Insecurities And Exchanges


My smile was too big for my face. This created a quiet nervousness and uncertainty in my psyche.  If you watch closely, you will see that it lingers still.  As a child in school, I would have absolutely wanted to wear a mask.  It would have protected me from developing the low self-esteem that I carried inwardly for most of my life.  My self-perceived ugliness would have been hidden. The anxiety I had about my overbite may have been squelched if my classmates couldn’t see it, and perhaps I would not have been a target for bullying. I spent many hours in the nurse’s office in third grade to sixth grade.  There I found a safe place where I could be alone long enough to calm myself when the teasing at recess felt overwhelming. I told the nurse that I had a headache or a tummy ache, but in reality, it was my heart that was wounded. The thoughts and emotions floating in my young head were on overdrive.  How could my classmates be so mean? Why am I so ugly? I hate them.  I want to be friends.  I hate myself.  You see, not only did I have an overbite, my two front teeth had been chipped when I flew over my handlebars in a bike accident.  I knew I was ugly; my teeth were pointy.   My classmates merely confirmed this fact.  During those few years I had three new schools bringing three new sets of classmates. Looking back on those years now, I wonder that if had I only had one school perhaps the teasing wouldn’t have been as prolonged during my formative years. 

One cold day in particular, I felt completely surrounded by the name calling at lunch recess. “Bucky Beaver” or “Snaggletooth”.  Everyone was against me, even my handful of friends didn’t come to my defense. I quickly yanked my knitted hat over my face so that they wouldn’t see my tears as I ran to the nurse’s office.  She was sympathetic as always and asked me what had upset me so much, and I told her.  She allowed me to recover on the cot, however a little while later she breezed in and said the principal would like to see me. Most kids would be mortified by that sentence being directed at them. Not me, I just knew that he would want names of the bullies, to punish them.  I sat timidly in front of his desk, and he began by asking if I knew who Eleanor Roosevelt was. He then went on to tell me that she had overcome sadness in her life, that people did not consider her a beauty, but she had become a well-respected and important woman who was loved worldwide. At my young age I didn’t grasp the significance of what he was telling me.  I heard only that it was okay to not be pretty. I do not know if my classmates were reprimanded.  I did not feel any better about myself.  It wasn’t until many years later, when looking back, I realized he had attempted to make me feel better by telling me looks are not everything, that what we have inside us, is what is vital to a happy life.   

When my dad found out what had happened that day, he was calm but with an undercurrent of annoyance directed at the principal.   “Don’t worry about your looks, you’re going to grow into your teeth.” And “You will be beautiful like your mother.” And “Some people consider Eleanor Roosevelt to be attractive.”  Or “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”  My dad has always known what to say to make me feel better about myself.  He still does to this day.

Shortly after, we moved to Shiloh and a new school.  I was older, my face filled out, and I eventually had porcelain caps put on my chipped teeth. I still had that overbite, but the teasing wasn’t mean, it was good natured.  I was a novelty, new girl in the school and it seemed like everyone wanted to get to know me. There were only five girls in my classroom and the boys gave us all nicknames.   I was Feather Head because of my last name, Heatherly.   Shiloh was a turning point in my childhood, as I formed close friendships in that small town that have lasted my lifetime. However, to this day I cringe and squirm inside anytime I hear the word bucktooth.   

Maneuvering in a Covid era has all of us feeling insecure and uncertain.  With all the inane debating about masking at school this coming fall, these memories of my childhood have been on the forefront.  I guess the reason I write this is twofold:  Firstly, for the parents:  Stop creating stress for your children with your anti-masking stance.  Stop confusing mask wearing with an infringement on your rights.   Change your mind set about YOUR rights.  Having rights comes with responsibility to YOUR community.  I understand your distrust with the government, but this pandemic has NOTHING to do with politics.  Our government is not attempting to manipulate you. Continuing the anti-vax, anti-mask stance makes you out to be a whiner.  Pick your battles. Be an activist in a fight that is worthy (environmental, poverty, healthcare, taxes… there are so many), instead of this self-entitled, fear of vaccine/disbelief of the seriousness of Covid. You look foolish. Variants don’t care about your opinion.  Is this the lesson you want to teach your children? You are adding to their fear and confusion.  Your children have no problems with wearing a mask, in fact, some of them may prefer it. It may even help them concentrate on their studies instead of worrying about what others think of them. All for one, one for all.

 Secondly, for the kids:  The United States of America was created to insure the people have a right to their own opinions, ideas, and lifestyle.  You have won the geographical lottery to be living in this great country.  But be sure your principles, beliefs, rights are on the right side of history.  We all know that wearing a mask is uncomfortable, but it is the right thing to do to destroy a virus, which will continue to replicate and become stronger, unless society uses its tools to combat it.    Your mask is your weapon.  Also, for the kids who are struggling with their self-esteem, remember to love who you are, flaws and all, and know that everyone has them.  Remain aware that your looks will change as you grow. Keep in mind that nobody is scrutinizing you as closely as you criticize yourself.  They, too, are all wrapped up in their own insecurities. You will always appear stronger when you are open minded, kind and accepting rather than bullying and judgmental.

AGE 10 Donna J. Heatherly – Jefferson School, Belleville, Illinois

Behind The Mask

Behind the mask

My views are unsuppressed

While I do not flaunt my thoughts

Look closer. My opinions are expressed,

if only to myself.

Behind the mask

I flagrantly display

Disgust, distain, annoyance

It is liberating really.

Behind the mask

My face relaxed

Unguarded, unseen.

Shallow breaths indoors become deeper

as I distance myself from the unknown.

Behind the mask

I sigh, I mutter, I curse

Covid fatigue, foolishness, boredom and politics.

Silent screams save my soul from tedium and buffoons.

Behind the mask

My eyes do the talking

Telltale dark circles,

An arched brow, a squint, a scowl,

Or a roll of the eyes.

Pay attention.

Behind the mask

I read others’ body language while I

chose with care which gesture to use to

evoke an emotion, a concept or understanding.

Behind the mask.

Sheltered from suspended virus particles,

Unshackled from senseless arguments of whether to wear it or not

Common sense buoyed by science and consideration of community

Safe from scrutiny, I will sneer at those showing ignorant bravado.

Donna Heatherly

Oct 26, 2020

Observer Of The Orb

You pondered life while

peering out classroom windows.

Your daydreams gave rise to

a need for knowledge

of all things, large and small.

Grade school teachers worried

that you read too fast

Feared for your comprehension.

As you consumed every book in the library

In one year at Landsdowne Jr. High!

Ol’ wise Observer of the Orb,

you are the embodiment of common sense

your wisdom is unlimitless

your interests brim

with verity and wit.

You amaze me with your recall.

Details of distant days are contentedly recollected.

The prose of your memoires spill forth with ease.

Suddenly, I am in your moment of days gone by.

A generous man, with tolerance and perception.

A grateful man, with an understanding, compassionate heart.

Your open-minded opinions with just the right amount of suspicion

makes for stimulating issues of discussion.

You have taught me plenty and I have taken it all in.

The essential lessons of life being:

Remain positive, continue to learn, love deeply, and take care of oneself.

Afterall, a fulfilled life is much easier to live than a neglected one!

Happy Birthday Dad!



August 7, 2020

Physiques In Time

Floating in the pool one day I attempted to recall nearly every swimsuit I have ever worn, and to remember how I felt about myself, my body, my life, at the time.  Some of these recollections originate from ancient black and white snapshots taken by my mom. As the decades glide swiftly past and the currents of my life overflow with memories, I am startled at how little I appreciated the body I was born with.

1960’s   Blooming Bud

Oh, how I wish I could be as content in my body as I was at the age of 2.  When I look at this picture taken at Carlyle Lake, I see a lucky little girl, surrounded with boys who made an impression on shaping me… my older brother and cousins.  This little girl stands solid on her pudgy legs, pleased in her baby fat, her tummy full of snacks and milk.  The baggy two-piece swimsuit, mismatched bottom and white halter top is adorable, and is rather in style today, except for the bagginess.

How cute I was in my little strawberry print one- piece at the sweet age of 4.  The excitement of climbing into the little wading pool bubbles up in my mind and to this day I can feel the rubbery surface beneath my little toes, feel the pebbles under the rubber.   The sweet little face in that photo shows a cheerful squinty toddler without a care in the world beyond my mothers’ attempts to keep the grass clippings out of the pool.  I had no thoughts about how I looked in the bathing suit, only that I was happy to be with my brother and sister and cousins on a hot summer day.

About the age of 9 I had become aware that it was vital to be tan.  Thus, my sister and I took the time out from playing with our beloved Barbies to smother ourselves with baby oil and fry our virgin skin.  For this exercise in failure I sported a pink floral with an attached flouncy skirt. We would lay side by side on a bedsheet with blades of dry summer grass poking our pale bodies under us and the glaring UV rays ruining our unsullied skin. I recall the impatience I felt as my energetic self would lift the fabric to assess for any tan marks, and the disappointment when after 10 minutes prone on the ground no results were to be found.   Our mother, undoubtedly hoping we would fall asleep and give her a break from our giggling noisiness, insisted we wear sunglasses to protect our eyes.  That way we would be able to read teen magazines directing us on how to become beautiful in the future.

1970s   Ripening

This is the decade I went from being a carefree child to becoming a free spirit.  I also developed a love/hate relationship with myself.  Most days I was unhappy with my appearance.  I felt I was so skinny and flat chested that no boy would ever like me.  I thought everybody was staring at my overbite.  I was highly self-conscious and wanted to disappear.  I spent a lot of time reading romance books and craving a boyfriend.  The summer before high school I had a near death experience when my appendix burst on the operating table and spent weeks recovering in the hospital.  The surgeon did a hatchet job.  My underlying thought process was about how ugly the massive damn scar looked.  This is when the hatred of my stomach began.  When I was finally able to start gym in school, changing into our PE uniform was brutal.  Of all the many faults my body had to be hidden from the girls in the locker room, now I had to add my disgusting stomach.   It was not until three years later that I wore a two-piece, at the prodding of my best friends.  It was all the fashion at the end of the 1970’s and peer pressure gave me a false confidence.   I was thin, yet I was so concerned about my hideous appendectomy scar and the pooch from the surgery.  I let it consume my entire life really, always focusing on my abdomen and how insufficiently flat my stomach was.  But I did love the attention bestowed on me while in that brown string bikini.   I soon realized that at 17 there is no man in the world that would scoff at a woman just because of an appendectomy scar if he thought he had a chance with her!

The power of sexuality became my modus operandi.  Literally with the wink of an eye, a beguiling smile or a dance move, young men would come to attendance.  The awkward little girl who thought she would never have a boyfriend now juggled four at a time.  I was a party girl, ready to drink and dance and have fun.  I felt like I had the upper hand as I made decisions on who to see on which night.

1980s   Blossoming

I fell in love and married early, at 21.  My husband adored everything about me, faults and all, maybe especially my faults.  My favorite suit at this time was a purple poly one piece with a large silver diamond print on the bosom, which I thought hid the fact that I had none.   I was thin and yet I still thought I had to hide the poochy stomach.   I never thought my body was all that attractive, but my husband and I were in love, and that gave us both such confidence in one another.

Pregnancy years. How great it was to not have to worry about an expanding mid-section while I gained 20 pounds!  Maternity swimsuits are the ultimate for saying pamper me and give me all the ice cream.  Post pregnancy all the attention was on my beautiful babies and I was so proud to show them off. Having two babies under two years apart, I was too exhausted to really think much about my own appearances.  I sure enjoyed picking out their clothes though.

1990s   Vining

My persona is definitely in momma-mode. My days are full of volunteering…computer labs, Brownie troop leader, and tap-dancing musicals at a local playhouse.  I take great care in my appearance and am feeling self-assured.   At this time, I realized that I was a late bloomer. However, the only two-piece suit I would have the courage to wear are the high waisted boy cut shorts and halter top, which thank goodness was the style.  I chose a bright blue floral print to help to hide any evidence of mommy tummy.  I am still so hyper focused on my stomach, which after having two babies I realize I will never have a six-pack abs, but I am okay with it.  I am confident in the love of my husband and family. I wore mostly sporty tankinis when I took my littles to the public pool, however I do recall a deep purple one piece with a plunging neckline and back that I looked and felt fabulous in, because, yay, I now have breasts after having had babies.

2000   Full Grown

Unquestionably the most tumultuous time of my life while departing a marriage with teenage daughters. Finding myself single, I begin the excitement and apprehension of dating.   Falling madly for a charismatic man, I quickly find out he was damaged in childhood, he was a misogynistic asshole, and I his latest victim. But that is a story for another time, and you can read it in my book ‘Silent Longing’.   In the course of this on and off again seven-year relationship my daughters become women. They are gorgeous. One moves to Chicago for college and the other becomes pregnant. I witness my eldest baby become a mother.  It is an emotionally charged time for us all.  Hormones are raging (theirs) while mine are declining.  I become a grandma at 45.  And yet during all this stress and upheaval I am still able to look good in a bathing suit.  By this time, I have figured out most men do not believe in or need perfection.  I have also figured out that large prints work to hide imperfections, tankinis are my friend and coverups can be sexy.  I also splurge on tanning bed packages since cellulite and crepey skin are improved when bronzed.

2010   Seasoned

Welcome to the age of enlightenment.  After the sudden loss of my dear mother to leukemia I am driven by a desire to live my life to the fullest. Death makes you aware of how critical it is to live your best life. I have a fierce love for my grandbabies, meet my wonderful current husband, travel often together, exercise regularly, and feel absolutely 75% fine about my body.  Thoughts of gravity and anti-aging products take up the other 25%.  My biceps are becoming floppy and my butt is beginning a journey to who-knows-where-it-will-end-up, but I am alive and well; except for the melanoma in-situ found and removed on my arm leaving me with three new scars.   I end all sun tanning or tanning beds. My color comes strictly from Lancôme or Neutrogena now.  My go-to style suit are monokinis. Where have they been all my life?!  The first one was a bright red mono that covered my butt while lifting it, hid the tummy and had a low cut neckline but kept the girls intake. Monos can either be skimpy or they can cover more.  I have six in my possession and will never throw them out!  They make me feel so good about my body, hide my worse flaw and keep me young at heart.  However, some days when in a grandmotherly state of mind, I put on a one-piece or a suit with a flowy, blousy top with underwire push-up to show my maturity.

2020   Mellow

In my life, I have spent an inordinate amount of time agonizing over which swimsuit to purchase, how to hide flaws, reading reviews on Amazon, etc. I looked at the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit edition once and went into a mild depression. It lasted a day.  I estimate that I have tried on at least 15 suits to each one purchased.  My sister and I have had many laughs in the numerous fitting rooms of years gone by while supporting each other through this process.  Commiserating together, we snicker about poor lighting in the room making our paleness more pallid.  We chuckle over muffin tops, we titter about our tatas, we cackle concerning arm flab, and we snort over our belly flops.   Its either laugh or cry and we prefer laughter. We remember a phrase our mom once told us while all three of us were trying on clothes at Dillard’s one afternoon.  My sister and I were complaining about some trivial aspect of our bodies, and mom said, “You will never look as good as you do now.”   She was reminding us not to be too hard on ourselves, and that the worse is yet to come.  HA!  To this day, I repeat those same words to myself when I am feeling melancholy about how I look as I age.  I am told that I look great for 60.  Most days I feel great about my appearance if I don’t look to closely.

We have a pool now, so I have been wearing bikinis again, and have been tanning.  However, I use caution with sunscreen, as well as caution with who sees me in a bikini!  I still love my monokinis and have also recently found favor with the crop top/banded arm suits or peasant tops that camouflage dimply upper arms.  I also still like boy shorts however my butt has taken a trip too far south and sometimes travels outside its boundaries.   I have a suit for every essence of my mood and for every event.  I have athletic suits for water aerobics class, canoeing and playing with grands, skimpy suits for lounging poolside or vacationing with hubs, roomy suits for large meals, black suits for conservative gatherings, skirted suits (which hubs recently told me to toss saying they look too matronly), and I even have one with long-sleeves for cooler nighttime dips.  I imagine that one day I will wear the long-sleeve in the daylight when my arms completely disintegrate.  At last count I own 27 swimsuits.  I know I need to toss some but have a hard time doing so. I rationalize having so many by telling myself that they do not take up much room.  Why is it so difficult? Is it because I feel like I am throwing away my younger self?   Yes, I think that is part of it, and I have always had a deep need to remember my past. Well, tomorrow I will say hasta la vista to several suits.  Then, I will continue my quest for the perfect suit for my imperfect physique.

Donna Heatherly

July 15, 2020




While the sands of time mark the minutes of my life

And the relentless roll of the tidal sea marches on

My pedicured digits dig in, rooted solid in wistful thoughts.

The present, with it’s swift tempo, becomes past, flows away, disappears with the grains under my feet.

As a pelican dives headfirst and deep to catch a morsel

I stand looking outward to the sea and see the serene peace of destiny

A Brothers’ Birthday

Birthday Thoughts  

(I wrote this to my brother to celebrate his birthday on 02/20/2015.  He is gone now, almost a year.  I miss my big brother.)

A firstborn son to loving parents.

Cuddly, cute with crabby cries.

Their only winter of discontent!

Brief it was, as they found their way


Doted upon and adored, the baby

Grew strong and happy.

Until his sisters came along.

But soon enough the toddler discovered

Sibling love.

A dynamic combination of emotions that evoke

Jealousy, joy, unbounded happiness and fears

The complexity of which sweetens the years

With loyalty, pride, laughter and tears.


Dear brother,

Your teasing makes me stronger.

Your intellect makes me strive to be smarter.

Your dark moods make me want cheer you.

Your watchful eyes make me feel protected.

Your humor makes me smile.

Your critical tongue makes me try harder.

Your musicality makes me proud.

Your laughter makes my heart light.

Your relentlessness in this battle makes me admire you even more.

On this day, your birthday, I wish so much for you.

I won’t put them down to paper for fear they may vanish.

But you know what they are.

They are the same wishes that you want for me.

02/20/2015 – D. J. Heatherly

Remembering Without Knowing Irvin Pharris


Tears well up while polishing dry crackled wood on a magazine rack built by a grandfather I never knew.  How can this inanimate object built over 70 years ago effect my emotions this way?

Though I never witnessed his wrinkled brow in concentration while whittling, sawing or hammering, I do know he was a serious and solitary man who had creative talents in carpentry. I know that he was a man who loved his daughter, my mother.

This wonderful piece of wood was constructed with patience and caring. Was it his hope to please my grandmother Evelyn, who was never happy? Or did he need to escape from her to his workshop, to keep his sanity while she was on the verge of loosing hers? Evelyn married a man 20 years older, a railroad man. He was away a lot. She berated him often. She complained and was unkind to him. My mother shared stories about her childhood, raised under her mothers ridicule, a frightened little girl in an unhappy home hearing her parents fighting, and the loss of a daddy who was dear to her. He died in his 50s from complications of a stomach ulcer. Evelyn had an affair with his coworker who drove her to the Railroad Hospital in Chicago where he was dying. I only found this out recently, but I am not surprised. Evelyn was cold. She was never grandmotherly. I suspect she had a personality disorder but the family never discussed that, and that is another story.

Wiping wood cleanser on it’s ancient varnish to bring back its luster also brings back my own childhood. My earliest memories are of playing on the floor near this magazine rack, hiding my stuffed animals inside or using its wooden platform for my Barbie dolls to stand against, it was the perfect size for Barbie feet. However, as I approached my teens, I rebelled against it, mad that my mom insisted my sister and I dust all its crevices, along with all the other furniture, every Saturday.

Thinking about my mothers’ deep sadness makes me cry. She is gone now too. All I want to do today is call her, talk to her. I want to tell her again how blessed I am to have been nourished by her love. I want to hear her kindness flow over me and hear our laughing together while we share every little thing about our lives. I want to ask more questions about her daddy, which she referred to him as with a faraway look of longing in her eyes. I wish I had realized the significance of her sharing those stories when I was younger. I failed to grasp the hurt she endured since my own childhood and our family life was very happy.

This magazine rack is a root to our connection that I keep in a safe place in my home.  I keep my mom and her memories of my grandfather alive in my heart. This piece, as well as two chairs he built, are the only things that I have from a grandfather I never met. That, and the knowledge that my mother loved him so he must have been a good man. These pieces of wood created under times of hardship, furniture unknowingly left by him, are somehow a legacy of love to a granddaughter he never knew.

Irvin Magazine

To Be Two

To be two is to be

Completely carefree.

Belly laughs are heard


Fascinated and fun.

Learning concepts and words


Eyes and ears alert

About all things near


Cuddly and kind

Tight body hugs of cheer


Spontaneous smiles

Unprompted, unplanned.


Soft and sweet

Nibbles of neck and feet


Giggly and squirmy

I will hold this innocent age in my heart




(05/03/2017) Silas turns two today!  I want to grasp his sweetness before he goes full-force into the  “terrible two” stage.

High Society At A New Low

Passed out til noon

She swigs Bloody Marys while applying

War paint with an unsteady hand.

Sunken, hungover, puffy eyes

Veiled by Visine.

Barely gets the red out.

But the sparkle is gone for good.


A counterfeit in coiffed curls and fake smirk.

A gussied up clotheshorse in brand name style.

Dressed to the nines to disguise DUI’s.


Living an artificial reality she deceives even herself.

Sipping on Crown, searching out imperfections in others.

Fabricating falsehoods while pretending frivolity.

Stirring up slanderous gossip with her silver spoon.

Tossed back with a shot of ad naseum

She makes Happy Hour an irony.



Donna J. Heatherly

My Dad

He is a gatherer of ideas

Expresses them well.

He is an ideal man.


He is open minded

Uncluttered and receptive to the opinion of others.

He is a liberal thinker.


He laughs openly and often.

Shares sharp amusing outlooks on current politics.

He is a humorist.


He is approachable and friendly.

An ally to all lucky to know him

He is a conversationalist.


He is empathic and sincere.

Pained and enraged by global cruelty

He is a humanitarian.


He is loving and loved.

He is my greatest supporter.

He is genuine.

He is my dad.

    Donne Jeannine Heatherly (08/07/2014)

 Happy 80 years wise my dear dad!

IPhone 2013 009