Archives For Belonging

I have been attempting to soak up the unusually warm temps as of late by walking.

My walks used to be filled with pets and little people, but more often than not nowadays, I walk with only my thoughts keeping me company.

My thoughts and, because I like to chat, other people I discover along the way.

To the older couple sitting on the bench together: Although I only met eyes with the husband while the wife lovingly tended to their dog on her lap, I am glad you smiled and waved back. I realize you didn’t see me at first while I watched you both looking at each other and talking about what I’d like to believe were days gone by. Living with growing confusion and disdain around how so many people have their noses in their phones and are so distracted. Wondering how everyone could voluntarily ignore such beauty all around them because they are too preoccupied with keeping track of how others are capturing their moments online.

But not you. You were choosing to remain focused on what was important, WHO was important, together. And I simply thought that was awesome.

To the young couple walking every which direction following one child while simultaneously pushing your baby around in a stroller: Oh do I remember those walks. Way back when, I can’t say I was too fond of those walks. Because there was more wandering than walking. More whining than appreciating. More sweating than soaking in the sun.

Today, however, I felt a tinge of sadness while watching you. Knowing that my children weren’t stressing me out on my walk because, well, they weren’t with me on my walk. Yes, had I asked any of them to, they would have accompanied dear old mom, but there would be no wandering off to play in the creek or swing on the weeping willow branches because they are growing out of such things.

What do the parenting experts say? You are doing something right if you feel like your kid can make solid independent choices without you. What they don’t tell you in any parents’ guide is that seeing your child make independent choices doesn’t always make your heart swell with pride. Sometimes that realization makes your heart ache for days gone by. Days when you pushed the inconsolable baby in the stroller while chasing down a wild toddler.

To the neighborhood kid who always says hi and acts wiser and friendlier than most adults: I love the fact that you warmly welcome conversation. I am amazed by your life’s journey even at the tender age of 11. As the son of an airman, you’ve seen far more of this world than I have. You acknowledged how different it is to live in the Midwest rather than on the coast. It makes me smile to hear how you are looking forward to playing catcher this summer and why you like that position more than pitching, and how you’ll be painting your nails in neon so your guy can see the right signals.

I hope you enjoyed the movie you were so anxious to see this afternoon. And I wish you luck this baseball season.

To the strangers on my walk today, don’t be a stranger.

Written by Heidi Woodard


I am blessed beyond measure to have both of my parents actively engaged in my life. They’ve been that way for as long as I can remember.

It was only through age and experience that I learned not everyone has as rosy of a relationship with their parents as I do with mine. I do not take a single day or moment with them for granted.


Dad and Mom

Now that my own three kids span elementary school, middle school, and high school, respectively, I thought it would be the perfect time to ask my mom and dad some questions about what they thought I was like growing up.

You never know unless you ask, right? Here are their answers almost exactly as they were typed out for me by my dad. You’ll see he’s a huge fan of unnecessary punctuation…..especially…..ellipsis…..everywhere!

Question 1: What was my most dominant personality trait as far back as you can remember? How would you have described me?

Answer: You have always been a confident individual who can back up your attitude. Also, you were never afraid to experience something new…examples- singing- diving or anything.

Yes, I legitimately gave singing a shot. Anyone who has heard my epic mumbleoke performances on Q98.5’s Pat & JT Show likely just spit out their drink in disbelief.

Question 2: Did I give you the time of day when you wanted to have conversations with me?

Answer: I’d say “yes” or so it appeared so…..we used to have conversations that I thought might be helpful & you would listen…. not get much feedback from you though.

Question 3: Did you like all of my friends? How did you attempt to steer me toward certain friends and away from others?

Answer: You attended (a public school) for a few years & were exposed to some dandys & I convinced your mom that a parochial education would be your best route. There are dandys who attend both types of schools, for the record, but we were overall happy with your friends…most were pretty good kids- so we thought.

I remember being deathly afraid of an older girl who routinely bullied me at my first school. I don’t think my parents have any idea how HUGE of a relief it was for me to go to a new school. It was at the smaller parochial school where I was a fish out of water, but I loved it. I was the non-Catholic, North Omaha transfer who had to learn how to recite the entire Hail Mary and how to shorten the Lord’s Prayer (still remember what it felt like the first time I didn’t stop after the “but deliver us from evil” part).

Question 4: Was I ever scared and, if so, about what?

Answer: After you fell when bike riding & got scraped up, you were leery of trying it again. Sort of like after you fell in one of you first track meets running the hurdles….I truly believe all these years later that could’ve been your best event………..I know you hated it though……….sort of like the high jump. I think as you got older……apprehension – not necessarily ” scared “….occurred more for you. You wanted to please us- teachers- etc.


Thanks for believing in my potential, dad!


First and foremost, I did hate the hurdles and I also had a healthy distrust in my ability to ever figure out proper high jump form. Through CONSTANT encouragement from my dad (and slight badgering), I stuck with high jump and ended up winning a gold medal in all classes my senior year of high school. That singular moment remains to this day one of my most memorable athletic accomplishments. I said “peace out” to hurdles and never regretted a single day. Ha!

Also, my dad’s observation about how I began showing more apprehension as I grew older due to my desire to please authority figures, well that blew me away. How very true. Woulda, Shoulda, Coulda’s are part of every (wo)man’s life I suppose.

Question 5: When did I make you the most happy or proud?

Answer: I could go on forever on this. When you graduated with honors from Creighton University (the first in our family to graduate college since your Aunt Mary). When you brought your first report cards home, when you first started competing in organized sports ( for not only being a great competitor but also a great teammate….I think you understood at an early age how important it is in life to treat others nice & respect what they contribute. ) As a male, I was totally amazed at your athletic ability.

Your induction into the C.U. Athletic Hall of Fame was the icing on the cake as well as the Female Student Athlete of the Year Award you earned your senior year.

All your awards made us so PROUD & I’ll never forget – out of the blue…. you singing the Star Spangle banner – a cappella – before one of your high school basketball games.  As it turns out, your decision to marry Ryan was the right one & I’m proud you chose a good man to spend your life with.Also you two should be commended for having some pretty darn good kids-HA.

Question 6: When did you feel the most disappointed in me?

Answer: I’ll never forget THE LOOK you would give when things didn’t fall your way…you know the pouting when you were called for a foul you didn’t think you committed. A very small disappointing phase you’d have on occasion.

I was disappointed  in myself when your mom talked me into letting you go to that dance when your were 13-? you wanted to go sooo badly & I caved.

Question 7: What advice would you give me as I approach 40 years old?

Answer: Praying to God will help. Trust your instincts when tough decisions need to be made……so far you’ve done one hell of a job.Nobody has all the answers. Continue to enjoy life as much as you can……if you want to see something truly amazing -just stop by anytime to view the new sandstone pavers I put down over the weekend. The crowd has been thinning out so parking shouldn’t be a problem.

My dad: One of the kindest, funniest dudes I know. He worked his butt off this weekend beautifying the back yard while my mom was out of town. My mom: One of the most understanding, determined women to ever grace this earth. Her flower gardens would blow your mind. They are quite the pair together.

Written by Heidi Woodard

I had a chance to do something today that I’d never previously done in my 36 years on this earth. I visited inner-city poor people in a major U.S. city.

inner city housing

Me. A tall, doughy-skinned, somewhat naive woman who lives in a city where the vast majority of her neighbors look the same.

Me. A person who’s lived in five different places, all located within 15 miles of the other over three decades.

Me. A former spinner on the mouse wheel of corporate America turned advocate for change.

I don’t talk much on this blog about what I do for a profession. And that’s intentional. I learned long ago that it was best for me to separate my work life from my social life.

When my children were babies, I second-guessed my decision to work at all. On those dreadful mornings when one of them would cry out for me as I returned to my car to leave them at daycare, trying not to let them see me cry myself, I hated the idea that I abandoned them. I never wanted them to think their mom valued the almighty dollar over their happiness.

I saw those kinds of parents at the office. They clocked in early, left late, traveled often, and I wondered if they took pride in how many meetings and high-profile events they attended. Were they more concerned about being known by others than being known by their children? Did they justify their actions based on the size of their massive homes and the vastness of their personal toy collection? Did they need to be reminded that none of the credentials trailing behind their names was as important as the letters “M.O.M.” or “D.A.D.” in the eyes of their offspring?

It was during those years when I learned this about myself: No profession, no matter how fulfilling, will ever be more important to me than family.

So you can imagine my relief when, just over a year ago,  I found a company that allowed me to put my family first as well as gave me the opportunity to positively impact other families.

I now work with the poorer population, specifically on trying to improve access to health care and outcomes. What I do is not always considered useful or socially acceptable.

I’ve learned that as a people in general, we like to preach. We like to judge. It’s easier to criticize what’s going wrong (and, believe me, I know a LOT is going wrong in health care) versus build up the right.

I had the chance to shadow a young woman today who is building up the right. Her job is to visit with people who haven’t been to their doctors and ask them why. She goes to their homes, answers questions, schedules appointments, and shows genuine concern.

She’s also completing her last year of studies to earn a bachelor’s degree in psychology. A mom of three just like me.

It costs money to send people like her out into communities. Some may wonder why on earth money is spent on reminding people to do something that comes so naturally to so many of us. I mean, come on, visiting a doctor isn’t that hard.

That is, if you have a car like I do. If you have a job that gives you PTO like I do. If you have someone to watch your kids like i do. If you had a mom or dad who introduced you to a pediatrician like mine did. If you speak the same language as the office staff who schedule the appointments. If….if…if…

I learned the power of not making assumptions today. Every person is an individual with individual needs.

helping hand

“Too often we underestimate the power of a touch, a smile, a kind word, a listening ear, an honest compliment, or the smallest act of caring, all of which have the potential to turn a life around.” 
― Leo Buscaglia

Created by Heidi Woodard