Archives For Friendship

About a year ago, I wrote a piece about how my son was shifting (youth sports) careers as an 11-year old. It was hard to write, not because the words were difficult to articulate, but because it’s a somewhat touchy subject.

Several parents reached out to me following that post to say they had been through the same process (of switching teams) or were on the verge of going through it with their own son or daughter.

I wasn’t able to gaze into a crystal ball back then to see if it would all work out for my son…we just researched what was offered in our area, talked about all of our options, and trusted our gut instincts.

Fast forward one year to now and I can clearly see how great of a decision it’s been for him. But more on that in a sec.

A mom recently contacted me through GiveTheGameBack to say that she was shocked to learn her daughter wanted to quit softball after several successful playing years. The mom was once a softball player herself and gained many valuable life lessons through the sport. She was worried her daughter was already burnt out at a young age before she’d even had the chance to experience her (potentially) best playing days.

I offered several paragraphs of feedback, but here’s the part I really hoped she would contemplate, “My next question is a very important one: How intrinsically motivated to succeed and/or naturally competitive is your daughter? One of the biggest realities I’ve had to accept is that each of my kids, although all ‘formed’ by my own and my husband’s DNA, is unique in how they approach sports.”

Without knowing her daughter’s individual situation, I can’t assume that her daughter has completely lost the love of the game. She could feel burnt out like her mom feared, or want to quit because she thinks she’s inferior, or she might have different priorities in her life as compared to a few years ago, or who knows? I’ve found the only ways for a parent to know how their child feels is to never assume anything and by discussing the child’s goals through open and honest dialogue.

The other piece of advice I added, because I’ve had to grow up along with my kids in my own thinking and behaving is, “If my dad was a Chief Financial Officer and I grew up knowing that he loved math and wanted me to be his prodigy, there’s no amount of pushing in the world that would transform me into someone who loves math.”

Back to my son.

I knew without a shadow of a doubt following last season that he still wanted to play baseball. How did I know? By asking him…many times.

If he would have said he didn’t want to play, I would have pressed to find out what he was intrinsically motivated to do. How would he measure success or growth? How could I help him get there?

My son loves playing baseball (and basketball and football) with friends. He cares if he wins or loses, but his mood and demeanor don’t plummet in the face of adversity. He hates letting people down and loves making people laugh. And I’m not a betting woman, but if I was, I’d wager he has 847 different things on his mind at any given second…and that doesn’t magically shut off with the first pitch.

Knowing all of these things about him, he accepted/filled a spot on a team this summer that brought together a hodgepodge of players, many of whom had played ball for years but also had never competed together before.

His team’s coaches took every game seriously without sacrificing the fun, helped my son and others with their mental approach to the sport, taught them how to recover from setbacks, led by example, and promoted a team culture of mutual respect and reliance upon one another – all of the great life lessons one can garner through athletics.

I have zero doubt my son will remember this summer for years to come…for both what’s taken place on AND off the field.

Through this new team, he has gained a best friend – unexpected icing on the cake! I can’t put into words how amazing it feels to see your kid “click” with a teammate who shares the same quirky interests and who comes from a family very similar to your own.

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My advice to all the parents of youth baseball players this time of year remains the same: Commit to a team that makes sense for your individual child. (No one is giving out scholarships or scouting your 12-year old. This is an age to learn and have fun.)

Don’t get trapped into a fixed mindset or allow fear of the unknown to paralyze you. Adults tend to muddy the waters even with the best of intentions sometimes.

I know I had to learn that the definition of a successful season isn’t always measured in wins and losses. A season lasts a finite number of games. A great friendship has the potential of lasting a lot longer.

Written by Heidi Woodard

Guest blog by Shannon

September 30, 2013

I’ve set this post to auto publish on Monday because research shows that Monday posts are more likely to be read. And this one, dear readers, deserves to be read.

In just shy of 2,000 words (find a quiet time in your day to read it), Shannon expresses feelings of despair, confusion, consciousness, and hope. My favorite part is her reflection on the power of writing out her thoughts and feelings. 

Writing is my connection – my abstract connection to the world around me. Whether or not I publish them for others to read, forming my thoughts into words and my words into sentences, and my sentences into a cohesive piece of writing makes my thoughts real. Sometimes it’s scary to make your thoughts real. Sometimes it’s freeing. Often times it is both. But feeling a connection to the world around you is essential. Without that connection life is empty.

Shannon and I are polar opposites who have known one another since childhood. I begged her (the introvert) to allow me to publish her profound thoughts on my blog because I believe they will feel so relatable to so many. If you want to check out more of her work, you can find her at



September 25, 2013: A Day In The Life Of A Woman In The Throes Of Hormones

“So this is what it feels like.”

“Is this what it feels like?”

Head on my pillow, I stare at the wall. I’ve already hit the snooze button three times. I listen mindlessly to the radio alarm blaring from the living room. The morning show that usually makes me laugh doesn’t even phase me this morning.

Nobody loves getting out of bed in the morning. Well, some people do, but I firmly believe their brains have been miswired. I bet I can count on my fingers the number of times I’ve jumped out of bed in the morning anxious to start the day, and odds are I was under age 10 and those days involved Christmas, my birthday, or a vacation to an amusement park. I don’t need any fingers to count the number of mornings my thirty-seven-year-old body has sprung out of bed anxious to get to work.

But today feels different.

I’m not tired. I mean I am tired. I’m always tired in the morning, but the urge to squeeze in a few extra minutes of precious shuteye isn’t what is keeping the covers pulled over my head this morning.

I’m not trying to sleep. I am just lying here.

I’m not dreading going to work. I am dreading getting out of bed.

I’m staring at the ceiling with my eyes closed weighing the idea of not going to work. I am not sick. I don’t want to stay home because I want to get something accomplished. I don’t want to stay home because I’d rather do something fun. I have no desire to do anything. Not even to sleep.

I just want to lie here.

“Is this what depression is supposed to feel like?” I think to myself.

I always thought depression was a feeling of despair. That life was horrible and it would never get any better. That there was no point in going on.

But I don’t feel that way. I don’t feel anything. Or more aptly, I feel everything. And nothing.

I had an inkling this might be coming. I had been extra tired earlier in the week, absurdly angry in traffic yesterday (in my defense, the other drivers were all idiots), and last night I was brought to tears by an episode of The Voice, an article about World War II, and a particularly poignant kids clothing commercial.

Exhaustion, anger, sadness, indecision, crying at the drop of a hat – put all the letters together and that spells hormones, with a capital H.

It started happening when I turned 35. The hot flashes, the night sweats, the mood swings. And it has only gotten worse in the last two and a half years. In fact, in the last few months, not only have these symptoms hit me when I expect them to, but they also gang up on me when I’m not looking.

Exhaustion seems to be the ringleader of the group, striking early and often and out of the blue. One minute I’ve got plans for the evening. The next I feel like I ran into a brick wall and all I want to do is spend the evening in bed watching TV and napping.

In a way that’s what is happening now. I was fine when I went to sleep last night. This morning I can’t bear the thought of getting out of bed and starting my day. But, this is different.

I’m not exhausted. I am simply existing.

As much as I can’t fathom the idea of going through the motions of my day, I know I have to. Not just because I have responsibilities at work, but for my own well-being. Some days you just can’t do it, but in the end, you’re usually no better off after a day in hiding. If there is any way I can manage it, I need to get out of bed today.

I stumble through my morning routine and head to work. I don’t smile. I don’t laugh at things that I would normally find funny. I Love Rock ‘N’ Roll by Joan Jett, a song to which I usually instantly rock out, comes on the radio in the car and I don’t even open my mouth to sing.

It’s like I heard it, but I wasn’t listening.

When I arrive at work I avoid my coworkers, hiding in my cube and venturing into the hallway only when necessary and always walking purposefully, eyes to the ground, sending the well-known signal of the introvert, “I’m not in the mood to even nod a hello”.

As the lunch hour approaches, I debate my plans, indecision racking my brain. I finally decide to text my friend and frequent lunch cohort to check if she is free.

I hesitate even to ask, for two reasons: One, it just feels like a day when she will probably be booked with meetings. And, two, I really don’t feel like talking. But, I decide, whether I think I feel like it or not, if she is available, having lunch together might lift my spirits. Our lunches usually do have that effect. I might as well ask.

Six times out of 10 I would have put some effort into coming up with a semi-amusing text message to check her availability. Today all I text is, “Are you available for Panera today by any chance?” My first instinct is right. She is booked. Just as well, I think. I honestly don’t feel like talking. I want to feel like talking, but I don’t.

I text back a frown face and I leave it at that.

When lunchtime comes, I walk to my car. Normally when exiting the building after being trapped in my cubicle all morning, I would have noticed the beautiful blue sky, how comfortable the temperature was and how refreshing the breeze. I would have taken a deep breath and silently thanked God for such a beautiful day. That exact scene plays out nearly every lunch hour, even if the weather is gloomy, because it’s just so nice to be outdoors. But, not today.

I noticed the bright blue sky, but I didn’t see it.

I drive to lunch debating the option of keeping to myself and bringing my food back to my desk versus what would probably be better for me – sitting at the restaurant, out among the throng of people eating, drinking, and being merry. Stepping one foot into the restaurant settles my debate. The din of 50 different conversations and the madness of the hustle and bustle is too much. I clearly do not want to be around people today. Please pass me a brown paper bag full of food and I will take it back to my hideout to eat.

I ate one of my favorite meals, but I didn’t taste it.

I manage to make it through the rest of the workday and start my drive home. I feel the same as I did this morning. Numb. Numb and 10 hours more tired.

As only traffic can do, my commute home breaks the numbness. With one honk of a horn my numbness shatters into a million angry pieces. Apparently the gentleman behind me feels I should have magically slid my CRV between a pickup and a semi without so much as slowing down.

To communicate his disappointment, he honks at me. Twice. Clearly this idiot does not know who he’s dealing with. After several incredulous glances into the rear view mirror I loudly inform him, through the safety of my closed car windows, how I feel he could better spend his time and where he can go to do that.

I decide, in my anger, to stop and buy my favorite frozen pizza. Sometimes I regret it the morning, but nothing else sounds even vaguely interesting for dinner and what difference does it make if the pizza bothers me?

Plus, I can grab another package of the dark chocolate chip cookies I’ve been devouring at alarming speed. I’ve been unable to satisfy my chocolate craving the last couple of days. And believe me, I’ve been trying. If it’s in my house and it came from a cocoa bean, I’ve eaten it. Probably more than once.

I pick up my groceries, my last stop is the cookie aisle. You have GOT to be kidding me. I see every variety, EXCEPT the dark chocolate chip. You’d think someone just told me The Beatles were breaking up. HOW COULD THIS BE?? My shock and disbelief are palpable. The Beatles never got back together, but thankfully I know a store down the street that does sell dark chocolate chip.

Even with milk and frozen foods in my car on an 85 degree afternoon, I must have these cookies, so, against my nature, I stop at the second store. I find the cookies I need. And an extra box of those other dark chocolate cookies I like, just in case. Oh, and I might be getting low on Peanut Butter Snickers. Preparation is key in a chocolate emergency.

I get in line behind a woman buying hair color. Great. Thanks, lady. Thanks for reminding me I’m old and I need to start coloring my hair soon. That’s just want I need today. 

The clerk forgets to ring up two of the woman’s items, and in a silent huff of grand proportions, the customer glares a hole right through the head of the young woman with the “New Team Member” badge.

Look, lady, I get that you’re not having the best day, what with the gray roots and all, but that is no excuse for being rude. I’m having a lousy day too, but not once have I been anything less than polite to those I’ve spoken to (car honker aside).

When it is my turn at the register I am extra nice to the clerk. We only exchange pleasantries for 30 seconds, but that connection with that one stranger for one brief moment flips a switch in my mind.

Driving home I say, out loud, “I need to write.”

Writing is my connection – my abstract connection to the world around me. Whether or not I publish them for others to read, forming my thoughts into words and my words into sentences, and my sentences into a cohesive piece of writing makes my thoughts real. Sometimes it’s scary to make your thoughts real. Sometimes it’s freeing. Often times it is both. But feeling a connection to the world around you is essential. Without that connection life is empty.

So, here I sit.

In my pajamas at six o’clock in the evening, my fingers on the keyboard.

I know this is only monthly changes in my hormones.

I know I didn’t feel this way yesterday and I hopefully will not feel this way tomorrow.

But, today I feel everything and nothing. I feel sad, angry, anxious, bored, alone, regretful, wasteful, annoyed, out of sorts, sensitive, uncertain, scared, tired, and numb.

The one thing I don’t feel is hopeless. I feel like I am treading water until the wave that swept me out to sea rolls back in with the tide and brings me back to shore. And I know that will happen. I just hope it happens soon.

I admit it. I use my kids.

February 26, 2012

First comes love. Then, comes marriage. Then, comes baby in the baby carriage. Then, come two more babies. Then, there goes your social life.

I’m not exactly sure when it happened. I remember my husband and I partying at the intersection of 72nd and Dodge Street after the Nebraska Cornhuskers reclaimed the national football title (1997). I remember receiving phone calls from friends and strangers alike asking me to sub on their softball and volleyball teams. I recall making last-minute decisions to go road tripping without having to line up anyone to take care of our belongings.

But then I blinked. And now everything is different. Not worse…just different.

We just completed a weekend (that’s two days) of watching our boys play seven basketball games with an under-the-weather toddler in tow. And a dog at home to feed and walk. And a whole slew of other responsibilities that, well, just had to wait.

This weekend was not unlike the past three months’ worth of weekends, except for one thing: This weekend I stopped the blender known as our family downtime for a few minutes to reflect. I looked around and realized that our two boys, in their whirlwind of activities, have naturally welcomed new friendships into not only their lives, but also in their parents’ lives. I have used my kids without even realizing it…to make new friends.

Every season starts the same way. We, as the parents of the players, cart our boys to and from countless gyms. We rarely pause to exchange more than a cordial smile and brief hello with one another before our attention is diverted to our children’s inability to keep their shoes tied, drink enough water, and pay attention.

But then the season progresses and we spend countless hours with the same group of parents on the bleachers yelling at our children to hustle and reminding the referees of all the calls they’ve missed. We collectively cheer when everything’s going our way, and conversely commiserate when we struggle.

I have gotten to know more than the names and numbers of my children’s teammates. I’ve come to appreciate that each of their teammates has remarkable people in their lives who care as deeply for their sons as I do mine.

I am thankful for the mom who, despite raising her two boys as a solo parent until her husband comes home from Afghanistan, always remembers to bring my daughter a treat.

I am amazed by the mom and dad who both religiously attend every single game AND practice together, not because they need to, but because neither wants to miss a second of watching their boy learn and grow.

I am in awe of the parents of twins who must congratulate and comfort two boys after every competition.

I am humbled by the mom of the superstar who always plays down her own child’s unbelievable talent in support of the team’s overall good.

I can’t believe that after all these months on the sidelines, after all of money I’ve drained on entrance fees and concession stands, and after all of the wear and tear I’ve put my van and body through carting these kids to B.F.E. and back, I am sort of sad to see the season winding down.

We have had some good memories this year.

Little guys with the huge hardware.

Big boys and bigger smiles.