Archives For Support

Of life, lyrics, and legacy

November 13, 2016

I am not embarrassed to admit, although I probably should be, that the first time I heard Leonard Cohen’s song Hallelujah was while watching the movie Shrek. That film was released in April 2001, before my children were even born. Yet I remember it was one of my boys’ (now 12 and 14) all-time favorites growing up.

I must not have been the only one who heard those lyrics for the first time care of DreamWorks entertainment because over the next decade, you couldn’t make it through a single season of any of the reality talent shows without hearing young vocal hopefuls belting it out on stage after stage.

Not a single version held a candle to the rendition I heard on Shrek. I don’t know if it was because the male singer had a haunting yet beautiful melody that I didn’t expect to hear in an animated film or simply because his was the first performance of those soulful, yearning lyrics that ever graced my ears.

After learning that Leonard Cohen was the song’s writer, I studied his life and legacy. I was transfixed by the different lyrical interpretations for Halleujah. I added it to my list of Songs that Move Me and I Have No Idea Why so Stop Wondering and Just Enjoy Them Already.

When I learned he passed away on November 7, a familiar thought resurfaced.

Every person should have an understanding of what their life means to others before they leave this earthly world for their next adventure.

So, Mr. Cohen, thank you for giving not only me, but also my son, this classic melody that transcends generations. He learned the words for his third grade talent show and due to his hours upon hours of practicing, so did his little sister. I believe they were 9- and 4-years old, respectively, when I asked if I could record one verse.

 

A few weeks later, I held back tears as I watched my son stand in front of all his grade school classmates and sing this classic without fear or hesitation.

If you’re anything like me, you sometimes wonder when going through the daily motions of life if what you do really makes a difference in the grand scheme of things. How does one know if you are making the most of the years you are given when you are not in control of the quantity of those years, only the quality?

I plan, God willing, to live a long life – struggling to maintain humility and gratitude while living with the knowledge I make mistakes every single day. I also try to make people (myself included) smile every day. To not take life too seriously because we are all in this ride together and one never knows when you’ll be asked to step off the train to allow room for new passengers.

When Leonard Cohen originally penned the words to Hallelujah, he’d have no way of knowing that he would eventually give a mom he’d never meet a memory I will never forget.

Enjoy your week ahead with the other passengers on the train whom you inspire with or without your knowledge.

I’ll leave you with a couple more performances of Hallelujah for your listening pleasure.

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.

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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.

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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

First and foremost, Ms. Armstrong, I readily acknowledge that you probably don’t really care what it is I have to share with you. With over 1.5M Twitter followers and an online empire that dates back to 2001, I imagine you have this sharing-of-your-soul thing down pat and aren’t exactly out looking for reassurance from total strangers.

Yet here I am.

Not even sure why I feel the need to type you this letter. (Isn’t the concept of the “open letter” about as outdated as hammer pants? What can I say? I think they’re both worth resurfacing.)

I ran across this Tweet last week and then watched your 19-minute talk that it linked to on YouTube.

Heather Armstrong

It’s taken me a few days to articulate how hearing your words made me feel.

I participated in a Q&A session back in 2011 with other local “celebrities” (if you squint long enough while staring at me, I morph into someone others could possibly consider influential, as long as the A-listers and B-listers are already booked that is) while helping to raise money for a local nonproft that strives to serve homeless and at-risk youth within my community.

One of the many questions posed was “Who would you like to meet and job shadow for a day?”

MY ANSWER: HEATHER ARMSTRONG FROM DOOCE.COM

I went on to explain how I admired your free spirit and unfiltered writing. How I thought it would be compelling to see how you balanced your creativity with your career.

I sometimes questioned the level of depth you revealed, simply because I couldn’t ever picture myself spilling out so much with my friends and family (or even perfect strangers for that matter). I can’t say I always agreed 100 percent with your opinions. Yet I respected you time and time again for bravely and honestly standing your ground with whatever you believed to be true.

Your personal battle with postpartum depression had the power to rob your heart and mind. By sharing your demons, you no doubt freed many others from theirs.

Your innocent, lovely girls and devoted dogs made me smile and I cheered for your entire family. You were living the life we all hoped and dreamed was possible.

And then 2012 happened.

You and your husband’s trial separation period was a little too raw for me to read about. I felt if I continued to gawk at your personal struggles, I was no better than the nosy neighbor who sits out on her porch shooting judgmental glances at unsuspecting passerbys.

I remember one of the final posts I read described you staring down at the dog leash you were holding in your hand and knowing that if you wanted it to (and you assured us all you did not), that leash had the power to make everything go away.

In your talk about why you are now choosing to walk away from sponsored content writing, you serve as the crystal ball into which so many of us mommy bloggers yearn to gaze. We all start off with two things after all: a love of writing and a desire to share our parenting reality through our own life’s lens.

The funny thing about mommy blogging, however, is that we all think we want to reach as many readers as possible because volume typically equates to popularity and opportunities. But, at the same time, we are wary of the fact that earned readership and opportunities may come with unintended sacrifice and consequences.

I guess, more than anything, I wanted you to know that I believe you and Jon started off on this journey together for all the right reasons. I imagine your sudden rise in fame took you both by surprise – equal parts thrilling and terrorizing. I bet you collected a handful of really sentimental memories together with your girls through your professional blogging that you wouldn’t trade for the world.

Knowing you have also felt completely torn apart as a result of your decisions, especially the gut-punching sense that your girls were included in the massive pile of collateral damage, well that’s something that no mom would ever wish on another.

You may have decided to turn a different direction on the professional path you are paving, but know this: You are still teaching all of us who have followed you for any portion of your journey. And for that, I wanted to thank you.

Read about Ms. Armstrong’s journey here and here.

Written by Heidi Woodard