the smell of my desperation has become a stench

That old hag

Dear Heather,

Today you turn four hundred and twenty months old. Yes, this means you’re old enough to have gone insane and are now writing letters to yourself. If the twenty-two-year-old Heather could see you now, she’d fall over from embarrassment. And in that case, please kick that twenty-two-year-old squarely in the stomach. One, she’ll recover much more quickly than you would now. And two, she needs to prepare for the pain of childbirth.

So, what do you have to say for yourself? Well, I think the first thing is, you don’t feel like you’re thirty-five years old. You just don’t, and as that number gets higher each year you get more confused as to why you still feel like you’re in your late twenties. This is called senility, and it means that eventually you’re going to end up in a bed where a nurse has to carry out your pee in a plastic bowl while you scream, “WHATEVER HAPPENED TO SOUL ASYLUM?”

I think you should be proud of yourself, even though right now, this second as you’re writing this letter, you totally feel like shitting your pants. You and Jon just made one of the hugest life-altering decisions of your marriage, and because the dust around this decision hasn’t really settled just yet, you are trying to hold it together moment to moment. More than usual even, and that’s saying a lot since usually you guys wake up and either someone has broken a limb or one of the dogs has dissolved into a four-foot puddle of diarrhea in the kitchen.

You’re married to your soul mate, have given birth to two of the most amazing daughters you could have dreamed of, and all of you have your health. The dogs follow you around the house. You own a home. A dream home. You own a car that doesn’t need any work. Not only do you and your parents still speak to each other, you adore and admire each other equally. You and your sister who have really nothing in common talk to each other on the phone almost every other day. You’ve got an amazing set of friends, many of whom you could call in the middle of the night if you needed anything. You have food to eat, clothes to wear, and a giant bed to hold you at night. Not to mention the fact that you’ve published a New York Times Bestselling book.

You write a website whose audience saved your life.

You’re damn lucky, and I know you work hard because you know just how lucky you are. You probably work too hard at times, and the balance between that drive to work and the need to give more attention to your immediate family eludes you, and maybe that’s the most important reason I’m writing this to you. Because if I take a step back and look at you as a friend and listen to what worries you and gnaws at the back of your brain, it’s not whether you’re good enough at what you do professionally, it’s whether or not you’re living up to what your own mother meant to you.

You have a lot to work on. Mainly, patience. Mainly, letting go. Mainly, releasing the urgency that twists and turns your daily life into knots and stern words and eventual heartbreaking apologies. Because if you make it another thirty-five years, you’re going to look back and want to kick this incarnation of you in the stomach, or at least shake her by the shoulders. You must stop more often. Your kids will never be this age again, will never babble incoherently, will never look at you in total seriousness and say, “But the chore board is boring. I just want to spend the money I would have made if I had done the chores.”

Calm your life down.

I know you’re working on this, but I want you to work harder. I need you to work harder. Don’t let the day-to-day limb breaking or canine diarrhea or the deadline after deadline after deadline get in the way of living the memories you want to create. That’s the wise old thirty-five-year-old speaking to the out of her mind can’t get a moment’s peace thirty-five-year-old who just needs a bit of a nudge, the one who used to babble incoherently herself.

Rewind four hundred and eleven months

The woman who is going to want to kick you in the stomach in thirty-five-years

PS. HOLY SHIT. After what happened today, maybe this isn’t your fault! Maybe you just attract this kind of chaos into your life! I bet you can’t wait to tell this story!

  • montana mommy

    2010/07/19 at 4:36 pm

    happy birthday! 35 isn’t so bad. and by the way, are you sure leta and marlo are your daughters…? no resemblance to you at all in that picture 🙂

  • Daddy Scratches

    2010/07/19 at 5:01 pm

    Happy Birthday, Heather.

    I’m far too deeply ensconced in my 40th-birthday-induced midlife crisis to feel sympathy for a young chippie of only 35 … but I hear you about the getting-old thing. 😉

  • tokenblogger

    2010/07/19 at 4:40 pm

    Oh, my freaking christ! Is Olan Mills everywhere???

  • Robyn L

    2010/07/19 at 4:41 pm

    Happy Birthday!!!

    Holy shit Marlo looks like you!!!

  • jholland

    2010/07/19 at 4:44 pm

    Happy Birthday Heather!

  • g.b.

    2010/07/19 at 4:45 pm

    Happy Birthday! Thank you for giving me a fun place online to hang out & read & laugh & cry & think 🙂

  • Brookelyn Bridge

    2010/07/19 at 4:47 pm

    Oh my goodness you make a cute baby! I can see Marlo in that picture!
    Happy Birthday! And take a few minutes to sit back and have a drink. You deserve it.

  • Lala

    2010/07/19 at 4:48 pm

    Oh my gosh I can’t wait to hear what you have went and done now……
    By the way, I was going to be the first comment EVER and I went and forgot my password!! Ughhh, I suppose that is because I turned 40 in June and I have done lost my mind….maybe I left it in the refrigerator.

  • Lala

    2010/07/19 at 4:50 pm

    Oh…Happy Birthday and holy CRAP does Marlo look like you are what??? I found myself staring at the photo for quite a while making sure it wasn’t Marlo, well and then I saw “Olen Mills” and knew right away it really was you.

  • bawb23

    2010/07/19 at 4:51 pm

    Gee, how would 22-year old Heather think 420-month old Heather should celebrate her 420th birthday? Something to do with a number (pun intended). Congratulations on surviving. Keep writing – love you, in abstract at least.

  • doublebuttons

    2010/07/19 at 4:53 pm

    I, too, just turned 35 in April. Oddly, I also referred to myself as ‘An Old Hag’. Even changed my FB pic to acknowledge it.

    Happy Birthday ya ol’ hag! And I mean that most affectionately.

  • XOXO

    2010/07/19 at 4:54 pm

    Happy Birthday, Precious! I’m one day younger exactly, and it seems I give myself a similar stern talking – to every year.

    You’re doing a hell of a job. Live it up.


  • peacegirl

    2010/07/19 at 4:55 pm

    Happy birthday. All this time I thought your children looked like Jon and then you post this baby picture and it all comes full circle. Both of your daughters look like you. In fact, you and Jon look alike as babies if I remember correctly.
    I loved 35! I felt my most beautiful. I’m reaching 40 and I feel a bit old. I’m seeing things, like my skin aging and how I don’t look as good as before on film, that bum me out. Maybe I just need a better camera!

  • sarahdoow

    2010/07/19 at 4:55 pm

    It’s 23:50 over here, how am I meant to sleep with the promise of another exciting story to come? Happy birthday, Heather. Thanks for sharing your stories and keeping me so entertained.

  • MissNems

    2010/07/19 at 4:57 pm

    Happy Birthday! Can’t wait to read what you got yourself into now 🙂

  • tracy

    2010/07/19 at 5:02 pm

    Really? You’ve gone & left us hanging like that AGAIN. Really. UNFOLLOW.

    As if I’d do that!

    Anyway, happy birthday! I’m convinced that one of the reasons I feel so utterly connected to you is because we’re only about a month apart (August 17th). Except that makes me a Leo & you a Cancer, and I’m not sure how big of a hole that blows in my argument.

    hugs ~
    & Ellis, the daughter I have (in large part) because of your bravery.

    PS: I’m off to therapy in about an hour, where I will be lectured on needing to slow down & be more in the moment, and I will make excuses as to why that is not happening.

  • builtinbirthcontrol

    2010/07/19 at 5:03 pm

    1. happy birthday! hope the rest of it is great

    2. how could you forget to remember that you were a freaking answer on Jeopardy!? that would be on my masthead (every month) if i were you!

    3. you were a cutie pie and i can totally see your girls in your baby pic

  • RestlessMama

    2010/07/19 at 5:12 pm

    Rock that birthday, fab lady!

  • addtova

    2010/07/19 at 5:14 pm

    Happy Birthday! I hope you have a good one- you deserve it!

  • sandi

    2010/07/19 at 5:15 pm

    Oh my hell I can’t wait to hear what major life altering thing you have decided to do now.

    Are you going back to church?

    Happy Birthday Girl!

    This month is such a special one it’s birthday time for you
    We’d really like to celebrate this happy day with you
    Zippy-A and Heidi HO
    there’s something we can do
    We’ll sing a song that we all know

  • Debbie in Memphis

    2010/07/19 at 5:16 pm

    Happy Birthday, Heather!! I hope you’re having a wonderful birthday and that this year is amazing!!

  • wendamatica

    2010/07/19 at 5:17 pm

    A wonderful happy birthday, Heather, one that magically leads to a world of quiet, bunnies, and really good gin.

    P.S. May you have many, many more glorious years!

  • Brea

    2010/07/19 at 5:18 pm

    Moving, even into your dream home, is unbelievably unsettling. I used to think I was a ‘seat of the pants’ type of gal, and I am just not.

    Moving is stressful and crazy making – no wonder you are giving yourself a pep talk. It’s hard to slow down and enjoy the toddlerhood and grade school years when there is a business to run, boxes to unpack and incontinent dogs to deal with.

    All the best to you and your family…

  • Brea

    2010/07/19 at 5:18 pm

    Happy birthday!

  • the former Dr. Tongue

    2010/07/19 at 5:18 pm

    Happy birthday, young punk. I’m turning 50 in November, so pardon me if I don’t commiserate. And I can’t wait to hear about the bobcat (what’s the matter? you people don’t follow her on Twitter?).

  • Malissa

    2010/07/19 at 5:20 pm

    What DID ever happen to Soul Asylum?

    Happiest of Happy Birthdays to you today, Heather.

  • IfByYes

    2010/07/19 at 5:21 pm
  • memelaroo

    2010/07/19 at 5:24 pm

    Life altering decisions?

    Ohh Heather, have you guys finally decided to get a sister-wife? BHAHAHA.

    Happy Birthday, doll. You deserve everything you’ve got in this life. xxoo

  • jrep

    2010/07/19 at 5:29 pm

    Take it from one who’s about half way there already: when you’re 35 years older, you’ll want to kick the now-you in the knees, to prepare for arthritis.

    But don’t do it; we’ll still be reading those ramblings, and the “Chuck IX A Day” photoseries, from our holographic iPads.

  • Truthful Mommy

    2010/07/19 at 5:29 pm

    Happy Birthday Heather! You have done amazing things in your short 35 years and I am sure that you will do loads more in the future. The fact that you realize that you need to enjoy the moments, is what will make you enjoy them to their fullest. My post for tonight is that exact topic…realizing that every moment we have with our children we are closer to them leaving for college so we have to embrace every tantrum and scream fest because this time is fast and fleeting. Here is to many more years, continued success and to being the Mommy that you want to be to your beautiful girls!

  • Skinnysara

    2010/07/19 at 5:46 pm

    Happy 35th, Heather!

    I fear my own letter to myself 4 years ago would have been less affirmation and more “Dear Me: Who ate all the cheezits? Oh, and when he says he’s not drinking any more, don’t believe him. And yes, those jeans make you look fat. Love ya! You”

    34 had been a tough year…

    May the next 35 find you and yours healthy and well.

    Mazel tov!

  • Moxie-Dude

    2010/07/19 at 5:32 pm

    Hey I was 35 at your age – ten years ago.

    I feel like the McDonald’s jingle: “I’m lovin it!”

    It’s all good and only great from here.



  • dragonfish

    2010/07/19 at 5:44 pm

    happy birthday heather!!!

    please, please don’t say reality show. the thought breaks my heart.

    however, BOBCAT reality show might be a little more funner.


    p.s. i hope the glove box chips were doritos!

  • Dani

    2010/07/19 at 5:45 pm

    I turn 35 myself on the 27th. I needed a couple of those same reminders. Thank you.

  • itsmeagan

    2010/07/19 at 5:46 pm

    Oh god, Olan Mills! I’m from Georgia, born to a very Southern woman, and I have the exact same baby picture, frilly dress and everything. It’s just the way things are done down there.

  • Schnauzie_Mom

    2010/07/19 at 5:50 pm

    Happy Birthday Heather. And are you sure you didn’t lose all of your baby pictures and just post one of Marlo instead? Because holy shit, she looks just like you!

  • barbara

    2010/07/19 at 5:52 pm

    Happy Birthday Heather! I hope you have many more!

    Wow, Marlo looks a lot like you did as a baby.

  • Daffodil Campbell

    2010/07/19 at 5:52 pm

    Hey Heather the 22 year old and heather the 35 year old and heather the 420 month old and heather in 35 years…..I really hope one of you shares this story – this pant-shitting, life-altering story – in the near future. Because I live for this stuff. And also, I think people who don’t maintain this pace are boring, so yay for busy-to-the-point-of-insanity (no, really, padded room crazy) people.

    Have a great day. I hope no one shits in your house.

  • bluestar17

    2010/07/19 at 6:03 pm

    Having just left 35 behind 2 days ago, all I can really say is “Wow, I can’t believe that I am now 36….” It really IS just a number!

    Hope you have a fantastic day:)

  • musickatt

    2010/07/19 at 6:12 pm

    Happy, happy birthday, Heather. You are an amazing woman, and like fine wine, you just get better with age.

  • linda_keddie

    2010/07/19 at 6:18 pm

    WOW Marlo looks like you!!! Leta too, but I see sooooo much of Marlo in this pic!! Amazing. What a cute baby you were!

  • Anu

    2010/07/19 at 6:21 pm

    Happy birthday Heather. Hope you have a great day and great year ahead.

  • LisWee

    2010/07/19 at 6:34 pm

    Happy Birthday!! The almost 34 yr old me old would totally kick the 22 yr old me in the stomache. By the way, Marlo looks nothing like you 😉

  • Smalltown Mom

    2010/07/19 at 6:36 pm

    Wait, who broke a limb? And who cloned Marlo?

    Seriously, happy birthday. 35 is nothing…I faced 50 and survived.

    You will make it through whatever. Love you!

  • Hagan Squared

    2010/07/19 at 6:38 pm

    Holy hand grenades Marlo looks so much like you!

    Happy Birthday Heather! I hope today and this year is wonderful for you!

  • bditty

    2010/07/19 at 6:47 pm

    It was a bit funny to me that I read this and though, ‘Holy cow, she’s only 35!’ And then, after a few minutes…’wait…I’m 35…aren’t I?’ Because, before, before I turned 35, I always thought of myself in my late twenties, too. And then, it happened! People started calling me ‘Ma’am’–ok, one guy my husband works with did, but around here that didn’t happen, not before–and I became a thirty-something on my way to forty. Of course, you’ve got a much better list of accomplishments 😉 but no! I take that back, I haven’t done so bad myself. See, that’s the thirtysomething in me now! I feel like I’m just getting into my groove. And I hope you are too. Happy Birthday!

  • mrscunning14

    2010/07/19 at 6:47 pm

    Sound advice. I hope you listen to yourself. Happy birthday!

  • Janice

    2010/07/19 at 6:48 pm

    Happy Birthday! Sometimes moment to moment is all we have. You’re awesome and we’re here for you.

    You’re welcome

  • rparton

    2010/07/19 at 6:49 pm

    Happy birthday! Hope this next year is full of happy memories!

  • SusanCharmain

    2010/07/19 at 6:49 pm

    Happy Birthday, Heather. I was your age 16 years ago and now I know it sucked. Wait until you hit your 50’s and really appreciate who you’ve become. You’ve made me cry, but more importantly made me laugh until I’ve cried. Many more wonderful years to you.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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