I am getting so excited and so nervous to be part of this Local Author Fair and Book Signing at the Barrington Area Library in Illinois. I have done book signings but only at my work with people that I know. Please come and say hello. I would love to meet anyone who has read my books or my blogs.
So many people won't start running or join a health club until they lose weight or get in better shape. Just like people feel they have to be a better person before they come to church or even to pray to God. For years, I felt the same way; that I didn't deserve God's love or forgiveness. I thought that I needed to get my act together first, but it is the opposite. God welcomes us all into a relationship with him, just as we are.
My faith journey started out the same as anyone else being raised Catholic. I was baptized; I had my reconciliation, my first communion and my confirmation. My spiritual foundation consisted of attending CCD, which was what religious education was called back in the 70's, and memorizing prayers and the Ten Commandments. I attended Church on the main holidays and sometimes in between, and I prayed to God at holiday meals and sometimes before bed. I felt that I was doing my part to check off the box, religion expectation, of living a good life. I believed at the time that what I was doing was enough, but then the hard times started coming. At times the rain fell so hard, I could no longer see a blue sky in my future.
In the late 1980's, a friend and co-worker at a Girls Group Home we worked at invited me to attend Willow Creek Community Church with her. I think that she invited me because we had seen some horrible experiences in the lives of some of these young girls, and we had discussed how to come to terms with it. Little did she know that she was throwing me a lifeline. I immediately loved Willow, attending and buying Cassette tapes of the worship and messages. I attended some classes and bought a book called "With God all things are possible". I still have that book although the pages are falling out from so much use. The rainbows still did not appear in my life, but I could see specks of blue behind the clouds now. This path of praying for God to guide me and to help me continued for the next 28 years. Since I wanted my girls to have their own faith and a sense of belonging, I returned back to the Catholic Church to raise them in a faith that I understood and that I could check off the steps they needed to do, for me to raise them to be a good person. There were many valleys and mountains during those years as I married, had three daughters, got divorced and started a new relationship. I continued to search book after book to help me in my life, to show me the right and true path for me. When life was going well, my prayers subsided, and I would get lost in living life here on earth, but when times got hard I would cry out for God to help me. After yet another very low valley in my life, I felt compelled to return to church. I am still lost and lonely at times, but I am slowly creating a new life.
Thanks for reading my words. I hope they touched you in some way. Follow me on this blog or on my Facebook Author page for more thoughts about life and for the release date of Growing Flowers.
Susan Marie Schulhof
is the proud mother of three adult daughters and lives in the Chicago area. Riding Waves is her first novel, and she
is currently writing her second one called Growing
Flowers. She graduated from Northern Illinois University with a Bachelor’s
Degree in Psychology and has worked for Bright Horizons Family Solutions since
2001. She published the non-fiction book Fun4Babies
in 2013, writes an inspirational blog called Sharing My Truths (http://susanmarieschulhof.blogspot.com)
and is on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Instagram. She is an active presence
at Willow Creek Community Church in South Barrington, Illinois.
As I look around, I spot my family sitting
together in the second row. They must have arrived early for my college
graduation to have such great seats. I know that they all had to rearrange
their schedules and get off work to be here for me and that means more to me
than I could ever explain. Jake’s fiancée, Kristy, is here too. I am not sure
when they are getting married, but they got engaged this summer. Jake and
Kristy both got jobs after going to Layton Community College. Ava and Sara are
fifteen now and enjoying high school. Ava is involved in the drama program, and
Sara is on the soccer team. They are both taller and much more beautiful than I
could even imagine them becoming. Everywhere we go people stare at them. They
get more attention when they are together, but even alone people look. I never
told them the details of my relationship with Dan, but we have had long
discussions about drinking, drugs, sex and following your feelings. Maybe
someday, I will share with them the truth, but for now, I just want to be a
good example to them.
My mom always had problems with her back,
but since it got worse from lifting patients at the hospital, she no longer
works as a nurse. Then my dad got a promotion, at his job, so they seem okay
without her salary. I am moving back home now, but hopefully I can get my own
place soon. Maybe Emma and I will live together after she graduates next year.
I always thought that it would be fun to live with friends before settling down
to get married and have a family, although I use to think it would be with
Ashley. I don’t miss Dan really, but I do miss Ashley all of the time. I still
hope and pray that after more time has passed, we will be friends again. It was
hard to hear her say that she will never forgive me for what I did to her
brother although I am not sure what I exactly she thinks that I did to Dan. I
begged her to talk to me about it, but she wouldn’t. It makes me sad, but I
know that the only thing I am guilty of was letting it last as long as it did.
I heard that she is graduating this year and moving back in with her parents,
as well, while she looks for a job. I wonder if we will run into each other in
South Haven since it is a fairly small town. Everyone kind of drifted apart
after high school, and I spend most of my time with Emma, Jon and my family,
but I did hear that she got back with her boyfriend even after he cheated on
her. I am not sure if they are still together or where he lives though.
I always knew that this day would come, but
a couple of years ago I wondered if I would even be happy, but I am. I try to
enjoy everything about life now, the good as well as the bad. The relationship
with Dan taught me to listen to and trust myself. I still struggle with that
because I don’t like to disappoint people, but I know that in order to truly
love, I must include myself in those that I love.
Coincidentally, Ethan ended up in my math
class again the next quarter. He avoided me the first few weeks; then when I
finally told him that I broke up with Dan, we talked a little bit.
I never heard what Dan did after I broke up
with him. We don’t really have the many of the same friends, and if our mutual
acquaintances know, they didn’t tell me. I guess that it was bad that I broke
up with him on Thanksgiving, but I had been trying to end things for months though.
I would guess he didn’t go through with his old threat to try to kill himself
since he looked at me with such hatred as he walked away from me that morning.
Even during summer breaks, I avoided the dock and the pizza place and just hung
out with my family, Emma and a couple friends from high school.
Dan never came to any more parties at
Patrick’s house or Jon’s at The University of Harrisburg. He also refused to
talk to Jake after I broke up with him. I am not sure why, but I know that was
hard on Jake, and he was angry with me for a while about it. I never told him
either how Dan treated me, so he just thinks that I broke up with him so that I
could date other guys at school. I did hear though that Dan has a new
girlfriend, and I am truly happy for him. I hope that they have a better
relationship than we had. I do forgive him, but that doesn’t mean that it was
okay to treat me the way that he did.
I am still trying to forgive myself for the
part that I played in this relationship, but I can at least look back on our
relationship and focus on the positive things that came from it. I grew up so
much and learned about myself, as well as, learned what I want in a
relationship. I dated a few guys in college, but no one that I wanted to get
serious with. The last two and a half years, I focused on myself, on my friends
and on my education. Emma is one of the biggest blessings of my relationship
with Dan. We are truly best friends, and she knows all of my dark secrets.
A few months after breaking up with Dan, I
told her how I used to cut myself to numb the pain that I was feeling. She
didn’t turn away from me in disgust and even said that she understood why I
would do that. She admitted that is what she did with the drugs and drinking.
Even though she is a year younger, she is very wise from all that she has been
though. She still inspires me to become all that I am capable of being. I tried
to stay positive, but for a while after Dan and I broke up, I would remember
the past and get sad. She would talk me through it, just like I would talk her
through memories of her own dark days. Even now if I fall back into old habits,
I remember the words that she said to me once. She said, “Harper, life is hard
sometimes. People don’t always treat you like you want or deserve to be
treated, but you can’t hold it all in. Get rid of that negativity and think a
She says that I rewrote what she said to me
and that her words weren’t quite as eloquent, but that is what I remember her
saying that day. I understand now that was what I was doing at the beach the
day that I was preparing myself to break up with Dan. This has become a
practice, in addition to our Tai Chi, that Emma and I both do. We will go to
the beach, or I will do it when I am just out running. I simply stretch my
hands out to nature and tell myself to release all of the negativity that I am
holding onto. It does seem to really help, and I can feel a flow of energy
coursing out of my fingertips, releasing it to God. I still write in my journal,
but Emma never used the one that I bought her. She says that writing is not her
style. I think that Ava and Sara still keep their journals though.
“Is your family here Harper?” the guy
sitting next to me asks. I think that his name is Colin, but I don’t really
“Yes. Is yours?”
“No. My mom is a doctor, and she couldn’t
get off work. They are coming in tomorrow.”
I say, “Oh,” back because I don’t know what
else to say. I cannot imagine my parents not being here for me today.
I realize that he probably thought they
weren’t here because I keep looking around, but I am looking for Emma and Jon.
I look around again and finally spot them a few rows behind my family and to
the right. Emma has been dating Josh for a couple of years now, and she has one
more year of college left. I am not sure what I will do not being able to see
her every day. Jon graduated two years ago, but stayed at UH to get his
Master’s Degree in Psychology. He will make a perfect Psychologist. He is
caring and balanced and has also become one of my closest friends. I felt a
little jealous when he started dating Marta last year, but they seem good
together. I don’t see him as often as I used to, but he still calls me Angel,
and I know that he would be there for me if I ever needed anything.
I received my Bachelor’s degree in English
with my certification to teach. Although I didn’t love going to high school, I
do want to make a difference in other people’s lives. I did get a job helping
in the learning lab at my old elementary school that starts this fall. Mrs.
Ryan helped me find it, and I know that she was pivotal in me getting hired
over all of the other people that applied for it. I think that I will love
helping kids that struggle with reading and writing in school. I want to
publish a book of my poems and maybe get my Master’s Degree in Creative Writing
someday, but I am just taking life one day at a time for now.
After the ceremony, I walk out where my
family is talking to Jon and Emma. I give everyone hugs and thank them for
coming. My dad has reservations at a Japanese steakhouse in town for my
celebration since my graduation is in the afternoon.
“Is Marta meeting us Jon?” I ask.
“No. We broke up last week. She is sweet,
but she just isn’t the girl for me. You know what I mean, Angel?” he says with
I smile at him and nod. I know that there
are no perfect endings in life, only different endings. I still wish that the
world was perfect sometimes, but I am working on accepting the perfection of
living in an imperfect world.