Ya’ll, I’m not going to sugar coat it: I have a crush. After the damage the last couple of guys did to my heart and ego, I’d begun to resign myself to being an asexual romance writer, so it feels like a wondrous thing to have a schoolgirl crush, even if it’s on a man I’ve never met.
One of my favorite things about living in Buffalo was the Old Home Place Concert Series. So when they took this month’s concert online because of Covid-19, I was pretty excited about attending. Eight musicians sang two songs each from their home. One was friend and favorite musician Lyal Strickland, but the other seven were new to me, including Travis Linville.
If there is a Mrs. Linville, I will apologize now but that man is adorable and I have been listening to his music pretty much non-stop since Thursday night. I’m fairly certain I need to meet him in person when the world resumes.
I watched Miss Austen Regrets this week - it struck a chord with me on so many levels. I know my inability to finish a novel these past few years is as tied to my regrets as it is to my busyness. The movie, the music, the COVID-inspired isolation, it all seems to be converging to help me embrace where I am in life, who I am.
Whether it’s to my benefit or detriment, I can’t say, but I’m a romantic. I am a writer. (I also miss my farm. I miss my chickens and goats and long walks in the woods with my dogs, but that’s for another day.)
Since I was a teenager, I relegated my novels to hobby because I needed to do something “practical.” I am not a practical person and I am making myself miserable trying to be. I’m an observer and a dreamer and I’m happiest when I let the words tumble from my brain onto the page. I think it’s time I own that, fully, and actively work toward putting it back in the center of my world.
When my kids were growing up, I relegated my desire for romantic love to my books because my children were my world. They needed me to focus on them. When they were old enough for me to try to find my person, the antics that ensued were worthy of a novel - a bit comedy, a bit tragedy. (That book is coming, eventually.) But, not gonna lie, I think the endeavor nearly broke me. He nearly broke me.
I’ve done a lot of healing these past months. A lot of thinking. A bit of writing. The ideas are back now. I’m dreaming books again. I wake up and furiously write down everything I can remember so it’s there when I need a new book idea.
I have three nearly-finished novels that I’ve painstakingly chipped away at FOR YEARS. So naturally, when I dreamed the inspiration for Violet Sky, I set them aside and dove head first into it. At the moment, I am completely and utterly in love with the characters in this book. They’re in my head all the time. I enjoy thinking about them, who they are, what their story is.
As non-sequitur as it seems, stumbling across Travis Linville’s music feels like it’s all oddly a part of whatever transformation is happening to me right now. So I am going to wake up early on a Saturday morning to catch his 8 am Facebook Live because--seriously--dude’s adorable. And then I’m going to spend the day listening to his music on Spotify while I immerse myself in the world I’m creating with Violet Sky, and I’m going to enjoy the writing process. I’m not going to worry about word counts or publication schedules or any of the myriad of practical things I could or should worry about.
I’m simply going to be a girl who owns her regrets, smiles a bit over having a crush at 42, and is happiest surrounded by the words tumbling out of her brain.
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.
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 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. 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.
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