Living Happily Ever After


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One Unexpected Adventure…Revealed

“When I was a child I had a crush on Abraham Lincoln. Why I would choose to reveal this, I know not.” (Julia Roberts)

Revelation time.

I’ve had a few crushes in my day.

Not only that, I have something in common with Janet Jackson who revealed, “My first crush was Barry Manilow. He performed on TV and I taped it. When no one was around I’d kiss the screen.” Let me clarify: I have the crush part, NOT the kissing the screen part, in common with Janet.

When I was a child I also had a crushes on Mike Smith (a little boy in 1st grade–but the crush soured, sadly, when Mike gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day that was too big to fit in my desk and my classmates teased me about it!); Tim Horn (a boy in my 2nd grade class); The Lettermen; Shaun Cassidy; Kurt Russell; the buck-toothed boy from Disney’s original “Escape To Witch Mountain;” Stewart Peterson; and Donny Osmond.

I remember several nights as a child, arguing with my cousin, Athena, about our Donny Osmond crushes and who “got him.” Athena never failed to insist, “I get Donny because I’m older than you and closer to his age, you can have Jimmy—because you’re younger.” But I didn’t want Jimmy Osmond, I had a crush on Donny!

I even watched “The Donny & Marie Show” each week and I knew every song on their “Deep Purple” album by heart! And then Donny filmed “Goin’ Coconuts,” he married, and I grew up—and experienced many other crushes, but those are another blog post. (It did strike me as ironic, and funny, however, that as I drove off “just married” in 1989—my first marriage—Donny Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” was playing on the radio! A fitting conclusion to my childhood.)

I was married for 20 years, and happily so. I was a mother of four children, absolutely fulfilled in devoting my life and my efforts to my husband, children, home and church and community service. And then, in one moment, on one day, it all ended. Oh, the bleak and black absolute despair I felt! Indescribable. Within a few months I found myself divorced, single, working full-time and living in Utah attempting to create a new life for myself and my children as I raised my four kids alone. I carried on, but a big part of my shattered heart was sure I’d had my turn. That every good thing that was ever going to come to me was in the past.

And then, unexpectedly, I fell in love and got married again. Now I have a crush on my husband.

Even more unexpected: the day I found myself driving through the roads of Utah County in my trusty Subaru Outback station wagon to have lunch with…Donny Osmond!

All I can say is that if anyone had told me when my life fell apart in 2009 that lunch with Donny Osmond was in my future as part of my unexpected life, I’d NEVER have believed it! But it’s true.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” (Orson Welles)

Second Marriage Moment #25: The Counselor Was Right

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” (Kak Sri)

I’ve always been the kind of person that appreciates cheerfulness, a positive attitude, a spirit of gratitude, a sense of humor and kindness and courtesy toward others. It’s pretty much how I’ve always tried to approached everything, every blessing and every challenge, in my life. And true to form, it’s how I entered into remarriage.

I thought that if we all tried to be cheerful, if we all had positive attitudes, if we all counted our blessings instead of our misfortunes, if we all laughed at ourselves and some of the crazy blended-family situations we now found ourselves in, if we were just polite to one another, everything would (at least) be tolerable. It’s how I raised my children; it’s the home life I’ve always espoused; and it has worked well for us: the good times have been really, really good; and the challenges, even the practically unbearable ones in the wake of a Ponzi scheme revelation, the venom we endured, the divorce and complete life change which resulted from the situation brought upon us by a former family member, were more bearable because of it.

Unfortunately, the remarriage counselor had a different view. He actually told us to expect issues—and he told us what they would be! I was NOT a fan of all the counselor told us to expect. And, I recognize (now) I was extremely naive to think all of the above could eliminate from our lives what every other remarriage situation brings to all family members. I learned, firsthand, the professional expert, the remarriage counselor, did indeed know what he was talking about. Every single issue he told us to prepare for came to pass in the course of our engagement, our marriage, or in the months afterward!

Looking back, I guess it was easier to know what to expect (even though I’d forgotten to expect it by the time it happened). I recommend premarital counseling to everyone. On those occasions when an issue would arise, we were prepared for it to some degree. My husband would look at me and say, “No problem, we were told this would happen, we’ll make it work.” And he always did, we always did, reminding ourselves, “This, too, shall pass.” And it always does.

One thing the remarriage counselor failed to mention, however, was the impact mothers have on their children; especially the impact of different mothers raising their children! Remarriage, and my husband, have taught me, “Different mothers equals entirely different cultures!” I believe you can attribute most blended family issues to that.

As a result, while there have been some great moments, there have been some challenges. I even dared wonder, about three weeks into our marriage (and on one or two other occasions), “WHAT have I done? Can I really endure the issues that come with this territory?” But what marriage doesn’t make you wonder that at some point, even a first marriage? And as my husband always points out, “At least the issues are never with each other or between us.” True, and that’s something to be grateful for.

Another thing I’m grateful for is that despite eight months of marriage, he is still holding on to the whole “soulmate thing” with all of his heart. And the longer I’m married to him, the more I think he’s right. How awesome it is to have found mine, so unexpectedly, thanks, once again, to…the unexpected life.

Oh, the counselor was right about something else, too: It CAN be done. It IS worth it. And, to quote him, “You two are going to be just fine!” Second marriage moment #25.

“Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

What blessings has YOUR unexpected life brought you?

Second Marriage Moment #24: Spawned By Grass

“The thing I love is that my home life hasn’t changed. I still help out with the garbage. I still help out with the lawn.” (Taylor Lautner)

You know what’s amazing about remarriage? It doesn’t change your life one bit. Seriously! (At least, that’s the sarcastic thought I had one day last summer shortly after lawn mowing season began.) The truth is, remarriage even complicates…lawn mowing.

I remember the days when mowing the lawn was simple. The lawn needs mowing? You do it— or assign one of your children to do it. Ah, the good old days.

One day earlier this year, the lawn at the Merriman-Ramsey house needed mowing. In an attempt to bring the children together and to give everyone an opportunity to contribute to the running of our household, a child from each family (one Merriman, one Ramsey) was assigned lawn mowing duty.We divided the assignment into two section, the front lawn and the back lawn. Simple, right? You’d think!

We’d been told by remarriage experts that (at least in the beginning of the relationship) the biological parent of each child in the family should be the parent to correct behavior, make assignments, etc…My husband was very good to follow this counsel (better than me, of course, but that’s a blog post for another time) so one day my husband called to request I remind my son to empty the grass bag when he was done mowing the lawn.

I obeyed, called my son and reminded him to empty the grass bag attached to the lawn mower. He argued about doing it, pointing out that the other lawn mower in the family didn’t do it after HE mowed, why should my son? He added that he was tired of cleaning up after the other lawn mower, too, but my son emptied the bag despite his grumbling.

I got another call to report the grass bag had been emptied—of the grass left by the other lawn mower. I remained calm and endured the comments, thinking the other lawn mower could probably say the same thing and hung up the phone thinking the lawn situation was taken care of. My son was hard at work mowing the lawn.


My son called a few minutes later and requested to mow the front lawn. Unfortunately, I had to deny that request. The other lawn-mowing son had already told his dad he wanted to mow the front lawn, his dad had called me and informed me of that already, so I told my son that job was taken and assigned him to mow the back yard. Grumbling, he hung up the phone and went to work—I assumed.

That assumption was corrected when I got another phone call. Apparently, my son had taken the initiative to inspect the front lawn! He reported that it was not up to par: patches of long grass were visible to the naked eye at every turn and periodically on the straightaways. He requested to re-mow the front lawn for his assignment.

Request denied.

He wasn’t a very happy lawn boy as he hung up the phone to go to work mowing the back lawn. I went back to work, assuming, again, everything was taken care of.


There were follow-up phone calls about fuel for the machine, the length of the grass, slope of the backyard and my son’s lack of enthusiasm for his assigned duty. When the back lawn was finished, I got another call to report its completion, along with a question, “Have you called to make sure the front lawn gets taken care of?”

“No, I’ve been working, or trying to work,” I replied. But I told him I’d pass that request along as I felt it appropriate. We hung up the phone. Later that day I got another phone call: the front lawn still looked terrible, what was going to be done about it? In a bold move (or out of pure, green desperation) I took the situation into my own hands. I told my son we weren’t going to worry about anyone else or their assignment, we were going to worry about him, his assignment and making sure he always does an excellent job and takes pride in his work. Situation resolved, I thought, as I hung up the phone at the conclusion of yet another conversation about the lawn!

I got a final phone call about the lawn later that day. I finally laid down the law: “We’re not going to worry about it. The person who mowed the lawn OR THEIR PARENT will be responsible to make sure the job is done well.”

Second marriage moment #24: the memory of the days when life was “simple” (or at least lawn mowing was!) In that moment remarriage brought this renegade thought to mind: “I mow my own lawn.” (Ron Reagan) It sure might be easier! But then just as quickly I was reminded of the myriad of ways life was a lot more complicated for me prior to remarriage and counted my blessings that my unexpected life had taken that unexpected twist of getting to marry again.

Tim Allen’s mom only had it part right. “My mom said the only reason men are alive is for lawn care and vehicle maintenance.”

I think they’re for marrying, too!

LOVE #5! Married to him for 8 months now and together, we’re bravely tackling (and finding joy) in all aspects of the new frontier called marriage/remarriage that we’re exploring, including…mowing the lawn.

Happy Birthday

“Brilliantly lit from stem to stern, she looked like a sagging birthday cake.” (Walter Lord)

Last week, I turned 44 years old and my husband turned 50 years old. On the same day. I remember the night I found out we shared the same birth date…and how I wasn’t sure I was thrilled about that. Second marriage moment #23? I changed my mind!

It happened like this.

My husband came home from work one day, said he found a great hotel deal in Las Vegas and that he thought we should take advantage of it to celebrate our birthdays. It immediately hit me like a ton of bricks: sharing a birthday with my husband just might not be too bad! I agreed to go.

But sadly, as the birthday approached, I began to have second thoughts: we shouldn’t spend the money, I’d never not been with my children on my birthday before, work was busy, who would supervise the children while we were gone? Then shortly before the trip, an extended family member scheduled a wedding we needed to attend and my husband announced, “I don’t think we can do both. Maybe we shouldn’t go to Las Vegas.”

As he voiced what I had been thinking and feeling all along, I suddenly realized how much I wanted to go. How important it was, to me, to go. (I’m not sure why. But I will say in a remarriage, in my experience, there are so many things already decided for you. It is never just you and your husband, alone, and deciding what you want or what is best for you and then doing that. You begin your marriage and attempt to build a new family, with two other already existing families, and children, in place. You never, or rarely, have the luxury of considering only your needs—not to mention you start out your marriage with so many things you can’t control, or do, due to the choices of others.) Maybe it was just a moment of stubbornness where I couldn’t have one more person make one more choice and decide something for me, or have one more person’s choice affect my plans and my life, but for some reason I felt it was important to get away to Las Vegas with my new husband.

So I said, “It’s my birthday. It’s your birthday. It’s our six month wedding anniversary. You got a great deal on a hotel. There isn’t a present or gift I want. And although every remarried couple we know told us the most important thing we should do as a remarried couple is to get away alone, without children, as often as we can—even every month—we haven’t done it once. I think I’m going to Vegas, and I hope you’ll join me!”

We went to Vegas.

We went cheap. We ate inexpensively. We didn’t see any shows. But we enjoyed all our hotel had to offer, and especially enjoyed our time alone together and the chance to talk and laugh together, for 57 hours, uninterrupted! Turns out, sharing your birthday with your spouse has its perks, too. When the hotel spa found out it was our birthday, they gave us a complimentary visit. And unexpectedly, my husband’s boss called and told me take my husband out to dinner for his birthday—on him. So I had crab legs (my favorite thing in the world, next to lobster) for the first time in two years—since beginning my unexpected life.

Who cares if you or your birthday cake is sagging with age or years…as long as you’re sagging on a birthday getaway with your husband? Not me.

“I should be committed to an institution immediately for even thinking I could get away with that…” (Johnny Depp)


“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)

So What Do You Do When…

Not too long ago my youngest was in the tub singing as he bathed. Thanks to the influence of my husband and his performance in Sundance resort’s summer theater production of “The Sound of Music” (I think), eventually the singing turned to yodeling (or shall we say, “attempted” yodeling?)

So what do you do when your son is yodeling? If you’re me, you join him!

There he sat in the tub as I stood at the counter doing my hair, both of us providing QUITE an impression of Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children’s song about goats! Later in the day, when my husband called to say hello, I let him know what my son and I had been up to in the bathroom before the neighbors did. I’m proud and thankful to report that accidentally shaving an eyebrow off wasn’t in the report this time. My husband listened quietly as I detailed our activity.

I don’t know what I expected him to say, but here’s what happened. Without missing a beat, he started yodeling the song from Disneyland’s “It’s A Small World” ride—demonstrating a suggestion for future material my son and I could yodel to!

Second marriage moment #22.

Because if you had told me, pre-March 18, 2009, that in 2011 I’d be working full-time, residing in any state other than Colorado, married to a different man than the previous 20 years, living a completely different life (aka. yodeling in a Utah bathroom and actually married to a man who sings, yodels, dances, plays musical instruments and wears lederhosen when the occasion requires it)…I NEVER would have believed it!

Still loving the unexpected life.

How’s yours?

“If you ever teach a yodeling class, probably the hardest thing is to keep the students from just trying to yodel right off. You see, we build to that.” (Jack Handy)

Good to know.

A Warning

“I didn’t fail the test, I just found 100 ways to do it wrong.” (Benjamin Franklin)

When I was a girl, I remember my dad telling me many times, “We’ve never been parents before. Please forgive us for any mistakes we may have made. Believe us when we say that every mistake has been made out of love.”

Then I grew up and became a mother. Believe me, I’ve shared that sentiment with my own children, many times, over the years, as well.

And THEN I became a stepmother. Or as some would say, “Better a serpent than a stepmother!” (Euripides) Completely new unchartered territory.

Despite their “fairy tale portrayals,” let me set the record straight. Stepmothers actually are human beings. They’re women. They’re mothers. They’re imperfect, like everyone else. Odds are, they’re bound to continue to make parenting mistakes. Even with stepchildren. Especially if they’re me.

I made my first one before I even married my husband. I apologized, my future stepson forgave me, and I realized something would be very handy in the remarriage/blending a family situation: a disclaimer.

Yes, I think parents, especially stepmothers, should come with a warning to the children they love and will parent. Something like, “Please forgive me. I’ve never been a parent before. I’m bound to make mistakes, but every mistake I make will be out of love as I seek to do what is best for you to prepare you for life.”

And along with the disclaimer, a guarantee: “I promise I won’t quit, I won’t let myself fail you, but I may find several ways to do it wrong in my quest to get it right.”

Maybe even 100 ways.

Consider yourself warned.

“One timely cry of warning can save nine of surprise.” (Joshua Thompson)

Second Marriage Moment #18: Family Vacation

“It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge.” (Phyllis Diller)


We have quite a few of them, thanks to our remarriage. Eight, to be exact. (Plus one daughter-in-law.) And we recently took all of them on our first family vacation.

It was quite a feat (not just the traveling as a group of 11 part, but in even pulling it off financially, not to mention coordinating the calendars of 11 different family members and 7 different work and vacation schedules to find dates that worked for everyone!) My husband, the two youngest children and I flew ahead of the rest of the group; the 7 teens/young adults flew to our destination a few days later. We met them at the airport.

I hugged my daughter and asked how her flight was. She reported the adventure of having a conversation with a woman sitting next to her on the airplane. Apparently, the group was seated in three rows of two, with my daughter sitting across the aisle from the group. The woman asked, “Are you traveling alone?”

My daughter replied, “No. I’m traveling with my brothers and sisters.”

The woman commented, “You’re a little young to be traveling alone, aren’t you?” She wanted to know who the brothers and sisters were. My daughter pointed to the three rows of passengers (ages 13-24) across the aisle and the woman was stunned to realize how large the group was. “There are so many of you— and no parents!”

My daughter explained, “Yes, our parents flew out early for our dad’s birthday.”

The woman nodded, knowingly, and said something about the parents getting away alone and leaving the children behind. My daughter clarified, “Oh no, our parents took the two youngest children with them!”

The woman’s face showed her surprise as she mentally calculated the total number of children that had to be connected to just one family, our family, and asked one more question, “Where are you from?”

My daughter replied, “Utah.”

Conversation over! I guess that state explained it all, because the woman didn’t talk to my daughter after that.

As my daughter related her travel experience, the others shared similar stories. The oldest daughter reported she’d also had a lot of strangers comment on the size of her family and said she handled all conversations with a quick explanation: “It’s a ‘Yours, Mine & Ours’ family.”

Not that I doubted their experiences, but I was surprised to have one of my own on the return flight. We boarded as a group and as we stepped on the plane, a flight attendant asked me, “Is this a family reunion?”

I shook my head and answered, “No, it’s just a family vacation.”

The flight attendant looked at me with big eyes, like she wasn’t sure she believed me. I added, “Really, we’re just one dad, one mom, eight kids and one in-law.”

Before I could explain further, the oldest daughter swooped in to rescue me with her well-practiced, “It’s a ‘Yours, Mine & Ours’ family.”

All I can say is that if fellow travelers couldn’t believe the size of our family, there’s something they would have to have seen to believe as well: the packed cars filled with all 11 of us, our suitcases and everything else the kids hauled on vacation.

Apparently, “Those that say you can’t take it with you never saw a car packed for a vacation trip.”

Speaking of Adjustments

“If you can sell green toothpaste in this country, you can sell opera.” (Sarah Caldwell)

You have to love marriage. It teaches you things, and shows you things about yourself, that you never ever knew. But here’s the difference between first marriage and remarriage (or maybe it’s the difference between youth and experience): you learn not to sweat the small stuff.

For example, in addressing the reality of marriage let us not neglect the infamous tube of toothpaste episode. We can’t!  I mean, doesn’t EVERY marriage have one?

Lest anyone has received the mistaken impression that #5 is walking male perfection (although he is very close), know that while brushing his teeth one day, he looked at me, held the tube of toothpaste we shared, and made a comment not just about which part of the tube had been squeezed…but about the tightness (or lack thereof) of the cap.

“Huh?” I asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. I confess, it has been years (probably 22 of them) since I’ve given any thought to squeezing a tube of toothpaste and where–and I don’t think I had EVER given any thought to the tightness of the cap on the toothpaste tube!

In first marriages, said incident has caused many a “first fight.” However, in remarriage, it is more like this:

The offending party (me) realized something about herself she had never known before; determined to pay more attention to the little details of toothpaste tube squeezing; and resolved, then and there, to work to always put the toothpaste tube cap on completely. A little thing on her part that would make such a difference to #5. No offense taken, just rational analysis and a determination to improve. No big deal.

The offended party (#5) knows there are easy solutions to the little irritations of life and relationships, ways to avoid potential problems (especially if you tackle them before they actually become problems) and he was willing to take action then and there. “Or should I just buy my own tube of toothpaste?” he asked. No big deal.

I warned him in advance that I might forget my new resolution and asked for his patience with me as I changed. He told me no problem, when I forgot to put the cap on or didn’t properly attach it, he would attach it VERY tightly when he put it on for me. And that was the end of that.

Both of us know there are a lot bigger issues to worry about in marriage and life than toothpaste tubes and caps; you have to pick your battles, and most aren’t worth the hassle or the fight. (Just “little” things like nurturing love, companionship, friendship, unity, kindness, respect, working together, cooperating, compromising, health, employment, raising children, blending families, serving others, making a difference in the world for the better and a host of other things.) Who really cares about toothpaste?

We also know this: ”You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” (H.R. Haldeman) There’s no sense crying over spilled milk. “The course of true love never did run smooth.” (Williams Shakespeare) And, “Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”

A Mixture of Pleasure and Pain

“This moment in time, on this tour, you know, I’m discovering a lot of new things. And to be 45 and doing that, it’s a mixture of pleasure and pain, I can assure you.” (Eric Clapton)

I’m not 45 years old, but this week marks my three-month wedding anniversary; cause to reflect on my current “tour,” remarriage, and to evaluate my experience thus far–as in where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

I remember back to the “good old days” of being engaged. I don’t know how it all came across in the blog, but the reality of it was not 9 1/2 months of bliss, carefree romance and starry eyes and nights despite the many great moments we shared. In actuality, it was the majority of  one year spent getting to know one another even better, preparing to unite not just ourselves but our families, and of challenges, confronting issues and resolving them–and when you’re talking remarriage, you’re dealing with all of the aforementioned stuff to an even greater degree than a first marriage. In fact, there was so much to work through, #5 used to joke that marriage would be easy compared to being engaged and that there was nothing we wouldn’t know about one another by the time we got married.

I think I thought #5 meant being married would be “easier” and with less to work through than our engagement and that because we knew each other so well, there wouldn’t be any surprises or a period of adjustment to one another after our wedding. (You know, for being this old and somewhat experienced in life and marriage–having been married 20 years to someone else prior to marrying #5–you’d think I’d be a lot brighter than I am!) But boy, was I wrong.

I realized, again, that you never truly know someone until you live with them and in life, and especially the remarriage aspect of the unexpected one, it seems like there is always something to work through or resolve!

I’m a hopeless romantic. (I’ll confess that right here and now in case that has happened to escape the attention of anyone reading this blog.) I went into remarriage with my usual rose-colored optimism and romantic ideals of perfection.  And while my remarriage is wonderful, there have been a few moments of challenge (if I’m being honest.) Moments spent in resolving issues. And the truth, in my experience and based on what I’ve learned from premarital counselors and others who have lived through or are living through the remarriage experience, is that approximately 80% of issues, conflict, and anything else that needs to be worked out can usually be related directly to money, children and/or former spouses. (Which shouldn’t be THAT surprising, since statistics show most first marriage difficulties arise over money and children, too.)

One day, in the middle of an “issue resolution” I joked that despite all the premarital counselor had tried to prepare me for, remarriage was a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated. That stopped #5 in his tracks. He looked at me in all seriousness and said, “Really? I thought it was going to be a LOT worse than this! I thought it was going to be much harder than this! I’m actually amazed at how well everything is going and how few problems we have compared to what I expected.”

That stopped ME in MY tracks. I was stunned. “Wait, you thought it was going to be WORSE than this…and you married me anyway?” I asked.

“Absolutely, and I’d do it again,” he clarified.

THAT sums up the remarriage experience for me, as well as the unexpected life.

It can be a stretch to feel like an old dog learning new tricks in your 40s. A mixture of pain, growing pains, as you learn and grow through the new opportunities you’re blessed with as well as plenty of pleasure, like when your new husband tells you, despite the challenges, issues and the work required to resolve them, that it’s even better than he expected, that he loves you and that he’d do it all over again. For you.

Second marriage moment #12.

“Forever can never be long enough for me, To feel like I’ve had long enough with you…Marry Me, Today and Every day, Marry Me…say you will.” (Train, “Marry Me”)

I love it when #5 hums, sings, says that or plays it for me on XM Radio “The Coffee House” channel.

The Unexpected Life.