When you tackle someone in football, you’re supposed to keep your head up. Tackling with your head down, also known as spearing, is a good way to injure people--yourself and your opponent. It’s so dangerous, in fact, that it was banned at all levels of the sport in 1976. Despite the ban, it’s a practice that persists, in large part because coaches fear that teaching their players the correct way to tackle will curb their aggressiveness. It seems a startlingly large number of coaches actually go the other way, teaching their players to use their helmet as a weapon, despite the fact that it dramatically increases the risk of serious injury on both sides of the tackle--like, permanent, crippling injury. It’s such a big deal that the NFL addressed it again in 2018, making a rule that spearing can lead to a 15 yard penalty or even ejection from the game.
We’ll set aside for a moment that there are grown men teaching children to permanently injure other children just to increase the number of wins under their belt and secure their jobs. Because if I go down that path, it’ll just turn into a tirade. A blinding rage, mama bear tirade.
My youngest is nursing his second concussion of the season. Second. Both are the result of the other team intentionally playing dirty and intentionally inflicting a head injury. I’m struggling to wrap my brain around this on so many levels. How one human could harm another just because, how a grown man could teach children to harm each other, how a grown man could knowingly endanger a child’s entire future just to pad his own ego… again, mama bear tirade. There are a couple of football coaches in the St Louis area who should probably walk the other way if they see me coming. But I digress.
What I really want to talk about today is not about the entitled sleazeballs, but about my son’s football team. About the coaches who put the kids first and go out of their way to teach them how to play the sport safely. About the programs out there that care about the kind of humans they’re shaping these young men to be. About the men who stepped in as father figures to my son and how very lost and angry he was before he found football.
I want to talk about the fact that my son’s team held their heads high even when things got rough. They played with courage and grace and heart no matter how dirty it got out on that field. The fact that there are still teams like that, still young men like that, gives me hope for our future as a society.
Because life sucks. People don’t fight fair. They pay unfair wages even when they have the means to do the right thing. They step on each other for the sake of greed, pride, and pure meanness. The playing field of life is not level. And while I am killing myself to give my children a boost up because I hope their road is easier than my own has been, I’d much rather they learn to keep their heads high no matter what life throws at them. Someone else fighting dirty isn’t an invitation to get down in the mud with them, it’s a call to rise above.
There are a few reasons my blog and books have been largely silent the past couple of years. In part, it’s just been the reality of life. I’m a single mom working multiple jobs and shuttling teenagers. There’s not a lot of time or brain power left at the end of all that to be creative.
But I’ve also been struggling with a bit of an identity crisis. As my friend Jesse puts it, “We’re not talking to Happy Heather right now…” It's hard to write about hope and love when my faith in both has been shaken to its core.
After years of silence, the words inside me are starting to shake loose again. The book they’re producing is different. It’s not part of Throwaway’s world. Jesse also told me to stop worrying about how it fit into the platform and just to write it for me, so that’s what I’m doing. And, as usual, the words are helping me process, to find healing. I’m not sure where they’re taking me, but I believe it’s somewhere better.
And I’m realizing that like my son’s football team, I want to keep my head high, even if those around me don’t. Because it’s not about winning a game, it’s about who I am as a person. And I don’t want to be the person who doesn’t believe in love, the person who’s lost hope.
It feels like the entire last year has been one dirty tackle after another, but there’s been a lot of good in it, too. So I’m gonna spit the mud out of my mouth, pick myself up, and keep playing the game with my head high.
I’ll also be figuring out what to do about dirty high school football programs and my platform (and books) might be a bit cheekier than my long-time readers are used to, but my head’ll be high...
The coffee table in my basement is a destroyer of children. When my oldest, Dylan, was hardly more than a toddler, he was picking up his toys and cracked the corner of his eye on it, earning his first stitches.
But I was the table’s first victim. When I was four, racing through the house to get my shoes so I could go to Scotty’s Hardware with my dad, I wiped out and gave myself a helluva black eye. Instead of going to the store--and getting an ice cream cone--I was left behind to sob inconsolably on my mother’s lap.
I recently ventured back into the dating world. It’s the first I’ve really opened myself up to the idea that I could find someone else since The One Who Makes Me Smile broke my heart. And I did meet someone I thought seemed nice. We had a lot in common and he told me how beautiful I was, something I sorely needed to hear after the six-month torturous death of my last relationship. That first foray into the dating world ended as abruptly as it began, though. I bounced back pretty quickly, but there was a day I was pretty down about it.
I was talking to my sister on that particular day and she brought up the Scotty’s incident from all those years ago. She said she often wondered what that did my psyche, the fact that I was racing through the house so I wouldn’t be left behind. And when I fell, he didn’t scoop me up to tend my wounds. He left me behind. She said I’d spent my life chasing perfection to earn love. That all I’d ever wanted was to belong, to find where I fit. Apparently both of my sisters had been discussing it the other day, that men took advantage of that in me and they worried about me now that I was dating again. I think the last two years were hard on the people who loved me because they worried all along he’d break my heart.
Sometimes I feel like my family doesn’t really see me. Not who I truly am. In that moment, though, I felt like both of my sisters saw right through to the most vulnerable parts of my soul.
I stayed with a publisher who was bad for my career because of the sense of family it gave me. I stayed in a bad marriage more than a decade after I knew it was dead because I didn’t want to lose his family. I could point to a lot of times I stayed longer than I should have in jobs, relationships, or situations because of that sense of belonging.
My whole life, I have craved family. Not just flesh and blood, but the tribe of people you belong to. I think raising my boys helped with that, but as my time with them rapidly draws to a close--or at least, with them as we are now--I think it’s bothering me more and more than I haven’t found my person yet. I want a family. I want somewhere to go on holidays, people to gather at the lake with or coming and going from my house at gatherings. But I’d be truly thrilled to find my person. The one I can tell anything to. The one who has my back no matter what. The one who won’t leave me behind.
It’s hard to admit this. I sometimes feel a bit like the only place I do belong is on the Island of Misfit Toys because I haven’t found that person. A friend tells me it’s because I live life full speed ahead and I keep picking boys who can’t keep up. He’s not wrong.
Maybe that’s the problem. I’ve spent my life trying to be perfect for someone who was never going to be perfect for me. I’ve given myself black eyes for people who didn’t deserve my time, let alone my heart.
This year has been one of immense pain but also immense growth. Of letting go and new beginnings. I’m learning to lean in to my feelings. To trust them. To not be so hard on myself. To give myself credit for things I’ve done right and let myself off the hook for the missteps.
I can feel this terrible, wonderful year leading me to something better. To being someone better. Or, at very least, to being okay with the someone I am. While there are times I question his judgment, God made me who I am for a reason. The world must have needed one of me. I’m not just a spare part.
This past weekend was spent at a music festival with my boys. We had an amazing time and I met all kinds of wonderful people. Something about the weekend brought all of this full circle for me. I realized I’ve found a place I belong, a job that’s as much a family as a career move. Friends who love me. And my boys aren’t leaving. Our family will only grow as they do.
I also realized I’ve led an amazing life. I mean, it’s occurred to me before, but it really washed over me again this weekend. My life has been truly phenomenal. It’s full to the brim with people from all over the world who I love and who love me, even if I haven’t found that one person to do the day-to-day stuff with.
And I have to believe my person is still out there. Maybe I’ve already met him. Maybe not. But until I do, I’m determined to do a better job of guarding my heart. No more black eyes for me. At least, not the self-inflicted kind.
First, can I just say that I see irony in the fact that my last post was about the anger I'm dealing with and this one is about pretty fingernails... I guess I'm a woman of layers.
Anyway, several years ago, I got into in to Jamberry nails. There was something about the paradox of tending goats with my super cute nails that appealed to me. But the goofy things were a bit of a pain because they required heat to set and I am a giant toddler—I couldn’t help picking at them and peeling them off the wrong way resulted in absolutely destroying my nails.
I should pause at this point to say I’m not a Facebook party kinda girl. I know I should do them more for my books, but I don’t. I get added to them for LuLaRoe and Pampered Chef and all the other things and I ignore the invites. So, when a friend invited me to a Color Street Nail Bar party, I joined merely because she’s a nice person and I haven’t seen her in a while.
But I got suckered in. I asked for the free sample, thinking I’d order one set to be nice. Only I got hooked. These are like Jamberry in that they’re super cute, but they’re much easier to apply and are easier on the nail. They’re actual nail polish strips, without the formaldehyde found in the nail polish I buy at the store. (Can we talk about the fact that we’re painting poison on our bodies? And even once we find out that’s the case, we KEEP DOING IT?)
Anyway, I wound up buying two sets. As I type, I keep getting distracted by my ah-dorable polka dotted fingernails.
Here are the downsides I’ve found so far (or the reality check, if nothing else):
My nail party is July 22nd at 7 PM CT. If you want to check it out, lemme know and I’ll add you. I think I'll keep the group open until my birthday (August 5th), so even if you're busy tonight, pop by and say hi and talk pretty fingernails with me!
A couple of weeks ago, I posted something on my personal Facebook wall about anger. At the time, anger was sweeping through me with such ferocity I was a little afraid I would lose myself to it.
The post was a quote encouraging people to use their anger to fuel action. For the most part, it was met with encouraging words from friends who know me well enough to be concerned for me. But it was also met with a few well-intentioned but anger-inducing words that basically said anger is never appropriate.
In no frame of mind to discuss it—because I was clinging to my sanity for dear life—I deleted the comments, something I don’t typically do. But I’ve spent a lot of time since then not only trying to regain peace but wondering why it is that we as humans have such an odd relationship with anger, and why it’s particularly frowned on in women.
Because while the Bible cautions us to not sin in our anger, and it speaks against outbursts of wrath, and in the book of James, we learn that the anger of man does not produce the righteousness of God, I would argue that there is a place for anger in our lives and not acknowledging is much more harmful than seeing it, owning it, and channeling it.
Ignoring anger is what allows it to turn into bitterness, and bitterness is a cancer that eats away at our souls and our relationships.
I have built a brand on the image of Happy Heather, but I am angry.
I am angry at the CEOs who used me for my mind without acknowledging me or paying me a living wage, leaving my family to struggle.
I am angry at my ex-husband and the choices he made and continues to make, at the hurt he has caused me and our children.
I am angry that every time I lift my head up, there is an avalanche waiting to bury me.
I am angry at the men who assaulted and raped me.
I am angry at the childhood wounds inflicted by those who should have protected my heart.
I am angry that I spent so much time healing from those wounds, only to have everything stripped away by alcoholism and dementia.
I am angry that I have to watch my father die a horrible death.
I am angry that the VA would leave him to die under a bridge. That there are no resources available to our veterans, and we are left with the option of my mother being left penniless or my father being shipped to whatever facility they can happen to find—assuming he survives the wait.
I am angry at the old coots sitting at “The V” in Republic, Missouri who snuck him booze when we tried to dry him out two years ago and then left us to deal with the disaster they created.
I am angry that it ripped my family apart. That where there was once cookouts and laughter and love, there is now silence echoing throughout the emptiness of our world.
I am angry that the man I love doesn’t want to build a world with me. That he gave me hope and made me long for something he had no intention of giving. That he hurt my children in the process.
I am angry at how incredibly alone I feel.
I am angry at the powerlessness I feel.
I am angry at the church for turning from Jesus and to politics.
I am angry at the number of people who have been turned away from God by those who purport to follow him.
I am angry about the human beings in concentration camps in our country.
I am angry that instead of looking for real solutions to the question of abortion, women’s health is being legislated in dangerous ways.
I am angry for the children forgotten in foster homes and abject poverty in our own backyard.
I am angry that after a decade of crying out against human trafficking, we haven’t even made a dent because people do not care. Bargain deals matter more than human lives.
I am angry that I’m stacking people into my house like cordwood because young people cannot earn a living wage in this country. Jobs are aplenty, but none of them offer a salary someone can live on.
The problem is not with my anger. Yes, it is a secondary emotion—in every instance above, I can point to the pain, injustice, and a sense of powerlessness that are fueling it. But the anger is real and shoving it down will do nothing beyond allowing it to fester.
I shoved it down for 41 years, and when my father’s crash-and-burn ripped back the scabs covering that anger, the power of it nearly consumed me.
I don’t want to keep this anger. My point is not to hold on to it. It has to be acknowledged, investigated, channeled and then released. I must move forward and leave it behind, and that’s a continual process.
But in that process, I use my anger to fuel me. To guide my decisions. To draw boundaries. To fix what I can and fight for others.
Because we have much to be angry about. But there is also love, and beauty and joy to be had. To deny the anger gives it power over us instead of using its power to move us beyond, to something better.
Bad Boy Blues
Rolling hills that had been vibrant green just weeks ago were now muted in tone, as if they were taking a deep breath before bursting into the song of fall.