The Team That Believed – An Essay of Love From a Lacrosse Parent

Over the weekend, I stepped onto hot metal bleachers only miles from my home, took a deep breath, and settled in for the longest, yet fastest game of my more than seven-year run as a proud lacrosse parent. My emotions soared on an indescribable roller coaster ride that culminated in an incredible victory during the Virginia 6A Boys Lacrosse State Championship game. A game that will forever be ingrained into the minds and hearts of my son, his W.T. Woodson High School teammates, the amazing coaches, and all the parents. With tears in our eyes, we watched our sons run and dive into each other’s arms – embracing and celebrating this accomplishment. An unlikely victory by some of the most kind-hearted and hard-working young men I have ever known.

One of the parents of this team wrote a heartfelt essay about not only our team, but about the love that binds all “true” teams. He wrote this as an email to the parents, but I believe that his words need to be shared and read by anyone who has ever known what it means to be a sports parent. So with his permission, I am sharing his tribute to the team that believed. The team that couldn’t lose – the 2017 W.T. Woodson Cavaliers.

The Best Things in Life Don’t Come Easy

W.T. Woodson Wins Virginia State Boys Lacrosse Championship

By Ernie Bower

It’s not wise to write when your heart is so full it is broken. But today I am compelled to do so to honor the incredible team that is the 2017 W.T. Woodson Cavaliers. I promise to do my best.

The best things in life don’t come easy. In fact, they require the hardest effort. They demand sacrifice, selflessness, hard work. The best things in life, the ones only a few elite souls get to share require your sweat, your blood, your heart and soul. The may find you injured, scarred, hurt; see your friends down, broken. They ask you to give up things other people enjoy.

But when the moment comes, when the last ball rips the net, when the final seconds are ticking from the clock and the crowd is counting down, “Four, three, TWO, ONE!!!!” That is when you feel it: the pay back, the return on investment, the overwhelming sense that you’ve done it. You made it. You won.

And to watch the Woodson team experience that moment on Saturday, after they had given so much individually, as a team, and to each other; to see the outpouring of love – it was more than any could have hoped for, wished for. It was a moment from our dreams coming true before our eyes.

This was the dividend paid on dedication. The Cavaliers story, written in blood, bruises and broken bones … that story came true yesterday.

To be honest, it broke my heart, as I know it did yours. I am sitting here writing, crying, looking the picture of my son Hugh, rampant, with the team captain Jackson Miller, valiant and overjoyed, and his best friend Matt Fruchterman, behind them, his broken wrist in a sling, celebrating together after they vanquished a team that was supposed to dominate them by 8 goals according to lacrosse pundits.

W.T. Woodson's Boys Lacrosse Team Wins State Championship

They beat a team that included kids who were men — ready to play Division 1 college football. They destroyed that team.  As some of you know, a parent from that team we beat pulled my shoulder and yelled in my face after they beat Oakton last week – thinking I was an Oakton parent – “we just ended your f__ing season!”  “No,” I said, “we’ll see you Saturday.”  His eyes bulged in surprise, I was not who he thought I was.  And Woodson was not the team South County thought they were.  In the event on Saturday, we ended their season. Conclusively.

Look at our boys’ faces. The joy is pure. The team’s accomplishment is forever. They made history yesterday. They didn’t happen to do that, they worked for it. They earned it. They own it now and always will.

In April, after the Cavaliers were devastated in mid-season by an out of league opponent, I wrote the following words after that horrible game:

The verdict on who the 2017 Cavaliers are and who they will be has not yet been written. That is coming in the next several weeks.
Will this group of young leaders bind together, love one another and give the post season their best, win or lose? Or is their legacy going to be division and a stinking bus after limping out of a muddy abattoir?
No one can write that legacy but these incredible young men. Not their parents, not their coaches, not the school management … no, it is up to them. Bloody, muddy and tested by adversity … but ultimately, they are empowered.

I believed then, as our boys did, that they would write their own story and that they were dreaming big. They believed, beyond — to be honest — what I could have imagined, they could and would win it all.  And they did that!

Before Saturday’s championship contest, I woke up to make Hugh breakfast and see how he was doing. It was 6:30 in the morning. He wasn’t anywhere to be found: his bed empty, car gone.  I wasn’t worried because it’s Hugh and he marches to his own drummer, but I couldn’t figure out where he was.  Fifteen minutes later he pulled into the driveway with his stick and a bucket of lax balls – soaking wet.

“Where have you been?” I asked.

“GMU. I went to shoot for a while,” he replied.

“What, at 6 AM before the big game?” I pursued.

“Yeah. Can I have breakfast, Dad?”

“Sure, but can I ask what’s on your mind? How are you feeling?” I asked.

And he told me then what I guess all of the Cav’s would have answered had they been asked the same question that morning: “Dad, I am picturing the last seconds of that clock ticking off, and we are winning.  I am picturing scoring, ripping it. We win,” he said calmly, eyes steady, meaning every word.

I turned, quickly, because there were tears in my eyes. And I knew at that moment that they were going to win this game. They love each other, they love the game, and every one of them was prepared to give it all – for each other.

After the game, I asked Hugh, “how did you guys win, how did you do it?” He told me, “Dad, it’s the seniors, they won’t accept losing. When we got into the playoffs, they wouldn’t accept losing. They wanted to keep playing until the end. That’s why we win. We had to keep playing until we won it all.”

The Cav’s season was the story of a team that believed. A story of seniors that open their hearts to the younger guys on the team and lead with heart. It is a story of a team Mom who saw her senior son get brutally injured – with a season ending knee injury — in a pre-season game and never miss a beat, believing in the team and continuing to support them as if her son was the league’s leading defense recruit. It is a story of coaches that empowered their players and parents that loved their boys. It was a season in which the Woodson Cavaliers couldn’t lose.

That belief, that love, the seniors’ commitment to keep playing – it defined them, it defines winners.

They are now and forever, champions of the Commonwealth of Virginia’s elite lacrosse division, the best high school lacrosse team from the state’s 9 million people. They stand together, unbroken, rampant.  And we love them.

W.T. Woodson Seniors

The W.T. Woodson Seniors!

WT Woodson 2017 State Champs

Spotlight on Inspirational Fiction Author Katie Morton

I’ve been talking about writing a book for a long time. In fact, I’ve started two. Two amazing books. Okay, I believe one or both would be amazing if I actually finished writing and then published at least one of them. For now, this is just an aspiration. A goal I will achieve… one day.

For my friend and inspirational fiction author Katie Morton this is not just an aspiration, but an accomplishment. She has written not one, but two novels. Two interesting, unique, and fun novels which weave real theories in personal development with an engaging story line.

Her novels — Secrets of People with Extraordinary Willpower and the recently released Secrets of Successful People — are part of a series that follow main character, Kelly Ryan, as she tries to achieve self-actualization. Kelly is flawed, sometimes outrageous, but also very real in her struggles and insecurities.

Katie shared some insight into her unique “inspirational fiction” genre and her purpose behind writing these books. You can learn more about Katie at KatieMorton.com or purchase her books on Amazon, both are now on sale!

Q: Combing fiction with a self-help book seems like such a unique idea. Did you model this new “inspirational fiction” genre after anyone? Did you always want to write a book like this?

A: I got the idea to write self-help fiction when I was single, living in New York City, working at CNBC, and began writing my first novel in the early 2000’s. I felt tortured and angst-y at the time, and writing felt healing and soothing to me. (It still does.) The only problem at the time was that, as a young adult trying to navigate a tough career and dating landscape, I felt clueless and unevolved. Truthfully, I could barely help myself, let alone write a self-help book.

So I wrote a novel that was a ‘good try’ in terms of basic chick lit for a 20-something audience, but it didn’t have that element of impactful wisdom that I wanted to be able to share with readers. So I never published it.

Fast forward about 10 years, and I read The Alchemist—which I would consider to be in that same genre of inspirational fiction that I’d been aiming for, and it was great motivation to give it another go.

I knew more at that stage of my life when I undertook writing Secrets of People With Extraordinary Willpower. I’d been able to help myself out of some difficult situations, and I felt much better prepared to help readers make similar progress in their own lives.

Q: What inspires you to write, to create, and to share your work?

A: I often feel “internally disorganized” is the best way to describe it. My self-esteem needs work. I swing between arrogance and shame. I can feel like a victim and then lash out—which means I’m not always as nice as I like to think. You know, basic human stuff. None of us is perfect.

The good news is that we are all magnificent and deserving of compassion and unconditional love.

When I write, I’m often exploring our baser human instincts—fear-based stuff and the ways we’re uncomfortable in our human-ness: for example, the stress of work and trying to make a living…feeling uncomfortable in our imperfect bodies…wishing for deeper connection with our friends and family, but being lucky if we can close the gaps.

Becoming aware of human nature helps us to see our reactivity and patterns. Once we’re aware of them, we can work a little harder at breaking these habits and correcting pain-causing behavior—and in the process, improving our lives, which can bring us closer to satisfaction and happiness.

We often feel like we’re not making progress, because many of us wrestle with the same issues repeatedly over the years, but what we might not notice is that we do improve little by little, each time the problems swing back around again. We hack away at the roots of the issues and we get closer to resolution each time we attempt to solve the problem. (So don’t give up!)

Q: When you wrote your first book, Secrets of People With Extraordinary Willpower, did you know it would be the first in a series of books?

A: I’m not sure I was thinking that far ahead. I had an inkling, maybe, but I was really just focused on the task at hand. It felt like a massive undertaking at the time. :)

Q: Many of your main characters are seriously flawed. Were any of them based off of anyone you know in real life? Do you see yourself in any of the characters?

A: The characters are a mixed bag of many people, both real and imagined, but there’s no single character that represents a single real person.

That said, I’m probably a decent mix of Kelly and Earnest. Kelly represents my baser instincts, all of my neuroses and insecurities wrapped up into one persona. The voice of Earnest (not his jerky, shady, rip-off-artist part)—I’m talking Earnest’s higher self—the wisdom he shares in his lectures came from a mix of my intuitive / higher self, from research I’ve done, and from what happened in my real life when I applied that research and was able to improve my ability to beat back some harmful habits.

Q: Who is your favorite character and why?

A: That’s a tough question. I love Kelly because she’s probably the most familiar to me. But at the same time, she can be slow-to-grow and causes herself a lot of unnecessary heartache and strife (just like a real person!) I often wish she would just go from point A (unevolved and unhappy) to point B (perfection—or at least not such a disaster) a lot faster, but then there would be no learning process, and thus no book.

I do love Earnest as well. He’s so dastardly, and has enough of his own blindspots and lack of self-awareness to make him really fun to write. I love that he supposedly has this iron-clad willpower, but he clearly just shifted his addictive tendencies away from food and alcohol towards sex and money. A lot of people who struggle with addictive behavior go through the musical chairs of different addictions until they (hopefully) settle into healthier behaviors.

Q: How much of the theories and practices shared are real? Are you an expert in this field?

A: It’s all real. I hate to call myself an “expert” because I don’t have formal training or a diploma. I didn’t conduct my own scientifically rigorous studies in a lab with subjects. I studied the literature that’s available to all of us over the course of several years and, in the process of digesting that information and writing articles, came to some key understandings that I saw played out in real life within me, around me, in the news, and among my extended network.

Q: What’s next? Any future plans for Kelly Ryan? How about for you?

A: Both myself and Kelly Ryan are about to go through a serious evolution that is going to bring us to a higher plane. The next book will see Kelly grow into more insight and peace. She’s going to become less of a fumbler and more of a force. I see her being a source of wisdom in the next book, rather than solely serving the role of the seeker. But I don’t have a plot yet—the muses have yet to reveal the details of the next book, so this is all subject to change.

Katie Morton

 

It Finally Happened: No More Baby Gear and Gates

After an intense two-week purge of all remnants of my home daycare, which I officially closed in June, I realized quite suddenly that I was there — free of all traces of anything baby. No more baby gear and gates. No more high chairs or cribs. No more infant chew toys or baby saucers. No more baby latches on cabinets. Just a house tailor made for my school-aged — my youngest is a rising kindergartner — children. And it has left me with such contradictory feelings, I’m not sure whether to cheer or cry.

At first I was excited by the idea. We were finally able to create that special big kid arts and crafts nook we wanted. We were able to put out some more delicate decor. My husband was able to move some of his stuff out of the garage and into the basement. Our options were not limited by the steady stream of infants, toddlers and preschoolers coming into our home. What I didn’t realize was that by removing all traces of my daycare, I was also saying goodbye to that stage of life. I was saying goodbye to bald-headed snugly babies. I was saying goodbye to witnessing first steps and first teeth. I was letting go of all the baby things from my own kids that I stealthily hung on to under the guise of needing for my daycare kids.

I love that my kids are at an age where we can hop in the car and go somewhere without too much planning or lugging of gear or supplies. I love that my kids can sit around the table and tell me stories or share in jokes. I love that my kids can express their distinct personalities and keep us on our toes — for reasons other than learning to use the potty or potentially falling down the stairs.

Yet, for some reason it was more difficult than I thought.  I know it’s just things. Bulky things that were often stained and well worn. But, it still stung all the same. I almost couldn’t look when my husband loaded the stroller into the car for the last time.

Right now, my house and family is going through many transitions. I am working outside the home at my new business. My youngest is heading to kindergarten. My oldest is heading into his senior year in high school and is already visiting colleges (another thing I am in complete denial over). I am trying to focus on the many blessings that come from these changes, but, it would be false to pretend like all the changes are without some trepidation.

I am absolutely ready for what is next and am not interested in looking backwards — or starting that whole season of parenting over again. I am, however, taking note of the end of another chapter in my life. A chapter that lasted so long and at times felt infinite.

I suppose that is the hardest part — realizing that nothing in this life is truly infinite. Time always passes. Children always grow up… and so do we. What I can cling to is that whatever happens the love we feel always remains. No matter how many toys my kids outgrow or which college my son chooses to attend, I know that they will always be the loves of my life. They will always be my babies — with or without the gear and gates.

Nothing in this life is truly infinite. Time always passes. Children always grow up... and so do we.

 

Manifest Success: Do Not Give in to Fear

“I will not give in to fear. I will not give in to fear.”

This is the mantra that has taken hold within my head lately. As soon as I start to feel the talons of this emotion take grip, I close my eyes and begin to chant, “I will not give in to fear. I will not give in to fear.” With intention I release the fear back into the world and keep pushing forward.

Fear has always lingered in the periphery of my life. In some ways, it has controlled many of my decisions. I always chose the safe route; never putting myself in risky situations.  Sleeping without a night light – not often. Driving over the speed limit – not really. Walking home alone at night – yeah right. Sky diving – hilarious.

This is why when people ask me what the hardest part of opening a brick and mortar has been, I always say, “overcoming my fears.”

I knew that this venture would be a risk. I knew that there would be good days and there would be bad days. I knew it would be stressful. What I didn’t realize is how much the psychological part of starting a business from scratch — with no real model to follow – would factor into everything.

Fear is a powerful emotion. It has the ability to make you question EVERYTHING. It makes you want to curl up into a ball and book a trip to some remote island. It makes you wonder if running away is an actual possibility. The farm is a good place to raise kids, right?

There are days I run multiple reports, check my spread sheets, look at my bank account, and start to feel like everything is going to get pulled out from under me at any moment.

Then I have a good day and I start to feel like I can conquer the world. I AM DOING THIS THING! I laugh in the face of my fears and want to spit in its face… ok maybe not that. Perhaps just awkwardly pump my fist and high-five myself.

It doesn’t matter how amazing my numbers look or how many good testimonials I receive or how many smiling faces I see walk in and out of my doors, that pesky old fear comes roaring back. It screams in my ear. It says things like “Who do you think you are?” “This will never work.” “You should’ve just stayed home.”

I hate those voices, but here is the truth – those voices are all mine. No one else is saying this… and frankly I wouldn’t let anyone say this to me. Yet, I do it to myself.

WE do it to ourselves. We manifest our fears.

But, what I’ve learned since I started this whole adventure is that WE can just as easily manifest success. We can push beyond this self-imposed barrier and try new things. We can push our boundaries and do the unexpected. We just have to find a way to be in control of these feelings and recognize that this is part of the journey. 

You have to ask yourself what you are afraid of and why. Are you afraid to fail? Are you afraid of losing something? 

What I have come to realize is that the only things that truly matter in life can’t be lost in a bad business deal or by speaking in public and forgetting your speech, or by writing a subpar book. I have also come to realize that while you can’t fail if you don’t put yourself out there, you also can’t succeed if you don’t try.
Taking a chance on what drives your passions is not the same as jumping out of an airplane — even if sometimes it feels this way.

So keep pushing forward and don’t allow yourself to be controlled by your fears. Embrace it and tell it who is boss. Then repeat after me, “I will not give in to fear.”

Visit Play, Work or Dash to learn more about my business.

I will not give in to fear

 

 

Putting Family First is Not a Professional Disadvantage

Life is not about what is simple. Life is not about what is easy. Life is instead about what happens between the simplicity, when you are tested and challenged. When you question everything you thought to be true. When you question whether or not you are worthy of the graces that surround you.

I have many blessings in my life. A family I love and cherish. A passion for writing that keeps me feeling fulfilled and special. Friends who make me laugh and keep me grounded, even if we don’t see each other as much as I would like. A husband who knows how to push my buttons, yet can melt me with a single look. Children who are healthy and smart and amazingly funny.

So why want more? Why ask for something else? Why have the drive to create more? More work, more responsibility, more stress…

For me, it’s not because I want it all – I gave up on this fallacy a long time ago. It’s because I know I have more to give. More of my heart and more of my mind.

I struggled for a long time, thinking about what I was going “to do” with my life. I’ve owned and operated a home-based daycare for nearly 10 years. I chose to do this after my second son was born. I couldn’t bear not to be home with him, but I needed to make an income. This decision, while scary, made perfect sense at the time. It was a means to an end. And I discovered I was good at caring for and teaching little ones. I love caring for other people’s children as much as being with my own kids. I enjoy being welcomed into their secret society. I have witnessed so many moments. Moments that parents trust me to share.

But, after many years I started to secretly long for that elusive more. More to push me. More to help me discover how I can help others. I had an idea to create a place where parents are given the support and space they need to discover their more. A place where children are cared for and entertained in one room while their parents have time to focus on their work and grow their dreams for themselves. A place that feels like a second home, not a sterile office environment. A safe and supportive community for the entire family. I can see this vision as clearly as I can see anything else. It is what I wake up thinking about, but it took a long time before I started to pursue this dream.

A little voice of doubt cast a shadow on my vision. Who are you to pursue such a thing? You aren’t smart enough. You aren’t savvy enough. You’ve been out of a traditional work environment for too long.

I believed that if I tried to go back to my field that I would need to start over. That I would be seen as a dinosaur… okay maybe just a Momosaur. I put my family first and I felt like this put me at a disadvantage. That somehow this was a negative blemish on my overall potential.

One day, I realized that these feelings are exactly why I need to do this.

Just because I put my family first doesn’t mean my dreams and pursuits are less. Just because I left the office and surrounded myself with everything infant, toddler and preschooler doesn’t mean I am not in touch with what it means to be a professional. Just because I am always a mother first, doesn’t mean that I am not committed to my work. Putting family first is not a professional disadvantage.

Motherhood doesn't make me less professional

And if this is true for me, I know it is true for many others.

What I am starting with my new business Play, Work or Dash is new and different. It is combining the ideas of many others and transforming them into what works for my community of fellow parents. What I am doing is not simple. It is difficult. It has a sharp learning curve. Right now I am pushing ahead and clinging to my mission. I have determination to see this through because I am choosing to believe in me and in all the other parents out there waiting for their more. Right now, life is happening in so many ways and I can’t wait to see what happens next.

Are you searching for your more? Connect with me on my new Play, Work or Dash Facebook page as I push through traditional standards to create a new way to create work-life balance. If you live in the Washington DC area, you can set-up a tour beginning Dec. 21.