Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles


I love handbags. So does my daughter. In fact, yesterday she spent a gift card she got for Christmas from #5 and bought herself a new purse! Metallic silver, ruffled, super stylish–if she doesn’t watch out, her mom may be tempted to borrow it. It’s as cute as any purse I’ve ever seen, including silk ones.

Which reminds me: you’ve heard the expression regarding making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear?

I like to think of it as making the best from what you’ve got to work with. Choosing to create something to enhance your experience out of something not so desirable. Like what we each must do in an unexpected life.

Although, “One disadvantage of being a hog is that at any moment some blundering fool may try to make a silk purse out of your wife’s ear.” (J.B. Morton)

Passion for purses aside, I’m thinking I should be thankful #5 is fit, trim and very unlike a hog…and that I’m not quite his wife yet, huh?

Some time in 2011.

Stay tuned.

It’s Grand

“A man begins cutting his wisdom teeth the first time he bites off more than he can chew.” (Herb Caen)

Sometimes we bite off more than we can chew through choices we make and sometimes we’re thrust into overwhelming situations through no choice of our own that can leave our jaws flapping! That’s the unexpected life, regardless of how it comes. But I can’t emphasize this aspect enough: if we handle it right, we gain valuable life experience, we learn important lessons and we increase in wisdom. And we can do great things with what we’ve learned.

Like Walt Disney, who rose above his own setbacks to create a magical legacy and impact millions even after he was gone: “All the adversity I’ve had in my life, all my troubles and obstacles, have strengthened me… You may not realize it when it happens, but a kick in the teeth may be the best thing in the world for you.” (Walt Disney)

Speaking of wisdom and teeth, my daughter had her’s removed a few days ago. Prior to her surgery, the oral surgeon walked into the room, looked at me and asked, “You’ve been here before, haven’t you?”

I replied, “No.”

He looked puzzled, stared at me and said, “Really? You look so familiar. I am trying to figure out where I’ve seen you. I’m just sure I have met you before.”

I joked that I have blonde hair, blue eyes and we live in the state of Utah where it seems like the majority of the state’s residents look like I do, so no surprise that I look familiar. He laughed and walked out of the room to get what he needed to begin the procedure on my daughter. When the door closed, I realized how far we’ve come…and yet how some things haven’t changed much.

When the door clicked shut, the first words out of my daughter’s mouth were, “Mom! You’ve GOT to be kidding me! Don’t tell me you dated HIM too?” (That’s the part that hasn’t changed!)

Yet I realized how far we’ve come when it dawned on me after the doctor had left the room (and after I had defended myself against my daughter’s accusation—and for the record, NO, I did not date that doctor!) that when he commented that I looked familiar, I didn’t cringe; I didn’t inwardly cower in fear that he might have seen me in the media, connected to a crime I had no part of (other than that I happened to be married to the man who perpetrated the crime.) Honestly, and surprisingly, for maybe the first time in my unexpected life, that hadn’t even crossed my mind—it was almost as if I’d forgotten about it and hadn’t even realized I’d forgotten, that’s how natural the process of forgetting, aka. healing, has become.  I was sure I seemed familiar to him because I live in a state where a large percentage of the population descends from Scandinavian immigrants!

Apparently, I’ve developed something. Unexpected amnesia, occasionally, regarding the trauma that led to my unexpected life. I anticipate as we move further and further from 2009, I’ll forget what led to my new opportunities more and more. As Robert Louis Stevenson said, “I’ve a grand memory for forgetting.”

And isn’t THAT grand?


If “Life itself is the proper binge,” said Julia Child, I guess you could say I’ve been on an unexpected…binge the past 1 1/2 years! And I confess, I’ve been a bit of a glutton. None of that “taste one thing on your plate at a time.” I’ve crammed (or had forced upon me) many unexpected life experiences, all at the same time. My plate has been filled to overflowing.

Although it was overwhelming, looking back, it may have been a blessing. Rather than experience one devasting loss, and be temped to dwell on it for longer than was good for me, it seemed like each day brought a new realization or revelation of a new devastation–it was always “on to the next one!” There wasn’t time to mourn the losses individually, too many were thrust upon me at once.

So if you’re feeling overwhelmed by the challenges of life, if it’s “pouring” on you or your plate is heaping with adversity, look on the bright side. And dig in. Because at some point, possibly even sooner than you think, your binge will end. You’ll have to explore something other than your unexpected life. And hopefully, if you ingest it right, you’ll have learned some valuable secret recipes.

“I am not a glutton, I am an explorer of food.” (Erma Bombeck)

Life Is Like A Marathon

“I thought about running a marathon a long time ago, but I’m just not a runner.” (Shannon Miller) I thought about it, too, long enough to laugh. Then I sat down and rested because even the thought of it depleted my strength!

There are a lot of similarities between running and life. Unfortunately, in life, you can’t decide you’re not a runner and quit. You have to keep living. And you have to put something into the effort.

“Running is the greatest metaphor for life, because you get out of it what you put into it.” (Oprah Winfrey)

My dad was a runner and he got me out of bed early each morning to go running as a teenager. I didn’t love it, I did it because I didn’t have a choice. And of course, it wasn’t until much later that I looked back and saw how much that experience helped me. The coaching from my dad, and his insistence that I get up each morning and face the task ahead even though I dreaded it,  is what helped me get out of bed every morning to face the misery of my unexpected life in 2009.

His insistence that I run even when I was tired or didn’t want to, helped train me to keep putting one foot in front of the other, no matter how much I wanted to quit, until I finished what I had to do. Because in running, if you quit, you miss out on the “high” that eventually comes. You don’t get the thrill of victory as you cross the finish line. But if you endure it well, hang in there, make it through adversity when life is the hardest and most challenging, it’s your opportunity to shine, with your finest performance.

“I ran my fastest marathon in the rain.” (Bill Rodgers)

So as the challenges of our unexpected lives rain down on us, may we rise to the occasion and even above it, and perform to the best of our ability. Turn in our best times. And eventually, be able to look back and see that the hard times were even possibly some of our best times.

That’s what my unexpected life is teaching me.


“A man’s character may be learned from the adjectives which he habitually uses in conversation.” (Mark Twain)

There’s nothing that reveals character like the unexpected life. And if we’re judging things by the adjectives I’ve learned to use, I’d say the unexpected life revealed some flaws I hadn’t known were there.

It has always been a joke in my family that I can’t cuss.

It’s not that I haven’t known the proper words to use. My amazing Nana had the MOST colorful way of expressing herself for most of my life. And both of my parents occasionally “slipped” when addressing frustrations (usually in relation to my brothers! haha) and taught them to me unintentionally. It’s mostly that I just was never comfortable using those expressions. And it was so out of character for me to express myself that way, it never worked when I tried. I simply wasn’t good at it.

Early in my first marriage, I cussed at my former husband–to make a point, of course. He stopped as soon as I said the word, and laughed! He shook his head, told me not to do that any more, that it just wasn’t me and it didn’t work for me. He laughed about it the rest of our marriage.

Then 2005 arrived. It was a challenging year. My oldest was in 7th grade and experimenting with a new appearance, growing his hair longer and dressing like a skater–in the style of Elmo, I mean Emo (sorry to all of the Emo people out there!) and acting a little careless to match his hairstyle. At the same time, my last child was born. I experienced some complications and spent a couple of months in and out of the hospital and the year following his birth continuing to heal and recover. On top of that, my baby had health/sensory challenges of his own and cried almost constantly the first two years of his life. And my mom died. (All of the above took place as my oldest attempted to “find” himself at 12 1/2 years old.)

One day, I lost it and cussed at my oldest son. I remember where I was standing when I did it–his bedroom. He stopped as soon as I said the word, and laughed! He shook his head and told me I shouldn’t attempt that any more, that I was terrible at cussing, and has teased me about it ever since.

Enter the unexpected life. Although I was almost perfectly kind and polite to the former husband who became a stranger in one fateful moment March 18, 2009, I remember an occasion in which I used an inappropriate adjective several times when addressing some issues I had with him and what he had done. (In my defense, it was absolutely mild and merciful compared to what I was thinking and feeling at the time!) And then one morning not too long ago, things that had been building inside me for awhile came to a head and I used an inappropriate adjective in speaking to my oldest again. Sadly, no one laughed. Because the word worked.

I felt bad about that all day long. Is that what my unexpected life had come to and created in me–an ability to demonstrate my “poverty of thought?” (That’s how I’d viewed cussing up until that time.) I even called a friend and confessed my language challenge to her. She knew just what to say. She good-naturedly told me not to worry about it; that I had used a word that is a location, so it didn’t count as cussing! THAT sure gave me a good laugh on a day that I needed one.

So although the unexpected life I hope has revealed positive attributes (my ability to endure, forgive, remain honest, work hard, look at the bright side and choose happiness despite it all) it has revealed a character flaw, or two, as well. Darn it.

And oh, well. Because although I’ve already revealed my ignorance about diamonds in previous ring shopping posts, I still say, as did Confucius, “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.” Consider me flawed, yet with the potential to dazzle as I overcome my challenges.

I believe there is hope for me and every other diamond-in-the-rough out there yet. It’s called life, and its attendant adversity–guaranteed to refine us and make us what we need to be; to help us be better than we would otherwise have been, as long as we choose to let it.

“Adversity is the diamond dust Heaven polishes its jewels with.” (Thomas Carlyle)

If we just keep going, making the most of our challenges, I guarantee we’ll be dazzling someday.

Thanks to the unexpected life.

Horse Sense

“I love it. The rich smell of horse poop, there’s nothing like it anywhere.” (Fern Michaels, Kentucky Rich)

Life is full of the unexpected. And sometimes you learn lessons in the most unexpected places and from the most unexpected things.

For example, when I was a girl, I learned I didn’t enjoy riding horses. I discovered this tidbit about myself the day I was riding a stubborn horse named “Ol’ Yeller” at my grandpa’s farm. I don’t know that she liked kids anyway, but I know for sure she didn’t like giving kids rides at feeding time.

I was on her back, doing my best to trot around the pasture with her, when my grandpa happened to walk by with her bucket of feed. She knew darn well what it was, and she made it clear that my ride was over. Down I slid into a pile of manure. “Rich” indeed.

Well, you can guess what I did. I wanted to quit. But my dad wouldn’t let me. He got on the horse and ran her up and down the lane a few times, before he made me get on with him for a quick ride, just so the horse (and I) would know who was boss; and that I was not a quitter.

I learned some important lessons that day. You might call it, “horse sense”–gleaned from “Ol’ Yeller” and a rich, brown, fresh, fragrant pile of manure.

“It is not enough for a man to know how to ride; he must know how to fall.” Falls are a part of life. And since you can’t avoid them, it’s best to learn how to fall. Preferably on your feet. But always prepared to pick yourself up and carry on.

“There are only two emotions that belong in the saddle; one is a sense of humor and the other is patience.” I can’t say it enough. In life, choose to laugh and you’ll always find the bright side–and something to be grateful for. As to the other–patience–a fair bit of that is required when things are unexpected. Besides, it’s a virtue!

“I sit astride life like a bad rider on a horse. I only owe it to the horse’s good nature that I am not thrown off at this very moment.” (Ludwig Wittgenstein) Like a horse, the unexpected life can throw us off at any moment. Watch out for manure! And be grateful for the moments you are in the saddle, and not thrust into anything unexpected, like the brown stuff you might slide into should you become unseated.

Lastly, “If your horse says no, you either asked the wrong question or asked the question wrong.” Lol. However, I do believe in trying to learn from mistakes or attempting to find the meaning in experiences. It helps make the unexpected life worthwhile!

My News Story

It’s official.

The “exciting” event I foreshadowed in a blog last month actually became an “exciting” event for my middle son yesterday–he got to see himself on t.v.!

Cheryl Preheim, a news personality on NBC affiliate Channel 9 in Denver, CO, did a story on our family’s experience which aired, for the first time, last night.

Click here to see the news story.

But to keep it all in perspective, I’m reminded of some wisdom Abe Lincoln shared, “What kills a skunk is the publicity it gives itself.”

Just don’t call me Flower.

I Didn’t Even Debate It

While we were waiting for the ring…

“I told my therapist I was having nightmares about nuclear explosions. He said don’t worry it’s not the end of the world.” (Jay London)

I have a friend who’s a therapist. He can’t be my “official” therapist due to a conflict of interest because of our friendship, but he makes a fabulous friend. He is always there with brilliant counsel, and I would think twice about ever disregarding his friendly advice. In fact, if I’ve never told him, I don’t know what I would have done without him on March 18, 2009.

My world had fallen apart and the question of the day from everyone–my husband, his attorney, the government, my church leaders, my friends, my family, my children, EVERYONE–was, “What are you going to do?” Unfortunately, I didn’t have a clue.

I don’t remember if he called me or I called him, but my conversation with him was one of the most important and valuable that day. When he asked, ‘Andrea, what are you going to do?” I replied, “I don’t know. All I know is that I want to do what is best for my children. And it seems to be…” I shared my thoughts with him.

Doing what I felt was best for my children was my #1 goal in the whole unexpected life thing. They had their whole lives ahead of them; and as much as it broke my heart to acknowledge it, I’d had my chance. Regardless of their adversity, they still had lives to live. They needed to learn, grow, overcome, accomplish, and LIVE. It was my responsibility to help them do that.

It’s what my mom had done for me when I was growing up and our family was tried and tested in the adversity of losing our father, lifestyle, life and everything as we’d known it. (Although not to the extent my children lost theirs.) It’s what her mom had done for her when their family was tried and tested in the adversity of losing their father, lifestyle, life and everything as they’d known it. And I knew I owed my children the same thing.

My mother, and her example of rising above adversity and carrying on, and that she taught me to do that, had made all of the difference in my life. When my unexpected life hit, I knew exactly how to act and what to do–to carry on–because she had taught me that.

My friend, the therapist, responded with something that helped me continue the path I had chosen. It set an important course for my unexpected life when he said, “Andrea, if only every woman, every parent, in trauma, adversity, marital stress, divorce, and every other hard thing that comes in life did that, their children would be so much better off! There would be a lot more healthy, happy children in the world.”

So as we’ve lived our unexpected life, I’ve tried to focus on helping my children overcome and be what they should be regardless of the challenging circumstances we’ve found ourselves in. And as I see my children healing and finding happiness and joy again, I believe time has proved my decision to be the right one. After all, it’s not what happens to you, really, that counts. It’s what you do with it. The most important thing to me is that my children grow to become good, kind, responsible, law abiding citizens who contribute to the good of the world. And it’s possible to do that regardless of the obstacles in your path. That’s why I chose to put my children first. It was my therapist friend who backed me up in that decision, too.

So, one of the first people I called after reaching my decision to remarry was this friend.

He’d already met Bachelor #5 (that was prerequisite to me making my decision), and when I asked him what I should do next he recommended premarital counseling. He gave me the name of a therapist he knew who specialized in remarriage and I didn’t even debate it. I called and booked an appointment.

Shock…And A Grin

“Crimes sometimes shock us too much; vices almost always too little.” (Augustus Hare)

Night before last I was up until midnight, hanging out and chatting with my oldest. Talking about anything and everything EXCEPT the sentencing of his father which took place yesterday. But it had to have been on his mind because he didn’t seem to want to be alone with his thoughts; I sensed he needed someone to talk to.

When he went to bed, I checked on my 10-year-old and found him crying in his bed, worried about the pending sentencing of his father. I offered words of encouragement, tried to help him look at the bright side and attempted to cheer him up–until nearly 1:30 a.m. It broke my heart and I realized in that moment, regardless of the outcome of the sentencing and the remorse my former husband feels for what he has done to so many people, there are some things he just won’t quite understand. He hasn’t been around to witness it firsthand; he has been incarcerated. He hasn’t had to look into the devastated faces of our children. He didn’t have to (or get to) watch them live with pain He caused. He hasn’t had to help them pick up the pieces and struggle to carry on and create a new life when the going was tougher than any of us ever imagined.

But, I sent everyone to school, to press forward in their lives and with their responsibilities despite the challenging circumstances–and I went to work, too, awaiting word of the sentencing outcome. Looking back, I think I worked all day under an inordinate amount of stress. I don’t think I even realized the stress I was operating under until I got a phone call near the end of the day. A Colorado friend was calling to report the outcome of my former spouse’s sentencing hearing for operating a Ponzi scheme/stealing over $20 million.

I anticipated, based on the last collect call I received from my former spouse, that the hearing would take two hours. Instead, more than eight hours later my friend called, crying, to report the maximum sentence had been handed down in a courtroom whose atmosphere was so tense and hateful she felt sick to her stomach.

I don’t know what more I can say about the importance of choosing to heal instead of hate, but I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) He was absolutely right.

So as my friend recounted the events of the day, I really only heard a few words: The maximum, 12 1/2 years.

How was I going to tell my children?

I don’t know what I wanted the outcome to be; I don’t know what I expected. I have only prayed that I will be o.k. with whatever the judge decides and that somehow, I will be able to help my children be o.k. with it too. But to hear the words, “151 months,” “12 1/2 years” shocked me. It sent me into a very unprofessional, uncontrollable crying-in-the-workplace episode; the likes of which I never expected or imagined.

My poor co-workers. I’ve held it together for over a year. I’ve never done anything like that in public that I can recall. But today was so unexpected. The unstoppable wail of a woman in shock, broken-hearted, traumatized by the senseless destruction and tragedy unleashed on so many by the terrible choices of one man. The grief of a mother knowing the next time her teenage son saw his father that son would be almost 30 years old. The cry of a single mother trying to hold her little family together, knowing she had be the one to share the bad news and see pain in a little boy’s eyes, again, when he learned the fate of his father.

If I ever think I’m having a bad day…remind me of March 18, 2009, or September 14, 2010.

Shaking, somehow I managed to drive all the way home, bawling, and tried to pull myself together enough to face my children. To break their hearts one more time. I’ll never forget the dread I felt as I pulled up to my home, knowing what I had to go inside and do. Break my children’s hearts.

I spoke with my daughter first. I told her the outcome and she accepted it calmly, with grace and dignity (unlike her mother.)

I sat my 10-year-old down and prepared him for the news. He was happy and smiling until that moment then a serious expression came to his face as I shared the events of the day. Instead of the devastation I anticipated, he chose to look at the bright side, “Well, if he has already served 13 months, and he gets time off for good behavior, he’ll be free to see us when I’m only in college! That’s not so bad!”

Stoic and optimistic. All on his own. I could not have been more proud of him than I was in that moment. And despite the terrible struggle coming to terms with his father’s choices has been for him, I was amazed at how my sweet son has grown over the past 18 months. If I can only help him realize that if he will choose to handle all of the setbacks that come his way like today’s, he is destined for greatness–regardless of, or perhaps because of, his adversity.

My oldest son got the news on his phone before he even got home. When I sat him down to tell him, he already knew. Everything was what he had expected, and he is to the point in his life where he is actually grateful for all that he has learned as a result of all that he has passed through. He can see how he has been blessed as a result of his trials, so he tried to laugh about it–revealing he and his sister had placed bets on the outcome and he had gotten out of doing the dishes this week!

I guess everyone deals with shock, grief and trauma in their own way. Who’s to say which way is right or wrong? Certainly not me. But as one co-worker encouraged when I was in the throes of my unexpected reaction and trying to apologize for it, “I’d worry about you if you didn’t react.”

Note to self: one “secret” to the unexpected life is to let yourself feel so you can heal. (Just remember: no wallowing!)

We did that yesterday, each of us in our own way, and as I sent my children to bed each had a smile on their face, which brought one to mine. We’ve survived another unexpected development in our unexpected life…and we came out grinning.

“It’s easy to grin when your ships come in and you’ve got the stock market beat, but the man worth while is the man who can smile when his pants are too tight in the seat.”

We’re going to be o.k.

And now, back to the chick-flick portion of my unexpected life. What’s coming just might be worthy of a grin, too.

We Press On In Spite Of The Red Stuff

I met my cousin and her husband for breakfast yesterday.

Like all of us, in the course of their almost 24-year marriage and raising four children, they have experienced a very fair share of their own adversities. But I loved their life philosophy and had to share it: “As long as everyone is conscious, and there is no blood, we’re ok. We can get through anything!”

When faced with a challenge, they take stock of the situation, make sure everyone is conscious and the blood is taken care of, and they press on!

It’s a good perspective to have and a good way to face life and its unexpected growth opportunities.

It works, too. (Except maybe for parents of sons who play ice hockey and lacrosse! lol. Then you play on in spite of the blood!) I remember attending one of my son’s basketball games and his best friend, who also played ice hockey with him, got hit in the face. Blood was gushing everywhere. The refs stopped the game, the boy was taken out and given first aid while the court was cleaned. To everyone’s surprise (except my son, who has the passion for hockey of Joe Sakic and other professionals) the boy returned shortly, gauze hanging out of each nostril like some kind of deformed unicorn-type creature, demanding to go back in and play. The adults were dubious about letting the boy play but my son and others said, “It’s ok! He’s a hockey player!”

They let the boy back in the game and he played his heart out. So I guess sometimes we press on in spite of the red stuff too.

“Victory at all costs, victory in spite of terror, victory however long and hard the road may be; for without victory there is no survival.” (Winston Churchill)

And as an added bonus, sometimes we even win the game.


“Victory belongs to the most persevering.” (Napoleon Bonaparte)


Bookmark and Share