I have no idea why, but today I had the compelling urge to listen to Chicago—something I did often as a preteen but haven’t done in years. For some reason, as I sit here nursing a shattered heart and navigating adulting minefields and intense family drama, I decided I needed to listen to Chicago. Because that’s just what I need right now, more feels.
The first song to come through my earbuds, I realized it’s all their fault. Maybe not the minefields and family drama, but the broken heart is on that danged sappy group.
Couldn't stand to be kept away, just for the day, from your body. Wouldn't want to be swept away, far away, from the one that I love.
That. I want someone who feels that. I grew up listening to music like that, writing books about it. My heart yearns for something that feels impossible right now. I’m not sure if he ever felt that, the one who made me smile, the guy who brought me back to life. Maybe he did and just didn’t let himself show it. Or maybe he just didn’t. As much as my romantic heart rebels at the notion, it happens.
I know he loved me. There was a time when anyone in the room with us could see how much we adored each other, but somewhere along the way, he stopped enjoying me. Our relationship became more work than not. Not because I was a diva or he was a jerk. It was life, mostly. Life and outside influences. People with their own selfish interests putting up roadblocks. Neither of us handled it as well as we could have, but we tried. I genuinely believe we both did.
After we broke up, I reposted sage words of internet wisdom on my Facebook wall. He wasn’t speaking to me and part of me wished—naively, I know—that he’d see it and some sort of light bulb would go off in his head. (Which would give me the added bonus of being the first person ever to change someone’s mind via a Facebook post.)
Instead, what I got was a comment from an old colleague: All you need is love.
I think it would have hurt less if he’d physically punched me in the gut. I know I’m a romance novelist who has built her entire platform on hope and love and all kinds of sunshiney stuff, but I firmly believe that statement is absolute crap. Like it was my fault for not loving him enough.
I’ve seen people who were loved dearly drink themselves to death. I’ve seen women love their husbands but leave because they couldn’t take the emotional or physical abuse anymore. And sometimes you can love someone, immensely, and still say “no more” because their actions hurt you and keep hurting you and at some point, your heart (and sanity) just can’t take anymore.
I loved that man, deeply, and I believe he loved me. But here I sit, alone. Listening to Chicago and wishing things were somehow different. Because it takes more than love. It takes work, and a choice. Maybe even a daily choice.
I believe that relationships (of all kinds) are not static; they’re fluid and ever-evolving. Either we move toward people or away from them, but we never run completely parallel to them.
When you first learn to drive, you realize that it’s not as simple of a process as it seems—there’s a lot of counter-correcting involved. If your wheels are aligned and the driver is good, you don’t notice it, but it’s still happening. I think maybe relationships are kind of like that. And somewhere along the way, the counter-correcting happening in mine was reminiscent of a 15-year-old behind the wheel for the first time. We meant well, but we were giving each other whiplash.
There is so much in my life that is good right now. I love my new town. My children have turned into ah-mazing men and are flourishing. My dogs are at me feet. I am safe; I am comfortable.
I am sad.
I mourn my family, tattered and torn remnants are all that remains of what was once a big, bustling family full of love and laughter (and craziness, but there was a lot that was good). Childhood wounds lie gaping at the surface, the scars that covered them ripped open by alcohol and dementia and so much brokenness.
I worry about money, cars, work, and my irritating landlord.
And I grieve the loss of the man I love.
The Facebook gods have been serving me all kinds of self-help ads. Recently, they showed me a TED Talk on grief. I felt guilty, identifying with that widow. It feels wrong to compare a breakup to death. But what she said resonated with me: that person you loved is always a part of you. You don’t move on from that. But you do have to move forward.
And so I will continue to put one foot in front of the other and move forward.
Maybe someday he’ll show up on my doorstep and leave no room for doubt in my mind and we’ll have that life together we’d been building.
Or maybe I will cry a little less each day. I’ll grow a little stronger each week. I’ll find my feet again. Learn to hope and love again.
Who knows? Maybe I’ll even write.
It’s only 10 days old, and already 2019 has proven to be a year of change for my family. So much so, I don’t even know where to begin. (Which says something, considering the number of changes we’ve undergone since that fateful day in March 2011.)
I spent most of 2018 burning up the pavement between Columbia and Buffalo since my beloved lives in Columbia. It was a fluke we even met—we both happened to be in the same area for Thanksgiving in 2017. But once we did meet, neither of us wanted to let the distance keep us from something we could tell was worth the effort.
It was a tough way to start a relationship, but it was also good—we learned what we were made of early on.
The discussion of which city we would consolidate to was a long one with many twists and turns. We involved the boys in the process; their lives would be impacted by the decision we landed on. In the end, it was apparent that no matter how much we loved the beautiful farm we were leasing, Columbia held our future.
So I stuck my toe in the water, just to see if I’d even be able to find a job. It feels like I blinked and had my pick of positions to choose from—good jobs that would further my career.
There was a time I couldn’t fathom leaving Buffalo. It was a safe place for my children and I to find our feet again after our world was shattered. Last year, I wrote that I felt like a butterfly emerging from a chrysalis, ready to spread my wings and fly. Now I realize that spreading my wings means leaving the chrysalis, leaving Buffalo.
It’s been a terrifying and thrilling couple of months. It felt so unreal, like we were going through the motions but nothing would really change. The rhythm that had become our world would go on.
But now we’re at the doorway. Today is my last day with the sleep company. Tomorrow, I make the journey to my new home. Monday, our new lives begin. We are leaving behind the quiet cocoon of small town life and trading it for an adventure in the city. It’s not exactly Manhattan, but it’s a big change for us.
Dylan, my oldest son, will be spreading his own wings as he stays behind to finish out the lease on the farm before setting off to find his path. He’s a smart and resourceful man. I know great things are in store for him. But lately, I look at him and I picture the chubby toddler in jeans and a flannel and a grin that could light up a city block. And I get a little teary because I know that once he steps out on his own, it’ll never quite be the same again. These are my last precious few moments to have all of my chickens under the same roof in this way. From now on, it will be different.
There are still a lot of unknowns with this next chapter. Horses need to be sold or boarded. Dogs will be divvied up among family. I think I knew—we all knew—that our time on the farm had come to an end. I just wasn’t quite ready to face it. Still, what lies ahead is where we’re supposed to be, and I have to keep trusting that, even through the unknown.
Thankfully, my guy is there for me through this emotional roller coaster I’m on, solid and steady and reassuring me that we’re going to be okay. That I’m not alone anymore; whatever comes up over these next few weeks, he has my back. I suspect he’s going to have to work especially hard to keep me sane the first week or so I’m away from Dylan, but we will get through that, too.
The other exciting thing that happened was that I cracked open a manuscript for the first time in nearly a year. I can’t say the words tumbled out, but progress was made. I think, maybe, I’m ready to write again. I’m hoping that all of the changes I’m making in my world will trim away the distractions and leave me with more head space to create new worlds.
It’s also been bothering me that I’d moved away from helping the fight against human trafficking. My world has become about me, about survival. There is so much darkness out there, I don’t think any of us has the luxury to stop fighting for light. I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about what that means for me, how I can best keep fighting to make the world a better place.
Happily, I think that piece of the puzzle is taking shape in the form of a new venture with some of my favorite people. I’m not quite ready to share the details yet, but I will say to keep an eye out for some unabashed Sass coming from me this spring…
And until then, wish me luck.
Sometimes I cringe when I look at my own website. I have no idea how I blink and another six months goes by with me neglecting my poor books and this site. Although I prefer to think of it less as neglect and more as percolating—my world is changing and with it, my writing. At least I’ve stopped saying “soon” and started acknowledging that I’m not sure when the words will flow again, but when they do, they will be words worth saying. At least I hope they will.
So much has happened this past year, my friends, I don’t know if I could even begin to catch you up. (For those who were following the goat decision on Facebook, we opted to wait until life settles down a bit. So, no goat.)
I can say that my view of love has changed and grown this past year. The dynamic in my extended family has shifted, my children are growing and our relationship is undergoing the inevitable metamorphosis that comes with emerging adulthood, and I have fallen truly and head-over-heels in love with a pretty amazing man. That last one didn’t look anything like a Hallmark movie, that’s for sure.
In my head, I knew it wouldn’t. But I still wasn’t totally prepared for the uneven messiness of it all. Looking back over the last year, I’m not even sure I could tell you when the crush turned to love or at what moment I knew it had. Because there was always this feeling of belonging. It just fit from the start. Not to say it was love at first sight—no, the love was forged over time. I just can’t pinpoint when.
I hate to talk about my love life too much here. Mostly because he’s an incredibly private person and would be super ticked at me. (So there is irony that he wound up with me, since I can be obnoxiously transparent with my life.) I suppose there are also times I’m afraid I’ll blink and this magical thing we’ve found will be gone, though I can’t imagine my life without him.
December 1, it will be one year since we went on our first date. It was truly the best date I’ve ever been on. I remember what we wore and how it felt to walk next to him as we wandered the city. We talked, so much and about so many things. He made me laugh. He made me think. He gave me butterflies. He still does all of those things. (Although sometimes he makes me yell now, too.)
I vacillate between marveling that it’s already been a year and that it’s only been a year. He is woven into my every day. He shares my moments, big and small. He’s the person my kids turn to when they need something or someone to talk to—sometimes even before me.
If you’ve followed my work for long enough, then you might know that when I write my novels, I usually have an actor in mind as I write them. It helps me envision mannerisms and speech patterns. The actor I had in mind for Devon McAlister, one of my favorite heroes, was Jeffrey Dean Morgan.
At first, the romantic in me took it as some sort of sign that my love bears an uncanny resemblance to Jeffrey Dean Morgan. As in, people stop the man on the street to comment about it. Although it should be noted he’s more Negan and less P.S. I Love You's Irish dude.
I can see why people think there’s a resemblance (it’s the dimples), but it’s not something that’s even on my radar now that I know him as well as I do. Besides, my guy is way hotter than Jeffrey Dean Morgan. (Sorry, Jeff.)
But, with it being our anniversary and all, it amused me to offer up all of Devon’s books for free. Because in some small way, I think the resemblance is what encouraged me to take a chance, so you could say Devon led me to my own love. And for that, I thank him.
There are times when I’m a strong woman, independent and fierce and in control of my world.
And then there are times when I’m a scared little girl, vulnerable and unsure and silenced by my sense of self-doubt.
It’s part of the paradox that is inherently me. Kind of like the way I adore super cute shoes but hate wearing gloves when I garden because it deprives me the feeling of dirt on my hands. (Which I’ve recently discovered is actually really good for your sleep. The dirt on your hands, not the super cute shoes.)
As transparent as I am in this blog and as many books as I have published, I’m sure it surprises some to know there are times when I stand tongue-tied, completely unable to verbalize the thoughts bouncing around my brain or the feelings swirling through me like a torrent.
My boyfriend once told me that it’s incredibly frustrating that someone as articulate as me is, at times, unable to coherently express what I’m feeling, what I need, or what I want.
Here's the thing, I'm a passionate woman. While that's fun to watch from afar via a Facebook feed or something, it's not everyone's cup of tea up close. I’ve found that what’s inside of me is something best doled out in doses, usually through a dozen books or so, lest it be too much.
And that is the fear that stays my tongue: I am too much. I smile too big, talk too much, feel too deeply, think too hard, am bruised too easily… and don’t even get me started on the days when I fear that I am not enough.
There’s so much going on in my world right now. Some terrifying, some heartbreaking, some thrilling. But it’s all roiling inside of me, like a flood waters threatening to breach a levy. This week, I found myself standing frozen in the face of it, afraid that I am yet again too much and not enough at the same time.
My middle sister, Karen, and I have been known to butt heads from time to time. I suppose that's what happens when two people have personalities as strong as ours. But she’s also the person who gets it when others don’t. Maybe that’s the thing about sisters; you share the same brand of crazy.
A few months ago, my boyfriend and I were going through a rough patch. He said those words to me because I was utterly unable to verbalize what was going on in my head. Or rather, I did speak for myself but the instant he challenged it or ignored it, I let him. I froze in my uncertainty. Was I being too much again?
(In the spirit of full disclosure, there are times it’s less uncertainty and more weariness. One of my favorite lines comes from Carsie Blanton’s song Backbone: Honey, I’ve already conquered all I can. I just wanna be a woman. All you gotta be is a man.)
I’m a woman who prides herself in being independent and strong and still sometimes I am so small and broken. When we were having this fight, Karen shared the song Brave by Sara Bareilles with me. It’s since become my anthem whenever I find myself allowing people to treat me in a way that isn’t okay, whether it’s a boyfriend, my own kid, a colleague, or even a parent.
Something else I’ve learned—sometimes we can love a person fiercely and accept them as they are but also know that the way they treat us isn’t okay. If they can’t or won’t change that, it’s okay to walk away from them before they destroy you. It doesn’t make either of you bad people. Sometimes, that’s the bravest thing you can do.
For those of you who’ve been dedicated readers since the early days, thank you for the incredible patience you’ve shown me as my publication schedule has shifted and languished under the pressure of publisher drama and life. I had hoped to release at least two books in 2017, but it seems the only words I had in me were used to document the monumental shift in my world. But I think that’s what was supposed to be, so it’s okay. I will forever treasure 2017 as a year of profound change for the better for me.
But now 2018 is slipping by as well, and it’s time to get some danged books out there.
The 12 books of Throwaway’s World will always hold a special place in my heart. They changed my life. They helped shape me into who I am today. And wouldn't be surprised if the characters from them found their way into my new books, even if it's only via a brief nod. But the books tumbling out of my fingers now have taken a different path, just as my life has. Without me even planning it, they seem to be lining up with my own journey.
For the last year and a half, the little coffee shop on the corner of Maple and Main in downtown Buffalo has been pivotal to my world. The people in that shop have helped me through the aforementioned profound journey. In many ways, they gave me the strength to do the hard things. I don’t even think they know how much their friendship has changed my world for the better. So it makes sense that one of the new series I’ll be launching is set in that shop. The characters and stories are fiction, but the heartbeat of the story is truth - the truth of living in a small town, of finding your way in a scary and broken world, of the importance of the people in our lives. This series will deal with a lot of the tough stuff in life, but it’s me. You know there will be hope and love and laughter. Because, for real, without hope and love and laughter, what’s the point? Look for this series to launch with Recipe for Sunshine. The plan is for it to be at least a three-book series, but I have a sneaking suspicion that will turn into more. I'd give a tentative date but have finally learned my lesson: The universe laughs at my attempts to schedule things.
Some of my happiest memories as a child were at the lake. My family spent every spare moment there. Now that I have children of my own, we never seem to get to the lake as often as we’d like, but it still holds our happiest moments. We live for those stolen days in the summer. The lake, whichever lake it is, has its own culture. Its own way of doing things. When I was looking for inspiration for a lighthearted, fun series, the lake was the clear choice. I found an interesting lake town via Google to inspire me, fictionalized it, and there you have it. I was well into this series when my life shifted yet again and I now have the promise of a summer spent stealing every moment I can at the lake. So it’s appropriate that somewhere in the publishing mix is a trilogy set on the water. Again, I don’t want to promise a release date, but look for Tails, California to show up in the near future.
This past year, I launched a website called Hummingbird Charm with a collective of amazing authors. (Seriously, how did I get so lucky to call these women peers?) Anyway, we've been tossing around some ideas for a collection, so I've got my fingers crossed that happens this year as well.
I've got a couple of other projects up my sleeve, as well as quite a bit of blogging on tap. Look for this website to be redesigned soon with more and a wider variety of content. You can also follow my blogging over at Hummingbird Charm and at iSense Sleep, where I'm now the brand manager. They've turned me into a sleep nerd and much of what I've learned there is spilling into other areas of my life.
Thank you, so much, for your patience during my long publishing silence. Thank you for being on this wild ride with me. I hope that you're having an amazing 2018!
Once again, it’s been too long since I’ve posted on my blog. I don’t mean to silent for such long stretches—the days just kind of slip one into the other until months have gone by. But that’s something I think most of us are dealing with right now, whether or not we’re trying to keep up with a blog.
In the blur since I last posted, I’ve taken a new job. It should come as no surprise to those who know me that it wasn’t at all the path I was expecting. An old boss reached out to offer me a marketing position. I turned him down at first, didn’t even hear what he had to say because I was so focused on getting that teaching certificate. But as the weeks ticked by, I kept thinking about what he’d said and how much I’d enjoyed working with him before. So I reached out, figuring I’d just hear him out. Two weeks later, I was sitting at my new desk, the brand manager for an exciting new startup in Springfield.
In retrospect, I’m abundantly happy I didn’t let me tunnel vision make my decision for me. It’s been a little over a month since I started the job, amd I love it, I love the company, and I love what we’re building. Although me and teaching is starting to feel like Ben and the accounting firm on Parks & Rec.
Part of that job is a weekly blog. I hope you’ll check it out if you have the time. Especially if you have trouble sleeping—our products can legit help. I’ve had more sleep in the past month than ever in my life. I’m still not caught up, but I’m getting there. I’m almost human again. And I’ve turned into a bit of a sleep dork, so don’t be surprised if that spills over onto this blog.
My year of learning and growing continues. I’m not quite ready to publicly process it all—certainly not as transparently as I did in the My Own After Series, but I’m sure my experiences will find their way into books. They always do. A friend commented this morning that she came across a picture of me from last summer and was struck by how much I’ve changed, how much healthier I am, physically and emotionally. Some days I feel it more than others, but I’m grateful to be surrounded by people who remind me of it when I can’t see it for myself.
Speaking of books, I’d planned to run a post about the novels on tap for this year. But the thing is, I’m struggling to write romance novels. For years, I’ve written the world not as I’ve seen it, but how I wished it to be. I’m not sure I can do that anymore. I have several almost-finished novels on my hard drive that I just can’t seem to force myself to wrap up. Because they don’t feel genuine.
The love stories that tumbled from my fingers once upon a time were a fun ideal, but one I’m not sure exists. Real love is so much messier. Real love—romantic or otherwise—hurts like hell. I feel like I need to capture that, but it scares me. Writing, under the best of circumstances, is how I grapple with the emotions and events in my world. If I tangle with my emotions head-on right now, it could be some of my most powerful writing yet. But it could also break me.
I suspect the books that do finally surface will either be career suicide or my breakout hits. Because so much of my brand is Happy Heather. That’s something that even bleeds into my everyday life. It’s who people expect me to be. But lately, I’m kinda feeling a bit more like Sassy Heather. We’ll see how she goes over.
I do know that I’m trying very hard to find my way back to a house on some land. I’ve hardly seen my horses since they’ve been staying with friends. Once a month isn’t nearly enough. I miss my girls, deeply. Yesterday I stood in the muddy pasture, hugging my Daisy’s neck while Pip tried to steal my sunglasses. I breathed in the scent of them and all the bad things in my world seemed to fade away, if only for that moment. And I knew in that moment that I’m not me without my girls. They keep me centered and they keep me from being pulled under when the storms of life threaten to drown me.
So, I don’t know exactly what 2018 holds for me, but I’m curious to see how it all shakes out, curious to see what books finally make their way to the page once the log jam in my brain unsnarls.
Thanks for bearing with me as I figure it out.
Sometimes people ask me how I got through Blake’s accident. My answer is simple: one step at a time. I went on autopilot, placing one foot in front of the other until we were through it. It wasn’t until later, after the danger had passed, that I was able to begin to process all that had happened or how close we came to losing him.
I’ve been more easily stressed out this week, more emotional than I usually am. I was walking through the grocery store parking lot when the reason why hit me like a lightning bolt.
For nearly 20 years, I have placed one foot in front of the other. I have raised children and dealt with crises and survived. Now, for the first time, I have tasted something more. I’ve found peace. I’ve felt the comfort of another’s arms. I have jobs I love. My children are happy. Over the past year, my life has grown into something wonderful, and I have a glimpse of something richer than I ever could have imagined.
And just like the wave of emotion I had to contend with after the danger of Blake’s accident had passed, I am grappling with a tsunami of emotion and functioning like a normal human being has become a monumental feat. What I really want to do is curl up and cry it all out, to wash away all the years of hurt and stress and badness. And maybe I will.
I’ve grappled with the tumult, the sea of emotions, for a few days now. I’ve tried to hide my crazy, to keep up with life, even though it’s coming at me rapid fire these days. And then tonight, something in me snapped. I’d had enough of myself. Only it wasn’t a wave of tears that washed it all away.
Instead, I put in my earbuds, turned on my favorite playlist, and be-bopped my way through the night. I got caught up on work; I cleaned my house. I danced like nobody was watching - which was a little more likely the case once I remembered to close the blinds.
The music and the movement washed away all the things plaguing me: insecurity and doubt over this new relationship, uncertainty over my job and finances and parents, sadness for friends and students who are dealing with some truly big things. It was as cleansing and cathartic as any tears. More so even.
And while I’m sure my personal growth isn’t complete - I certainly hope not, anyway - last night was a turning point for me. Whatever metamorphosis I’ve been going through this year, I’m ready to move on. To live my life, to write my stories, to embrace my own ever after, whatever that looks like.
So I will write “The End” on this book knowing that in truth, it’s only the beginning.
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.