Wednesday, May 14, 2014

The Universe told me to write...

The Universe told me to write.

"Karla, this is the universe. Start writing."

Seriously. She sent me a text message.

That was the latest message.  She's been sending me messages for the past few weeks, months, years probably. And lately her messages have been more blatant, more obvious. Less subtle, less casual, less chalk-that-one-up-to-serendipity.

But even with her hounding, her pushing, her reminders, I've felt stuck and paralyzed. What is it that I could possibly have to say? I think this at nearly every turn. What, what, just what in the world am I going to write about? What in the world do I have to say that anyone else would want to listen to?

And yet.

One of the Universe's more obvious messages came through the writer Anne Lamott and her latest Facebook update. She's talking about writing and perfectionism and the voice of the critic, of our parents' expectations, of the naysayers that we carry around in her head. And she says this about her writing:

"Yet, I get to tell my truth. I get to seek meaning and realization. I get to live fully, wildly, imperfectly. That's why I'm alive. And all I actually have to offer as a writer, is my version of life. Every single thing that has happened to me is mine."

I get to tell my truth, my version of life.

I guess that's all there is, really. And I guess that's all that matters. 

Since the first day of this year, literally, the message has been hounding me, pursuing me. Write, you have something to say. Write, take note of your life. Write, sort through, work through, your life. Write, you have beautiful stories within you. Write, there are scenes, images, so alive so alive.

So, I will. I am. I'll try. I'll try to show up. Try to take note. Try to put words to the stills, the images I take away from my days. 

Okay, Universe? 

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Swimming lessons

            Today is Haven’s last day of swimming lessons for the summer.  Slowly and with success, she progressed through the first two levels of the preschool lessons – she jumps in (let’s be honest, it’s a belly flop each and every time), swims with kicks and paddles, pops her head up to breathe, glides across the pool in a superman pose, dives down to retrieve a pool toy.  All of it.  She does all of these things.  She looks like a wiggly pink fish as she propels her body through the water, more diagonal than straight, more effort than grace.
            We’ve had Haven in lessons all summer long, a half hour every day.  The every day part is getting a little long – I’m kind of tired of the rush of swimsuits, sunscreen, ponytail – but it’s just one of those life skills we thought absolutely necessary, especially when the grandparents have a pool.
Besides, I just can’t fathom not knowing how to swim. Something in me feels like it has always known how to swim, how to be in the water. I remember being in a swim class with my mom at three or four years old, swimming underwater like a little turtle. I remember following my older siblings off the diving board into the deep end of the pool, with little hesitation, knowing that they would be there to assist me to the side, if needed. And I remember – and love – that end-of-day exhaustion that comes from spending an entire day out on the water, sunburned and tired, my body still rolling and swaying as I’d drift off to sleep in my bed. From hotel pools on road trips to summer swim lessons to days on the lake while we camped at a state park to the wave pool nearby, I grew up to love the water.  I’m not sure if it was the buoyancy, the ease and glide of swimming, the refreshment of the water, the sun, or the fun, but I would often giggle, just giggle, for the first few minutes in the water.
I’m not sure what my children’s experience of water will be like. I grew up in Minnesota, where you run into a lake at nearly every turn (no lie), where water is plentiful, and summers are sacred.  My kids are growing up in California, in the desert, where summer is nearly year-round.  Ocean swimming is different from lake swimming.  I’m not saying that one is better or worse, land of lakes or desert (well, not entirely); it’s more this realization that Haven will not have my childhood. I want her to be confident and at ease in the water, I want her to find delight in diving into a pool, I want her to giggle when she jumps in because she just can’t help herself. And she may – or she may not. Sometimes it is weird to think that she is building her childhood with a whole different set of blocks than I used to build my own. I know that sounds obvious, but isn’t that often how we see things, through our own memories, our own experiences, our own context? This, of course, extends beyond just my kids’ experiences of water – it’s weird to think they will not know the luscious greenness of summer, or falling asleep to a thunderstorm, or waking up to a fresh snowfall, or freeways that are merely 4-lanes or 6-lanes instead of 8-  or 10-lanes.
So maybe California is a good reminder for me, that their childhoods will be different from mine. Because, even if I were raising them in Minnesota, who knows if we’d spend as much time at the lake or at the pool, camping or waterskiing or traveling? Maybe this is a good reminder that their childhood experience of water starts now and it starts at this big aquatic center and at the in-laws’ pool and at our friend’s pool and at the beach and in the kiddie pools and sprinklers in the backyard. It will look different than my experiences, my memories, but, so far, they are smiling and giggling when they are in the water.  Not bad.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

sapphire sky

the sun slips away behind us as we
lean into each other near the dance floor.
his beard tickles my forehead,
our hips sway just a little.
we sip our drinks
and watch the bride
hitch up her dress and dance. she laughs, twirls.
the sun, quiet, slides behind a hill.
i press my head into the curve of his shoulder and notice:
where the sun had been there is now a glowing ember.
it does not fade
and the sky around it deepens to a sea of sapphire.
he rests his hand on the round of my hip.
i sway, rest my hand on his.

---karla schuh, july 2012

Friday, February 10, 2012

Today's Run Brought to You By: Kari, Marchell, and Sarah D

Oh, about a year ago, I told you about my silly notion to get fit by way of Richard Simmons DVDs.  I mean, why not?  It's fun, I can do it at home, the kids can dance along.

Needless to say, it didn't work.

So this summer, I thought I would take up running.  I mean, once upon a time, I was a runner.  Surely, I could summon that inner runner once again, right?  I did a run/walk program for one week during my retreat in Oregon and it was G L O R I O U S.  Those minutes that I ran, I ran like the wind through pine-scented forest, pounding the dirt road, steeple-chasing over fallen logs, swishing past dainty hot pink wildflowers, listening for rattle snakes with one ear, Brandi Carlile with the other.  I loved it - it reminded me of all that I loved about running and cross-country skiing when I was proficient at such things. Gliding through the woods all by my lonesome, my heart pounding, just me and my thoughts and the repetition of my feet or my skis and poles.

It felt so good to think I could do this again!  I could capture some of those things that I once loved and enjoyed again in my life!  This run/walk app, with that sweet feminine British accent coaching me right along, this could work!

And then I went back to Minnesota and the glorious feeling went to shit when running (on grass! not pavement!) nearly killed my knees.  Poop.

But somewhere in that glory week, I realized that I enjoy working out, I enjoy moving, and I enjoy having someone tell me what to do and when.  And after a month this fall where I just about lost all of my marbles, I decided to return to this small gym in Pasadena that I went to for a bit just before I had kids.  This gym offers personal training as well as small group classes called Bootcamp.  And I love Bootcamp. It's 45 minutes with no more than a dozen people and it's a mix of treadmill workouts and floor/strength exercises - and someone (the trainer, both of whom are great!) telling me what to do every minute of that workout.  I respond well to this.  I'm convinced the only reason I ran in high school was because I had signed up and therefore had to be at practice and while at practice really had no choice but to do what my coach said to do.  Dutiful.

I spend about half of the workout on the treadmill, staring out the big windows at the nearby intersection, the San Gabriel foothills, the trees and the bright sun.  Or, at night, my own reflection in the windows.  And at first bootcamp was agonizing and, because no segment lasts longer than one minute (the sprint or the climb or the crunches or the squats), I'd think "this isn't as bad as a contraction, this is easier than labor, you can do it!"  And sure enough, I could.  And over time, the exercises didn't feel as much like a comparison to labor, which I think means I'm making some progress.

And in all of this, in my persistence to show up at least twice a week, the treadmill has become my favorite part, especially when it's just a flat, all out run.  Because, you see, I'm not ever running alone.

Here's what happens:

Sarah D.  Sometimes when I'm scrambling to get my workout clothes on, my shoes tied, clean up the breakfast dishes, make sure Haven washes her hands, change a rather full diaper, fill my water bottle, give a few instructions to whoever is watching the kids, grab my keys and run out the door - sometimes in the midst of that, as I'm throwing my hair up in a ponytail, the ponytail ends up a little higher on my head.  I don't notice this nor care until I'm on the treadmill.  The high ponytail swings and bounces.  It is light, it is joy.  There is no stopping it on its mission to swing widely from side to side. One evening when this happened, the swinging ponytail, the joyful, smiling, fun ponytail reminded me of you, of what it might be like to run with you next to me (I realize I've not run with you, and I realize this may not be at all what your running style is like - but it reminds me of you, nonetheless).  And so I ran that night, watching the eastern sky fade to dark, watching the mountains sink into the night, watching cars drive stop and start through the intersection.  And I felt my legs get tired and heavy, my breathing labor, my arms pump harder to keep up, and my ponytail swinging carelessly to and fro.  And I thought of you and your smile, your joy and laughter, your kind and childlike presence, and decided I could run for one more minute, up one more mountain, with you on that treadmill next to me. Since then, whenever it ends up being a high ponytail day, I run with you on my mind, grateful for your presence, even for just a silly treadmill run at a loud-music gym.

And Kari.  Running at bootcamp almost always makes me think of track, of running the half-mile on a black track of chopped up rubber.  And nearly always, that makes me think of you.  When I run, watching my form in the mirror, keeping my feet light, my stride long, chest high, shoulders down, arms not-flailing, I sometimes see your silhouette in the window too.  I can see, remember, your stride, long, strong, long arms pumping, carrying you down the track or across the field (cross-country).  I remember the curly q's that developed around the edges of your hair (probably recently dyed, with me, on a Friday night in the downstairs bathroom at your house). I can see your face, serious, determined, focused, spit gathering at the corners of your mouth as you pushed your lungs to their furthest limit. But often times, when I look in the window, I see myself running the last 200, coming around that long corner, seeing the line that marked the straightaway, chasing or being chased, collapsing at the finish - and so often, you are at the finish.  You are there for me to drape my arm over, to walk me across the infield.  You are there to smile a congratulations, to hug a leg-breaking run.  And so, when I run on the treadmill, I'm often running again with you.  I stretch out my stride, imagining that we are running sprints and intervals and crazy-all-over-CR runs together again.  And it's so fun. (If only I did something that simulated skiing, because that would bring back even more fun memories!)

And Marchell. As has become obvious, when I do these treadmill workouts, I watch my silhouette in the window and imagine that I am once again at a track meet.  Anchor leg of the 4 x 8, pounding hard through that final lap - that final corner, the finish straightaway.  In my imagination, it's a cool, cloudy spring day, and it is just the sound of lungs puffing and spikes scratching as I start into that last curve, chasing, chasing, chasing some opponent. My lungs are burning and I want to slow down my pace but then I hear it, I hear you on the sidelines - "Come on, KJ!  Let's go! You've got it!  Let's go, KJ!" And with that, I push through, pick my knees up a little higher, turn my stride over a little faster (and let's be honest, I'm really just trying to not fall off the treadmill, which is an honest fear of mine).  Oh, but I can hear your voice, Marchell; it's distinct.  It carries with it this tone that believes, above all else, that you can do it.  There's not a hint of doubt - it is genuinely optimistic.  Nor does the tone carry the least hint of disappointment.  You can do it!  Let's go!  And if not, I'll still be so proud of you for running your little heart out! And let's be honest again, I hear this voice not only when I'm on the treadmill.  It calls out at other times too, times when I most need someone to cheer me on, to help me work through the pain and the exhaustion, your voice comes through again - Come on, KJ! You can do it! I believe in you!

I realize that these might be kind of silly or sentimental things - I mean, I'm just doing a short treadmill workout! But it feels like such a gift to run with each of you once or twice a week, to be surrounded by women, by friends, that I'm so proud of, so honored to have in my life, both past and present.  Women that bring joy, strength, and encouragement.

So, thanks.  Thanks for running with me.


Tuesday, January 10, 2012

Burning heart

(just finishing this up now, but I wrote this way back in September...)

September 2, 2011

This morning, after breakfast, I had a lump in my throat.  Like I'd eaten something that hadn't quite made it's way all the way to my stomach.  It burned each time I tried to swallow more until it dawned on me that this was actually a case of heartburn.

I guess it's been awhile since I've had heartburn like this and I was a little mystified as to why it showed up after eating a pretty typical breakfast.  Hmm...time to find the Tums (which, we can all thank Aaron for insisting that we keep Tums on hand in our household for moments such as this).

Today is the Friday before Labor Day weekend, the last hurrah of summer.  At least, growing up in Minnesota, it was the last hurrah.  This is the weekend of one last trip to the State Fair.  The weekend of a few more late nights.  The weekend of packing, re-packing, and then maybe again double checking the backpack for school.  The weekend of choosing outfits for the coming week, those decidedly fall pieces of clothing - sweaters, corduroys, long sleeves - that I so desperately wanted to wear even though the daytime temps would still be pushing 80.  It is the weekend of waning daylight - nearly two hours of daylight have slipped through our fingers in the past weeks but it's this weekend that the days start to feel short again.  This is the weekend of summer warmth that can still officially be called summer but there is the merest hint of fall in the evening air, in the morning dew.  So much anticipation for what the new school year will hold while wishing that the long and easy days of summer would linger just a little bit longer.

It doesn't feel like that here in southern California.  Sure, there's anticipation for the new school year.  Sure, the days are shorter here too.  But it's blazing inferno hot.  And the sun, well, it's different here.  The light is different.  And the evenings don't hold quite the same promise of coming crisp, cool air that Minnesota does.

After we moved here, every September, every Labor Day weekend, I'd feel the same sense of anticipation and excitement.  My body would crave the September weather of the midwest.  I would stare longingly at my long pants and heavy knit sweaters.  It knew.  My body remembered those deep red 7 o'clock sunsets that burned away while I cracked open my algebra book, digging in to equations and theories that were more familiar a few months ago.  My body remembered that, while it felt like sweatshirt weather in the morning, by afternoon it would feel like the middle of summer.

It took a long long time to forget this and forget I eventually did.  I could conjure up the feeling, sure, but my internal calendar had grown used to summer peaking in September and lasting well into October and sweater weather not showing up but for that one day in late January.  Jeans you can wear in November but you can still wear your flip-flops then too.

I'm sad to have forgotten this because I love fall.  I love that anticipation, the excitement of a new year.

But I'll admit, I was also relieved to realize I'd forgotten the first year it happened.  The start of the school year was also stressful - what would my schedule be like, where would my classes be, who would be in my classes, who were my friends going to be, who would be my locker buddy, what was my combination to my locker and what if I forgot it (I can't tell you how many dreams I have where I can't figure out my locker combination or how exactly to spin the combo to get it to open.  Sheesh.).  It was a lot of stress and anxiety, actually, though it usually settled down within the first couple weeks, once I got into the rhythm of things again.

Even on good years - years where I was excited to go back, had plenty of friends and knew they'd be in most of my classes, felt comfortable with navigating the school and teachers and activities, had a place and belonged - even then, excitement mingled with anxiety.

So here I am with this lump in my throat, trying to figure out why my regular ol' piece of toast would give me reflux.  I ponder this while I brush Haven's hair, while I help her pick out some (matching) clothes, while we brush our teeth, while we wait with a mix of excitement and anticipation for my mother-in-law to arrive to babysit that Haven and I can go to her preschool for the first time.

It is Haven's first day of school.

And so this lump shouldn't be such a surprise to me.  My summer in Minnesota this year has retrained my body to anticipate fall, dying light, cool mornings and warm afternoons.  My body is ready for the packing of the backpack, new schedules and new classrooms, old friends, new faces, the whirlwind that is the first day, the first week of school.

And there's a little girl in me that senses this anticipation, knows the appointment that is on the calendar for today, and she is remembering all of the highs and lows of the first day of school.  Feeling alone and somewhat lost, even in years where I wasn't alone and knew my way around.  She is carrying the weight of all my first days, school, work, parenthood, and there's a lot of excitement, nervousness, anxiety all bundled up in her.

And there's the me now, the 30-something mom of two young kids, who's a little bit exhausted, a little bit bewildered, and a lot a bit wildly in love.  The me now who is wishing that becoming a parent didn't mean a lifelong process of nurture and release, of bringing them close in order to help them fly on their own.  Thus far, the releases have been small, incremental, almost a relief - I didn't realize this step would come so soon.

I swallow the lump in my throat once again as Haven walks into her new classroom with a marked mix of caution and curiosity.  My heart burns as I, mustering all the sweetness and joy that I can, wave goodbye.  "See you in a little bit!" I lilt, as her new teacher gently guides her away to play with new friends.

I know that she is safe, cared for, and loved in this new place.  I know, too, that it is only a short time out of our week and I'll grow to enjoy the time apart.  In the meantime, I'm grateful for my burning heart, grateful that it's just a little bit hard to let go of that which we love.  This lump in the throat will subside, I'm sure, but for now it makes me excited for the hug I'll get when I pick her up from her first day of preschool.

I'm going to be a mess when she goes away to college.

Saturday, May 21, 2011


Saturdays are officially Park Day.  I don't know how she does it, but Haven took FOREVER to fall asleep last night and then was up super early this morning and yet she has more energy than a volcano (and somewhat as explosive).  I'm just tired and don't have the energy to keep up this morning.  I have no desire to engage with anyone this morning, much less a chatty, constantly moving 2.5 year old.

Thankfully, my friend Colleen is visiting and Colleen and Haven just headed out to go play at the park/playground.  Last Saturday, Julia took Haven to the park in the morning and Tyler and Traci took Haven in the afternoon.

So, I'm declaring Saturdays as Park Day.  She needs to run out the energy.  I need the break.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Something in the Wind, Part II

A year ago was one of the worst weeks of the year. Truly, it sucked.  Aaron was out of town for a month.  My parents, who can drive me batty after a time, had been in town for almost a month.  Our truck-fixing-saga still continued to suck money right out of our savings account.  I found out I was having a boy and my initial not-so-happy reaction surprised and shamed me (to note: I LOVE my boy and can't believe I was ever sad about the prospect of a boy. At the time, I knew that I would eventually come around, but in the moment was sad and felt so ashamed of that reaction.).  I burned my hand taking something out of the oven.  I learned that a good friend was moving to Japan.  I was TIRED, so very pregnant tired, and got in a disagreement with my mother-in-law over whether or not Aaron was more tired than I. I'm pretty sure I pissed off my sister-in-law, who then got into a car accident that same day - not related events but I sure felt like they were.  Aaron accepted a gig to shoot a music video with two close friends of ours and as soon as the dates were set, I had a break down and realized that all of my energy had been completely spent.  This would cut into what little free time/break/vacation that Aaron had had in the last year and I just couldn't keep up on my own.  I was a mess and Aaron had to say No after already saying Yes.  A disaster. And then, to top it all off, that was the week that Haven decided she didn't want to nap and I so desperately needed her to nap and proceeded to tell her such with a bit of frustrated yelling.  Not my finest moment.  Such an ugly week.

By comparison, this one year anniversary week of that sucky week has actually been pretty good. All things considered.  Aaron is out of town, again, and this has been our first week without him but I've done pretty well (pat on the back for me).  The kids have been in good spirits, the house is in one piece, I've managed to feed all of us with pretty good food, and I've been getting a decent amount of sleep.  I realize this won't last forever, but I'm proud of our week.  It makes me feel like we can make it the entire five weeks that Aaron will be gone.  We may be a little worse for wear in the end, but hopefully not too bad.

There are winds forecast for this weekend, appropriate for this anniversary.  While I (still) dislike wind, it serves as a reminder to me of god's presence in all things - good weeks and bad.