State of the Union

How do I feel anything less than incredibly grateful for the gift I was given on Tuesday night?

Even now three days later, I still find myself moved by the experience.

Sitting in the gallery that evening, a witness to the pomp and circumstance.

I’m still not sure why out of the many who should have been there I was allowed to sit in that seat.

Most grateful for the moments that were not seen on national TV-

The entire Capitol rising to a standing ovation as a war hero took his place three seats away from me. His Dad supporting him as he rose to the cheers of hundreds. My eyes stinging as the tears started to roll and the evening had just started.

The conversation with the man next to me from New York City. We had an hour and thirty minutes before the speech started, where unencumbered by cell phones or electronic devices (those had to be left behind), we chatted about everything from politics, to foreign policy to the obesity epidemic in children. What relief it was to fully engage in a conversation without the need to check my iPhone every 2 minutes.

That same gentleman looking over at me with a glimmer in his eyes as the bright lights came on and the First Lady took her seat. “Heather I think we have one of the best seats in the house” he chuckled as she sat down just 5 seats away from us.

The thought that crossed my mind too many times to count that evening- my Dad would be so proud of me. He would have called up everyone he knew, sent out an email alert to his entire congregation and shouted out the window at the drive thru attendant giving him his morning coffee “My daughter is at the State of the Union tonight”.  Even at 36 I still just want to make my dad proud.

I have had numerous awe inspiring and rewarding moments during my over 15 years in politics but Tuesday night will go down in the books as one of the top highlights.

I didn’t vote for the man giving the speech.

I had spent a great portion of the last year questioning why I do what I do as my frustrations mounted over the vast divide in politics today.

Yet there I sat being inspired simply by the chance to witness, to soak in the evening.

I came home on Wednesday afternoon.  The feelings of that night have remained. I hope they continue to linger far into the new year as I get back to the business of influencing my political sphere while raising my three young girls to find value in the work of government advocacy.

I am one lucky lady.

Running through the year


I start every day the same way.

My phone rings at 4:45am.

The gear laid out the night before is put on in a sleepy fog.

Shirt, running tights and shoes ready to be worn, ready to tackle the miles.

My treadmill and I do our dance for the next 45 minutes.

Some days I have a fire in my belly and I push myself harder and harder until a little one emerges at my side asking for chocolate milk or a TV show turned on.

Other days I hate the machine. I pound out the miles cursing it and myself until I am exhausted, drinking my propel water and lounging on the couch wondering why I wake up at such an ungodly hour.

Through the good and bad mornings, the one constant, running is my meditation. Without it I know I could not have managed these months.

When people ask me how I can stay sane, how I can move through these days with a smile on my face I tell them it’s because of four things:

1. my faith

2. my girls

3. the support of my family and girlfriends


4. my running

One thing running has never been for me is a competition.

I run for myself.

I run for the clarity.

I run for the solace.

I run for the quieting of my head and my heart.

With that in mind I decided this year to challenge myself.

I detest races.

Races of all kinds- family fun runs, 5K’s, half marathons. I hate them. Hate the people on top of people, the noise, the claustrophobia of it all.

So this year I will run a race a month.

One race, every month in a different city.

I started the year last week with a 5k -The Frigid Fantastic. It was a frigid 14 degrees at race time.

I don’t think I have ever run in weather that cold before, but myself and a 100 others did it.

When I finished I felt such a sense of accomplishment not because of the numbers on the clock but because even though it was colder than humanely acceptable, even though I had to miss Sid’s basketball game, and even though I almost fell a million times in the snow and ice, I still felt comfort. My heart was calmer and my head was clearer.

So I will run into 2014. There will be a half marathon in Rochester, a 5k in Chicago, a 10k on Kelley’s Island, a Tough Mudder in upstate New York, and the Flying Pig in Cincinnati among the others.

If you happen to be up in the early morning hours feeding a baby, taking care of a sick child or on your way into work, think about me pounding out the miles on my treadmill and say a prayer. It’s silly really I know, but if you wouldn’t mind simply put a good word in for me.

And if your up for a visitor or a running partner and you know of a decent race in your area shoot me a note and you may just end up with a house guest.


Ellie’s birth was a scheduled c-section. When I arrived at the hospital in the early morning hours of September 24, 2010 I went through the usual protocols- the ultrasound to confirm her position, the IV placement, the forms and releases. They then walked me to the operating room as Brock was instructed to sit in a chair outside while the nurses and anesthesiologists prepared my body for surgery.

Alone, for all intents and purposes, and naked (both literally and figuratively), the skilled team went about their work.

I hunched over my 40 week belly as the nurse held my shoulders and the anesthesiologist began the process to administer the drugs that would remove all feeling from my chest down.

He was the same anesthesiologist I had at the birth of my first daughter. Clearly a veteran of many c-sections, he set me at ease with his kind eyes (the only thing I could see) and his clear tone.

A pause in conversation as he concentrated while inserting the needle in my lower back.

“Well, that needle just bent, let’s try this again” he told me.

And again he tried but again the needle bent while he attempted to puncture my back.

“Mrs. Schmaltz, do you work out a lot?” he asked.

“Well, I only run” I responded.  I always felt the need to articulate that I was not an athlete just someone who enjoyed an evening jog five times a week.

“You are strong” he told me. “I’ve had this happen a few times over the years and its always the athletes, always the runners who bend my needles. You are very strong”.

I was stunned.

After the third attempt he punctured through the muscle and less then 45 minutes later our beautiful Ellery Jane was born.

After the excitement of the birth and the feeling in my legs returned, I replayed the conversation with the anesethesiologist for Brock. We both got a chuckle and I never spoke of it with anyone else. But I did replay it for myself  many times in the days and weeks after September 24, 2010. In fact I have rewound that moment on almost a daily basis for the last 4 months.

You are strong he told me.

You are an athlete.

I am not the girl who ran cross -country in high school only to gossip with her friends, not because she wanted to truly participate in an athletic endeavor.

I am not the teenager who hated her thighs so much she  ducktaped them under her prom dress so she appeared smaller.

I am not the nineteen year old who was so desperate to loose the dreaded freshman 15 that she worked out every morning for hours on end and ate nothing but peanut butter on rice cakes for an entire summer before her sophomore year in college.

I am not the young woman who doubted her worth on her very first “real” job as she sat in the offices of some of america’s most influential DC politicos.

I am not the young mother who was in such a hurry to get back in shape after the birth of her first child that she walked four miles a day with her daughter strapped to her chest in the baby bjorn at only three weeks postpartum causing a six week setback in her recovery.

I am not the middle aged woman who questions whether she will ever love again.

I am strong.  Plain and simple.

A strength that emanates from my core.

I will not be ashamed of it.

I will not question whether I am worthy of that title.

I will own it.

When I reflect on the moment three years and four months ago in that operating room, I want to track that doctor down and give him a gigantic hug. I want to tell him what a seemingly mundane comment did do and has continued to do.

It is in those seemingly meaningless moments that we have an opportunity to enormously impact a life. It is with that doctor in mind that I will continue my year of looking up.

And then she was 7

Dear Audrey,

It’s 5:30am on the morning of your seventh birthday. You, my wild-eyed child, are awake sitting next to me as I immortalize your day with the traditional birthday letter. This is the first year you can read the letter on your own. My how far you have come!

One of my all time favorite photos has to be the one of Sidney and I cuddling on the couch at our old Hickory Valley Drive house. It was just days before you were to make your appearance and my belly was huge with what would prove to be all 9lbs. 1 oz of you. It was the calm before the storm!


You arrived screaming into the world on January 12, 2007. The whole family was beyond excited to meet you just two years four months after your big sister Sidney had made her presence known.


We named you Audrey Hope.


It was a name your Dad and I choose to honor the symbolism of your birth; at a time of great personal turmoil you brought such hope to our lives.

The hope and the joy you brought to our lives that first year and for six more after that has made this family strong and whole.


Your personality is larger than life. Your energy is contagious.


From the minute you wake up each morning, to your head hitting the pillow hard at 8:30 each night, you live life to the fullest.

We all could stand to learn a thing or two from the way you choose to approach life. Smile on your face, arms wide open ready to tackle the world and give everyone in your path a healthy dose of the “Hopie charm”.


Remember your first day of school outfit for the Childhood League Center? The one that at three you picked out all on your own and had such pride wearing it and showing all your new classmates your “style”.


I could drop in millions of pictures of you and your style over the years (in fact I almost did). But it’s not about the way you look my love. It’s about the personality behind those skirts and dresses and stylish haircuts. You own who you are and your Dad and I could not be more proud of the “who” inside of you.

You are our strong, confident, intelligent, seven-year old.

You are the light of our life and the joy in our days.


Thank you for letting me be your mommy. It is a privilege that every day I thank God for granting me.

I am looking forward to watching this next year unfold for you. I know it will be a good one, but do me a favor will you? Remember every day that you are loved beyond measure and that no matter what your family (me, dad, Sid and Ellie) will always be here for you no matter where the miles put us.

I love you Audrey Hope Schmaltz. Enjoy your day.


Your one and only Momma


Moments from the week: A New Year in Pictures

The best part of our week was connecting with folks we haven’t seen in months. Kicking off the week by spending time with my Uncle and Aunt. The girls think of them like another set of grandparents and I appreciate that we all have another set of role models to look up to. photo(29)

New Year’s Eve had Sid coming into the office and working with me for a morning. There is something amazingly rewarding when you leave for home after 5 hours at the office and your little girl turns to you and says “I wish I could come to work with you everyday. That was so much fun Momma”. photo(28)

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, Audrey and Ellie were co-designing a piece of artwork for me.  photo(30)

New Year’s Eve Sidney had a friend sleepover and Audrey and Ellie were in bed by 9, so I curled up with two of my favorite guys to ring in the new year.


New Year’s Day saw me starting my detox and the big girls insisting we dine at Cheesecake Factory. My will power was strong and I enjoyed my salmon salad and no desert. Sid devoured their red velvet cheesecake (she has her daddy’s palate).


Finally, this one’s been on repeat this week-