Archives For Friendship

I couldn’t think of a better way to follow-up my coaching series (which featured insights from a baseball coach, a soccer coach, a basketball coach, and a volleyball coach) than to share recent and upcoming experiences that are connected to my former softball coach and teammates at Creighton University.

I had the privilege of providing color commentary for the Creighton University vs. DePaul University final regular season conference softball game on Mother’s Day.

It was a memorable experience that I won’t soon forget.

Big East commentary_Woodard and Ryan

Heidi Woodard and Jake Ryan prior to the start of the Creighton vs DePaul softball game on May 8, 2016.

Although my focus was obviously on the game at hand (unfortunately, the Bluejays lost 2-0 to the Big East regular season champion Blue Demons), I couldn’t keep my mind from drifting to the six C.U. seniors, particularly in the bottom half of the seventh inning of that game, who I knew were three outs away from seeing their collegiate playing days come to an end.

I remember what it was like to have to say goodbye to my coach and fellow teammates after they had influenced my life in a way that is indescribable with mere words.

senior day goodbye

Coach and Heidi Geier back in 1999

Brent Vigness

Coach and Heidi Woodard in 2015

There were five of us in the class of 1999 (self-nicknamed the Fab Five) who competed and grew up together for four years. We each entered into college as All-Stars from our respective teams, had our butts collectively handed to us as underclassmen, learned to elevate our game as we matured, and progressively raised our squad’s performance until we left the field as conference champs.

We won, lost, bickered, supported, belly ached, belly laughed, and most importantly believed in each other. As a result, we found a way under Coach Brent Vigness’s leadership, to improve year-after-year before recording our final out against the eventual College World Series Champion UCLA Bruins softball team in the NCAA Regionals.

fab five

Young and fearless: the very best friendships and memories are the ones that last a lifetime

Over the past 17 years, the Fab Five have grown up. We’ve returned to our home cities, married our spouses, started our careers and our families, have celebrated triumphs, and endured losses.

Sadly, the recent loss of a teammate’s mom prompted my reunion with these wonderful women this weekend. Val and her mom, Sandy, are pictured above in the photo of me jumping on my coach. Sandy passed away on April 26, 2016.

Isn’t that how life tends to work? It doesn’t wait around patiently for you to make the time to prioritize people. It slaps you in the face with a wake-up call when you’re least expecting it.

I am counting down the hours before I can see my teammates again and scream out their names in gratitude for the chance to hang out for a few days. I have missed past opportunities to get together…and I know I won’t be able to fly across the county at my every whim in the future…but THIS TIME, well THIS TIME I’m making it work.

Life has moved on with or without our permission. Loss will bring us together again. Love and laughter will remind us how much we mean to one another, even after all these years.

Every athlete will remember the memories made with their teammates over everything else. Crossing the figurative finish line is something to be proud of, but stories are told from one generation to the next about enduring the race itself.

Lastly, before I forget, yesterday marked the 25th anniversary of the longest game in NCAA softball history: a 31-inning epic battle between Creighton and Utah. Even crazier than that, both teams turned around after a 20-minute break to play the third longest game in NCAA history – 25 additional innings. These doubleheader games took place in 1991, while I was still an overly confident high school player. 🙂

Thanks for allowing me to take a trip down memory lane.

Creighton Softball Timeline in the late 90s
1999:
Earned an NCAA Regional Appearance; lost to eventual National Champions UCLA Bruins in tournament elimination game
1999:
 11-3  MVC* record. Repeated as Regular-Season Conference Champs and won MVC Conference Tournament (31-28 overall record)
1998: Head Coach Brent Vigness earned MVC Coach of the Year Honors
1998: 16-2 MVC record. Won the first Regular-Season Conference Championship in Program History (33-15 overall record)
1997: 10-4 MVC record (32-30 overall record)
1996: 6-12 MVC record (17-24 overall record)

*Creighton moved from the Missouri Valley Conference (MVC) to the Big East Conference in the 2013-2014 season.

Written by Heidi Woodard

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My best friend is gone

March 1, 2016

Murphy goodbye

Waves of grief and gratitude have crashed down on me over the last several days. Yet I looked into her eyes and I knew she understood and that we would both be ok.

Like every soul-shaking loss I’ve endured in life, I just need time. Time does not heal, but it helps soften the blow…a little bit…day by day.

I’m normally frustrated by my mind. I have an awful memory. But in times like this, I need to wrap myself up in my natural tendency to forget the details over time like it’s a security blanket protecting me from painful flashbacks for which I am not prepared.

Trying to stop the tears proves as futile as trying to hold onto her forever.

Sixteen years. I was blessed to have my pug, Murphy, in my life…and in my family’s life…for 16 whole years. She started off with just me and Ryan. Throughout the course of her lifetime, she gained a brotha-from-anotha-mother canine companion named Eightball (who passed away on June 3, 2010 and now waits for me on this side of the Rainbow Bridge) as well as two human brothers (now 14 and 12 years old) and a human sister (now 7 years old).

My kids have never known life without her. Hell, it’s hard for ME to remember life without her…and even harder to imagine life moving forward without her.

It is clear to me that my heart has a tendency to latch onto and love those who snore the loudest: My grandma Peterson, Murphy, and Ryan.

(I’m doing my best to remember to laugh.)

She was not in pain. She simply had finished her journey here. She was tired. I am a lot to take care of, after all.

Dogs love with every bone in their body. I know they’re not for everyone and I never try to convince a non-dog person that they should change their mind. What I will say is “think of something in your life that you love so much that it’s incomparable to anything else.” That’s how my dogs have made me feel over the years. I couldn’t ever fully pay back their love, but I tried.

I could rehash 1,000 stories about Murphy, but I feel like pictures reveal more than any words ever could.

My best friend is gone. But not forgotten. And I have to believe that one day I will see her again.

October 4, 1999 – March 1, 2016

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Written by Heidi Woodard

Our friends would all make fun of us
And we’d just laugh along because we’d know
That none of them have felt this way
Delilah, I can promise you
That by the time that we get through
The world will never ever be the same
And you’re to blame – Hey There Delilah

Innocent love. Crushies (as my daughter would say). Is there anything more pure and fun to observe and feel in our overly cynical world?

I started blogging back in 2009. I’ve shared many stories over the last several years, but one of my favorites is not something I crafted in my mind and completed with a punctuation mark, but instead continues to grow in front of my very own eyes with an ending that has yet to be defined.

I’m just lucky to be able to sit back and watch it unfold.

My daughter is now 7. She was not yet 3 years old when she first noticed Parker at preschool. And Parker noticed her.

Parker and Jaycee 1

Jaycee and Parker

photo (16)

 

Parker’s mom and I were equally tickled by their budding relationship. We soon learned that they would find secret hiding spots on the playground, places of solitude to share their innermost ideas and trade kisses on each other’s cheeks…which they were both told was not approved behavior on more than one occasion.

Their teachers were very much in-the-know about what was going on between the pint-sized pair and would report daily to Parker’s mom and me about our children’s ongoing fascination with one another.

We both sort of assumed that they, like so many relationships before them, would grow older and their memories of one other would fade as quickly as their toddler denim jeans.

I detailed their ongoing courtship in these two posts.

photo (15)photo (17)photo (18)

The time came for Parker and Jaycee to say goodbye and head their separate ways to two different elementary schools for kindergarten.

I think Parker’s mom and I were sadder about this reality than they were. I guess they always knew, unlike us, that a good thing was worth holding onto…despite the distance.

In kindergarten, Parker took his dad’s old class ring and sent a text message proposal (from his mom to me) to his favorite girl.

photo (14)

When I showed it to Jaycee, she accepted. And smiled a whole lot.

Parker has surprised her the last two Valentine’s Days with gifts of affection.

Jaycee Valentines Day

Parker and Jaycee

After all these years of him treating her so nicely and not forgetting about his first true love in spite of this crazy world we live in…guys…seriously…I’m not even joking…

I don’t know what I’m going to do if these two DON’T get married!

I mean, after college and several years of living on their own and discovering what they truly want out of life of course (wink).

Parker, you’ll always have a special place in not only my daughter’s heart, but mine as well.

Written by Heidi Woodard