Living Happily Ever After


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Happily Ever After, Every Now And Then

“I just want to live happily ever after, every now and then.” (Jimmy Buffet)

The older I get and the more people I meet, the more I’m reminded with every conversation that life is full of challenges. I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that every life has big hurdles, whether they are visible from the outside looking in or not. In fact, there are so many unexpected lives taking place in the world sometimes I’m almost overwhelmed by the experiences and stories of the people I meet, things they’ve been burdened with and the challenges they face in seeking to survive, emotionally or physically or financially, in life.

But they inspire me.

I admire the many, many people who carry on, deal with their challenges the best they can, attempt to rise above them and choose TO LIVE and to BE HAPPY despite them. I’m inspired by everyone attempting to create and choosing to live a version of “happily ever after.” Because, “I’ve always thought anyone can make money. Making a life worth living, that’s the real test.” (Robert Fulghum)

And if you do that, if you can make a life worth living and choose to be happy despite the setbacks and everything else that happens to you, I believe THAT is a happily ever after.



Despite it all and regardless of what happens.

Embrace your unexpected life.


“And, while Cinderella and her prince did live happily ever after, the point, gentlemen, is that they lived.” (“Ever After,” the movie)

The point is…to live.

The New Feel of Darkness

“I wondered vaguely if this was when it would end, whether I would pull up tonight’s darkness like a quilt and be dead and at peace evermore.” (William Manchester)

When I was thrust into my unexpected life two years ago, it felt dark and very overwhelming. I confess, I probably had a moment or two where I could absolutely relate to William Manchester. Several nights I went outside in the backyard of my Colorado home to be alone, mourn my losses, cry, pray, and to try to figure out a plan: as in, how was I going to feed and shelter four children? By myself? And how was I going to not just start over, but start over “from a hole?”

Although, “There’s nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas,” (Mad-Eye Moody, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000), I was short on ideas and options back then! But at least I knew, “When the darkness comes, keep an eye on the light…no matter how far away it seems.” (Jan Berry) I’d been raised to believe in and have faith that “For every dark night, there’s a brighter day.” (Tupac Shakur) And it’s true. I know it now, just as I knew it then, as hard as it was to always believe it.

So I didn’t succumb to the night’s darkness. Despite the black hole that was my new world, I didn’t quit. I may have ended every day in tears by crying myself into a fitful sleep (what little I slept), and I woke up and cried when I opened my eyes to my new reality and realized it wasn’t a bad dream but my new life (THAT is something–when your reality is worse than a nightmare! LOL), but I carried on as best I could.

Last night, I was out in the backyard of my Utah home. It was late, close to 11 p.m., but I wasn’t alone or mourning anything; I was planting a garden with #5!

With our busy work and family schedules, that was the time we had available to do it–so I kept the dirt moist with water and held the camping lantern so we could see, and #5 dug the holes, placed the plants in the earth, and covered them with soil. We talked, laughed, worked side by side and enjoyed one another. And when we finished, #5 went to put the tools and equipment away. I was left, alone, in the late night blackness of a summer night.

It has been awhile since I’ve thought about the dark summer nights alone in my Colorado yard, but brief memories of that time came unbidden. I indulged in them for just a moment, wondering if I’ll ever experience dark summer nights alone without remembering that traumatic time in 2009 but also marveling at the difference time, and light, can make.

“I guess darkness serves a purpose: to show us that there is redemption through chaos. I believe in that.” (Brendan Fraser) So do I. Because I’m living proof. Out of darkness and chaos came redemption…in the form of a very unexpected life. Time and again I’ve seen it happen—in this century, in previous ones, to every person, everywhere, regardless of the challenge or struggle.

There is ALWAYS light, and life, at the end of the tunnel, your tunnel, whatever that challenge may be.

That’s life. And since that’s life, while we’re here, we ought to experience it and remember that, ”Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, rise and fall, only that person has truly experienced life.” (Stefan Zweig)

And if you’ve never planted a garden late at night by the light of a lantern, I recommend you experience that too.

“See you in the darkness.” (Gary Gilmore)

“Yours Mine And Ours”

“I don’t answer the phone.  I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.” (Fred Couples)

The phone call came at the end of the work day Monday afternoon. It was from the ice arena. Our sons, the boys we’d disagreed about and had broken our engagement off over just the night before, had gotten into a public brawl on the ice. Supposedly, his son bumped my son while they were skating and hitting pucks (that’s hockey.) But my son didn’t like that and hit his son. His son hit mine back for hitting him. And then my son took his hockey stick to his son, swung it like a baseball bat and hit his son across the back!

My oldest son witnessed it, ejected my middle son from the ice, and the offender was MAD. He called me, wanted me to pick him up from the ice rink so he wouldn’t have to wait there and watch the other boys having fun. Unfortunately, I work in another city so that wasn’t possible. (I also thought it wouldn’t hurt him to cool off, to sit and watch the other boys having fun on the ice, so I told him we’d talk about it when we got home.)

I hung up the phone and shook my head. WhoEVER would have thought I’d be the mother of a son who got in a brawl, in public? Certainly not me! (Yet here I am, delighting in all kinds of unexpected experiences I’m continually blessed with.)

Then I called #5 and left him a message. ”I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but there was a physical altercation on the ice today. I’m calm, I’m not upset; I hope you are too. While I don’t know if you have other plans for this evening, I don’t think we can let this go any longer. We need to sit down and talk to the boys, together, tonight.”

It’s funny how life prepares you for…life. How certain things (people, places, events, experiences) can prepare you for other things–even when you don’t realize you’re going to need them. Like how we’d had our disagreement about our boys just the night before. At the time, I’d thought it was a terrible thing–to fight and then break up–yet in reality, it allowed us to work through our issue, separate the issue from us, get it together and present a united front to our children.

When #5 walked into my home that night, he looked at me with a smile and joked, “What would Mike and Carol Brady do?”

There was only one answer to that. I’d learned it from my wise Colorado friend when I mistakenly expected to make my remarriage/blended family situation like The Brady Bunch and it wasn’t working, and I’d thought I was disappointed–until she straightened me out. I shared it with #5.  I said, “PLEASE! It doesn’t matter what Mike and Carol would do. We aren’t the Brady Bunch, never will be, and I’m ok with that.” I added, “Mike was gay; Carol was depressed; Greg kissed his step-sister Marcia; Alice couldn’t get her love, Sam-the-meat-man to commit…I don’t want or need to be The Brady Bunch!”

And in that moment I realized, again, I really feel that way. What #5 and I have, with our children, is right for us. It’s actually very, very good. We need to help a couple of our children learn to appreciate each other a little more–however biological siblings sometimes need to work on that, too.

But it was a good opportunity to tell #5 what I DID want: ”If we’re going to be like anyone, I want to be ‘Yours Mine & Ours!’” I exclaimed.

He looked at me strangely, couldn’t figure that one out, I guess, because he asked, “‘Yours Mine & Ours?’ Why that? They had way more kids than we do and besides, I’m not in the armed forces.”

“Yes, I know!” I explained. “But Rene Russo is WAY hotter. If I’m going to be like anyone, let alone any stepmother, let it be her!”

We laughed, went in together and had a great talk with our sons. I have to say, I think that challenge made us better; stronger than ever. The challenges of life, the unexpected life itself, have a way of doing that, you know.

“Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

Face What You Fear

For homework, my middle son had to select a story and prepare to tell it to his school class. A few students from each class are chosen to tell their story in front of judges, and the school’s winners get to participate in the Timpanogos Story Telling Festival. (If I understand the whole thing correctly. Last year was a blur, I still consider myself new to Utah, so I hope that’s accurate information.)

As I helped my son with his story, I couldn’t help but give him a few pointers on how to tell it. (Sometimes I just can’t hold the PR&Advertising-trained part of me back. One of the few things I can do is give a presentation!) He wasn’t buying much of what I suggested he do, I think he was too cool for most of it. So on the off chance his story ends with his 5th grade class, I have to pass it on here. Because it’s a true one. From the life of my great-grandfather, Jerome Bradley Henrie and his mother, my great-great grandmother, Amanda Bradley Henrie.

When I first heard it as a little girl, it inspired me. It helped me stand strong. And as a woman, when I needed courage during tough times, it helped me do what I needed to with my head held high. Especially when I entered my unexpected life.

Here’s the story as my son will share it with his class today:

“Jerome Henrie grew up in a dugout on the side of the temple hill in Manti, Utah, more than a century ago.

Winters were cold. Summers were hot, and the heat was especially challenging because rattlesnakes infested the cool, darkness of the family’s dugout to escape the heat of summer days–which made home life VERY interesting, not to mention just a little bit dangerous!

But rattlesnakes weren’t the only danger.

There were Indians!

One day Jerome’s mother Amanda, finished her week’s baking. She took the freshly baked loaves of bread from the fire and laid them on a table to cool. As she stood back to admire her work, a huge Indian brave barged into her home! He gestured for the bread.

Amanda gave him one loaf, but he wasn’t satisfied. The Indian again demanded bread.

All of it.

Amanda was a tiny woman. She was terrified of the tall, fierce Indian standing in her home, demanding all of her bread. But she knew if she gave him her bread, her children would have nothing to eat.

So she grabbed a poker from the fire and gestured her own invitation of departure! She chased that Indian out of her little dugout home and he never came back! It must have been quite a site to see a big brave running from a tiny pioneer woman! Yet Amanda’s courage to stand strong even in the face of what she feared, is an example to me.

Ovid said, ‘Happy is he who dares courageously to defend what he loves.’”

I’m not advocating we run around in the 21st century brandishing pokers, but I do believe we have to stand for what we believe is right (regardless of how we’re judged by others), we need to move forward even when we’re terrified and we need to see our challenge through to “the end” (without giving up) until we conquer it!

“The triumph cannot be had without the struggle.” (Wilma Rudolph)

Neither can the unexpected life.

I’m Not Superman

“Of course I’m scared. I’m not Superman.” (Jackie Chan)

We’re into superheroes at our house. I can’t escape them–just this morning I folded and put away a padded, muscular Batman shirt, and tripped over a Superman cape on my way to complete the task!

As the mother of three sons, I’ve learned my fair share about superheroes. And I confess, I like them for more than their muscular build. I admire superheroes for the way they rise to the challenge. They do the right thing, even when it’s hard. They’re willing to stand alone. They aren’t afraid of anything. And they come out on top.

I’ve been taught to rise to the challenge; I try to do the right thing; I’m definitely willing to stand alone. But I’ve been afraid of a lot; I’m no superhero. And nothing showed me that more than my unexpected life.

I wasn’t just scared, I was terrified. Each day I operated like John Johnson who said, ”Every day I run scared. That’s the only way I can stay ahead.” (John Johnson) Only I couldn’t seem to stay ahead of each scary new challenge that became mine on a daily basis, courtesy of each new revelation by my former spouse. Frankly, I’m surprised all of the shock and uncertainty didn’t induce a heart attack! (Oh yes, that’s right. That would have been impossible as my heart was already broken, crushed and numb.)

There were so many thing to fear back then, it seemed it didn’t take much to scare me. I was even wary of opening the front door! “I am scared easily, here is a list of my adrenaline-production: 1) small children, 2) policeman, 3) high places, 4) that my next movie will not be as good as the last one.” (Alfred Hitchcock) Only my adrenaline-producers were little things like crime, a Ponzi scheme, asset seizure, U.S. Marshals, inspectors, attorneys, media coverage, neighbors scrutinizing my every move and reporting each little tidbit they gleaned to government authorities, frozen bank accounts, financial ruin, potential bankruptcy, knowing there were victims who had been hurt by the action of the man I’d been married to, and the uncertainty of what actually would happen and when, to my former husband as well as to my family, to name a few.

I felt like such a failure to be so absolutely scared on all counts, on every front. I longed to be less fearful and more brave.

But the passage of time has helped me see something now what I didn’t realize then. It’s ok to be scared. And actually, I don’t think it matters one bit if you’re scared or brave. You can’t always help what you feel. (In fact, you need to let yourself feel what you feel so that you can work through it, get past it and heal.) What matters is that you carry on and face what needs to be faced. That’s true courage. That’s real bravery.

“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” (Omar Bradley)

That’s also…the unexpected life.

So whatever you’re facing, whatever your challenge or fear, choose bravery.  Perform properly. Do the right thing despite all of your fears, and someday you’ll be able to look back and see how courageous you actually were.

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)

The Hardest Thing

I went to my first kick boxing class recently. I left feeling pretty inept at boxing. Sort of the way I felt the last time I came even close to boxing. In the 1980s. In high school. It was SO “not me.”

I blame it on basketball–one game in particular, and it didn’t even count, it was P.E.! A friend and I played a game of 2 on 5, against a group of five, short Hispanic girls…and it wasn’t pretty…because my friend and I actually played basketball outside of P.E. and we were beating them soundly. The other girls were frustrated, but it didn’t dawn on me (like it would now) to let them win or at least score a few points. It was my experience that “you win some, you lose some,” that’s part of playing the game, and I preferred to win as much as I could.

The next thing I knew, I was on my back, just outside the key. My friend was leaning over me, worried, questioning, “Are you ok?” The other team was standing around with satisfied smirks on their faces as my friend filled me in: while I’d been airborne for a rebound, one of the short girls had gone for my pony tail, grabbed it, forcefully yanked me down from behind, flat on my back onto the court, which knocked me out when I landed!

Told you they were frustrated.

I got back up and continued to play. But every time one of the other team got near me they talked trash and threatened to beat me up outside of class. I ignored them; I thought they had to be kidding. I mean, fight? In my world, that behavior never dawned on me. No one I knew fought or even thought about beating anyone up. I thought they were kidding–until they followed me around everywhere and warned me I’d better pray they never caught me alone or better yet, alone in a bathroom.

I didn’t respond to their threats, I ignored their taunts, I pretended I didn’t see them trailing me (but I confess I was always relieved when I walked into a bathroom and saw other girls in there, just in case) and after what seems like a few weeks (but was probably more like a few days) P.E. ended and I don’t remember ever seeing those angry girls again.

That’s my near-boxing experience.

“I’ll bet the hardest thing about prize fightin’ is pickin’ up yer teeth with a boxin’ glove on.” (Kin Hubbard)

Add pickin’ up yer teeth with boxin’ gloves on to the list of hard things in, and about, life.


Things like sickness, death, disease, poverty, crime, betrayal, divorce, unemployment, emotional trauma, abuse, too much, too little, and every other unexpected challenge that comes your way. Life is full of hard stuff. In fact, life, itself, is hard. As Katherine Hepburn said, “Life is hard. After all, it kills you.”

But before it does, at least TRY to pick up yer teeth. Don’t quit until you succeed in clearing the floor of your molars and cuspids, or whatever your adversity may be. I’ve found, sometimes, that what I’m going through isn’t quite as hard as picking up teeth with boxing gloves on would be (while other times, one year in particular, I admit to wondering if dying wouldn’t have been easier than the challenges I was facing. Thank goodness I never, personally, discovered the answer to that myself.)

Because when you’ve collected your teeth and pulled yourself together, when the bell has rung and you’re back in the match giving it all you’ve got, there’s nothing quite as exhilarating as a knock out. The knock out that comes at the end when you win because you endured. Victory.

The more I think about it, boxing is a lot like the unexpected life. Here’s why:

“As much as I love boxing, I hate it. And as much as I hate it, I love it.” (Budd Schulberg) At some point, we probably all have a love-hate relationship with our new and unexpected life. As much as we love it, we wouldn’t have chosen it. And as much as we may dislike certain aspects of it or the way certain things are, we wouldn’t trade it for the alternative. Life is glorious, regardless of your circumstances.

“Boxing gave me the opportunities to grow into the person that I am today.” (Alexis Arguello) Where would we be, who would we have become, what would we have learned, how would we have grown…without our unexpected life?

“Boxing is the ultimate challenge. There’s nothing that can compare to testing yourself the way you do every time you step in the ring.” (Sugar Ray Leonard) Life, especially the unexpected one, is a test every single day. So it’s vital we get through it. With a passing grade, or better yet, an A+. Our score lies in how we choose to solve the problems and answer the questions put before us.

“Boxing was not something I truly enjoyed. Like a lot of things in life, when you put the gloves on, it’s better to give than to receive.” (Sugar Ray Leonard) Don’t underestimate the importance of giving, giving back, and making the way easier for others as you travel through life. I can’t imagine where my children and I would be today if we hadn’t had a little help from our friends, if others hadn’t reached out to us and helped make our way easier. Truly, it IS better to give than to receive.

So don’t quit. Hang in there until the bell rings and you get a breather. Don’t expect to understand everything all at once, or even in this lifetime. Just trust, as I do, that someday we will be able to see the grand design of a beautiful plan put in place just for us and our necessary growth. Someday, every mystery will be solved.

“When archaeologists discover the missing arms of Venus de Milo, they will find she was wearing boxing gloves.” (John Barrymore)

The unexpected life.



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

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

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

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

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

Some time in 2011.

Stay tuned.

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)

Life’s A Beach

“Among the many thousands of things that I have never been able to understand, one in particular stands out. That is the question of who was the first person who stood by a pile of sand and said, ‘You know, I bet if we took some of this and mixed it with a little potash and heated it, we could make a material that would be solid and yet transparent. We could call it glass.’ Call me obtuse, but you could stand me on a beach till the end of time and never would it occur to me to try to make it into windows.” (Bill Bryson) 

It’s amazing what never occurs to us. For example. I grew up enjoying the surf of Hawaii, yet it never occurred to me to find any meaning in it. Until I thought about blue bubblefish.

Everything in Hawaii makes it paradise…except blue bubblefish.

Blue bubblefish are a jelly fish you occasionally find in the surf: a transparent blue bubble head, attached to a long tail that resembles skinny seaweed. (Except that seaweed doesn’t hurt when it touches you!) Blue bubblefish STING. And over the course of my life, I’ve been stung a few times.

The first time I got stung by a blue bubblefish, it hurt! I couldn’t recall ever feeling anything like it. I went in the house, applied meat tenderizer to the sting (it was supposed to help, but I don’t remember that it did) and stayed inside the rest of the afternoon. The second time I was stung, I went inside for a little while, but returned to the beach later that day. The third time I got stung, I flipped the bubblefish onto the beach and popped it, so it wouldn’t hurt me or anyone else again. The final time I got stung, I uncurled the bubble fish tail from around my arm, threw the fish as far away from me as I could–but kept swimming. It turns out, each time I got stung, I was a little bit stronger and able to deal with it.

As I battled the occasional bubblefish in the summertime in Hawaii, I didn’t think much beyond the experience that interrupted my boogie boarding. But now I see that life is kind of like that.

Life is a beach. The unexpected things that come into our lives are blue bubblefish. They “interrupt” our life experience, they hurt, they aren’t “fun.” In fact, sometimes the pain they cause can be downright miserable. However, the hard and painful experiences can make us stronger each time we overcome them until one day, we keep swimming despite the pain. Eventually, we don’t notice them any more.

Our challenge is to keep ourselves floating, or at least on the beach, until that time. We can’t quit. We can’t go into the house, nurse our wound and abandon boogie boarding for the rest of the day or our life.

We have to remember that, “Pain is temporary. It may last a minute, or an hour, or a day, or a year, but eventually it will subside and something else will take its place. If I quit, however, it lasts forever.” (Lance Armstrong)