Community and Inspiration Go Hand in Hand


high school students and Barb as speaker at conference. Barb surrounded by family, Gracie, Jack, B and Erin
In the top photo I am surrounded by high school students at a conference and in the bottom photo I am surrounded by family, both biological (Gracie and Jack) and CrossFit (B and Erin).

…and often show up where we know they will be!

In my ever-evolving human life experience I am continually amazed at the new things I learn, and sometimes even more amazed at the familiar places in which they are learned. I had a heck of a week last week. Far too busy for my own good but nothing on my list of tasks was detrimental to my goals and objectives. Every day was full of good things.

One of my professional goals is to become a paid speaker. I am a good story teller and talking in front of people is natural for me. Sure, I get the jitters but those are no different than pre-race or pre-CrossFit competition jitters. They come with the territory. I was invited to speak at an educational conference last week. It was a regional HOSA meeting. Health Occupations Student Association is comprised of students who are going into the medical field, or hope to in some capacity. They are students in high school vocational programs across New Hampshire.

Another of my professional goals is to qualify for the CrossFit Games once I am in my sixties. I have other athletic goals as well, completing a marathon and then completing an Ironman. Returning to running has been well off my radar since losing my job in 2011. It is creeping its way back in. This makes me happy. I participated in a partner competition this past Sunday. I paired up with Coach B from my CrossFit Gym in Amesbury MA. The teams were widely varied and all of us had fun names. B and I were Age Before Beauty.

So, what is my lesson? What did I learn?

Well, two things, I guess. The first being how much I love inspiring others through my daily actions and activities. The second being community, and how important it is for people to find communities in which they feel welcomed and accepted. I had significant eye-opening experiences in both of these areas.

At the HOSA conference I was asked to share my story and how the medical field played a role in all that I went through.  I stood in from of a room full of students who know only what they had been told or had read about me. The 57-year-old woman who gave birth to a baby boy. Throughout out my 30-minute talk I attempted to connect my experiences with as many medical fields as possible and to identify them as part of my story. In re-telling my loss of Molly, my own brain tumor discovery and recovery, the IVF journey and Jack’s birth — I included every visit, test, appointment and phone call that I could remember. When I concluded, my biggest point to them was that everyone in my story, from the receptionists to the LNA’s to the nurses to the radiologists to the wide variety of physicians and specialists played an equal role in my journey. Each piece of the machine that is health care (even insurance professionals) is a required and a necessary part of any success, and quite honestly, failure. It took everyone doing their part to see me through the ups and downs of my experience.


Their questions and stories after the talk were incredible. They were insightful and sensitive. How did Gracie feel? Do I have regrets? Was I ever scared? I also heard stories from them about health care experiences. Such connections. I have been asked to return to a larger conference and be a keynote speaker.


By the time Sunday arrived I was exhausted. B was tired too. Neither of us was on top of our game. The beauty of local CrossFit Competitions is that while there is room for the hard-core competitors, there is also room for those who are actively choosing to challenge themselves to a day of hard work rather than an afternoon on the sofa. There is room for everyone. We wore matching MollyB shirts, we did our best, and we had a lot of fun. At age 59 and 21 we were a unique team. People thought he was my son. At Gracie’s age he totally could be! There was another mother/son team there as well. They were 60 and 28. Neither of us placed high enough to make it to the podium but we certainly had fun.


The number of people (especially older women) who reached out that day was staggering. “You are my hero!” “I love watching you!” “It is so great that you’re out here doing this!” Having a baby in attendance along with Gracie and Kenny added to the allure. I have a story that touches the hearts of others. It is humbling and also quite a responsibility. One of our gym members Erin came with her husband to watch us. That too was humbling. I am always touched by these gestures. B and I are both coaches at that gym. Erin loved telling those who asked her if she knew us that we were her coaches. As the day went along more and more people were watching us and cheering us on. More and more offering compliments and pats on the back.


Speaking to and teaching high school students is familiar to me. Athletic competitions are familiar to me. The larger-than-life sense of inspiration and community these two events brought up for me has stayed with me. As busy as I am, over-extended, then cranky and short tempered, I had an incredible week. I love that I can share myself with others and foster inspiration and joy. I love that I am a part of a CrossFit gym and all the activities that come along with it that promotes such a sense of belonging and community.

I am lucky. (Tired, but lucky!)

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