat wanting to shout along with them.

CALL HER NAME, BASTIAN!!!

The Neverending Story (9/10) Movie CLIP – Call My Name (1984)

Bastian shouts out his mother’s name, Moonchild, as a way to give it to the Empress. Fantasia, though, seems to have all but disappeared except for a single grain of sparkling sand. Bastian receives the grain from the Empress and is told the only way to save their land is to never lose his imagination.

The movie ends with the boy getting revenge on the bullies who picked on him, and by revealing much to my relief that Artax(!), Atreyu, the Empress, and all good guys continue to live and grow with Fantasia.

Finally, here’s where everything gets deep. As a child, I was satisfied with that ending. It seems my daughter is too.

As an adult, I love looking at interpretations. One Reddit user (nameless88) puts it best with this explanation:

The entire movie is about the death of the imagination, and how as kids stop reading books, and stop imagining the worlds that are made up within, those worlds die. The Nothing is lack of creativity, and lack of care for fictional worlds. The Nothing is television, and movies, and apathy towards the make-believe. The Nothing is growing up, and losing the ability to even have an imagination. It’s…well, it’s nothing. It’s the absence of something, in this case, creativity and imagination.

I plan to pick up the book that this movie was based off of and read it with my kids. In a world of being constantly connected through social media and void of actually feeling meaningful personal connections, I figure it’s a step in the right direction. Perhaps reading the book might start a discussion between them and their friends?

If any of you have read the book, please let me know what you think about it in the comment section. If you’ve seen the movie, let me know what you thought of my online re-enactment.

Written by Heidi Woodard

The one who sat on my lap and listened to bedtime stories first…is now officially a young man.

When did the Bob the Builder lunch bag, the Pokemon cards, and the high voice disappear?

I look up at him and the reality sinks in that his reliance on me and his dad is fleeting. Here in this moment, yet ever so translucent, like the cloud of air released by breath on a January day in Nebraska. Gone tomorrow.

I had to learn to let him go…from my lap, from the special reading spot, from the longer conversations, from his shared bedroom with his brother, from the extended hugs.

But I realized, only through letting him go, am I able to witness how far he is capable of soaring himself.

I feel in my heart that I did well even when my head starts to doubt.

Is he ready?
Will he get hurt?
Does he know I’ll never judge him?
That we all make mistakes?
That true love is hard?
Will he embrace his potential?
Without a shadow of doubt?
Will he remain humble?
Can I still hold his hand (when no one’s looking)?

The most ironic thing is that I still remember rocking him back and forth in his first bedroom with walls adorned in Noah’s arc stencils, the bunk beds, and the hard wood floors.

In that time and place when I was practically busting at the seams with his brother in my belly and having little room left on my lap, I worried and wondered as I turned the book pages, Will he be ok when he no longer has me for just himself?

 

The answer is a resounding YES. He is ok.

I, on the other hand, am only doing so-so.

Happy 14th birthday. Your dad and I are so very lucky to have been blessed with you and cannot wait to see what life has in store for you.

Knowing how great life is

January 9, 2016 — 6 Comments

How’s life been treating you?

I’m guessing your answer to that question is probably influenced by your age, whom you depend on and who depends on you, the person you see staring back at you in the mirror, the struggles you’ve endured, the triumphs you’ve enjoyed, and how you personally define happiness.

Whenever asked, my go-to answer is normally “good!” without a second thought. But, depending on different life circumstances, what actually swirls around in my brain is more like this…

I can’t believe I’m leaving home to go live somewhere else for college.*

I kinda like Ryan Woodard. Like…a lot.

Saying goodbye to my teammates after all these years, and all we’ve been through together, is the worst.

I’m going to marry him. Are we technically grownups? This is crazy.

Finally graduating school…look out real world…I’m coming for you.

These can’t actually be the ONLY houses in our price range. Are these even up to code? Will we ever find a home?

What do you mean there are no paid breaks between New Year’s and Memorial Day? That can’t be right.

It’s surreal this will be our last dinner together as just the two of us before bringing a mini version of ourselves into this world.

I have to plan my social life and sleeping schedule in three hour increments because this kid is so hungry.

I kinda want to punch Ryan every time I wake up and see him next to me sleeping ‘like a baby’. Where did that stupid phrase come from? Our baby doesn’t sleep.

Returning to work sounded good on paper. But, man, it’s hard functioning with my head in one place and my heart in another.

I can’t believe our little boy will soon have a baby brother. I can’t wait!

What on earth were we thinking?

Trying to keep up with daily demands and hold it all together.

I’m not exercising as much as I used to, but at least I’m doing something one or two nights a week.

It’s not exactly the career path I’d envisioned, but it’s stable.

How on earth do people keep their homes ‘Open House’ clean all the time?

Why isn’t there a punch card for ER visits that every mom of boys automatically receives before leaving the hospital?

One last look before we close the door for the final time on our first home. I remember the day we moved into this place and our first night sleeping in the basement on nothing but a mattress. Such a great memory.

I guess we’ll be living in an apartment while we wait for the new home to be finished. With two small children. And two dogs.

Finally found our forever home, or at least where we’ll be until our kids leave us behind.

This is a longer commute than I’m used to.

MaternalMedia is officially launched! Online therapy. Less pressure than actually writing a book. I wonder if anyone actually relates to what I ramble about?

A trifecta of kids? WHY NOT?! Flat stomachs are overrated.

The rumor is indeed true: Girls are a different breed. She has strong opinions about what she’s doing and wearing and eating and planning. As a preschooler, she looked me over from head-to-toe and asked me if today was “mismatch day” at my work. It was not. 

I will do this damn triathlon if it kills me. There’s still an athlete buried in here somewhere!

I am guaranteed uninterrupted ME time if I stick with running.

Ryan is a supportive husband, a fun dad, and a caring coach. I think I’ll keep him.

My plan is to win over a dynamic duo of radio DJs and then keep showing up in their studio until they beg me to leave.

OHMEYEGAWD ALL OF THE KIDS NEED SOMETHING 24/7.

Goodbye friends. Goodbye sanity. Goodbye running. Goodnight Moon.

Hello minivan. 

I’m tired of working on auto-pilot. Eject! Eject!

New job. New challenges. New team. Onward.

I’m going to GiveTheGameBack because I love to watch my kids play.

I’m happy.

I’m exhausted.

Dark room, blankets, foo foo drink, Netflix. These are a few of my favorite things.

I never fully appreciated my mom and dad while growing up.

I’ve got the best parents and in-laws in the world. I would be lost without them.

How blessed am I to have colleagues like these doing the work that I do? Hoping for the best as my future lies in someone else’s hands.

I have to stand on my tip toes to see into the eyes of a boy who once weighed 8 lbs, 14 oz, and whose entire body was 22.5 inches long.

We are soon going to have three different kids in three separate schools.

My dog won’t live forever. But I will love my dog forever.

* I have retained very few memories prior to 1995.

 

So that pretty much summed up the last 20 years with one caveat: I left out some of the bigger experiences that have helped me gain perspective and cherish each new day for the blessing that it is.

Losing my grandparents, rocking my children back to sleep in the middle of the night, getting to know the woman whose son gave my mom a second chance at life, skiing down a mountain side with my dad, traveling to tropical get-aways with my husband, saying goodbye to one of our dogs, appreciating  just how far friends are willing to go to support me and my dreams, embracing the chance to serve as a witness when my sister marries her longtime girlfriend, staring in awe as my children morph into free-thinking, uniquely incredible people…hard to adequately articulate what these moments mean to me.

I do know that, in my 39th year of life, as my dear friend Ashli so eloquently puts it:

At least I get to spend the rest of my life knowing how great life is.

Video forewarning: Ashli’s favorite thing about life is connecting with people and once you hear her words and see her smile, you will forever be changed for the better. Take time to watch this beautiful video that was originally posted on the Her View from Home Facebook page and is sponsored by Team Concepts.

The next time someone asks How life’s been treating you?, be honest. If not with them, at least with yourself.

Take the time to genuinely thank those who have made your life great. Say goodbye to people or things who don’t.

Thank you for coming along on this journey that I originally thought was just a blog…but turns out it’s been so much more for me.

Written by Heidi Woodard