Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

After “The End”: The Inevitability of a Sequel

“I suppose sequels are inevitable for a writer of a certain age.” (John Updike)

I guess I should have known better than to write “The End” (and not just because I’m of a “certain age”–I turned 50 this year!) But because it’s never “the end.” Life never stops changing. We can never stop pressing forward, rising above our challenges, striving for happiness and creating a happily ever after; and we certainly never reach “the end” of learning and growing. There are ALWAYS new things to learn. So I’ve come to realize I may always have things to write about.

So let me be the first to welcome you to the sequel of my unexpected life.

THE Unexpected Life.

I’m back!



There’s Nothing Like Halloween To…

“Charlie Brown is the one person I identify with. C.B. is such a loser. He wasn’t even the star of his own Halloween special.” (Chris Rock)

There’s nothing like Halloween to…make you feel like a loser.

That’s how I felt last night anyway. I’m past the Ponzi scheme, past the divorce, past the complete world and life change, etc…but as I sat home alone on Halloween for the first time in my life and passed out candy to trick-or-treaters, I think I was was a little sad not to be “the star” of Halloween this year.

Every other year since becoming a mother I’ve planned the costumes, purchased the candy, made a festive dinner, and taken my children trick-or-treating. This year my oldest was at college; my daughter was working at Cold Stone; and my husband took my two youngest trick-or-treating at their request. I don’t know if it was being home alone on Halloween night for the very first time in my life or if it was the result of all the chocolate I ate (you know, the low that comes on the heels of a sugar high from eating WAY too much candy!) but I some serious orange and black nostalgia.

I missed my dad, who always took my siblings and me trick-or-treating as children. Those thoughts led to nostalgia for the carefree, innocent days of childhood.

Then I missed the Halloweens I’ve celebrated as a mother. Those thoughts made me miss my old life, just a little bit.

And then THOSE thoughts made me realize 2011 was my 18th Halloween as a mother! A milestone of sorts. And I realized: I’m not just a Halloween loser, I’m a middle-aged Halloween loser! Aaaauuggghhh! (Isn’t that what Charlie Brown always said?)

I remembered my first Halloween as a mother, 1993—my cute six-month-old baby, dressed like a clown, crawling to the trick-or-treat candy bowl and helping himself to lollipops. He didn’t know what to do with them at that age, but he loved the crinkly sounds the wrappers made! Skinny little Dum-Dum sticks grasped tightly and awkwardly in chubby baby fingers and tight baby fists. I’ll never forget that.

Halloween, and life, was very different then. In 1993, I had the world by the tail and thought my biggest challenge was going to be my attempt at motherhood, trying to be a good mother to my children; I had NO IDEA all that life would deliver to my door, and that not all of it would be as welcome as the continuous “ding’dong” of a doorbell on Halloween night.

I guess life is like that for all of us, huh?

Well, that baby clown is grown and gone. And there I was, home alone, crying as I passed out candy to trick-or-treaters, thinking about that, how fast the past 18 years have gone and all that my family has lived through.

Rest assured, however, that grown baby clown did nothing of the sort. Nostaliga? Heck no!  He was too busy making the rounds at university Halloween dances this year, dressed as a giant Whoopee Cushion, solo dancing on stages around BYU’s campus, performing some awe-inspiring, “shuffle” dance moves that are currently all the rage. I confess, picturing a giant Whoopee Cushion busting dance moves to which college crowds gathered around to watch wiped away some of my melancholy—as did the realization that I have only myself to blame.

I mean, what do you get when you use, as a disciplinary consequence, dance parties in the kitchen? Worse, what do you get when you make your children dance to the song of your choice if they misbehave…and if you make THEM watch YOU dance if they’ve been really, really bad?

Ironically, a pretty well-behaved mostly grown up Whoopee Cushion. With some pretty excellent dance moves.

“Whoopee Cushion (noun): a type of cusion or pillow used as a practical joke that when sat upon, produces a loud noise resembling flatulence.” (

Knowns and Unknowns

“There are known knowns. These are things we know that we know. There are known unknowns. That is to say, there are things that we know we don’t know. But there are also unknown unknowns. There are things we don’t know we don’t know.” (Donald Rumsfeld)

When #5 and I were dating, shortly after he told me how he felt about me, he showed up one night with a book. It was titled something like, “1,000 Questions For Divorced People To Ask Before They Get Married Again.” He told me he thought we’d work our way through the questions in the book that night, and on future dates. That book and the whole idea of it caught me off guard, and while I thumbed through it a little bit as he drove, we didn’t really utilize it for our conversations. In fact, I probably made some jokes about it and assured #5 we didn’t need a book like that. (I mean, I interview people for a living!) And eventually, over the course of our unexpectedly long engagement, I forgot about it.

Then it came time to marry. One night I looked at him and exclaimed, “Wait! Where’s that book? We should read it!”

“What book?” he asked.

“The one about everything we need to know, and ask, before we get married,” I answered.

“I got rid of it,” he replied.

“WHAT?” I asked. “Why did you do that? We didn’t even read it.”

“You told me we didn’t need it,” he answered. “So I got rid of it.”

I took a leap of faith…and married him without the aid of that book. Everything went quite well until last week,  when I went to a bridal shower to honor the fiancee of #5′s oldest son.

During the event, they played a game where the fiancee had to answer a long list of questions about her intended. If she didn’t know the answer to a question, she had to chew a piece of bubblegum–adding a new piece to the blob that was accumulating in her mouth for each wrong answer or any answer she didn’t know. And although she ended up with a mouth full of bubblegum, she knew a LOT about #5′s son! I sat there marveling at all she knew about the man she was marrying and I came to a realization: I didn’t know #5–AT ALL.

Honeymoon over.

When I got home, #5 asked me how the evening went. I replied, “Fine, but it made me realize something.”

“What’s that?” he  asked.

“That I don’t know you–at all!” I answered. “I feel like I don’t know you at all and I’m trying to remember what we talked about the whole time we dated and were engaged, since there is so much about you I don’t know!”

“Like what?” he challenged.

I began to rattle off questions from the bridal shower I didn’t know:  favorite actor, favorite play, favorite song, favorite color, first girlfriend, first kiss and many other facts. I wanted #5′s answers; I’m married to him, I probably ought to know him!

That quest, however, brought me to additional realizations, like the realization that there is a reason I don’t know #5. To every answer except the favorite movie  one (his favorite movie is the original “Parent Trap–” he had a mad crush on Haley Mills, I think!) he either didn’t have a favorite or he needed more clarification: did I mean his first girlfriend (from 1st grade), his first REAL girlfriend, or his first girlfriend after his divorce? If experts say intelligent people tend to over-analyze questions and situations, I guess you could say the biggest thing I learned that night was the extent of #5′s intelligence; he is even more intelligent than I had originally thought! He asked for so much clarification I gave up and asked him an easy question I knew he’d know the answer to.

“Never mind, just tell me, where was our first kiss?”

Without missing a beat and without absolutely any hesitation he quickly answered, “At my house, by the door leading to the garage…” and he went on to describe everything in great detail. There was just one problem. That wasn’t OUR first kiss. THAT I knew.

“Must have been someone else,” I joked.

“It isn’t what we don’t know that gives us trouble, it’s what we know that ain’t so.” (Will Rogers)

Apparently, I’m not the only one who doesn’t KNOW things!

Second marriage moment #10. That instant where I realized, again, that I was so happily married to a man I love despite the fact I don’t even “know” him! (Or at least, trivial details about him.) And that’s ok, because as Katharine Hepburn said, “Someone asked someone who was about my age, ‘How are you?’ The answer was, ‘Fine. If you don’t ask for details.’”

When It Rains, It Pours

“However long the night the dawn will break.” (African Proverb)

Sometimes in life, especially the unexpected one, it seems like you just can’t get a break. I remember in the revelations my former husband made in March 2009, every new fact that came to light each day was worse than the one before–and it seemed to happen all day, every day, for awhile.

When it rains it pours.

And when it does that, umbrella or no umbrella (I NEVER have an umbrella!) you just have to hang on. “When it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton) Eventually things calm down, even in the most unexpected of lives. Even in the one I’ve lived.

As I progressed in my unexpected life, met #5 and continued to heal, life REALLY calmed down. Friends and family called to check on me, and I felt like, eventually, I didn’t have a lot to report; I didn’t need much, if any, help. I didn’t have a crisis I needed counsel about. My children were thriving. My job was going well. In fact, even coming up with entries (things I’d learned, things I’d experienced) for blog posts became difficult. I took it as a sign I was getting back to “normal,” as was my life.

And then not too long ago, it began to rain again. This time in earnest. But THIS time…for the good! (By this, I mean that everything that “rained” on me and my family recently was welcome and “easy” to accept and experience. I still believe the rain, even the “acid rain” of an unexpected life, can turn out to be for the good; it provides certain “nutrients” that help us grow and become so much more than we would otherwise have been. From mine, I’ve learned things I never would have learned any other way. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t necessarily want to, but I believe my growth has made me better. It’s just not always easy when you’re being showered upon with growth experiences!)

Here’s what poured out upon us recently, in less than a 2-week period:

My son got his acceptance to BYU.

The home #5 had listed for sale at the beginning of our engagement (which due to the housing slump in Utah had hardly been looked at by prospective buyers) got an offer.

The production company casting a role #5 had auditioned for and was growing his hair for contacted him and told him NOT to cut his hair, he was being considered for a speaking role (out of the almost 3,000 people that had auditioned in Utah, Europe, Africa, South America and Israel.) Even if he doesn’t end up with a part, it was exciting to be considered for a role out of so many actors who auditioned.

My middle son was selected to participate in his school district’s Science Fair, one of a few students chosen to represent his elementary school.

And so much more.

There really was only one thing missing.

And then, finally, it came too.

“So, do I think I’m missing something? I really don’t, and I think that comes with age.” (Jami Gertz)

Shrek II

With each new day, September got closer. He’d passed the ultimate slow dance test, but before I uttered THE words, I reassured myself regarding my decision by asking Bachelor #5 every question I could think of, every possible scenario I could brainstorm, and he patiently addressed them all.

I couldn’t believe it, but I continued to uncover layers of Bachelor #5.

One day, he mentioned in passing something about a master’s degree. I’d known him at least 6 months and it was the first time, apparently, THAT had come up! I stopped and asked, “Hold on, did you just say you have a MBA?” He said, “Yes, why?” I replied, “I can’t believe you’ve never told me that before. I’ve known you this long and it’s the first time you mentioned it!” He said, “Well, I told you I taught some college classes several years ago…” Yes, but I hadn’t stopped to think about what that implied. Another layer discovered.

He took my children and I to a park in the canyon near my home to play tag. Guess who couldn’t be caught? My teenage son looked at me and said, “Mom, I don’t think he’s that old! He’s really fit–and fast! I wouldn’t worry about his age any more.” Another layer gone.

Then there was the time he got on a trampoline and taught my four-year-old how to do flips. I was thinking he was pretty spry for a grandpa of 48 years old–and then when he was alone on the trampoline and thought no one was watching, he started jumping really high. Right about the time I noticed him jumping high, and started to worry he was going to hurt himself, he did a Russian! (Any former cheerleaders out there who know what that is?) The twenty-something former cheerleader I was talking to looked at me and raised her eyebrows. She really liked Bachelor #5 and probably wanted to ask, “And you think he is ‘old,’ why?” Another layer gone.

I realized, “Age is something that doesn’t matter, unless you are a cheese” (Billie Burke)

With Change Comes…Shrek

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” (Robert C. Gallagher)

Change is inevitable. The new level changed things, like disrupted Bachelor #5′s “schedule.” I saw him just three days later, instead of the usual week between dates. We went for a drive and then to a park to talk. In the middle of our conversation, he looked at me and asked, “By the way, when is your birthday?”

I replied, “August 25th.”

He didn’t respond the way I expected him to. Instead, his eyes got big and he said, “NO WAY! Did you google me or something?”

Did I google him? No! And I hadn’t even thought to. When I asked why he’d asked me such a thing, he replied, “August 25th is my birthday too!” I had known we had a lot in common. I just had no idea how much–even the same birthday! (Although mine was several years later, in case anyone hasn’t been paying attention. Lol.)

Our conversation continued. During the course of the evening, we covered a gamut of topics, including some shallow (I admit it) concerns I expressed. Bachelor #5 responded optimistically to every one of them.

I told him I thought he was too old for me. His response? “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be amazed at how 38 years old I can look with Botox and by covering the gray in my hair.”

I’d been told it is very characteristic for men to date “down” a decade when they’re single, especially after a divorce, and in my experience, that was true much of the time. Men in their 30s, dated women in their 20s. Men in their 40s, dated women in their 30s and so forth. I replied, “Well, if you look 38 years old, then you might want to date someone who is 38 years old–or even younger. You probably ought to consider that.” Bachelor #5 shook his head no and said, “I’ve found the age I want.”

So I brought up height. I told him I thought he was too short for me–that I had some really high heels I loved and wouldn’t be able to wear around him. He said, “How tall are you? I’m taller than you. Wear whatever shoes you want; I’ll be Tom Cruise, you can be Katie Holmes!” And he laughed.

I mentioned some other “issues” as well, but he had an upbeat answer for every one of them. He even told me he appreciated knowing exactly how I felt and exactly what I thought; he said he found it refreshing! (Not many men can say THAT.)

The final “issue” of the evening concerned his piano playing. We had different ideas about it. He thought it was a positive thing; I wasn’t so sure. Piano had always been my thing, I’d never shared it with any man. When I told him that, he looked at me in shock. In his experience, women enjoyed men who could play the piano (and sing), and there I was telling him it was a strike against him! He probably shook his head and thought, “I just can’t win with this woman.” But instead he said, “Never mind then! YOU can have the piano, I won’t play the piano any more. I’ll play the guitar!”

He played the guitar too?

I never knew that.

And in that moment it became clear to me. I was not just dating a grandpa, I was not spending time with simply a reformed Santa (thanks to his shave), and I was not just chatting with a very nice, patient, good man–I was dealing with Shrek! This man had layers. Every single time I was with him, I learned something new about him. And every time I did, it was something I liked. Quite a different experience from the dark and destructive revelations of 2009 that led to my divorce and unexpected life, when everything new thing I discovered was even worse than the revelation before it.

I was dating Shrek! I never expected that.

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers. Ogres have layers…You get it?” (“Shrek”)

I was beginning to.

An Invitation

“Find me a man who’s interesting enough to have dinner with and I’ll be happy.” (Lauren Bacall)

He was a very busy man. His invitation mentioned something about an evening had opened up, the only evening for the next month that he wasn’t busy, and amazingly enough, I was free the night he asked about. I accepted his dinner invitation.

When I asked if he would pick me up or if I should meet him somewhere he told me he thought it best we meet at the restaurant. “I wouldn’t ask you to do that all of the time, I just believe it’s best to meet at the restaurant the first date,” he said.

Then he dropped the bombshell. (AFTER I’d already accepted his invitation! Lol. Think of the worries and concerns I’ve mentioned—I won’t call them issues—traceable to aging, wrinkles, and being old; now think about my opinion of facial hair.) Bachelor #5 warned me about his appearance. Due to a theater role he was playing at the time, he said he had a beard; a gray beard, “like an old grandpa.” Then he corrected himself, “Actually, I am a grandpa. But not that kind of one!”

Forty-two years old with a four-year-old, and I had agreed to a date with a grandpa–with facial hair. And it was gray!

The holidays were approaching, I joked that it was his lucky day because I loved Santa Claus! (Did I REALLY say that? I did, and it’s true.) I just never imagined dating him.

The date was on.

“All great change in America begins at the dinner table.” (Ronald Reagan)

The Spaghetti Factory, to be exact.