Friday, May 27, 2011

Harry Potter meets Judge Judy

In what ways has your life turned out differently than you expected?


It’s obvious actually—and I make a point of writing not about the obvious.

The plain answer is in the bathroom, devouring Harry Potter about seven years late.

He may be late to Harry Potter, but he came too early into my life.

Right about here you’re expecting me to go into landscaping, painting the scene of our first encounter: blustery November day, wearing a black shirt he later confided he didn’t like, and dinner with my future mother-in-law.

I won’t talk about it. No can do, tiger.

What I will confide is that even though it was too early for marriage, it was way past due for a boyfriend.

And that’s how God snuck up on me.

He planted this idea deep inside my mind, an idea that grew like a cancer until I was considering folks that should have never been considered. (Names withheld to protect the current/future spouses of my excursions.) It was a foolish time.

Coy as a cat I texted my newfound mouse soon-to-be-husband and we decided to play.

I just wasn’t thinking. The chemicals in my brain were altered by one love potion #9 and suddenly my biological clock was ticking without warning. I wanted to marry.

The cool academic nonconformist in me calmly insisted we play it safe and jump promptly off the matrimony train,

but soon I just realized I was done for. Because all I wanted was to be one of those hopeless girls married at 19 (At least I made it to 20). Really, the last thing I wanted was to be one of them. I wanted to be married without having to reduce myself to that category.

This is the lesson. Are you listening? Because I’m just going to tell it to you flat out in a regular sentence and that’s not something I do every day.

You cannot figure out another person’s life. You cannot say what they should have done unless you are a fool, and love being incorrect on top of ignorant. You don’t get her. She’s living life the best she knows how, just like you. So even if that’s waiting tables or being a prostitute or (no!) a stay-at-home mom, just know: she wakes up every morning a human being the same way you do. She goes to bed every night planning how to improve her future, just like you, sister. So go on then. Be a sister to her. Pity her situation, but not her intelligence. Empathize with her decisions and her vulnerability, knowing full well that you don’t know. She’s pieces of you blown up poster size is all.

So what was different about my life than I anticipated? Having to explain to myself that I was just like everyone else.

Monday, May 23, 2011


My purse hasn’t been the same since it was dumped upon with a Cafe Rio burrito plus burrito juicies after my little brother’s piano recital. I’ve wiped it with disinfectant wipes a multiplicity of times, and yet, that staled pico de gallo aura remains every time I reach in to re-vaseline my lips.

It’s troubling because I love both Vaseline and Cafe Rio and my purse (light purply/gray and snakeskinny, a glorious gift from my mother-in-law). So why not combine all these things together for a gigantic bout of love and adoration? Perhaps the reasons are obvious.

When the burrito spillage happened, Brennon was already quite upset about his piano recital. He played a Star Wars song (I can never recall the different names of all those tunes…) but was rudely interrupted by a few mistakes, after which he would stop, flush, and bury his woebegone head in his hands. He would look embarrassedly out at us in the audience, at his teacher, begging us to let him just quit and come sit back down. Well, at least those are the thoughts I injected in his head with my imagination, because there were whole lotta times when I felt that way. About piano. About singing. About being in a bathing suit.

The 7th grade talent show comes to mind. I sang Mariah Carey’s “Always Be My Baby,” of course, because not only was Mariah Carey the most amazing female singer I had discovered to date, I knew it would win me the vast affection of my peers (it didn’t.) I went with my parents to pick it up on karaoke and I practiced with the TV in my parents’ bedroom, gettin a little crazy with my dance moves when I was feeling confident.

This was how it would always go—I’d get up my nerve to even audition for whatever thing it was, then I would practice, worry about practicing, worry more about performing, practice, feel supremely confident, and…

biff it.

On the day of the seventh grade talent show I was wearing: a jean skirt (remember those? Wow. WOW.); one of those red thick cotton polo-ish shirts, clearly obtained from some un-cool place like TJ Maxx or Ross, maybe Old Navy if I was lucky; platform-ish strappy sandal things, trying to be stylish but…

falling just short.

I got nervous looking at the crowd of middle-schoolers crammed into the bleachers and felt my heart pumping double time beneath the not-cool-enough shirt. It was always like this. I’d be clam-cool up until the moment of truth when that microphone was in my hand and every insecurity decided to migrate to my vocal chords. Then, my voice would start shaking, I’d pray through the remainder of the song, and try to relinquish some ounce of pride as I walked off the stage/gym floor/athletic field. See, I knew I was a good singer. I knew I had a voice. And I freaking loved to sing. So why not? But after each performance, I would realize precisely why not.

I could never take people’s compliments very well, because I always wanted them to know that I knew I’d done poorly.

My method for letting the crowd know that I knew my performance was crap at the 7th grade talent show was to stomp back to the streamer-curtain the student council had made and flick it open with as much evident disdain as possible.

So all these memories came whooshing back on the day of Brennon’s piano recital, and I just realized: none of us care about each other’s pride. We’re all just on the same side. We all only want to hear beautiful music; we want to hear what you have to say.

Performing highlights insecurity and brings it right smack dab in front of your eyes, so you have to address it, one way or another. No more surface living, it demands. It obscures your vision to that crippling point when your heart is in your stomach and your logic is out the window and your head is in your toes. All of it is so mixed up, so what can you even do!! You have to share a piece of your precious, fragile, vulnerable soul with an audience full of somebodys, when you worry as you lie awake at night that you are a nobody. These thoughts haven’t occurred to you while you were practicing with the karaoke CD and polishing your dance moves. Practicing alone in that room with the TV feeding you the words with the little highlighter, you were safe.

The other problem is that performing brings all the junk to the surface you didn’t even know was there. SMACK! Blindsided by a crop of new fear that’s fresh and bloody how, how can you concentrate on notes or poise or, for heaven’s sake, dance moves? Because you thought, you thought you weren’t affected at all by all those somebodys’ opinions. You thought you were letting those nasty blog comments roll right off your mature shoulders. You thought you were totally nonplussed by the demanding, awful letters they wrote to President Samuelson about you. You thought you didn’t care one lick about that boy who dumped you via email. But it turns out you’re just the same as everybody else. Turns out you wanted to be a nobody because you were afraid of being a somebody. 

Performing is about getting past your own humanity and being present in your own vulnerability. You have to embrace it with grace, even joy, for the fears to stop beating down your door while you’re trying to keep your voice steady.

Feigned cockiness won’t be a thick enough cover for you. Right in the middle of that your heart will bust open and all your demons will let themselves out.

Nope, you can’t do it. You have to name and cradle each one of those insecure demons and let them live inside you until they disseminate into the rest of your organs, absolve into your beating heart and melt into your overworked brain.

So it didn’t matter that Brennon accidentally slopped his beans and tortilla over my purse. I figured I’d let it go—he’s got a long road ahead of him. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011


The best sandwich I ever had: turkey with pesto and tomatoes and a fancy cheese, way down in Puerto Vallarta, Mexico. Me and my freshly wed husband shared it at the deli downstairs from our resort. One day on the way back the sky dislodged all its pent up water and our sandwich-filled bellies got drenched.

But back inside the deli--red adobe tiles, cheap souvenirs, freshly baked bread, a little internet cafe for way too much cash. All of the Mexicans looked down their noses just a little bit at us Americans, and I just braced myself to be scammed or something.

In true Jared Schultz fashion, we were frugal as grannies on our honeymoon. We grocery shopped, for heaven's sake, at the local store that included a mall and lots of overpriced pizza. We didn't eat the produce, and instead filled up on homemade smoothies, breakfast cereal and daily made pastries. Gosh, those pastries! The donuts and the buttery breads so soft and chewy--you just stick them on a tray with the little tongs, whatever you want, and get ten or so pastries for a couple hundred pesos.

That sandwich was another Mexican luxury--and maybe I felt some twinge of remorse because I wanted to be pampered on our honeymoon--but there was something so down to earth simple and free about sharing that sandwich with my husband. It meant: I'm always gonna take care of you. And when I wanted the same sandwich the second day: I'm gonna indulge you whenever I can, because you're worth it.

Sharing that sandwich was just the pinnacle of for rich or for poor, sickness and health and life and death--there, in the tomato seeds, we were sowing our future. A future of frugality but simple joy, simple love, pure essence of bliss.

Walking--well, running--through the torrential rain after Sandwich #2 I looked at that husband and I knew, I just KNEW--it was all going to be alright, even if we never had another dime.

Monday, May 16, 2011

eating is an option.

1. There is a little red ring around each of my eyes that has been there since December. I’ve been to the eye doc inside his Walmart cubicle three or four times, but the red ring is still there. I wear thick black glasses every day. Maybe I am hiding. But I am seeing—I’m blind as a bat without those lenses, you know. Plus the Walmart eye guy creeps me out.

2. A couple weeks ago we went to the Tulip Festival, me and my mom. We whirled and ran all around with our winter jackets and our souls on fire—I LOVE THIS WOMAN. She fills me up whole. We talked about the temple, addiction, God, marriage, getting a job after 23 years of full-time motherhood. My mom is so dang comfortable with who she is, she simultaneously gives other people permission just to be comfortable. And who else can do that for you? She hates shopping and her makeup bag consists of three or four tubes, the same kinds as always. She always looks fabulous. My mother lives alone now, with four other boy-men, and doesn’t complain. She just sets boundaries. She is assertive and never overbearing. She is so down to earth and sensible I wonder often how she birthed a wild-child crazy woman like me. I sure miss her a lot.

3. We painted everything white on Saturday—front door cabinets closet doors. EEEEEEEEEEEEEk I love paint with a fervor undying.

4. I started a little writing group. It was very scary because I didn’t know if any of them would want to commit to it and it was a big idea brewing inside my head. But we make each other feel safe and we take risks. And we write! It’s amazing! Something about just scribbling away with people you know will care about you no matter if your writing is dirt or gold is so freeing and just absolutely thrilling. Tuesday nights give me jitters of creativity bugs, flying around in my area like uncaged birds. I have a very firm testimony about creating. It’s the lifeblood of us, even though it’s hard to pay attention sometimes. It’s easier not to create, because we’re functioning well enough in the world as is, working our day jobs and watching TV and getting worked up talking pop culture every once in a while. And adding one more thing to that overflowing plate sounds like an emotional explosion. Plus writing makes everything more complicated, at first, and who in the planet wants that? No. My life is worth complicating to get lifted. I re-decide this fact every time I pick up my pen and paper.

5. I am going to be a real biker person. I’m getting a bike soon. Jared’s is in Florida in the mail. Then we’re gonna bike all over this state, pro, yo.

6. I bake stuff this summer. Yesterday I baked lemon almond pull-aparts and homemade wheat bread. Two days before that: magic coconut squares. Two days before that: brownies with nutmeg and banana and raspberry-chocolate frosting. Four days before that: oatmeal raspberry bars. I’m feeling like I should get into cooking instead of baking. But alas! No I will not until I am good and ready BECAUSE:

6a. Intuitive Eating. Is a book that every woman should read up and down and all over. BECAUSE IT IS REVOLUTIONARY THAT IS WHY! Here’s what you do: you give yourself unconditional permission to eat. Whatever you want, whenever you want. You don’t feel guilty when you’re hungry. You don’t put off eating as long as possible. You don’t tell yourself you don’t deserve to eat this or that because you didn’t exercise. (And now that I’m enumerating these unwritten rules of womanhood, how silly do they seem? Sometimes, I want to quit this whole female world because it is just downright weird.) You listen to your body and you don’t keep eating when you’re already full because you know that you can eat again whenever you want! And never, never do you go on a diet. You just listen to yourself and eat normally. Eat when hungry. Stop when full. No scales or calorie counting or points or grams of what-the-freak ever. YOU JUST EAT. So right now, when I’m baking up a storm, I’m just experimenting with my unconditional permission to eat. I don’t restrict foods and I don’t label foods ‘good’ or ‘bad.’ I focus on how each food makes me feel, and I eat whatever sounds good right that minute. I eat mindfully and taste my food so that I don’t eat a ton and then feel overstuffed and uncomfortable and grumpy and mean.

Gracious, I can’t even talk about it any more because I’m just getting too worked up because I am just frustrated that nobody ever told me that this was an option. that JUST EATING was an option. Here goes: EATING IS AN OPTION. Let yourself be free. The end.

7. I hate tangled sheets almost as much as I hate cold feet and, ironically, socks.


I needed to say all that. kthanksbye.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

P.S., C.S.

“You never know how much you believe anything until its truth or its falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you...only a real risk tests the reality of a belief.”

C.S. Lewis said that.

I feel you, C.S.

You know what you’re talking about, that’s for sure. Because I believe in a lot of things—the essential nature of the family, of music education in public schools, and in God. But which of these have I tested to the limit prescribed by my dear friend C.S. Lewis? Which of these have I made a matter of life and death, or has circumstance dictated I do such?

And, on which of my beliefs am I willing to take a real risk? 

In those unbearable life moments of grief and pain and pressure when no choice seems possible, let alone beneficial, what belief is the one I will choose as my lifeline to uphold me through the treachery?

It is God. I am young and sometimes I kid myself and think my life has been hard—it hasn’t. Especially in relation to many, many others. But my willingness to sacrifice for God has shown up—and yes, the truth or falsehood of it has been both a literal and emotional matter of life and death.

There have been times when my prayers have been met with aching silence. I have cried on my knees and wondered if the God I thought I loved so well knew me at all. Some of these times I have anguished for hours over whatever problem was present, some times I have given up in my own disappointment and crawled under the covers.

In Alma 18 Ammon asks King Lamoni, “What wilt thou that I should do for thee, O king?” and the king doesn’t answer him for an hour because he doesn’t know what to say. Then, Ammon asks: “What desirest thou of me?” And again, the king doesn’t answer him. This is when Ammon gets filled with the Spirit and is able to read Lamoni’s thoughts and talk to him about it.

Ammon didn’t know how long that hour was going to last. If I were him, I would have been shifting and pacing all over the place in that tension. It’s only when Ammon asks again that he gets filled with the Spirit. Only when he exerted the faith to put forth another effort after waiting so long.

So sometimes I’m Ammon, and instead of waiting and patiently exerting more faith and effort, I just bang on God’s door and try to convince Him to answer.

A girl bore her testimony in my new ward on Sunday and she was talking about dressing her 18 month old son. She said, "I just looked at him and said, ‘Ryan! We do this every day. This would be so much easier if you wouldn’t fight me on it!’ And I just thought, ‘Wow. God is just right in my face here!’ How often is He trying to say to me, ‘This would be so much easier if you wouldn’t fight me.’”

P.S., C.S. Lewis: I love you.