Living Happily Ever After


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After “The End”: The Inevitability of a Sequel

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

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

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

THE Unexpected Life.

I’m back!



The Power of a Cape and a Hairdo

My youngest is the most indecisive trick-or-treater I’ve ever known. Every year it’s an ordeal to get him to commit to what he wants to be for Halloween. Every year he assures me his decision is final. And every year he changes his mind at the last minute and ends up being something different.

Funny thing, though, his approach usually works out quite well for him. Like the year he scrapped his real costume on our way out the door to a party and instead wore an old puppy costume from the dress up box…and ended up winning the costume contest and a really nice prize that went with it!

This year was no different.

He wore his “real” costume, a skeleton, the day before Halloween to his 1st grade choir concert and that was enough for him to decide he was going to be something else the next day: a superhero. “Which one?” I asked, and he didn’t hesitate a moment before responding, “I’ll just wear my ‘J’ cape.”


So he went as himself to school the next day, in ordinary clothing underneath his superhero cape, his hair three different, dazzling and bright superhero colors—blue, purple and green! And of course, by the time it was time to go trick-or-treating that night, he was wearing a different costume again…an old costume from the dress up drawer…another puppy.

Watching Superjake, just being himself at a time not many people were, inspired me. And it got me remembering, again, that everyone has the capacity to be a hero. We can do anything. We can endure and triumph over everything, including our challenges; the unexpected life.

“What I do is based on powers we all have inside us, the ability to endure, the ability to love, to carry on, to make the best of what we have—and you don’t have to be a ‘Superman’ to do it.” (Christopher Reeve)

It just adds to the viewing pleasure of others if we do it wearing a cape…and superhero hair. Never underestimate the power of a hairdo.

The Secret—Revised

“Sometimes I think my life would make a great TV movie.  It even has the part where they say, ‘Stand by. We are experiencing temporary difficulties.’” (Robert Brault)

Life, especially the unexpected one, has its “difficulties.”

I once thought the secret to life had to be picking yourself up and carrying on despite challenges, making the most of what you’re blessed with (or handed, against your will) and choosing to be happy and to do the right thing despite disappointments.

Well, I’ve tried that. I’ve done that. And while it certainly makes for a happy and fulfilling life—and allows you to rebuild a life just as good or better than the one you lived before, I think, now, that maybe the secret to life is something else: endure to the end.

Because you’ve got to hang in there in the unexpected life while everything comes together. And after it all comes together, you’ve got to hang in there and endure during the new challenges life presents.

“Sure I am of this, that you have only to endure to conquer.” (Winston Churchill)

Remaining Open to Unexpected Experiences

“An adventure is only an inconvenience rightly considered. An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.” (Gilbert K. Chesterson)

Maybe I’m a know it all (or at least a woman who knows her own mind.) I admit, I have preconceived notions as to how I think things should be, how I think they should go and I confess, I’ve always had my own plans, goals and dreams I’m working toward. Maybe that’s why it’s such a struggle for me when things don’t go as planned. Hence, the “shock factor” of the unexpected life.

For example, I remember when my dad died unexpectedly in a plane crash when I was a teenager and I struggled to make sense of it. One thing I remember thinking over and over again was, “No, this can’t be. I love my dad. I was meant to have a dad—that’s why I was placed for adoption as an infant, because I was SUPPOSED to have a dad, that was the plan for ME.” Cut to 2009 when the Ponzi scheme was revealed to me. I had many issues with it, of course, but one was, “No, this can’t be. I’ve always been honest, I’ve always lived a life of integrity, I can’t be involved to whatever degree, to any degree, in something like this that SOMEONE ELSE has done!” But you don’t always have control over the situations you find yourself in, courtesy of life, do you? The only thing you can control is your reaction to those challenges and what you choose to do with them.

I say: do something good with them. I can’t think of anything worse than being handed something miserable and choosing to let it destroy you for the rest of your life. Create a triumph out of a tragedy. Pick yourself up and carry on. Look for the good you’ve got. And never give up on life, or being happy, through everything you’re required to endure. Endure to the end. Oh, yes, and while you’re at it—strive to be open to all of the “new” opportunities that come with it all.

For example, when I saw Notre Dame in Paris for the first time, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed. I went into it thinking it was just something to see because of its history. I expected I’d visit it, enjoy it, cross it off my list of things to see while in Paris and move on to the next sight. I didn’t expect to FEEL what I felt there. To walk inside and be literally overwhelmed by its majesty. To be so touched by the experience of it. To sit, to cry from the beauty of it all, and to soak it all in until my friend finally felt it was time for us to go!

I remember my first trip to London. My #1 goal was to see the Tower of London and the crown jewels; my friend’s #1 goal was to see Westminster Abbey. So we saw both, and guess what? The thing I most enjoyed from that trip ended up being Westminster Abbey, while my friend was unexpectedly impressed by, you guessed it, the Tower of London. By remaining open to the unexpected, we saw things we’d otherwise perhaps have missed. We might have missed our most cherished experiences; remaining “open” to new adventures, or things we didn’t expect, greatly enriched our travel experiences.

Apply that to the unexpected life and I guess that’s why I dared trust a man again, fall in love and remarry. Why I keep singing (occasionally!) Why I ALMOST auditioned for a show. Why I’ve tagged along to autograph signings when invited. Why I give speeches. Why I’ve dared expose myself to the potential for anything in a media interview. And even, to some degree, why I blog about all of the unexpected adventures.

Every life experience has something to distinguish it by, something to learn from or can be a new adventure in some way if you choose to allow it to be. I think it depends on you.

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other.” (Norma Shearer)

Love and…Kittens

“There would be no passion in this world if we never had to fight for what we love.” (Susie Switzer)

Before remarrying, my husband and I attended premarital counseling. I’ve documented some of the issues and challenges the premarital counselor warned us remarriage would present and that the counselor was right! But how grateful I am to be married to a man who, with each and every challenge each and every time, grabs my hand, looks into my eyes, tells me he’s “in it for the long haul,” quickly and humbly seeks to find a solution we both can live with, and then always adds how much easier our life and marriage is than other remarriages he knows and how much better everything is than he expected! (You’ve got to love his optimism among every other wonderful thing about him.)

So although he says we’ve never had a fight and that he has never (yet—haha!) been truly mad at me, we have had a few “differences of opinion” (that’s what my husband calls them) during the course of our dating, engagement and marriage. Second marriage moment #30? The realization that life, and marriage, is full of challenges to overcome—but there is always a way around or through each one. You’ve just got to be willing to take that first step toward conquering it and don’t stop until you’ve beat it.

And just as there seems to be no shortage of things to conquer in life AND marriage, ”No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” (Abraham Lincoln) Never give up.

#26: The Learning Curve Extends

“Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?” (Richard M. Nixon)

Statistics don’t favor second marriages. I never understood that–until I entered into one myself.  I learned a lot about what I assume must be the basis for such statistical pessimism.

I had never stopped to think about the fact that in remarriage, not only are you dealing with every usual marriage adjustment and challenge (like blending two lives, personalities, hobbies, interests, cultures, goals, expectations, finances, careers, challenges and everything else that goes along with marriage), but you are also dealing with two different previous families and their histories and experiences, two very different family cultures, all of the children of those families PLUS… former spouses.


Hard to comprehend what all of that means until it’s yours; until it happens to you. Lets just say that despite the marital bliss of your remarriage, it is a lot to deal with and occasionally can seem like more than you ever bargained for!

So what do you do?

Well, like every other aspect of the unexpected life, you deal with it. Laugh about some of it, work toward a happy ending, never give up, and of course, look on the bright side at every opportunity.

My husband is great at that. I remember the night we were discussing (and trying to laugh about) some things and he pointed out an unexpected bright spot: “Actually, we’re pretty lucky compared to other couples. We only have to deal with one former spouse. Can you imagine if we had to deal with two, and at the same time, in addition to everything else?” (I confess I never saw that one coming! While I am grateful prisons protect us from people who have chosen to break the laws of society, in 2009, I never imagined ANY “bright spot” to incarceration. But apparently, there is one! LOL.)

Second marriage moment #26. (I had to shake my head and laugh at that one.)

“Being here feels like I’m out of prison. This is the right place, the right time, the right team.” (Shaquille O’Neal)

Memory Lapse

“It’s weird being here. It feels like I’m standing next to my real life.” (Henry Rollins)

Occasionally, living the unexpected life that I do, I have that sense.

Despite the fact I’m living a completely new and different  life, and I am very happy in it, every once in awhile I experience a “moment” like that. I’m just living my life, doing my thing, feeling normal and everything else that goes with choosing to embrace and live a new existence with which I’ve been blessed, and then…I have the sensation that it isn’t real, and for an instant, prepare myself to return “home” to Colorado and envision myself driving down my driveway and walking in the door only to realize, “Oh, wait. That isn’t my life anymore. I’m not visiting Utah, I work here, I live here now.” How can I have even one moment where I forget that? But every once in awhile, for just an instant, my subconscious apparently does.

Have you ever had one of those moments? When you look at your life, and it is SO DIFFERENT from the life you expected to live, that it’s sort of…weird? You almost wonder if it’s really yours,  yet it is, and aspects of it feel more real than maybe anything you have ever previously lived. (Anyone? Anyone? Or is it just me? Or is it post traumatic something-or-other reserved for innocent people whose former spouses committed crimes and perpetuated fraud behind their backs, who go through a lot of life changes in a brief period of time and come out the other side of it with a terrific, but very different, existence?)

The good news is that instead of being filled with relief at being able to “wake up” (like you do in dreams, especially bad ones) and go back to the old life and its plans and hopes and dreams, I find that I’m actually relieved to be living this one, despite its challenges.

So while I don’t know what psychologists or therapists would say about this, I’ve decided not to sweat it. I consider it part of the fallout of unexpectedly losing one life and inheriting another, and choose, instead, to count my blessings; the blessings of my real life. I believe every single life is FILLED with good things (some lives just require a harder look to see the good sometimes, depending on what phase of the unexpected life you’re living.)

And if you’re having a hard time recognizing all of the good in your life today, in my opinion, that’s ok. I think I remember living a day or two, or several, where the only good thing I saw as I tried to count my blessings was that I was still breathing!

Yet here I am, just two years later, finding so much to cherish and be grateful for. Life happens like that, if you just hang on long enough.

After all, “If you woke up breathing, congratulations!  You have another chance.” (Andrea Boydston)

What are YOU grateful for today?

The Key To Everything

“The key to everything is patience. You get the chicken by hatching the egg, not by smashing it.” (Arnold H. Glasow)

When I was 3-4 years old I learned an additional lesson for the unexpected life. It came from another feathered friend, a duck.

At the time, my family lived in Arizona on a golf course. One of my favorite activities was to visit the ponds on the golf course and feed bread to the ducks. I loved the ducks! In fact, I loved them so much I wanted one of my own. Every time we fed the ducks, I wanted to take an egg home with me.

My mom always kept me carefully away from the nests, but one day our cousins from Utah were in town visiting, and my cousin Athena and I decided that together, we were going to get a duck! We rode my bike to the pond, stealthily crept to a nest when the mother duck was swimming, grabbed an egg and pedaled home as fast as my little legs could pump! The whole way home I felt like we’d robbed a bank.

And then there was the threat of dogs. We were sure if a dog caught a whiff of the egg in our possession, the dog would be after us too! Home we raced, hearts pounding, legs pumping, dodging dogs and other dangers in the quest for a duckling. Finally, we arrived back home and I snuck a table knife from the kitchen to help us crack the egg open.

Imagine our disappointment when we cracked the egg and out came…absolutely nothing.

I was stunned! I remember wondering how an egg that was supposed to contain a baby duck actually contained nothing different than the eggs my mom scrambled for breakfast.

It was one of my earliest lessons in life. And patience. It showed me, for the first time, that as much as you’d like to, you can’t rush life or its challenges OR its blessings. How many times I have impatiently wished I could fast forward through the hard stuff I never expected to face or planned on being a part of my life, unexpected or otherwise.

Then I remember my first failed effort to attempt to do that and realize, again, that  in life you can’t always go over or under or around it. You can only go through it. And you can’t get birds by smashing eggs. You have to be patient. You have to wait for things to hatch. And you have to have faith.

“Faith is putting all your eggs in God’s basket, then counting your blessings before they hatch.” (Ramona C. Carroll)


I’ve admired a few women in my life.

Every once in awhile, you come across someone who exemplifies everything you admire. You look at her with awe and hope that someday… you can become like her. That someday you’ll be as beautiful on the inside, and out, as she is.

The bummer comes in getting there.

In becoming like her.

In developing the beauty that comes from meeting life and conquering its challenges with grace, dignity and class. (At least, that’s my goal.)

Someday, I want to be a woman like that.

“Class has nothing to do with money. Class never runs scared. It is self-discipline and self-knowledge. It’s the sure footedness that comes with having proved you can meet life.” (Ann Landers)

And if I ever become such a woman, I’m going to have to thank my unexpected life for that, too.

A Holiday Opportunity

“Problems can become opportunities when the right people come together.” (Robert South) 

Last week my youngest refused to participate in his preschool Christmas program. As it was our last opportunity to experience a preschool Christmas program, we were disappointed. But it’s amazing how problems can become opportunities, based on how you choose to look at them and react to them.

Just three days after that huge disappointment at our house, Bachelor #5 took us to a Christmas caroling party he attends each year with his friends. Every person there (but me and my children) were members of The Mormon Tabernacle Choir, past and present cast members of the L.D.S. church production, “Savior of The World,” or actors and singers from other shows/theaters. Singing with that group was quite an opportunity. To be honest, I’d never heard a caroling group sound so good. It was fun to join them in sharing the spirit of the season with others through music.

The biggest surprise was my youngest. Despite refusing to participate in his school musical program the week before, he merrily led the caroling group that night! Songbook tucked under his arm, he enthusiastically climbed each step, entered each home and sang his little heart out to each and every person. He absolutely loved the experience! I guess he just needed the right people to do it with—no holiday costumes or four-year-olds for him. Apparently he required professionals!

The next night, for our weekly family night, Bachelor #5 took us to a local senior center as he volunteered his time singing and playing Christmas music for the residents there. While the rest of us quietly watched the performance, my youngest unexpectedly joined #5 on stage. He walked to the front of the crowd without hesitation, sat in front of them, facing the audience, and began singing along! When the song ended, he wasn’t ready to quit. So he walked to the piano, sat on the bench beside #5 and sang a few songs with him into the microphone. WHERE did that urge come from?

After the program, he wished the seniors a “Merry Christmas” and hugged a few grandmas before we left. A completely different experience than the week before. Very unexpected. But just like life, a problem became an opportunity, with the right people in place to help him make it so.

This holiday I’m reminded of many good people who have helped our family. Thank you to everyone, past and present, who has been there for me and my little family amid some very unexpected difficulties. Each of you, our friends, helped us create a happy, new life of opportunity out of our challenges.

What a difference you made to us.

“We must not, in trying to think about how we can make a big difference, ignore the small daily differences we can make which, over time, add up to big differences that we often cannot foresee.” (Marian Wright Edelman)