I keep stealing glances at you when you’re not looking.

You’re still too young to be mortified by your mother’s behavior and I am savoring every last second knowing that. Realizing your adolescence phase is right around the corner makes me want to cherish your little girl phase even more.

Jaycee supergirl

I realize that stopping you from growing up is not only impossible, but irresponsible as well. Part of my job as your mom is to let you go eventually.

I’m supposed to let you become more independent, more aloof, more at bay. And far less reliant on your dad and me.

I’m supposed to be your eternal compass, guiding you and your behavior in the right direction for your one, special life.

I’m supposed to be your parent first and your friend second.

And yet…

There is a large part of me who doesn’t want you to change at all from who you are at this very moment. Caught in between childhood and young adulthood.

Jaycee sleeping

I love that you are almost 9 years old.

It caught me by surprise to think about how this will be your last single-digit year birthday. Having experienced your brothers getting older before you has taught me that, as each year increases, so too does the space between us. Not in a bad way…just in a life moves on way.

My wish this year on your birthday, as I watch you blow out your candles, will be to not let the next 365 days fly by as quickly as the last 365 days did if I can help it. My other wish will be to let you know these things about your childhood self.

I love watching you ride like the wind on your Barbie scooter. I will miss it when that wobbly back wheel finally falls off.

Jaycee scooter

I love complaining about and then subsequently doing school science projects with you. Soon you will outpace my level of academic genius. Until then, even I can handle baking soda and vinegar reactions.

I will miss holding your hand when we walk, when we rehash our days, when we fall asleep.

I love your competitive drive. I love watching you play sports at a pace that doesn’t consume all of your energy or free time. I know, again from experience, it won’t always be this way.

Jaycee softball

I love how you sing with reckless abandon, making up notes and verses as you go. And how you don’t dance like no one is watching; rather, you perform as if everyone should be.

I love that you don’t yet have a cell phone stealing your attention away.

I love that you consider yourself beautiful just the way you are.

Jaycee field day

I will miss the mischievous look in your eye as I watch you climb to the top of every swing set, scale every rock wall, and balance atop fences.

 

Jaycee climbing2

I love that you still like to show up the boys with your natural born ability and aren’t worried about having to show off your body in an attempt to gain their attention.

Because I have lived through the transition of childhood into adolescence twice before with your brothers, I must tell you that this phase you are in is both fabulous and fleeting. Think of it like the weeping willow tree whose branches you swung on for so many years.

Since last spring when that tree was unexpectedly uprooted by the tornado that ripped through our tiny park, I have walked many times by the vast empty space that its majestic frame used to consume and the reality hits me.

You are my final trick-or-treater.

My final hide-and-seeker.

My final almost 9-year old.

I couldn’t be prouder of the young lady you are becoming. But please forgive me for wanting to hold on to now for just a little while longer.

Jaycee firework

Written by Heidi Woodard

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Holy crap, how could 10 full months have already flashed before my very eyes?

10U Lady Cougars team

Special thanks to Kiki’s Kaptures for taking team and individual photos this year! Visit Kiki online at http://www.kikiskaptures.com.

 

I entered this volunteer “job” with a stellar resume – one year being the assistant coach in a recreational coach-pitch softball league. I’m happy to say I only hit one girl that first summer.

I bet you didn’t know that this vast experience automatically qualified me for being named head coach of a more competitive, yet not overly dominated by adults, youth fast pitch softball team. Neither did I. Yet I was offered and accepted this role back in August 2016.

Girls fast pitch softball divides their levels of play into two-year increments. Therefore, the earliest that girls start competing in games where they or their teammates perform windmill pitching in my home state is 8 and under (keep in mind the “under” can be as young as 7 or, GASP!, 6 years old), which is more commonly referred to as 8U. Once girls age out of 8U, they move on to 10U, 12U, 14U, 16U, and finally 18U. A select few move on to play in college and an even more select few play as professionals or (in those years when the sport of softball is included) as part of the Olympic games.

I think the 10U division best suits my personality type and patience level. There have been many moments in life when I wouldn’t mind being that age again, so hanging out with this particular group of girls turned out to be good for my soul. However, I wasn’t sure how the season would unfold back in those first few months last summer.

softball bruise

We definitely took some bruises early in the year…literally and figuratively.

 

Back when I was asked if we would be doing “bumping” practice (translation: one of my girls wanted to know how to bunt). Back when we devoted several hours at three different practices on leadoff timing, only to watch half the team stand like petrified deer completely upright on top of every base with zero clue of what to do once the ball left the opposing pitcher’s hand. Back when not one, but two players, got hit smack in the face by their throwing partners because neither of the pairs knew what in the hell was going on during warmups. Back when I was more concerned about the team as a collective making any contact with the ball whatsoever at the plate versus raising any single individual’s batting average.

Our saving grace is that we had several pitchers who could throw strikes on a consistent basis. It was as if the softball Gods looked down upon me and said, “We will bless you with good pitchers because we realize you don’t know jack about how to teach that.”

tourney time

Strong in the eye black category.

 

For all of the mental and physical player miscues, there were equal if not greater amounts of coaching blunders on my part. Those times when I had to be reminded of the code to get into the hitting facility or practice field because I failed to save a simple reminder on my phone. The times when I frantically texted parents about my anticipated tardiness to practice when my real job ran late. The time when I not-so-subtly reminded an opposing team’s coaching staff about the age of one of the players I was teaching as they barked out their objections to her leaving the base early while they were annihilating our lesser experienced team. The time when I expressed my opinion to a home plate umpire who got in the way of a throw to cost us a potential out.

Boy was it a learning year for ALL involved. I didn’t always give the game back in the heat of the moment, but I’d like to believe I tried my hardest throughout the year.

And here’s the kicker: This hodgepodge group of girls, the majority of whom I had never met prior to last summer, has made an infallible imprint on my life.

park play

They believed they could do great things together…so they did.

 

I handed out certificates of recognition to each of them. I purposely chose to do that before the end of the season because I’m not always the best with goodbyes. These certificates encapsulated what I felt each girl brought to the team. I promised the parents in the form of a letter that I handed out at the beginning of the season that each girl would know, regardless of her natural talent and coordination levels, she has a vital role to play on this team.

Below is a listing of the descriptions on those certificates of recognition. My hope is that the girls will remember being called out in front of their peers and parents – not for something they fell short on, as unfortunately happens far too often in youth sports, but for something spectacular that they accomplished.

  1. Team Toughness Award
  2. Leaving it ALL on the Field Award
  3. Spark Plug Award
  4. Small but Mighty Award
  5. Powerful and Patient Award
  6. Leadership by Example Award
  7. Maximum Effort Award
  8. Grit and Fit Award
  9. Killer Instinct and Curiosity Award
  10. Smiles for Miles Award
  11. Strength in the Batter’s Box and Giggle Box Award
  12. Persistence and Positivity Award

I am willing to put money on the fact that, even into their early adult years, many of these recognition descriptions will still ring true about their core personalities. I had the privilege of watching so many innate strengths come to life.

To the 2016-2017 Lady Cougar 10U softball team, all I can say is you helped me evolve as a person this year. You proved to me that very small bodies can do very big things when they put their minds to it. I love to watch you play.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Life is full of ups and downs. Have you ever stopped to consider if either extreme is within your control?

I’ve lived long enough to know that I’ve lost some of my naiveness from younger years. I believe that life will naturally take its twists and turns and, the majority of the time, we are simply along for the ride.

Yes, we can choose to concentrate on development and eliminate distractions to put ourselves in the best position to learn and evolve. Yes, we can make time for and really listen to those around us in order to build better relationships. Yes, we can make daily choices in order to solidify better habitual patterns.

Yet life doesn’t always go according to one’s plan. You expect the fast ball. You get the curve.

So believing this to be true, I struggle sometimes with my conflicting desire to try to be in control of the uncontrollable.

I want to be seen as a top achiever, as having a firm grip on life, as being compassionate and present in the moment. I want to be seen as trustworthy and able to be relied upon. I hope by controlling “x” in my life, then “y” will naturally result.

The problem with wanting to be seen though is that you need to first answer the question, “Why do I want to be seen?”

There is a big difference between giving off the illusion of having what society deems is “it all” – prestige, power, influence, health, wealth, and happiness – versus what gives you a sense of purposefulness when you are alone with your thoughts. One is a facade, the other is truth.

Why do I want to be seen?

I want to be seen to know that I matter to others. To know that I am of value to them. To know that I make their life happier.

Fortunately for me, my scope of “others” is relatively small. My “others” are also generous in doling out their gratitude. My family in first place, friends and confidants second, creativity sharers third, and so on and so forth. Believing that God sees me in my truest form, I know I am trying to do right by Him too of course.

I believe I originally embraced blogging and other forms of social media sharing as a creative outlet. I love expressing myself through writing. Selfishly, it feels good to know that others find value in what I choose to write about.

However, the social media sharing world from when I first began back in 2009 has spiraled into what I can best describe as social sabotage in less than 10 years time.

I’ve seen people fight about posts and pictures. I’ve seen relationships I once thought were solid fall by the wayside. I’ve seen people needing to be right more than needing to be understood. I’ve seen people (young and old) not wanting to miss out online, while inadvertently ignoring what’s waiting for them to discover in real life.

And while I’ve been watching all of this unfold on screen, real life had a way of moving on in all of its inherent beauty. That’s the funny thing about life. It happens with or without you noticing sometimes.

I watched an episode of 60 Minutes recently that talked about people’s reliance on their smartphones and how Silicon Valley is engineering your phone, apps, and social media to get you hooked. Here’s a snip-it I highly encourage you to watch.

In this episode, Anderson Cooper interviewed former Google Design Ethicist Tristan Harris along with several other guests. Tristan left Google to lead a movement called Time Well Spent, with a mission of aligning technology with humanity.  I would also encourage you to read his most widely read essay How Technology Hijacks People’s Minds – from a Magician and Google’s Design Ethicist.

The information that Tristan shares in his interview as well as in his writing escalates that icky feeling I experience anytime I have my own nose buried in my phone or I see those whom I love doing the same.

My blog posts are fewer and farther between these days. And that is intentional.

I will continue to write. I still want to share (overshare?). I still want you to read what I have to say. I still want to hear from you.

But more important than any of those things, I want to start seeing more and being seen less.

Do you feel the same way?

What can we discover together, yet not feel compelled to share with each other?

Life is most breathtaking when it is unfiltered, with no clever captions, and uncontrolled.

Written by Heidi Woodard