Just Heather

On Monday night, my grandmother passed away. Her husband of 63 years held her hand, and she was surrounded by her children and several grandchildren. The room was full of sadness as we said goodbye, but it was also full of love and prayer, exactly the way she would have wanted.

Nana leaves behind 6 children and their spouses, 16 grandchildren and our spouses, and 24 great-grandchildren. 24.5, really. I know the upcoming birth of my cousin’s baby will be bittersweet when Nana isn’t there to hold her.

20130926-092953.jpgShe was a champion baby snuggler, an amazing cook, and a mother or grandmother to anybody who needed one. That’s the legacy she leaves behind — family, by blood or by love, is second only to God.

Nana bought me my first Bible, taught me how to make noodles, and showed me that traditions make memories.

She will be there every time I serve a home cooked meal to a crowd, every holiday when I choose the same menu year after year, and every Sunday when I go to church, though I have a Bible app these days instead.

Things will continue to grow and change, but she will live on in our hearts. She will live on in our kindness. She will live on in our willingness to set an extra plate. She will live on in our service.

My grandma dutifully served God, the church, her husband, and her family — with a smile on her face and love in her heart. And I want to be just like her when I grow up.


Barbara J. Smith

March 2, 1930-September 23, 2013

heather-at-high-school-graduationAlmost 15 years ago, I graduated from high school. At the end of the summer, I packed up and moved to Muncie, Indiana for college. Because that’s what you do next. I was enrolled in the College of Architecture & Planning—after 4 years of architectural & drafting classes, I thought for sure I knew exactly what I wanted to be when I grew up. Oh, to be young again and so sure of myself! Before the year was up, I had moved on to Landscape Architecture but that was only the first of many changes.

Just a few short months later, I met the man who would soon become the love of my life. Freshman life continued—I gained the requisite 15, drank a little, flirted with Spencer a lot and went to class when strictly required. Due to the intensity of my architecture program, classes continued through the summer. Most of my friends went home for a few months, but Spencer and I were left behind. The rest is history, and plays a big part in the twists of this story.

1997-010I had never really intended to get married and never saw myself having children. As a teen, I ignored all the people who told me everything would change when I found “the one” but I’m a believer now! Suddenly, my entire future changed. I had visions of Elyse Keaton, but it just didn’t feel right. My heart wasn’t in architecture anymore. Before school resumed in the fall, I changed my major to the only thing I could see working with our plans for a family—education.

My exact major was Early Education—I was going to teach preschool like my mom! She was always there for us before school, after school and in the evenings. It was what we wanted for our children. It only took a semester for me to widen my focus and change my major (yes, again) to Elementary Education with an Early Ed minor. I was actually enjoying my classes, and, once again, continued work through the summer to catch up on the time I lost with my first 2 majors. By then, I officially had a ring on my finger. I wanted to finish college as quickly as possible so we could move on to planning our wedding.

1998-025That’s when life threw us a big curveball—her name is Stacia, and she just turned 12. Because when I make plans, God laughs. Wedding plans shifted to immediately. We were married in August, I continued school and our daughter was born the following January. Just 6 days after she was born, I returned to classes (part-time) since my parents were convinced if I didn’t stay in school, I would never go back. As long as I continued college, they agreed to continue helping with my portion of the rent & groceries. As a broke newlywed with an infant, free money seemed like a good idea at the time.

I started full time again the following fall, and hated it! During the spring semester, I took a Foundations of Education class with a professor who changed my life. During a lesson on the purpose of education, he posed the question, “Why are you here?” My answer? Because my parents said I had to be. The discussion that followed was involved, thought-provoking and heart-wrenching.

I aced the class, with high praise on my final paper titled “Why I’m Dropping Out of School.”

I see I could have worked harder in all my classes, but I have also realized that it is not because I didn’t want to learn. My motivation lies at home with my family. I am much more concerned with my daughter and our relationship than I am with completing homework assignments. For this reason I have made the decision not to return to school next year. I am going to take a break until my family and I are more prepared. It is this class that made me realize I am in school for all the wrong reasons.

I should not force myself to take classes I do not care about just because it is important to my parents. School can wait until is a priority for me. When I return, it will be because I am ready to learn. The things I have learned over the last semester have empowered me to do what I feel is right for me and my family. Education is very important to me, and I do intend to return. This is just not the right time, and I now see that it is doing more harm than good for me to continue.

I wrote those words more than 10 years ago. I was practically still a child but clearly wise beyond my years! They still ring just as true to me today. I fully stand behind my decision to withdraw from Ball State. My parents, however, did not. I remember my dad telling me I’d never go back. I remember the look of disappointment on his face, and I became determined to replace it with pride. But only on my schedule. My time arrived 2 years ago, when I re-enrolled at Ball State University…

As our oldest approaches the teen years, it has been fascinating to see her interest in some of the same things I was into as a preteen. Today, she is wearing this little number—way too reminiscent of the 80s clothing I donned at her age. It doesn’t stop there, not by a long shot. In her room, you’ll find posters starring her favorite pop idols. Joey McIntyre may have been replaced by Zac Efron and the 90210 crew has been ousted in favor of High School Musical, but the theme is the same!

How cool would it be to have a poster printed of her & her friends, maybe even a collage, to add to her collection? At Digital Room, you can upload your favorite photos to create poster prints. If I can find an awesome photo or come up with a good design, this will be her “something you need” gift under the tree. With the free one I’m receiving for sharing this review, it’s yet another way to lower our Christmas budget. If you could use a poster-sized holiday gift, maybe I can lower your holiday budget a bit too!

To enter for your chance to win, simply leave a comment here sharing what you would like to have printed. You can earn additional entries by:

  • Following me on Twitter
  • Blogging about this giveaway
  • Tweeting about this giveaway: Win a free custom poster print from @JustHeather! http://bit.ly/2BY21Q

For your extra entries to be counted, be sure to leave an additional comment directing me to your entry. Only one additional entry per method (i.e. While multiple tweets are appreciated it, only one will count as a drawing entry.) The contest runs until November 20th at 11:59pm edt. One winner will be notified by email on November 21st (as selected by Random.org) and must submit their mailing information within 48 hours or a new winner will be chosen. Open only to residents of the U.S. and cannot be shipped to PO boxes.

posters_drYour prize (18×24 poster print on High Gloss or Semi Gloss paper with free UPS shipping) will be awarded in the form of a custom coupon code, redeemable at Digital Room. Prize includes free UPS shipping in the U.S.

I was offered this giveaway from Digital Room, through the U-Printing blog sponsorship program. I am receiving a free poster print in addition to the free product for my readers for hosting this giveaways, but the opinion is 100% real and honest.

Baby, my hometown cat

Baby, my hometown cat

I have had cats for most of my life.  It started when I was 4 and my dad told me absolutely, never ever are we getting that cat. Then I cried. Her name was Sweetheart and she went on to have 5 kittens, most of whom we kept.  Her last kitten lived until I was in high school. About a year after she passed, I started in on wanting another cat.  My dad said no way, absolutely not. We are never getting another cat. Then, I may or may not have cried. His name is Baby and he still lives with my parents.

Tommy the Cat, 1997-2008

Tommy the Cat, 1997-2008

When Spencer and I were getting married, we already had a dog.  Indy was almost one and tons of fun, but I still wanted a cat.  He said no, but finally relented (even without the tears!) and got me a kitten as a wedding gift.  Tommy was the greatest cat ever, even if Spencer never quite saw it that way. He was sweet, playful and never, ever cross with the kids (though each went through their toddler stage of torturing him constantly).

When he passed away, I always knew I’d eventually get a cat but it takes some time to heal. Apparently, for me, that time is always about one year.  I’ve been making noises for a month or so about getting another cat. In April, Brenia’s Girl Scout troop visited PetSmart, and their on location pet rescue. I, of course, wanted to take them all home with me. He said no, but announced on Mother’s Day that my present was getting a cat. I had my heart set on a kitten, but I also felt tugged to rescue one of the cats.

Captain Nemo

Captain Nemo

Earlier this week, my friend let me know that PetSmart’s rescue shelter had new kittens. We stopped by “just to look” and came home with two.  We picked out one of the baby kittens, but Captain Nemo’s soulful eyes kept calling to us so we had to bring him home. Both cats are affectionate, playful (a little too playful for my tastes at 4am) and good with the kids.  The youngest is not quite sure about Indy, but Nemo seems to have made his peace. He does hide from Lorelai, but that’s just common sense.


"We named the dog Indiana."

When we adopt a pet, we would ordinarily change his name. Indy was once Snoop, but he didn’t really seem to know it. That happens when a dog spends 22 hours a day in a crate. Nemo seems to have stuck, though. Partly, because Finding Nemo is Spencer’s very favorite children’s movie, partly because it was rather funny to be looking for Nemo all evening when he hid and partly because he seems to come when you call. Bogey, however, is not our baby kitten’s name.



The problem is, we weren’t sure what was. We kicked around quite a few names but nothing really seemed to fit him yet. The girls suggested cliches like Shadow and Midnight, but I’m not really into that sort of thing. We’ve named most of our animals from movies or television shows (kids too!) so we kicked around Cat Kirk for awhile. The girls hated it and even though I loved the idea it just didn’t feel right. I liked Pixel, suggested by Spencer, but it was a blatant ripoff from some Twitter guy’s bunny. Somewhat related to Pixel, I suggested 8-bit. I think it stuck.

Spencer and I celebrated our 11th anniversary with a trip down memory lane. We visited old haunts and enjoyed an entire weekend of fun from our dating days. The actual date of our anniversary was spent at Cedar Point and included lunch at the Weenee Hut (Be sure to use a condiment!).

11 Years...

11 Years and counting

Millennium Force

Millennium Force

The Mantis




The Raptor


When I was growing up, my father owned a small, regional chain of video rental stores. This means that my siblings and I grew up on movies. We have watched and rewatched movies most people have never heard of. Family classics include Clue, Harry and the Hendersons and The NeverEnding Story. We watched all the usual 80s favorites too—Dirty Dancing, The Breakfast Club, Ghostbusters—but there is nothing like the B movie classics.

Every now and then I’ll find an old family favorite on DVD in the dirt cheap (because who else wants it?) section. This weekend—on an emergency holiday liquor run—I picked up Three Amigos, Murder at 1600 and Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead. I’m excited to add them to our ever-growing DVD collection, though finding someone to watch them with me is quite a challenge. We recently counted no less than 30 DVDs on our shelves that we haven’t actually watched since their purchase.

We just finished catching up on the Harry Potter movies and today we are starting Back to the Future. That makes 5 movies down, but we still have a long way to go in watching all the movies we own. I’d say we need a buying hiatus for a bit, but we’ve bought 10 new DVDs in the last week so I don’t see that happening any time soon. You gotta love the $5 bin not to mention Best Buy Reward Zone.

Laughing at Mir’s Friday Flashback, I suddenly realized I could rival her myself in the food follie department. I love to cook, but I’m the biggest disaster you’ll ever see in the kitchen! Here are a few of my more memorable disasters.

  • When I was 12, I made chocolate chip cookies with a friend. Nothing fancy, just the Nestle recipe—with a twist. We added 1 cup of salt instead of 1 teaspoon. Worst cookies I have ever eaten in my life—and that includes the Zeer-oh’s I once got for free with coupons (never, ever eat fake Oreos).
  • We got a call from our mortgage company as we were buying our first house saying we needed to come down as soon as possible to sign something we missed. Not wanting to screw up our closing date, we got right in the car and went—leaving potatoes boiling on the stove. Needless to say, we returned to a pot of black lumps. I didn’t even attempt to clean it.
  • Several years ago, my one and only attempt to make an apple pie from scratch almost resulted in a trip to the emergency room. I have this fancy-schamncy apple peeler-corer-slicer that does exactly what it sounds like. It was dirty and, being the lazy ass that I am, I decided to use a paring knife instead. I sliced right through that apple and into my thumb. It bled for an hour before I decided to get a second opinion. I called my dad—if you knew my sister, you would understand why I thought of him as an expert—and described the cut. He says “Give it another 20 minutes. If it doesn’t stop bleeding, you probably need stitches.” Dad has always been a fan of the wait and see medical method. I butterflied it and eventually it did stop. I still have that scar.

I started this post on the anniversary of my grandmother’s death, one week before Christmas. I couldn’t finish it. I was moved to try again this weekend as I stood by a dear friend through her own grandmother’s death.

This year I celebrated my 2nd Christmas without my grandma, but I wasn’t sad. Well, not much. Grandma taught me it shouldn’t be that way. Christmas is about family. So are birthdays. While it may have flitted through my mind once when my baby turned two, I couldn’t cry. That was her day. It’s not the big days that get me. It’s the little things.

When I bit into a bell pepper—straight from my very own garden—last summer, it tasted exactly like hers did when I was small. I cried.

When I sat on the sidelines watching my little one play soccer this year, I remembered how Grandma never missed one my own games.

When I watched the cutest little elf on stage at Christmas, I remembered my Grandma would never miss a performance for one of her grandkids.

As I sing in church each week, I remember how much my grandma loved to worship at the top of her voice, even though she couldn’t sing.

When I pierced my nose last week, I could hear exactly what she would say to me, and know without a doubt she would have loved me anyway.

Slowly, the grief is giving way to memories. The sadness fades slightly, but the hole in my heart will always be there. I can think of Grandma now and smile more often than cry. I can look at her pictures and see the love instead of blinking back tears. As time goes on I can focus more on the good times and less on the loss, but I’ll never stop missing my grandma.