As a middle-aged woman, who recently took a few large risks professionally and has many more left to go, I can attest to the deep feeling of fear that burns in your stomach when you make choices to seek new opportunities. The fear that these risks won’t work, the fear of judgement of others, the fear that maybe this was the wrong choice…. However, every time I go back to the why… the reason I made these choices and made myself vulnerable, I remember that it is worth it, and always will be. I needed a personal and professional change in my life so I could be more physically and mentally present in my kids’ lives. So I made a big career shift, took a few big gambles and in doing so have landed on a winding path that requires continual growth, learning,resetting, and changing. And while I’m not 100% certain where this path will lead,I know it is well worth the journey with all of its unknowns and fears. The lessons I’ve learned, the people I’ve met, the communities I’ve become a part of, has all been incredible and if I’d played it safe, my life would not be as enriched as it has become over the past two years. It’s also allowed me to not only be more present in my kids’ lives but to show them what bravery looks like, what hard work looks like, and to show them life is a great adventure with so many opportunities, as long as you are open to being a little vulnerable because that is where the lessons are learned and the spirit is strengthened.
HOW IT STARTED... HOW IT'S GOING
At the conclusion of last summer’s youth baseball season, both of my sons found themselves without a team on which to play for the following summer. After countless discussions, brainstorming, try-outs, more discussions, more brainstorming and a few more try-outs, they finally landed on the same team, the La Stars 12U (meaning all the kids on the team are under 12 or younger.
At this age, most teams have played together for a few years and have a strong sense of team dynamic, which helps them perform well on the field. This new 12U team is a hybrid of players from a variety of backgrounds. Some from my older son’s original team, some migrated over from other teams, and some had never played competitive travel baseball before.
At the onset of this season, several things were apparent. One – that all of these boys and their parents were happy to have found a team on which to play, and there were little expectations other than showing up to play some baseball. Two – the team had some really good potential but would need a bit of work to bring it out.
This past weekend’s tournament was one that most of the players and parents will remember for a very long time. Our team came together and played incredible baseball – with each player realizing their potential on the field, which resulted in some really solid baseball. Our pitchers were on fire, nailing the strike zone and pitching with confidence. In the field, we dialed in the amount of errors and were executing diving catches and cross-field throws with impressive precision. At the plate, our bats were hot. Our team hit 7 home runs in 3 games. Three of our players hit their first ever home runs, and two of the players hit two home runs in the the same game. It was impressive to watch.
On Sunday, after a decisive 10 run rule victory over our first opponent, and just before we were set to take the field for game 2, a storm blew in. It was quick and fierce, but we were certain that after a short delay we’d be back on track, playing more baseball and with high hopes of wining game 2 and making it into the championship game – a feat that seemed a little out of reach for our team a few months ago – especially in a 12 team tournament. However, our confidence was high with the way we’d been playing thus far.
Then, the baseball organization made the unfortunate call that due to inclement weather, the tournament was over. Our hopes of wining and our opportunity to keep playing baseball for the day was over. I know I was bummed because it was a joy to watch the team play and to watch them celebrate each other’s epic plays and in-game victories with high-fives, and fist-bumps.
After the news of the cancellation, I spent about 15 minutes packing up our sports wagon with all the gear required to survive a weekend of baseball with two kids on the team and a husband who coaches (the amount of bags , balls and bats is like NEXT LEVEL… and that doesn’t even account for all the snacks). Once the wagon was packed and the gear expertly balanced on top, I made my way over to the field where our team was. I expected to find sad faces and hear lots of complaining. Instead, I saw a field full of boys, being boys, running around in the dirt and mud and sliding in water puddles, and laughing all the while. The boys were so dirty that when they walked off the field, they looked like they were covered in wing sauce – all orangish red and gooey.
My first thought was OMG – those pants will never be white again. OMG there is so much dirt and mud all over them.
After exiting the field, the boys all made their way over to the pond at the park for a quick rinse and then followed that up with a second rinse at the splash pad which took off the first 7 layers of dirt and mud. All of them rode home soaking wet, but happy.
Today, I did a second Clorox soaking of those “white pants” and another cold water wash with OxyClean and the pants are a little whiter but still have a red hue to them. While considering whether to try another method to get them white again, I decided that was ridiculous – these pants and their new hue are a visual mark of the great memories the boys made on Sunday. To wash that away would be pointless. Of all the baseball games they are likely to play in their lives, they will remember this past Sunday forever. The day they played some of the best baseball of their lives, and when their games were canceled, they to got play like little kids again – in the dirt and mud with their friends.
I hope those stains stay in their pants for as long as they can fit in them and those memories stay with them forever. Because life isn’t about the wins or loses, it’s about the memories we make along the way and, the fun we have with friends. And this Sunday we got to check all those boxes.
Basic is a company that strives to Encourage + Inspire, Healthy + Active Lives and we know that a healthy life is heavily affected by our mental health. Something that Jennifer (co-founder), and I (Nely) both do is practice gratitude. It has made us both be better business partners and happier people. A gratitude practice is just being intentional and consistent about noting what you are grateful for. It can be very informal. For example, at night before you go to bed you could think to yourself about what you are grateful for from the day. Your gratitude practice can also be more formal. Write down each day what you are grateful for and/or tell someone else about it. The part that really makes it a practice is that you do it at the same time, and you do it every day. It is a ritual for you.
At Basic in the workplace we have even implemented some gratitude practices at the office by going through our “High & Happy” at the end of the week. Our Highs are work related accomplishments of tasks that we completed- they are as small as getting the printer fix, it’s about finding the little things to be happy about or proud of each week. For Happy we do work or personal life things that made each of us happy that week. It helps us be present and more in-tune to the small steps we take as a company in the right direction and checking in with everyone to make sure that we are all living the lifestyle we strive for at Basic, inside, and outside of the office.
SO HOW CAN GRATITUDE CHANGE YOUR LIFE?
I get it…you might be skeptical. How could the simple act of writing down what you are grateful for each day really change your life that much?! From my own experience, I will share just a few of the ways my gratitude practice has changed my life.
Whenever I get anxious (which those who know me, know that this is quite often), I try to turn my focus to what I’m grateful for. Try it. It’s hard to be anxious and grateful at the same time. Gratitude wins, and anxiety fades. Having a steady gratitude practice helps me focus on the positive, rather than the what-ifs, maybes, and worries.
-BRINGS ME TO THE PRESENT
Thinking about what I’m grateful for shifts me right to now. Whatever is happening right now that is beautiful and worth pausing on for a moment. It’s easy to get lost, focusing on re-hashing the past or worrying about the future, but right now, this moment at our feet, is the only one that we have. Gratitude practice has made me feel more present.
-CHANGE FOCUS TO WHAT YOU HAVE
This kind of goes along with being more present, but with a little different twist. Sometimes when we are so goal-oriented and always striving and reaching to be better, it gets easy to forget to be grateful for what we have and what we’ve already achieved. I get caught in this trap at times. Have you ever noticed how always thinking about what you want gets very unsettling? You feel like you are lacking, but really your life could be very full. You’ve just wandered and are focusing on the wrong things. A gratitude practice helps you focus on what you have, and you start to realize just how full and amazing your life is.
INITIATE A RIPPLE EFFECT:
Starting small, finding gratitude for the simplest things leads to more gratitude. You start to see things you are grateful for everywhere. And as you carry this attitude and practice forward, you begin to attract more good stuff. Something as simple as writing down what you are grateful for each day, shifts the way you look at life. This creates space for more and more of the good stuff.
TIPS FOR HOW TO PRACTICE GRATITUDE:
- DECIDING RIGHT NOW: Choose to start your own gratitude practice. Find an empty journal or get a new one you’re excited about.
- SET A TIME: Choose the time of day you will consistently write down what you are grateful for. We find it works best as part of your morning or nighttime routine. Basically, right when you get up or right before you go to sleep.
- JUST 1-3 THINGS A DAY: Find the simplest of things you are grateful for and write them down. Going for a walk, a sunny morning, a coffee date to catch up with a friend, etc.
Even more amazing would be to tell the people you jot down in your journal that you’re grateful for them. You’ll make their day!
DEFINING "REAL FOODS"
Have you ever tried to define the phrase “Real Food?” Most people seem to have an instinctive understanding of what it means, but when put to the task of coming up with a definition, it can get surprisingly complicated. It’s tough to figure out where to draw the line, and then when we do define it everyone seems to have a different understand. So we want to share with you what we at Basic Nutrition believe to be as “Real Food”.
If you pluck an apple off a tree and eat it right then and there, that’s about as “real” as you can get, right? But what if that tree has been sprayed with pesticides? What if that apple has been turned into applesauce, in a large-scale production facility (think: thousand-gallon vats of applesauce in a huge factory)? Does the production method and scale make a difference? What if they’ve added citric acid so it doesn’t turn brown?
The crux of this definition, really, is “whole-food ingredients” are real food. By that, I mean a food that’s as close to its natural state as possible. Fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains, meat, or fish… you get the idea.
Ultimately, it comes down to buying foods that don’t come with a label, and for those that do come in a package, reading the list of ingredients carefully. I consider every ingredient. If it would, at least in theory, be possible for me to grow or make all those individual ingredients from scratch, and then combine them in my kitchen to make that food, Basic considers it to be real food.
And as we like to quote from Michael Pollan: Eat Real Foods. Mostly Plants. Not Too Much
AUTHOR: NELY WARD
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to go to the LHSAA State wrestling tournament. I haven’t been to a the state tournament since my older brother finished his wrestling career in 1995…. So a very long time ago. It was a fitting time to return as my brother is now the assistant coach at Tuerlings Catholic and they were set to win another state championship title. Even more fitting as I awoke to find an article in the local paper featuring my brother. The story was a great reminder of the journey that was my brother’s wrestling career and the impact it had on those around him and the impact it is still having today.
My brother was born with club feet, a birth defect in which the foot is twisted out of shape or position. He had to endure 5 very painful surgeries before he was 5 years old and the doctors told my parents that he would never play sports, never run, and might never be able to walk. My parents, being the brave and wise souls that they are, never told my brother that. They never discouraged him in any of the things he attempted, instead they watched carefully as he and his will to work hard and overcome obstacles far outpaced the doctors predictions about his abilities. He played a variety of sports during his youth and had a scrappy hustle to him that was hard to miss. This scrappy hustle eventually lead him to wrestling, where he found his true home as an athlete.
Wrestling is the ideal sport for people who are both mentally and physically strong. It’s a sport where brute force strength combined with a solid strategy and technique, some good flexibility and the sheer will to win defines the athlete. A wrestling match is 3 periods, each of which last only 2 minutes. A winner is declared by either having the most points or pinning your opponent to the mat. It the most intense sport I’ve ever witnessed and those 6 minutes on the mat are gut-wrenching and exhausting both mentally and physically.
My brother ended up winning the state title in his weight class all 4 years in high school and went 40-0, his senior year. The last match he wrestled that year was the most nerve-wracking 6 minutes of my life. His victories were incredible to watch and were inspiring. However, it was the speech my brother gave me my junior year in high school that really had the biggest impact both on my life then and in my life now, 20+ years later.
Growing up, I was fairly athletic. I played several sports and was pretty good at them. And because being pretty good came natural, I took that for granted. I was the athlete who had a lot of talent but no real drive to get better, work harder and step up and be a leader. I sort of took it all for granted. My older brother noticed this and picked up my lackadaisical approach to being an athlete. One evening, he barged into my room and gave me a good talking to. He told me that he had worked incredibly hard to establish himself as a hardworking, dedicated athlete and that my current approach to being an athlete was disrespectful to my coaches, my teammates, and myself. He told me that taking for granted my natural abilities and not working hard was a disgrace to our family, and to the abilities I was born with.
The 16 year old version of myself was FURIOUS by this. How dare he tell me how to live my life and criticize me. What did he know anyway… right… And then the next morning, it all sounded different. I realized he was right. I was wasting my time and talent and being disrespectful of all those trying to push me to be the best I could be. I owed it to my coaches, my teammates and myself to work harder and push myself to get better and to step up and be a better team leader. So that afternoon, I made a decision to give it my all and be the person that my older brother thought I could be. And it was the decision that defined the character that has carried me through life thus far. Since that moment, I’ve give my all to everything I’ve done – school, sports, college, career, family, etc. I’m grateful every day that my brother held me accountable all those years ago and challenged me to be the best version of myself I could be. And I’m grateful that all these years later, my brother is a high school wrestling coach and continuing to motivate and challenge kids to be the best they can be. Because those lessons learned are about so much more than a sport, they are about overcoming obstacles, rising to the challenge and doing the hard work when nobody is watching. They are the lessons that define who you become not only as an athlete but as a person, and that is one of the many benefits that sports can bring to one’s life.