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.
How is possible that I haven’t posted an update in nearly four months? Oh yeah, life. This morning alone, my house looks like a war zone. Our only toilet is broken. I had to run one kid through the ATM on our way to school to get $10 for a choir shirt. The other had to go in late because we all forgot to put the clothes in the dryer last night and it was go in late or go in underwear. I’m still trying to crowbar the oldest out of bed before he’s due at work. I am hovering on the edge of sick. It will take an act of God for my budget to work out this month. I am behind in freelancing, writing, and pretty much every other area of life because I took a weekend off. And I got stopped by a marching band not once but twice this morning because they practice in my neighborhood and the Christmas parade is this weekend.
And you know what? I’ve never been happier in my life. So much has happened and changed since summer. I don’t even know where to begin, really.
And let's be honest: Everyone needs a marching band to usher in their Monday.
The romance writer in me wants to start with “I met a guy…” but it’s too soon to say more than that, other than it’s nice to smile when my phone buzzes at me. Something about the possibility of having someone who makes me smile has made me realize that the gap in my publication schedule had very little to do with my hectic life. The silence had much more to do with the fact that the girl who loved love stories had gone away. She’d forgotten what it felt like to be attracted to someone, to flirt. To feel special. It’s hard to write with any authenticity about warmth and hope and love when your soul hasn’t felt any of those things in so long they’d become no more than a distant memory.
But with everything going on, everything that’s transpired in the last four months, the fact that I want to lead with that makes me roll my eyes at myself.
Last summer, my sister was diagnosed with cancer and we still had a lot of unanswered questions. In the months since, she’s had surgery and undergone radiation. There’s a lot they don’t tell you as you’re heading into treatment, like that your skin can peel off in reaction to it. That and other side effects have put my sweet, sweet angel of a sister through more pain than any human should have to bear. But she has borne it, with strength and grace. Because that’s who she is. Just last week, she got to ring the bell indicating that her treatments were finished. Now begins the road to recovery, but at least she has started down that path.
This year has also seen my father diagnosed with dementia, his greatest fear realized. His health in general has been failing for a while, though I suspect it’s at least partly in response to the diagnosis. Then, in October, he was hospitalized for a week. We came very close to losing him and the doctors still can’t tell us why. They stabilized and released him, but he continues to waste away while we can do little besides watch. Watch and soak up every moment we can while our family remains intact.
He’d probably be angry with me for saying anything, so I hesitate to include this. But wrestling with the notion of losing him has been difficult not just for me, but for my children. He’s been a strong force in their lives, and he’s played a major role in teaching my boys what it means to be a man. As a child, my relationship with my father was tumultuous at best. But I've also adored him since infancy, and he's shaped who I am today. He and I have long since found healing. We’ve found the closeness I craved in my younger years.
In the everyday, I press on. I look at what needs to be done and help where I can. But as I write this, tears fill my eyes. Because I mourn not only what is to come, but what's already passed. For an all-too-brief window we had a family that was strong and close. Now that dynamic has changed. We're scattered. There is uncertainty. Life and circumstance have changed us. Still, I cling to the strength of my sisters, no matter the distance between us. And I am thankful for the base my parents gave us.
At least four times during the past 20 years, I have toed up to the notion of being an English teacher. Every time, I chicken out. As I was deciding what to do with my struggling business and how best to keep a roof over our heads, it hit me that it was time to stop resisting. I think I just wanted to be a rebel - after all, both of my sisters are teachers. Perhaps I relished being the oddball, no matter how much I lamented it as a child.
Once the decision was made, things moved so quickly I can only believe it was Divine intervention. To make a long story short, I've been substitute teaching in the Buffalo schools for a little over a month now while I study for my certification test through ABCTE. At first, my boys were hesitant. The conversation went something like this.
"I don't know mom…"
"Don't you want me in your school?" I was wounded.
"It's not that. These kids. They aren't like us. They're pretty wild."
"You don't think I can handle it?"
"It's not the kids I'm worried about."
I forged ahead, nervous but determined. I rarely like to admit I'm afraid of anything, but I was seriously afraid of those first few days in the classroom. It was not only a new job, but one utterly different from anything I'd done before. Sure, I'd taught adults. I guess a room full of disgruntled IT guys compares to rebellious 5th graders in some ways, but it was still pretty foreign.
To my profound relief, I survived. Not only did I survive, I enjoyed it. And I only had one conversation get out of hand.
I'd written "Ms. Huffman" on the board. I'm too old to be a Miss and I'm not a Mrs. This was apparently a new concept for these 5th graders.
"You left a letter out of your name," one of them informed me.
"No, I didn't. I meant to write Ms."
"Because it doesn't matter if I'm married or not. You can use Ms either way."
"You're not married?" a girl asked.
"That's not the point."
At this juncture, another young man joined the conversation. "Do you have a boyfriend?"
That elicited a chorus of "oohs" from the class. They had interpreted the question as this kid’s way of volunteering for the position.
"No. I have three sons, one just at the other end of the hall. But we're not talking about that right now, we should be doing our bell work."
"How do you have kids if you're not married?"
This is when I thought Really? I'm the only unmarried mother in this town? Instead, I replied "I used to be married. Now I'm not, and we're done talking about this."
The boy who started it all gasped. "You got fired from being married?"
I had to bite my lip to keep from laughing. I'm super proud that I didn't retort that I'd fired him. Instead, I managed to get the conversation back on track. Lord only knows how.
Since that day, I've taught everywhere from 1st grade through high school seniors. I've covered for the Special Education classroom and the middle school band teacher. I find myself increasingly impressed with the kind of person who chooses to educate children for a living. And I am increasingly proud to be joining their ranks. The kids have come to know me. Whichever school I’m at, I have kiddos coming up to me and hugging me or saying hi. I'm crazy about them. And my boys have even decided they like having me in their schools.
Despite all of the proverbial frolicking in the sunshine, I'm exhausted. Every day is a bit of a whirlwind as I learn this new world and study for the test that will give me my full-fledged teaching certificate. I feel the time crunch as my window closes before hiring for next year begins - I'm trying desperately to have everything in order to be one of the candidates for any jobs that might open.
Another pretty big event for me was taking advantage of the open mic nights at my beloved coffee shop. A dear friend and I worked like crazy to prepare four songs for our 15 minutes on stage, only to arrive and find out we were the only ones signed up. We wound up singing more like 7 songs, a couple of which we’d never even sung together before. I know I’m a far cry from a professional, but we weren’t half bad and I loved every single second of it. It was so incredibly freeing to sing in front of a room full of people, not worried about how it sounded, only thrilling in the song.
The old Heather wouldn’t have done that.
I also am pleased to report that I’ve lost over half of the weight I’d gained with the ankle debacle from a few years back. I still have a bit to go, but I feel so much better already. Dylan and I have taken to hiking with our dogs, exploring whatever trails strike our fancy whenever we can squirrel away an afternoon. I love it. Hiking days are some of my favorite days; they make me feel gloriously alive.
There was a moment when I began to worry that my horses would be the price I had to pay for my freedom. Every time I thought I had something lined up for them, the sands would shift and plans would change. And just when I was desperate enough to consider selling my darlings, friends stepped up, things fell into place, and the horses were moved on the day the land changed hands. One more day and they’d have been homeless.
I’m sure a smarter person would sell them. Heaven knows we can’t really afford them. But I am clinging to the hope that someday soon I’ll have my world rebuilt enough that I can once again buy a little patch of land for me and my girls. (I guess I’ll let the human children come too…) That’s a dream I’m not willing to walk away from just yet.
There was no last minute miracle for my little company, though. It went quietly into the night, leaving behind memories and a handful of clients who I continue to freelance for. I thought I was ready to completely walk away from marketing for a while, but it seems that world isn’t through with me yet. It makes answering the question “What do you do for a living” all kinds of fun. I’m a writer, teacher, and marketer. Maybe that last one will drop off the list someday; maybe not. I enjoy each aspect of my career. Each reflects something of me.
Oh, and I joined forces with some amazing authors to launch a website and Facebook group by and for women. It's a judgment-free zone on the internet where we celebrate all the many facets of being a woman today. It's going to be so much more - we have big plans - and it deserves so much more than a paragraph mention, but a paragraph is all I have in me at the moment.
I feel like there’s more to say, more to share, but the thoughts and feelings are swirling through me, as elusive to catch as the clouds. All I know is that 2017 has been a year of profound change for me and my children. It’s only now that I’ve shed the chains of my past that I begin to realize how heavy a burden they were.
And today, in this moment, while the weather is warm and my heart is happy and full, I feel like I can finally spread my wings and fly.
It's football season, which for us - like so many families - means our schedule is packed now through October, and the vast majority of the dates blocked out have something to do with the gridiron. No need to guess where we'll be on Friday nights, either. We'll don our black and red to sit on metal seats where we'll stomp and clap and cheer ourselves hoarse. Well, I will. My sons will spend quit a bit of that time walking around with their respective herd of teenagers.
I've watched many of these boys play since their 7th grade year. I've watched them mature, as young men and as players. We've been the underdogs in these parts for a long time. The glory days are something I hear whisperings of but, having only lived here for 5 years, I wasn't around to witness. And while I acknowledge that the surrounding towns might not think much of us, our football team has heart. They have a spunk, a grit, that I admire.
If you talk to any of the players or go to many games, you'll hear the rumblings that the refs don't like us much. Calls seldom seem fair and the opposing teams often blatantly cheat and aren't called on it. (For reals - my son was bitten once on the field. I've seen kids kicked while down, after the play had stopped. It's not cool.)
But, from the relative comfort of the stands, I can also see that point when our boys give up. They come so close to victory and then you can see them decide the odds are stacked too much against them, and they stop giving it their all. Sure, some of them hang on until the bitter end, but enough of them check out that the crowd starts to check out, and the inevitable end comes.
And, in all of my bleacher wisdom, I know that until they decide they have a chance to win, they have no chance to win.
My oldest son only played football with this team for two years. A broken arm ended his second season and he opted to homeschool after that because he was eager to finish early and find his great adventure. Blake, number two son, couldn't play football because of his head injury. And, in truth, I think he doesn't mind so much. He only would have played because it was the thing to do, not because he loved the sport.
My number three son, though. That boy lives and breathes football and now that he's in 7th grade, his time has come. He graduates from Mighty Mites to being part of the football team. I watch him on the field with the other boys and I know they're beginning a journey together, just as his brother began a journey before him.
Last night, after the game was done, I listened as Number Three told me every bad or unfair call he'd seen. As I replied, I realized that I needed to heed my own words.
You see, the last time I was a football mom, I didn't feel as keenly how alone I was because my other two children were still young enough to always sit with me. Now they're off and gone with their friends and I can't hide from my solitude. For me, only part of my mind was on the game last night.
I have to admit that I spent most of it feeling very much isolated - from the moms whose sons stayed on the team to play all six years together; from the moms who are married; from the younger, single crowd; from the people who've lived here all their lives... you get the picture. I sat there, painfully aware of how alone I was and the weight of every terrible thing from the past week just kept getting heavier and heavier until I slunk home, drank two glasses of wine, and watched an episode of Outlander while wishing I'd get sucked back in time. Only--let's be real--I wouldn't end up in Sam Heughan's lap, no matter how much I wish I would.
But anyway, back to my reply. I told him, "Life never fights fair and there will be many times when it seems like the ref isn't calling the game like He should. But you keep fighting until it's over. As long as you're fighting, there's a chance you'll win. Stop fighting and your chances go to zero. If you want to be a football player, then wrap your head around it now - the refs will not call fair games, the other teams won't like you, and it will be hard. But you still gotta fight."
So enough moping. I am alone and it is not the end of the world. There is a lot of scary/awful stuff happening in my world right now, but it won't last forever. Because I choose to fight.
Today is my 40th birthday and the 3-month anniversary of moving into my new home. I still haven’t tired of the feel of my toes in between my sheets, of having a bed that is mine. And so, even though the coffee shop and a birthday latte beckon me, I lie here a bit longer, relishing the sheets on my skin. The kitten we rescued is nestled at the juncture of my neck and shoulder, purring. My Holly dog lies alongside me, her ears alert as she watches the parakeets chatter happily and flit about their new, expanded cage. My windows are flung open and an unseasonably cool breeze chills what little skin peeks out from the covers. Yes, even the coffee shop can wait on mornings like this.
If I emerged from a cocoon three months ago, a new and more beautiful creature than I had been before, this house has been the branch where I’ve basked in the sun, allowing my wings to dry while I figured out what to do with them.
We moved in with very little--the clothes on our backs, a smattering of dishes and furniture, and camping chairs for the living room. It’s a bit mind-boggling how quickly that changed, through the grace of God and the kindness of others. One old gentleman in particular is a good example of that kindness. For a month straight, things would mysteriously appear on our front porch. I’d see him at Bible study and ask if he new anything about it and he would blush, duck his head and smile.
Bit by bit, the empty spaces were filled until it was our home, comfortable and full of peace. It’s a peace others notice right away, often commenting as much when they cross the threshold.
The past three months have not been without their trials. There have been money woes, there always are, but we’ve met them with faith and the need is always met just in time.
My beloved 16 Hand Marketing has undergone so many changes that I sometimes wonder if it will survive and I know that if it does, it’ll be forever changed. But that’s okay, because maybe it’s already served its purpose. It reminded me I’m alive with dreams left to dream. They don’t all have to come true to make them worth having.
I have two family members who’ve received terrifying diagnoses this summer. One will be okay, one will not. The face of my family is changing and I’m grieving it. Most days, it feels like I’m inching my way along, trying to find my way through a dark and unfamiliar room.
There has been uncertainty in the past months - with my job, my horses, next steps… But there is hope. There is peace. And I am keenly aware that those two things were the cry of my heart leading up to my decision to leave my husband.
I am learning each day to let go of fears of failure, of being in trouble, of being too much, of being not enough. As I watch my children shift and grow in response to their changed environment, I’ve realized that I’m not the only one who has been unfettered, who is learning to navigate our new normal. Still, they are thriving in their new worlds and it does this mama’s heart good to see, even if I miss them now with their new social lives and space to spread out.
This week, we’ve been blessed with glorious weather. I’m telling myself it’s God’s birthday gift to me (I mean, seriously, how often does Missouri see jacket weather in early August?) I have spent my evenings on a football field, watching my youngest carve out a space for himself in a world his oldest brother once dominated and I treasure this moment.
Yes, there is ugliness swirling about my world. There is uncertainty. There are times when I feel my loneliness more keenly. But more than anything, life is good.
I suppose all of the people and places that brush against our lives shape us, but some more so than others. Some people you can know for years without ever truly knowing them. Others, it takes only a short while for them to become the dearest of friends.
If you read my recent series, My Own Ever After, you might remember me mentioning my local coffee shop, Maple and Main. My oldest son and I have spent an obscene amount of time there in the past six months, at first because the internet at our house in the country was sketchy and now because I’ve yet to hook up internet at our new house in town. Over the course of those months, Jacquelyn and Lyal--the mother/son duo who owns the place--have become friends I can’t quite imagine my life without.
We’ve spent enough time there that they hired Dylan to be a barista. Lyal works with us at 16 Hand, making video and graphics. My younger boys mow their lawns. It’s this fun little money loop, where we’re just passing it back and forth between families.
I don’t know if so quickly formed a bond of friendship because we found people as creative and quirky as us, because we can relate to mother/son team who are friends and business partners as well, or because of the sheer volume of time we’ve spent with them this year. Whatever the cause, they've helped me reshape my world into a brighter one.
It’s been a long time since I’ve done a book event or made any public appearance. I’ve been in survival mode, I guess, barely eeking out a book a year, let alone enjoying those books or my readers. But that, like so many things in my life, is changing.
What better way and place to change it than with the inaugural book event at Maple and Main? I will be one of three local authors appearing at Breaking in the Bookcase on June 1 from 6 – 8 pm. I truly hope you can join us that night, for so many reasons. The top three being: