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I hope you have all heard the beautiful melody with even more lovely lyrics, “Leader of the Band” by Dan Fogelberg at some point in your lifetime.

Fogelberg penned the song for his own dad, Lawrence, who was a musician, educator, and band leader. In Dan’s words about his paternal inspiration, “I was so gratified that I was able to give him that song before he passed on. In his final years he was interviewed many times by the national press because of it. He went out in a blaze of glory, which meant a lot to me and my family.”

My husband’s grandfather passed away in the early morning hours this past Father’s Day.

I can’t help but think of William (Buck) Woodard, aka “Poppy,” a role model for all who knew and loved him, when listening to these lyrics.

“His gentle means of sculpting souls took me years to understand… My life has been a poor attempt to imitate the man. I’m just a living legacy to the Leader of the Band.

Isn’t that how life and death traditionally unfold? We rush through life, attempting to keep pace with everything and everyone buzzing around us?

And then a loved one passes and it is as if God gently places a hand upon our shoulder to slow us down, to pause and reflect on those we love and the life we live. It is during this time of reflection when we soak in the magnitude of the people who have helped shape our lives for the better.

I was able to tell Poppy goodbye and he gave me the same comforting smile and hug he always extended to family and friends.

He was, and will remain, the Leader of our Band.

In loving memory of Buck Woodard

Written by Heidi Woodard

Monday morning started off with me warning the kids that the time may have finally come for us to say goodbye to our longtime canine companion, Murphy the Pug. She’s 15 years old.

pug life

Pug life. Respect.

All three of them got to see me wipe away buckets of tears on the way to school. You see, my husband and I have had Murphy (he named HER after Dale Murphy despite the fact she’s a female) longer than we’ve been parents to our human children.

  
She had continued to eat like normal, but for roughly four straight days, her water bowl had remained untouched.

She was also acting a lot more lethargic and uninterested in her normal activities. She had gotten sick and had a few accidents (but, if I’m being honest, Murphy’s had random episodes of both over the past year because she’s an old lady who tends not to care what others think of her behavior).

Google “pug personality traits” if you think I’m being facetious.

Doesn't she look so sad? I took this picture to shove in my husband's face when he inevitably questions the vet bill.

Doesn’t she look so sad? I took this picture to shove in my husband’s face when he inevitably questions the vet bill.

After booking an appointment with our family vet and taking her for what I feared was our last slow walk together, I sat by her side on the couch and let her know it was ok for her to go if that’s what was meant to be.

I had to put her brother-from-another-mother down several years ago and I’ve never quite recovered from that experience. Murphy and I had come to an agreement, after we had to say goodbye to Eightball, that she was to pass away peacefully in her sleep when the time was right so I wouldn’t need to go through that heart-wrenching decision ever again.

Miraculously, at the vet’s office, her blood work showed no signs of impending doom. Her kidneys were not failing like I had feared. I learned by talking to the vet, in between sobs and sniffles, that he had to put his own dog down that very same day. Rarely have I felt more comforted and understood than I did by him in that moment.

Fast forward to today. Murphy is like a Timex watch – she takes a licking and keeps on ticking.

She’s not happy with me for making her leave the comfort of her Dora coach for follow-up care, and we continue to monitor her behavior, but for now…my heart remains whole.

Murphy in her favorite lounger.

Murphy in her favorite lounger.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Let me be the first to admit, I’ve learned to tame my competitive nature over the years and make the sporting experience more about my kids than myself. I like to say I’m a work in progress.

I’ve recounted My Moment on GiveTheGameBack. I remember that critical point in time when I realized I need to reevaluate why I was at the ball field supporting my child and have subsequently changed my mentality and approach to the GAME.

However, prior to that moment, there was an episode when I behaved less than ideally in front of my children. I think it’s important to explain (not justify) my past behavior to let you know that I, like everyone, learn from my mistakes. For those who refuse to admit ever crossing the line at a youth sporting competition in the name of your budding athlete, I counter with two thoughts: 1. I bow down to you and your self-control and 2. I don’t believe you. (not even for a second)

There we were, the Woodard family, back in fall ball several years ago: me, my husband, and our three children.

Allow me to set the stage. The “regular season” for baseball in the Midwest runs from late April to early July. Fall ball, in terms of scheduled games, lasts half the total duration but feels like an eternity to suffer through. The number of teams competing is less, the quality of competition isn’t always as great, and the double-headers that typically round off an otherwise restful weekend are grueling.

OK, I fully admit I am already making excuses, but bear with me.

My oldest was only 10 at the time. Ten-year-old boys can best be described as fourth grade, 4-ft somethings, with less than laser-like focus. While they all generally have an interest in winning, the majority of them compete in fall ball to hang out with their buddies. (Coaches will tell you it’s because the boys want to stay active and improve their game in the off season.)

My son’s team was down by at least a half dozen runs and, in 10-year old baseball…especially fall ball, that’s a deep valley out of which to climb. It was late in the game so they ran the risk of losing by the “mercy rule” (which they might as well rename the “parental sanity rule”). Definition of the “mercy rule”: Once a team is up by 8 runs after 5 complete innings over their competition, the game is automatically over.

My son’s teammate managed to make it to second base…probably on a wild pitch, or just a normal pitch since few 10-year old catchers are strong enough to throw out a runner stealing second base.

It was very late in the game and the chances of my kid’s team mounting a comeback were slimmer than Kim Kardashian going a full day without snapping a selfie. Not high. You get the picture.

Low and behold, I hear the opposing team’s coach yell out instructions and then see the pitcher throw to the short stop at second base in an attempted pickoff play. When the pickoff attempt didn’t work, instead of tossing the ball back to the pitcher, the short stop walks it to the mound.

I instantly knew what was happening. The ol’ hidden ball trick. I knew what was going down because I’ve pulled that same play in my college alumni game against the current players.

If you’ve never seen the hidden ball trick, watch the YouTube clip below.

My son’s teammate assumes the pitcher has the ball, takes his normal leadoff, and falls for the play (because he’s 10!) as the opposing team’s short stop tags him out, much to the amusement of their coach.

Here’s a confession: If I was that kid at shortstop (or anyone else on that opposing team), I would have thought that was the greatest trick play ever.

Because I was not that 10-year old shortstop and was instead the mom of one of the boys getting their butts kicked by a team coached by a dad who cared more about trick plays than teachable moments, I didn’t find it quite as amusing. And I let him know about it. I think my exact less-than-mature-and-not-very-thought-out words were something like this:

GOOD JOB, COACH! WAY TO PERFECT THE HIDDEN BALL TRICK! YOU MUST BE SO PROUD!

(Lame, I know. But I’ve never been the best at articulating anger.)

If your team is only winning by one or two runs and it’s the championship game, you could probably make me understand your rationale (even if I don’t agree with it). When you are about to run-rule another team, I don’t buy your excuse.

Not to be outdone by a loud-mouthed mom, the coach in turn had one of his players steal home in mid-pitch when they were up to bat next.

I just shook my head and thought to myself, “What a (insert male body part) move.”

But here’s the thing, I was no better than that coach that day. I ran my mouth from the stands and it didn’t make the situation any better. Luckily, my son never heard what I yelled, but that didn’t make me feel any less foolish in hindsight

Their team still lost. My son wouldn’t have cared that much about the game’s outcome because he’d already been competing in sports (even at the age of 10) for a few years and he learned that, in sports and life, you win some and you lose some.

If I ran into that same coach today, I would freely admit to being as crazy competitive as he is, and I would hope we would share a laugh together. I’d tell him that he should check out what I’m trying to do on GiveTheGameBack.

And when he’d be pulling up the website on his phone, I’d sucker punch him when he wasn’t looking and yell out TRICK PLAY! as he was attempting to regain his breath. Kidding…I would only contemplate doing that. I am working on thinking before I act these days.

Written by Heidi Woodard

No rest for the weary

April 28, 2015 — 4 Comments

I’m 38 years old, but I may as well be 83 based on my body’s inability to fully recover from a girls’ weekend getaway.

The Woodard ladies comprised roughly half of the entourage.

L to R: Me, my mother-in-law, and my three sisters-in-law comprised roughly half of the total entourage.

My lovely, much younger, sister-in-law Kristi is getting married in June. In true pre-wedding fashion, a large group of ladies gathered together for one last hoorah for the single bride-to-be.

We landed at a popular, central destination spot to celebrate – Kansas City, MO. There we soaked in the city’s attractions, including the Power & Light District, various breweries, a Pedal Hopper party bike tour, and the best sushi place the city has to offer.

Pedal Hopper

Pedal Hopper injuries are legit.

All of the bachelorette party goers – and I mean ALL of them – are awesome people, which makes me look forward to the big wedding day even more. The 2.5 days we spent together flew by in what felt like 2.5 hours because of the Maid of Honor’s attention to every single detail.

Speaking of 2.5 hours, that’s roughly the amount of time I napped on Saturday afternoon following Friday night’s festivities. I don’t go to bed at 2 AM frequently enough (thank God!) and my lack of training made it nearly impossible to bounce back…yet bounce back I did on Saturday evening.

Much of the weekend is now a blur, thanks to lack of sleep, some specialty drinks, and the most amazing pudding I’ve ever tasted in my entire life (NO it wasn’t laced with anything illegal…it wasn’t that kind of party). I am a big fan of making people laugh so, fortunately for me – and in particular my back – the mechanical bull was out of commission at the last bar we visited.

I gave Kristi a two-sided necklace that has her maiden name engraved on the side that faces her heart and her soon-to-be new last name on the side that faces outward. I feel that it’s very important for married couples to remember that they, as individuals, are as important on their own as they are as a pair. I feel like this is something I’ve learned throughout my 15-year marriage to my husband. We haven’t tried to change one another, just compliment each other.

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There was no rest for the weary when I got back into town Sunday as I had two of my son’s baseball games to attend. So while all the youngins could lounge and recharge after returning home, I was busy cheering on a bunch of 11-year old boys. I’m now nursing a nasty sore throat as a result, but I don’t regret a single second of my time with friends and family.

You only live once. If you’re asked to join a rowdy bunch to celebrate a special occasion, don’t ever pass up on the opportunity. I was reminded this weekend how blessed I am to be able to sneak away with the women I love and to return home to the family I love.

Written by Heidi Woodard