Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Find Humor in Anything

“You can turn painful situations around through laughter. If you can find humor in anything, even poverty, you can survive it.” (Bill Cosby)

Step three to surviving anything and living a thankful life: look for the humor in your misery—it will be there.

As Marjorie Hinckley said, “In life, you can choose to laugh or cry. I prefer to laugh!”

Me too.

For example, the very night Shawn Merriman destroyed not just my world but our children’s world and we found out everything we’d thought was ours was gone and we’d be moving who-knows-where to rebuild a new life from scratch as the Five Musketeers (me, the mother, and my four children), my oldest son went downstairs and found a live mouse on the floor of his bathroom. (We lived on 3 acres, surrounded by fields; pests from the outside trying to get inside our home were an on and off again battle.)

He came upstairs to report the discovery and how he’d handled it—he’d scooped it up, dropped it in the toilet, and flushed! I brushed aside worries of what something like that does to the plumbing of a home—who knew how much longer we’d be inhabiting our home, anyway—and we looked at each other, laughed and said, “That’s one thing we won’t miss about this house and our life—MICE!” And chose to laugh at the “bright side” of our loss.

I also laughed several weeks later when my daughter gave her soon-to-be-single mother some advice about love and marriage. She told me I needed to get married to a good man so I “wouldn’t be alone forever.” Honestly, at that stage of the nightmare game we’d been forced to participate in, love was the least of my worries.  I told her I wouldn’t marry again because I was an ‘old bag.’ She helpfully said, “Mom! Botox!” No disagreement with my assessment, just a helpful suggestion. I’ll never forget that one. In fact, I’m STILL laughing about it.

Turns out, we survived. And Bill Cosby was right: “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” (Bill Cosby)

Keep laughing.

Never Alone

And while you’re pressing forward in your unexpected life and striving to create and live your “happily ever after,” remember you’re not alone. (Despite the fact it may feel that way sometimes.)

It’s your story, of course, but you’ve got help writing it. I think the master storyteller, Hans Christian Andersen, expressed it best: “Every man’s life is a fairy tale written by God’s fingers.”


On Stage

“You are never so alone as when you are ill on stage. The most nightmarish feeling in the world is suddenly to feel like throwing up in front of four thousand people.”  (Judy Garland)

The next adventure of my business trip occurred shortly after my impressive vocal solo performed backstage for Donny Osmond. It actually took place while he was onstage. When I joined him in the spotlight! (Unfortunately, it wasn’t because of what you might think.)

In the middle of his performance, a few women from the audience joined him onstage. When the first few made it to him, I watched light dawn in the minds of many women in the auditorium. The room began to look like one of those gopher arcade games—where creatures pop up at various intervals, at various locations, and you have to bop them on the head to score. Each woman appeared to be heading to the stage to get close to Donny! I looked around me and started feeling sick to my stomach. I’d been to an autograph signing with Donny and I’d seen firsthand not only how much women love him but how out-of-hand things can get without the proper control (and security.) I knew somebody had to do something. I sat there for a few seconds more, observing women here and there, leaving their seats and heading for the stage and not really sure of what to do, but frantic to prevent a situation that could become out of control. So…I joined them!

As I climbed the steps to the stage and walked out into the spotlight, I felt sick. “I am NOT doing this. I cannot believe I have to do this. What am I doing? Why in the world am I going onstage in the middle of a Donny Osmond performance?” But I did it anyway (someone had to) and began directing the adoring female fans back to their seats. Donny was attempting to do the same and must have seen me out of the corner of his eye and thought I was one of the fans because as I directed the last one back toward her seat and prepared to follow her back to mine, he grabbed my arm, looked like he was ready to tell me to take my seat, but instead realized who I was and said, “Oh, it’s YOU!” and with relief, continued the show.

I returned to my seat and cringed at the unexpected adventure I’d just had. Disaster averted. The story of the time I joined Donny Osmond onstage—in the middle of a performance—and lived to tell about it. (I’m sure if I’d had to sing, the outcome would have been drastically different. I’ll leave the performing to Donny…and Marie.)

“If you take my performance or my understanding of the role and my appreciation for story…I guess becomes an action film.” (Vin Diesel)

Marital Advice

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill) 

The official honeymoon, the part where we went away just the two of us, came to an end just four days later. It was time to get back to our children, our jobs and our new life. I confess, I’ve never been one to leave my children, but strangely, this time as much as I missed them, I could have stayed a few more days with #5:)

We drove back to Utah, enjoying every moment of the drive and the last few minutes of one-on-one time together.



And desirous to remain so. I found a fun suggestion: “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.”

Not bad advice, huh?

Anyone else have any marital advice for the newlyweds? We’re open to any and all suggestions…

“Over the next four years, I will continue to listen to different views and accept different suggestions.” (Chen Shui-bian)


“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters… I could be their leader.” (Charlie Brown)

Going from happily married for 20 years to what I discovered was traumatic. The idea of divorce, alone, was very traumatic to me, not to mention everything else. So to ease things for both of us in that moment on that day when everything was so shocking, new and unexpected (remember, my marriage never disintegrated over time, my reality simply shattered in a moment; I had yet to “fall out of love” with my husband) I said, “I see no other consequence to what you have done than divorce. The consequence of your choices IS divorce. It’s not something I’ve come to decide lightly. But that doesn’t mean when you get out of prison and I’m single that we couldn’t try to rebuild something–IF we decided we could love or trust each other again. But who knows? You may not even be interested in me at that point.”

I was married to a stranger who terrified me in the way finding out someone you have trusted and loved for two decades has been living not just a secret/double life, but a criminal life, and you NEVER HAD A CLUE. And when he didn’t think divorce was necessary…sometimes it just didn’t seem to me that he understood what he had done was as terrible and reprehensible as it was.

We divorced.

I moved to Utah.

He was taken into custody.

And our relationship transitioned from husband and wife, companionship, friendship and everything else we’d had to friendly former family members with the occasional strained relationship of what I assume is typical of divorced couples.

He wrote letters from jail. His letters expressed his sorrow for what he had done (that was appreciated) but they also contained expressions of love. To me.

I think he did that because he felt that way toward me, but also probably to build me up and to help me at such a hard time and when I was so shattered, so humiliated, felt so worthless and thought everyone could tell just by looking at me what a loser I was. But after our divorce, my move to Utah and my progression through the process of grieving and healing those expressions of love became a problem for me.

With each passing day and with each new realization I came to as I worked through the mess he had created and left for me, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with his expressions of love.

Some days they bothered me, as in irritated me.

Some days they hurt me, as in made me cry.

Some days I just didn’t want to hear them.

Some days they made me mad.

And around that same time, the fall of 2009, I realized I would never remarry him.

I’ve said it before: I believe in repentance and forgiveness. I just didn’t think I would ever be able to trust him completely, 100%, again–regardless of the changes he had made. And trust, to me, is a huge part of marriage. I didn’t want to wonder at any future date if my husband was telling me the truth; to wonder when he headed out the door to go to work, if that is really what he was doing and where he was going; or to live in fear of, heaven forbid, another Ponzi scheme or other such crime.

I was also afraid that regardless of the changes he made and the man he became, a part of me (if I stayed with him) would never quite feel he deserved me. And that isn’t right. If he changes and somehow through all he is enduring as a result of his choices finally becomes the man I always thought he was and that he always represented himself to be, he deserves to have a wife who completely loves, trusts, and feels he deserves her.

That will never be me. (I’m not a big enough person, I guess.) One day, while talking to a Colorado friend, I realized I would rather be alone the rest of my life than remarry Shawn Merriman. As soon as that came out of my mouth she stopped me and said, “Do you realize what you just said? That says a lot to me about how you feel to know that you would rather be alone the rest of your life than remarry Shawn.”

I guess it did.

It was an epiphany. I realized, truly, how I felt and what the future held for me: nothing.

I was going to be alone the rest of my life. Because I preferred that option to remarrying, someday, the man I had loved for 20 years. (Amazing what a Ponzi scheme, betrayals, and decades of lies can do, huh?)

I realized then and there that I had to put a stop to his confessions of love. I didn’t want to hear them. I didn’t want him to have any false hope, I felt that would be dishonest of me. So I told him how I felt, but he didn’t stop telling me what a wonderful wife I had always been, that he still loved me and always would, and that someday he was going to win me back.

I felt I had to put a stop to that, too. It made me feel uncomfortable. And I couldn’t let him believe one thing when I felt another. So to show him how completely serious I was, and how real my feelings were, I asked him to write a letter authorizing me to apply for a cancellation of our marriage/sealing that would allow me to remarry and be sealed to someone else in a L.D.S. temple.

I don’t think he expected that.

Our Break Up

“Eyes that do not cry, do not see.” (Swedish Proverb)

I’d come to the realization of how I truly felt too late. I think maybe I’d found #5 so quickly, so “easily”, and had healed so thoroughly and completely during our engagement, that maybe a small part of me began to take the miracle of #5 a little bit for granted.


Could even a tiny part of me also have begun to think I might be doing him a little bit of a favor by marrying him? (Ludicrous, I know! I mean, look at me! Look at my life! WHO would want to take my unexpected life on? Probably no one BUT #5, yet when there was an issue to be resolved I seemed to ask myself, “Wait. Is this really what I want? Is this going to be good for me, for my children? Should I really do this?”)

In fact, one time I’d told #5 that’s what engagements are for–to try the relationship out, see if it works for us, see if it’s what we want, knowing we don’t have to follow through with it and can back out if it’s not right or not working for us. He, however, was appalled at that rationale. He said that is NOT what engagements are, in his eyes. That he would never have proposed to me had he not been fully committed to me and marrying me. To #5, engagements were very similar to marriage (except for the living together aspect.)

Very different philosophies. But we’d hung in there together, for a long time, until THAT night. The night he dumped me.

And then suddenly, dinner and dessert were over, everyone left, and it was just us standing alone in the kitchen again. I braced myself for his departure. I thought, “Ok, here is where he actually does leave. I guess we’ll figure the details of the break-up out later. I just don’t want to be home when he gets his stuff.”

But instead of turning and leaving, he said something very unexpected. He looked at me and asked, “Would you like to go to your room and talk?”

That’s when I REALLY knew it was over. He never set foot in the upstairs of my house, especially my bedroom (to set a good example for our kids.) But in that moment, that night, he went there willingly.  To talk about our break up.

I walked up the stairs to my room so nervous I could hardly breathe.

I dreaded the conversation.

We walked into my room, he shut and locked the door behind him, and turned around to face me.

“Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.” (Groucho Marx)


“The divorced person is like a man with a black patch over one eye. He looks rather dashing but the fact is that he has been through a maiming experience.”  (Jo Coudert)

And then, ”Suddenly you’re like a pirate–you’re 65 years old and you’ve got an earring.” (Fred Willard)

Or in my case, not quite 42.

But here’s what I’ve learned courtesy of my unexpected life and the divorce that came along with it; after living through one myself and meeting many, many people who have been similarly maimed. I’d say it’s an apt description. It’s much more traumatic and scarring than I’d ever imagined; in many ways, it IS like death–only harder in some ways because the other person isn’t gone for good, they continue to resurface and impact you and your family, including times that it’s not always convenient, special occasions and holidays. Divorce definitely leaves a hole.

When I got divorced, I had only known a handful of people to endure the tragic demise of their marriages. I felt very alone, but now realize I wasn’t as alone as I felt. There were MANY other people, right there with me, enduring their own divorces. Maybe it’s because of the circles I’m forced to socialize in as a single woman, but divorce is a lot more common than I’d realized before it happened to me. (Sort of how you don’t notice a car until you drive one yourself, and then you see your car everywhere!)

Let’s just say the singles scene is a Star Trek Convention of maimed (aka. divorced) pirates, black patches and peg legs!

But I’ve seen for myself that you can heal from even from the worst things, the ultimate betrayals and the hardest experiences, including crime, if you choose to. The hole left by your unexpected horror begins to fill in and scar over. (And you have to let it heal, don’t keep picking at it.) Then, eventually, life is pretty good again.

Life can be good, even post-divorce.

Life WILL be good again.

There’s something to be said for pirates!

“Life’s pretty good, and why wouldn’t it be? I’m a pirate, after all.” (Johnny Depp)

Just pick yourself up after each sword fight and every cannon ball shot your direction and get back in the hunt for the booty. Trust that eventually you’ll find your treasure. And when you do, you’ll know the hunt and everything that led you to the “X,” was worth it. That’s how I feel. Every aspect of my experience, every detour my treasure map took, every battle, and every scar is absolutely worth it because it got me to where I am today.

“I’ve been a puppet, a pauper, a pirate, a poet, a pawn and a king; I’ve been up and down and over and out, and I know one thing: Each time I find myself flat on my face, I pick myself up and get back in the race.”

Because that’s what pirates do. Especially those unexpected ones. Like me. Like all of us.

Ahoy, Matie!

Oh. And just in case #5 ever decides to read this blog (he abandoned it when it headed into the Bachelors), this one’s for him:

Q: What is a pirate’s favorite fast food restaurant?

A: Arrrrby’s!

Slogans For The Unexpected Life

During the holidays, #5 and I played a game with some of our children. In one round, we had to name campaign slogans. As I listened to the slogans, I was struck by what a great motto for The Unexpected Life each campaign could be.

Be All That You Can Be.

Just Do It.


You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. (Shared by #5.)

As soon as he said that, it got me thinking about my life and my little family. I was overwhelmed and amazed by how far we’ve come in one year. Just since last Christmas. What a difference 365 days makes!

Last Christmas, 2009, was the first Christmas of our unexpected life. I was trying so hard to heal, to help my children make it through their unexpected challenge, trying to adjust to working full-time, and to hold on physically, emotionally, financially and in every other way, for all of us, back then. So I put on a brave face, tried to keep a few traditions and took my children to see Santa Claus one Saturday morning.

Santa chatted with each of my children but caught me completely off-guard when he had me sit by him, looked me in the eye, and asked, “What do you want for Christmas, Mom?”

I panicked. Did he know who I was? Did he know I was single? Did he know what a loser I had turned out to be, starting over in life, in every possible way, at 42? It had been years since Santa had asked me something like that! I wasn’t prepared with an answer. But for some reason, maybe because I felt so alone and literally was alone for the first time in my life, I took his query seriously. My mind raced with thoughts of everything I needed—courage; confidence; optimism; hope; anonymity; a life; emotional comfort; laughter; bravery; endurance; happiness; real smiles; joy, peace; and of course, money (those were the days when I couldn’t seem to get a break, I lived in shock and fallout from the trauma 24/7)—and because I’d been trained to only ask Santa Claus for one thing, without censoring my response I replied, “Peace. I would love to have peace.”

I don’t think Santa was expecting that. Yet he must have sensed the desperation I felt inside to share something like that with a total stranger, though the stranger be Santa’s helper, because he looked me in the eye, gave me a compassionate, soft smile, took my hand in his large, white gloved hand, and calmly and quietly told me to hold on, peace would come. He sat there for just a second, looking into my eyes, smiling and then patted my knee, offered me a See’s Candy lollipop and sent me on my way.

I walked away from my encounter with S. Claus uplifted. It was another one of those “Only in Utah” moments for me. (As in, only in Utah…would a shopping mall Santa Claus take time for you, despite a long line of believers and children, to give you a spiritual message!) I left his little village filled with hope, not just for the holiday but for my life. I believed Santa was right; someday it, peace, would come to me again. I was counting on that. I just had to hold on.

But that Christmas Eve, when the house was dark and quiet and I was up all alone late at night making my few small Christmas preparations for my children, the reality of my unexpected life hit me. Again. In that moment I was a little overwhelmed by my continued struggle to embrace a new life that was mine, but that I didn’t believe I had done anything to deserve and I still wasn’t sure I wanted! I’d do a little Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry for a few minutes. Then I’d pull myself together, go down by the Christmas tree, do a little more Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry. It was the pattern of a newly divorced, single mother, getting through her first Christmas. Alone.

After the holidays, #5 checked in with me to see how my “first Christmas” went. I can’t believe I told him the truth—that it was good overall, but that I’d had some unexpected sad moments too. He empathized, gave me some words of encouragement, asked me out for another date and the rest is…recorded in this blog.

However, Christmas 2010 was a completely different scene.

I took my kids to see Santa again, but this year he didn’t even ask me what I wanted. Maybe he could tell I have every important thing I need, especially peace. And Christmas Eve, although the house was dark and quiet, I wasn’t alone. I had #5 helping me with Christmas preparations. On Christmas Day, we had all eight of our children together. As I sat by #5, watching all of the kids talk, laugh, joke and enjoy being together, I felt such contentment and joy. It felt like family. It is our family. Everything is right in my world again. Different than what I had expected, as usual, but right.

I couldn’t help but think that had I only known last year what was in store for me this year, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to get through last year! Had I only known last year, what this year would be like, I wouldn’t have felt alone or felt sad at all. But that is just one more beauty and character-building aspect of life: the not knowing; and choosing to carry on anyway.

Striving to be all that you can be.

Just doing it.

Learning to thrive in whatever situation you find yourself in.

And acknowledging, occasionally, just how far you’ve come.

What you do with your unexpected life is your slogan.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” (Calvin Coolidge)


“Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in the light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!” (Henry Ward Beecher)

Last year, at this time, I felt so alone. I tried not to, but there was no disguising the emptiness attendant with the shock of being thrust into a life you don’t feel prepared for.

Last Thanksgiving, the first of my unexpected life, made me apprehensive. It was our first–in our new home, in a new state, we didn’t know many people yet, we were still reeling from the shock of so much change that had taken place so quickly, it was my first as a single mother and…it was the year all of my siblings were scheduled to spend the holiday with their in-laws.

A good friend (“family,” to me and my children) invited us to share the day with her family in Utah. They could not have been more gracious to us. They all made us feel so welcome, we didn’t even feel like guests! And instead of the hard day I’d feared (we had a lot of those back then) my children ended the day saying it was their best Thanksgiving ever.

What a difference one year makes. This year, I couldn’t feel less alone.

I will be sharing the day with my siblings and their families in the little town of our heritage, Ephraim, Utah. Bachelor #5, his family and his mom will be joining us. My birth mom also invited us to have dinner with her. If you’d have told me last year, at this time, that in just one year’s time I’d have more family and loved ones to celebrate with than I could work into one day, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet here I am–juggling time with many loved ones!

I would have to write a novel if I tried to record the bounty in this year; or string the pearls of the many blessings I’ve received in 2010. There haven’t been many dark days, just a whole lot of light! How grateful I am to give this day to thanks, joy and gratitude of which I have much. What a relief!

So if you happen to be in the throes of your unexpected life, if this day is one of your “firsts,” know that you are going to make it and that next year, there will be even more to be thankful for. I guarantee it.

You may even be amazed, as I have been, at the bounty that can come out of such devastation, destruction, grief and challenge.

That pretty much sums up my unexpected life…today. It says it all.

Oh wait. One more thing.

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.” (Kevin James)

The Cure for Insomnia

“I love sleep. My life has the tendency to fall apart when I’m awake, you know?” (Ernest Hemingway)

Not too long ago, a blog reader said she noticed I do my posts in the wee hours; she wondered if I had trouble sleeping.

I thought it was interesting that she had noticed that. But I’ve noticed it too. It seems like such a little thing, yet it is one of a few big changes brought on by the unexpected life.


I remember the good old days, pre the unexpected life, when I could sleep at night, as well as the last night I slept: March 17, 2009. It was the morning after that night, when I woke up and my life fell apart.

Since that time, I’ve had a lot of sleepless nights. I don’t know the sole cause for my insomnia, but it probably had something to do with shock, trauma, grief, stress, strain, worry, fear, financial devastation, life loss, divorce, sleeping alone for the first time in 20 years, and feeling so alone. At first, I couldn’t help but count my troubles like I had once counted sheep. However, that type of score keeping is not sleep inducing. In fact, it is not conducive to anything.

Life’s too short to engage in unproductive activities or behaviors. Time is too precious. So I had to let that go.

Now, instead of counting my worries before I attempt to rest, I count my blessings. I keep a little notebook by the side of my bed and try to take a few minutes at the end of each day to write something I’m grateful for. Every day there is something. You just have to look, and let your eyes see what is right in front of them.

For example, “When we were children we were grateful to those who filled our stockings at Christmas time.  Why are we not grateful to God for filling our stockings with legs?” (G.K. Chesterton)

Most days, I have to stop myself because my hand gets tired from writing so much, or because my eyes begin to blur or because I’ve fallen asleep for a few minutes with the pen in my hand.

And now you have it.

My cure for insomnia, developed under the tutelage of the unexpected life.


“Develop an attitude of gratitude, and give thanks for everything that happens to you, knowing that every step forward is a step toward achieving something bigger and better than your current situation.” (Brian Tracy)