Living Happily Ever After


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A New Year, A New Life

It’s a new year–a time to reflect on the past, learn from it, and also to look forward to the new adventures, opportunities for growth and the many other “unexpected” things life brings. As such, I have reflected lately on many things. (After all, it has been almost five years since I began this blog and nearly six years since I began my unexpected life–a life I’m so busy living that I hardly have time to write about it much less share the lessons I’ve learned from it!) And after all is said and done, one memory stands out in my mind.

It was July 2009. I had just moved to Utah and was getting things settled in my new home. I entered the laundry room, closed the door to sweep behind it and came face to face with a poster left by my home’s previous occupants. (It was so perfect for my situation at that time, I wondered if they knew about me and had intentionally left it for me.) It said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Wisdom from Dr. Seuss.

I couldn’t stop the tears. (They came easily and frequently back then.) And as I stood there sobbing because of everything that had happened, crying because of everything that was over and wondering how I would ever smile again much less smile because anything had happened, I realized that should be my eventual goal and the eventual outcome for everyone living life, unexpected as many of those lives turn out to be.

Reflect on the past, learn from it, and then move forward (with a smile!) choosing to use the experiences that come to become better. Perhaps Jeffrey Holland said it best: “As a new year begins and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.”

Welcome, 2015.

Welcome, unexpected life, whatever it turns out to be.

I’ve learned for myself that every end is also a new beginning. That every life, even the unexpected ones, have the potential for joy and happiness–all it takes is moving forward, carrying on through the difficulties, never quitting, being thankful for what you DO have, and continually striving for happiness and joy no matter what happens.

Life “ain’t over till it’s over.” (Yogi Berra) So hang in there, this year and in every year to come.

And now I end this in the manner of every good story and with what I hope will always be said of me:

She lived happily ever after. (After the hard times, after the difficulties, after everything and even sometimes, despite them! Haha.)





The Rest of…the Trip

“That ends this strange eventful history…” (William Shakespeare)

I was in Colorado  less than 48 hours. But I conquered all the major hurdles:

1. I drove the streets of Denver, Aurora and Centennial, Colorado (all the areas of my old stomping ground and life) and I felt great! I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there, I didn’t have an urge to cry…I just felt like I was in a place I knew very well and enjoyed. I felt welcome!

2. I drove to my former home. And I felt…nothing. I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel loss, I didn’t have an urge to cry… I felt nothing but peace.

3. Although I didn’t get a chance to see a majority of the friends I would have loved to have seen, I got to see several people I love and have missed.

4. I even had the privilege of seeing and speaking with a few victims of my former husband. They could not have been kinder or more gracious to me. (There are some really good people in the world!)

5. I realized that I can, and want, to return for a visit again someday. (And I want to bring my children, too!)

And then, all too soon, it was off to the airport again and a quick flight back to Salt Lake City. I arrived home–everything looked the same yet everything was completely different. I went to work the next day–everything looked the same yet EVERYTHING was different.

I was different. I had conquered the last hurdle from my unexpected life. Consider me recovered!  But I’ll refrain from adding “The End” to this story. Because there never is one to…the unexpected life.

“Now 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)

Sounding Like Antonio Banderas

“I like going everywhere. And I love starting new things.” (Antonio Banderas)

I arrived home, fighting traffic all the way, having left work later than usual and during the drive discovering not only was a crowd arriving at my house in less than 2 hours (and it was a mess) but that my husband had invited all of his children for dinner to celebrate—I hadn’t even planned on cooking or eating dinner that night due to the new developments taking place in just over one hour. Lets just say I was suddenly a LITTLE stressed out!

Thankfully, my husband took care of dinner. I straightened the house, casting a few anxious stares in the direction of THE envelope on my bed (placed there for safekeeping, we have a busy kindergartener who gets into all kinds of things unexpectedly.) I couldn’t quit sneaking glances at the envelope that contained my son’s mission call. I wasn’t in the mood for anything but opening that envelope. But mostly I tried to figure out where the past almost 19 years have gone. It seems like I alternated between laying on my bed and crying in my bathroom. I NEVER expected to be doing that relative to a mission call!

But all I could see or think about was the moment my son had been born, the moment the doctor had placed him on my chest, the moment that he had looked into my eyes and stopped fussing as I caressed his fuzzy, blonde head, and smiled at him for the first time. I felt like all of my dreams had come true in that 1993 moment. I have absolutely loved being his mother. He is a great kid and I get such a kick out of him and enjoy him, a part of me (unexpectedly) suddenly didn’t want him to go on a mission! (Well, I wanted him to go, I guess. I just didn’t know how I’d bear his absence for two long years!) I just kept thinking, “Where did the years go? How did this moment arrive so fast?”

I heard activity downstairs. My son had arrived, the house was filled with company, the only person missing from the activity was the mother. My husband came up and announced, “You’ve got to at least come down and PRETEND to be a hostess, act happy and talk to a few people.” (I hadn’t even told him anything about how I was feeling and what I was thinking and feeling, but maybe he knew. Like I said, he “gets” me.) My only problem? I felt like someone was ripping that little 6 pound 3 ounce baby out of my arms 18 years too soon! But I went downstairs and attempted what my husband suggested.

And then my son picked up the envelope and opened it.

I remember thinking as he tore through the paper that within seconds, I’d know everything: I’d know where he was assigned, when he would be departing to fulfill that assignment and where he would be living, experiencing life (including rejection) and growing for the next two years. (By the way, I had NO idea what to expect. My son had been told to expect a United States assignment, so I was thinking New Jersey or somewhere on the east coast.) And then he read the words aloud that he had been called to serve in…the Spain Madrid mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I certainly never expected his mission call to be to Spain! And despite my worries, the stress I’d felt and everything else, all I remember thinking as I heard those words was, “That is the perfect assignment for him!” I was filled with joy and such a sense of how right Spain was for my son; I was excited for him. And thankfully, I was instantly calm and back to my normal self again.

I hugged my son in celebration. But as soon as I grabbed him, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all that led to that moment—including all of the hard stuff he endured, all that he has risen above, everything our family as been through, how different our life is now compared to what Id always expected our family would be when my son received his mission call, and unexpectedly…the tears began to flow. I hugged him, I cried, and with a house full of people I didn’t dare let go because everyone would know what I was doing and what a crazy mother my son has!

My poor son.

My good son.

I’m sure our hug lasted much longer than he probably wanted it to but he was gracious enough to allow me time to attempt to pull myself together and relish the moment with my almost-grown son…before peeling me off him. Then we had ice cream with the crowd. My son returned to his BYU dorm. And we’re all about Madrid, Spain and the Canary Islands now. Even my kindergartener requests, “Lets watch the movie about Spain again, Mom!”

Just think. In two years, my son is going to return home a man, not to mention sounding like…Antonio Banderas!



“No date on the calendar is as important as tomorrow.” (Roy W. Howard)


July 13.

Two years to the day I got divorced, loaded my youngest children and two dogs in my new-to-me-but-used Subaru and drove to Utah without a backward glance at my home, neighborhood, former life or home state of Colorado.

A new beginning.

That’s what I had to make.

A new life.

That’s what I was desperate to create.

A few nights ago, my middle son reminded me the anniversary of an important day was coming. “Mom, in just a few days we will have lived in Utah TWO YEARS. Can you believe it? July 13!” (I guess that date had an impact on my children that I hadn’t realized.)

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Utah two years,although thankfully, the number of times I dial “303″ when trying to call a Utah number is dramatically decreasing. But what I really can’t believe is all that we’ve experienced, all that we’ve been blessed with, in such a short amount of time.

It has been QUITE a ride.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” (Albert Einstein)

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)

Very, Very Lucky?

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry.  So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” (Lemony Snicket)

Isn’t that so…me?

I get what I’ve been waiting for, FINALLY; I don’t believe it. I don’t know what to do; so I hang up the phone and…cry?

I had no idea I’d respond that way. But I did. I sat at my desk and tears rolled down my cheeks. I guess it was a mix of emotions: Joy. Gratitude. That I’d received a miracle. And maybe it was a bit of a stress release. I’ve done that before.

When I was a girl I was TERRIFIED of shots. I was so afraid of shots I used every excuse in the book to avoid the doctor and once went 5 years without a doctor visit, between the ages of 6 to 11. (They were fabulous years for me, by the way.) And then I stepped on a rusty nail at my grandpa’s farm and had to get a tetanus shot. I went to the doctor in the tiny town of Ephraim, Utah, got a shot (which I did NOT even feel, it was over before I even knew it had begun), the nurse gathered her supplies and left the room…and THEN I cried! (Weird, I know.) Yet I did it again the day I got my letter.

The only thing I wasn’t crying about was that it was also the final end to everything related to Shawn Merriman, our love, our marriage, our life together and our family. (Not that I hadn’t shed tears over that, I had–many. But at some point, I chose to only look forward so I didn’t see the moment I received my letter as an end, but a beginning.)

My next thought was to share the news with a friend. My CEO was in town from San Diego that afternoon, in a big meeting, in the conference room. But some things are so important, they must even trump The Board. (Just kidding. I didn’t even stop to think I could be fired. I was so excited I wasn’t thinking clearly.) I walked to the outside of the door and sent him a text: “Boss, turn around. My papers came!”

From behind, I saw him pick up his phone, rotate his chair around, he saw me standing there beaming in the hall and gave me a giant smile and BIG thumbs up! I told a few other co-workers, returned to my desk, finished my work (it was hard to concentrate on it, I might add!) and began the drive home, calling friends as I drove.

It was an exciting time, yet didn’t seem quite real. When I saw #5, all we could do was keep looking at each other, saying, “Can you believe it? Can you believe we’re getting married?”

Several hours later, just as it was finally starting to seem real, #5 stood up to leave, hugged me, beamed down at me and asked, “Are you SO excited to become Mrs. Ramsey?”

And then everything came to a screeching halt for me.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

The Next Step

“Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.” (Edward Whymper)

It’s about time I stop to think about the above, huh?

I had acted in haste, I hadn’t considered any step beyond sending a message, and I certainly hadn’t thought what the end may be! I couldn’t quite take the next step and call, so I emailed back, shared a little bit more about me and my life, and gave her my phone number.

She called me the very next morning.

Her voice was kind, gentle and friendly. She apologized for not getting back to me earlier; she said she was never on Facebook, that her friend had put her on it, and she’d had QUITE a welcome surprise when she finally did get on it!

One of the first sentences she uttered was, “I want you to know, I didn’t have a choice regarding placing you for adoption.”

I assured her I was grateful she had and I appreciated what she had done for me. I told her I had been blessed with wonderful parents and a very full and amazing life with every opportunity, and more, that anyone could have ever wanted.

She told me the circumstances of my birth. She told me about my biological father. She told me some of my medical history. She told me she loved me.

The whole thing could not have been more unexpected or more positive or a better experience for me. I’m so glad she called!

It was an unexpected phone call that changed my completely unexpected life.

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” (Stephen Levine)

The wait was over.