Living Happily Ever After


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The Power Of A T-Shirt

“It’s great to just disappear, grab a suitcase, switch the answering machine on and just go somewhere else.” (Dido Armstrong)

We made the most of our cruise, our time alone together and even our packing.

Prior to our departure, as we were packing for the trip I saw my husband add his BYU t-shirt to the pile of things he was planning to cruise with. I thought it was odd (in my prior cruise experience, we had packed evening wear, tuxedos, jewelry and business casual clothing to wear during the day; t-shirts had been for exercising—but I had a sneaking suspicion in this new life that wasn’t what they were going along for!) but I didn’t say anything. Finally, I couldn’t help myself.

“A BYU t-shirt, huh?” I commented. “Don’t we want to dress nicer than that?”

“I always make sure I take a BYU shirt on cruises,” my husband replied. “You’d be amazed at the people you meet and the conversations you have because you’re wearing one.”

I didn’t really believe that, but one thing remarriage to a man who is now 50 has taught me: he has his own mind, his own way of doing things and it has all worked very well for him for the almost five decades prior to meeting me so what can I say? Absolutely nothing. He is a tidy, helpful, very sufficient man who knows how to cook, clean and do laundry better than I do and he always looks nice…so I decided to trust him on that one. We didn’t discuss his packing choice any further.

A few days later, on the cruise, he put on his BYU t-shirt. I looked at him but was determined to not say anything—or request a shirt with a collar. He winked at me and acknowledged his wardrobe choice for the day by reminding me, “You never know who you’ll meet because you’re wearing a BYU shirt!” and we headed out to tour the city of Boston.

Believe it or not, before we got to the heart of the city of Boston, my oldest called me from college to share a Ponzi scheme-related experience he’d had with relatives of a victim (Yes, 2 1/2 years later we still confront those types of things several times each year) and I confess, as much as I try to rise above all that garbage, I hung up the phone feeling a little low.

I tried not to let it show, but I’m a terrible actress. My husband asked, “Are you ok?”

I stalwartly replied, “Absolutely.”

My husband added, “Are you sure? Because if I’d just received a call like that, I think I’d be a little bit upset. Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m fine.”

So we continued on in search of The Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s house, Harvard campus and various other destinations we had planned. However that day, they were filming a movie in Boston. Many streets, like most of the streets on our tourist map, were blocked off. So we wound our way around different streets, side streets and made all kinds of detours.

And then unexpectedly, I heard it.


I paused. Had I just heard my name?

And then I heard it again: “ANDREA MERRIMAN!”

And before I knew it, one of my favorite people in the world and one of my closest Colorado friends (my friend who’d been with me through my nightmare in every possible way—she even helped me write my divorce) was running toward me. Before I could even say anything, the first words out of her mouth were, “Thank goodness your husband is wearing a BYU shirt, or I’d NEVER have noticed you!”

What are the odds that one of your favorite people and closest friends from Colorado moves to NYC for one year after you have moved to Utah and you both end up in the city of Boston, on the same day, at the same time, winding your way through the same off-the-beaten-path streets due to the filming of a movie and you run into each other…thanks to a BYU t-shirt?

Another beauty of the unexpected life.

(And by the way, although I didn’t tell her anything of my crazy Ponzi morning, that chance encounter with my good friend was exactly what I needed to shake it off and have one of the best days of my cruise! The entire day, and everything I got to see, and getting to share it all with my husband turned out to equal one day of absolute perfection.)

All because of a BYU t-shirt.

The power of a BYU t-shirt.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Mark Twain)

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.” (


“Whenever a thing is done for the first time, it releases a little demon.” (Emily Dickinson)


I’m living a lot of them lately.

My first child, my oldest son, “moved out” (just a few miles away) last weekend to attend Brigham Young University. He went to his first day of classes yesterday, called me as soon as the first one was over and said, “THIS IS GOING TO BE AWESOME!” (That was a first, too; to have him so excited about…school. He was my child who returned home from his first day of kindergarten to announce he didn’t need to go back, he’d learned everything there possibly was to learn that day!)

My middle son is playing his first football game of the season tonight. (Go, Timpanogos!)

My last child started a new daycare last week and begins kindergarten today. He is excited to go to school for the first time despite his oldest brother’s warning that said youngest brother’s life “is about to end.” (That’s how the oldest brother viewed school:)

As for the mother, I’m counting my blessings that I treasured every moment of childhood and motherhood since it all began over 18 years ago; and I’m trying hard not to cry too much too often (although I’m sure my boys would say I’m failing miserably at that one!) as I release my beloved “demons” to experience some firsts of their own.

Exciting times.

“Whenever I held my newborn baby in my arms, I used to think that what I said and did to him could have an influence not only on him but on all whom he met, not only for a day or a month or a year, but for all eternity – a very challenging and exciting thought for a mother.” (Rose Kennedy)

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)

Late Nights

“I’m a late-night guy.” (Dane Cook)

One thing (of many) that separated #5 from the rest of the bachelor’s was his schedule. He always had me home at a decent hour, even early. In fact, (dare I confess this?) back in the dating stage where I thought he wasn’t interested in me and only asked me out to give a newly divorced single mother social experiences because he felt bad for me, he took me home pretty early one night–and I went out with some single girlfriends after that! When we got engaged, that didn’t change; he always had me home early (by my standards.) It took some getting used to, on my part. He’s not a late-night guy.

In fact, he once commented to me that the people at my house sure stay up late. I was surprised. I seriously hadn’t noticed. But ever since he pointed that out, I can’t help but notice as I occasionally drive toward my home late at night that my house, and just two others on my street, have their lights on past a certain hour. I must be a late-night gal, raising late-night children. And I guess I hadn’t noticed because by the time I get home from work, and my little family spends a decent amount of time together, it’s late at night!

So my late night experiences during the course of my 9-month engagement have been with my children. Here’s a memorable one. From last night.

It was 12:06 a.m. and my oldest and I were up chatting, he was doing homework and I was working on a gift for #5, when my son got an email to his phone. He read it, got a big grin on his face and then read it aloud to me, something like, “Congratulations! You have been accept to Brigham Young University for Fall 2011.”


We were so excited, we were talking, laughing, joking and celebrating in the kitchen. His life sort of passed before my eyes as my mind was drawn back to the late nights of 1993-94, when I was up in the middle of the night with him every night. The dark nights were so still and quiet I remember feeling like he and I were the only people in the world, and I didn’t mind at all–I treasured every moment I had to enjoy him. It seemed very fitting that BYU contacted him late at night…and totally normal for he and I to be up late at night together!

In the midst of our celebration, we remembered #5 and wanted to share the good news. We knew he was asleep, so we sent him a text. We also know that since he sleeps near his phone in case his children ever need to reach him, it was probably going to wake him up. Late at night. But we did it anyway–we thought it was worth waking up for!

“If people were meant to pop out of bed, we’d all sleep in toasters.” (Author Unknown, attributed to Jim Davis)

Not only had that late night moment been years in the making, we’d had some challenges along the way: his world collapsing temporarily due to the revelations of his father, a divorce, a move to a new state and school, yet he kept his straight A’s even through the midst of all that; his mother returning to the work force full-time so he became the oldest male in our home and “at home” parent before and after school, even had to stay home with sick siblings on occasion–not the typical existence of a high schooler; in addition to school, he also works at Cold Stone; and then a few recent challenges during the application process that made it even more meaningful.

For one, my son had applied to only one college. BYU. He didn’t have a backup plan. That decision was motivated by money–we didn’t want to waste money paying to apply to any other college my son didn’t want to attend, but as time went on, I realized how unintelligent a decision that was and started to worry a little bit. (Especially after we were notified by his high school that they were sorry but they had sent an incorrect transcript and G.P.A. of just one senior to every college he had expressed interest in or that had expressed interest in him, and my son was that lucky student. I told you we have amazing odds at our house! And because the school didn’t correct their mistake for two months we began to worry a little bit about how it would all work out.)

However, last night’s late night memory made it all worthwhile. And #5 shared it with us via text. It was one of those moments we’ll never forget.

“A moment lasts all of a second, but the memory lives on forever.”

Everything Else is Just Figure Skating

“High sticking, tripping, slashing, spearing, charging, hooking, fighting, unsportsmanlike conduct, interference, roughing… everything else is just figure skating.” (Unknown)

My first (and last) attempt at figure skating took place in Sun Valley, Idaho, when I was approximately 8 years old. Unfortunately, I didn’t progress beyond gripping the wall’s railing to stay upright, and even then it was a challenge to stay on my feet. It didn’t come easily at all. It just wasn’t my thing. (Meanwhile, my mom–who had never been particularly athletic–glided gracefully around the rink, skating backward and doing figure eights and other moves I’d observed watching the Ice Capades.) Lets just say I didn’t anticipate ice, skating on it, or ice rinks would ever be a part of my life beyond that one experience.

But then I grew up and became a mother.

Of sons.

Who love ice hockey.

That makes me a hockey mom, I guess.

“I love those hockey moms. You know what they say the difference between a hockey mom and a pit bull is? Lipstick.” (Sarah Palin)

I just hope I’m a lot more lipstick than pit bull!

My oldest is particularly passionate about hockey. I can’t remember a day in his life he didn’t have skates on or a stick in his hand, practicing shooting or other moves he’d seen professionals do on t.v. I discovered his dedication the day I heard a suspicious thumping in our Colorado basement. I went down to find him practicing shots against the wall of our home! We quickly established some hockey rules (ie. no hockey in the house beyond taping your stick) and he took his devotion outside, rain or shine. Snow or cold. In daylight and darkness.

Countless winter days he voluntarily shoveled snow…to clear a spot to practice hockey. Every winter he tried to talk us into flooding our yard for an ice rink. And every birthday or holiday, he asked for hockey equipment.

I remember his first hockey game. He was in 5th grade. His team lost. And for the first time in his sports life, he came away from a game loss absolutely BEAMING. I didn’t expect that. I asked him how he felt and he replied, “Mom! Hockey is so amazing! It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s just so fun to play the game!”

Now he is growing up and the hockey experience has changed. He plays not just for fun, but to win. As a high school senior, he is captain of his high school hockey team. He was also invited to practice with the BYU Ice Hockey Development Team and hopes to play for BYU next year. He was chosen to play in the Utah All-Select High School Hockey exhibition game. On New Year’s Day he was selected to play in the Utah High School 2011 All-Star Hockey Game.

On the way home, he looked at me and asked, “Mom, did you ever think it would all come to this?”

Honestly, I never did.

I guess life is a little bit like hockey.

You never know where it’s going to take you. It can be rough, you fall, sometimes it’s messy, things get broken, and like the unexpected life experience of my family, there’s even a penalty box! (Prison. Lol.)

But there’s nothing more exciting, fulfilling, rewarding and skill building. Some days, “Half the game is mental; the other half is being mental.” (Jim McKenny) And the best part? It doesn’t matter if you win or lose, it’s just such a privilege to be a part of it, to play the game.

“…In a land so inescapably and inhospitably cold, hockey is the chance of life, and an affirmation that despite the deathly chill of winter we are alive.” (Stephen Leacock)

College Application Day

“Education is what remains after one has forgotten what one has learned in school.” (Albert Einstein)

I remember that moment as if it were yesterday.

The moment my oldest entered the world and the doctor placed his squirming, naked body on my chest and I looked into his eyes for the very first time. I touched his head of blonde hair, talked to him and he instantly quieted and turned his head to look at me. As we looked into each others’ eyes, every dream I’d ever had seemed to come true in that moment.

Overall, he has been a dream, but like all children, occasionally there have been days filled with parenting challenges when the dream has been less than idyllic.

Like the first day of kindergarten when he came home  and announced he didn’t need to go back, he had learned everything he needed to know; he knew it all already.

Or when he was in first grade and struggled to settle down and complete his assignments which resulted in he and I sitting at the kitchen table for 6 hours on Saturdays, finishing everything he didn’t do during the week.

Or during every parent-teacher conference when each teacher expressed he never looked like he was paying attention, so they’d call on him and were surprised every time that he always knew the answer to the questions he was asked.

“I guess he was paying attention, even though he doesn’t look like it or  act like it,” they said.

My mom said, as she watched him live every day at full speed and sighed with exhaustion, “If you can just get him channeled in the right direction, he’ll be the best kid. Completely unstoppable. You’ll be in awe of him.”

Turns out, they were both right. His teachers and his Grandma Christensen. Because today, on his own, he kept track of the deadlines he needed to meet, he scheduled the required interviews, he submitted the paperwork necessary to continue to achieve his dreams; he applied for college. To BYU. He may not always look like he’s paying attention, but he is. And impressively so. Thankfully, he’s now channeling himself in the right directions and I just stand back in awe of who he is and what he accomplishes.

I couldn’t be more proud of my teenager who had his world shattered three weeks before his 16th birthday; who lost his life and everything he had ever known, including his father, and yet managed to maintain straight A’s while living through a nightmare. (What teenager does THAT?) Yet as I read over his college application, I couldn’t help but notice some changes from what I’d always anticipated to see on such paperwork.

I’d planned his life would be comprised of two married parents, tuition money taken care of, and time for lots of carefree fun. Instead, his application shows he lives with a single parent and three siblings, our income level was the second lowest category (the one above “O”), and that he needs scholarships, financial aid and a job to put himself through school. I also couldn’t help but think about all he does in addition to school: fills the father role for his younger brothers; drives children to daycare and school and other activities; helps discipline his brothers; teaches them to respect women, especially their mother; helps pay bills; maintains our vehicles and home; occasionally has to miss school to tend a sick child; works at Cold Stone and willingly turns every single paycheck over to me every pay day to help our family. Yet despite living the life of an adult/father figure, he manages to earn straight A’s, run a little track and play some ice hockey.

I look forward to watching him continue his education, in and out of the classroom. He has a lot to offer. I anticipate he’ll continue to learn new things, and most importantly, he’ll gain an education.

He’s hoping to do that at Brigham Young University. And if the acceptance committee is interested at all in diversity (there was a section on the application for information geared toward maintaining that) my son has a good chance of getting in as his life and experience certainly isn’t typical of many students preparing for BYU!

Now the wait for the acceptance letter is on.

After all, “Everything comes to those who wait… except a cat.” (Mario Andretti)

That’s How We Learn

“I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance – waiting for the bathroom.” (Bob Hope)

I can relate, although I learned to dance in the kitchen watching my parents cha-cha before breakfast and taking a spin when my mom needed to stir something.

But that is the grand adventure of life, isn’t it?

Learning the most unexpected lessons at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected places.

I learned honesty as a child, but learned, again, how committed I was to it when government agents were coming to my home to seize everything of value and I knew the contents of my jewelry box. It would have been so easy to take something I could sell to feed, clothe or shelter my children and none would be the wiser. Except me. And that was the problem.

So I didn’t do it, although I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. It absolutely did. When you’re left alone, financially devastated, and have four children to provide for, it’s amazing how desperate that situation can make you feel. However, I’ve never been one to sell my soul for “things” and even when the stakes were so high in my eyes, I learned I still wasn’t going to. I learned for myself I wasn’t going to break down and be dishonest after living a life of complete honesty just because my spouse had. I learned I’d rather starve or be forced to rely upon the charity of others than to choose to steal or sell my soul for any “thing.”

In that moment I also learned that as much as we know what is right, and regardless of how much a virtue (like honesty) we possess, we are never absolutely above temptation. At least, I’m imperfect enough not to be.

Life is an endless opportunity to prove ourselves and reprove ourselves and prove ourselves again, even when we think we have something mastered–we get to learn and prove ourselves in an entirely new, and unexpected, way!

Like dance. I graduated from high school and dancing in the kitchen to college, social dance class, and returning home for New Year’s Eve 1985 to cha-cha with my dad, one last time, but in public, at a dance. Later I added clogging, BYU Folk Dancers and Irish dance to the resume of my experience. And eventually, a dance class with Bachelor #5. He keeps inviting me to country/western dance, so that may be next on our list. But wherever our lesson, and our life lessons take us, this I know:

That’s how we learn. And we’re learning all the time. The tombstone will be our diploma, said Eartha Kitt.

“Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” (Henry L. Doherty)

Especially in the unexpected one.

A Miracle

“Miracles happen to those who believe in them.” (Bernard Berenson)

One year ago, my oldest was having a rough time–and who could blame him?

He has always been an easygoing, level headed, great kid so some moments of grumpiness and impatience on his part, as he adjusted to his unexpected life, stood out like a sore thumb. I had a chat with him.

He cried and cried about how bad things were. He had no friends, no passion for sports, no life, no anything. I’ll never forget how he sobbed and sobbed; his heart broken. I could relate to everything he said because deep in the recesses of my soul I felt like I was living a life like that, too, I just wouldn’t let myself acknowledge it out loud. But I was old. He was only 16.

I cried with him and for him. I had wanted SO MUCH MORE for him. I couldn’t understand how my innocent children had ended up with such a mess. (Actually, yes I could. I knew I had chosen their father–which gave me a huge burden of guilt to bear for the part I played in bringing such horror to their childhood.) I didn’t know why they had to go through what they did, what I could do for them or how I could help them through it.

I needed a miracle. A serious miracle.

One year later, I have to acknowledge, again, that I got one. In fact, my family and I have received countless miracles and blessings. And nothing is as priceless as the miracle of light after incredible darkness and despair (aka. the unexpected life.)

“We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness”

Here’s just one example.

Today, this same child, is a senior in high school. He has great friends. He has created an amazing life for himself and keeps busy with school, work and social and sports activities. He went to homecoming this year with the homecoming queen. After only one season of play with his high school team hockey team, he has been selected team captain. Additionally, he has the privilege of practicing with his dream team–the BYU Cougar’s ice hockey team on their development squad. (He’d NEVER have had that opportunity if it weren’t for his unexpected life and what he chose to do with it.) And, it looks like he’s going to meet the admission criteria for the college of his choice, BYU, the college he has dreamed of attending since wearing his first BYU apparel (at six months old. Ok. So maybe it began as his parents’ dream, but it has since become his as well!) In fact, he is closer than ever to achieving all of his childhood dreams, despite his unexpected life, or perhaps, because of it. His only regret, now, is not getting to attend all four years of high school in Utah!

“Even miracles take a little time.”

Sometimes…just one year.

“Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.” (The Bible)

If Real Life Was Like The Movies

“Hawaii is a unique state. It is a small state. It is a state that is by itself. It…is different from the other 49 states. Well, all states are different, but it’s got a particularly unique situation.” (Dan Quayle)

Still no ring, but we had survived our first “intense discussion.” And while the wait for the ring continued, Bachelor #5 helped take my mind off the wait. One day I got a very unexpected email, and invitation, from Bachelor #5: “Hey, I just had a crazy idea. What if you and I fly to Hawaii for a long weekend? Let me know what you think.”

Since 1993, in 17 years, I had left my children a total of 17 nights. The pre-unexpected life me would have declined that invitation without a second thought. But I was living an entirely different life, now, and the “new” me decided to at least entertain the idea. I just needed to see how my children felt about it. They were supportive, so I arranged for childcare, and one morning a few weeks later found myself on my way to Hawaii.

I never expected that.

We stayed with Bachelor #5′s best friends, a husband and wife he had known since college. (In fact, he introduced them to each other.) It was wonderful to meet them. As Bachelor #5 and I both had ties to Hawaii, it was also a great opportunity for us to see our old favorite places but make new memories with each other. The trip reinforced to me how many “near misses” we’d had; how close we’d been to meeting each other, but never actually met until my unexpected life began.

For example, while attending BYU-Hawaii, Bachelor #5 participated in a performing group. Imagine my surprise when we realized I’d gotten a piano scholarship from the group’s professor and director but I’d turned it down and attended college, instead, at Brigham Young University in Provo, Utah.

Another example: My parents co-owned a home on Oahu’s Hukilau Beach when I was a girl. I spent time there boogie boarding every summer. I’d taken my children to that same beach for several years to share part of my childhood with them. And then I found myself sharing that same experience with Bachelor #5. While we were in the water looking toward the houses on shore, Bachelor #5 pointed out the house he’d lived in during his time in Hawaii–four houses down the beach from my parents’ house! I remembered college men had lived there (I’d seen them on the beach occasionally, I just never paid much attention to them because they were “older” than me.) I never realized that Bachelor #5 may have been one of them!

It reminded me of a movie I saw years ago starring Gwyneth Paltrow. Actually two movies in one, it showed one plot and story that took place as she made it onto a subway car before the door closed and a parallel version and story with different events, experiences and developments that took place when she missed the subway and the door closed before she could board. Interestingly, by the end of the movie, both stories took her to the same destination and life situation; both versions had the same ending, just chronicled different events that got her to the same point at the end.

While in Hawaii, I couldn’t help but compare that bit of Hollywood fiction to my reality.

“And if real life was like the movies, I should have lived happily ever after.” (Piper Laurie)

It was healing to realize, again, that sometimes we really do have to pass through indescribably difficult things to get to where we need to be; that all things truly can work together for our good IF we allow them to. And if we don’t quit too soon or give up (even when we’re overwhelmed with the path our journey has taken) we can trust that we’ll end up right where we have needed to be all along. Possibly even at the same “ending.” Our own “happily ever after.”

“Nothing is so awesomely unfamiliar as the familiar that discloses itself at the end of a journey.” (Cynthia Ozick)