Living Happily Ever After

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The Look of Love

“When your world is full of strange arrangements
And gravity won’t pull you through
You know you’re missing out on something…
Yes one thing that turns this gray sky to blue
That’s the look, that’s the look, the look of love…
Who’s got the look? I don’t know the answer to that question.
Where’s the look? if I knew I would tell you
What’s the look? look for your information…
That’s the look, that’s the look, the look of love…
That’s the look, that’s the look, Be lucky in love
Look of Love.”
(ABC, “The Look of Love” lyrics, by Martin Fry, David Palmer, Steve Singleton, and Mark White)

I danced to that song in the 80s. And I guess I took “the look” for granted. I assumed everyone looked at their love with “the look of love.” It took my unexpected life to show me that isn’t always the case.

Just prior to my entire world falling apart, I saw the first of the “Twilight” movies and was particularly struck by the way Edward looked at Bella. I don’t know if everyone else noticed it, but I sure did, and it made me feel a little crazy: forty-something woman struck by the way an actor portraying a vampire simply LOOKED at another character in a story geared toward teenage girl fantasies and dreams of love and romance! I didn’t know why I noticed that specific aspect of the fictional relationship and why it had such an impact on me. Until March 18, 2009.

That day my then-husband, Shawn Merriman, sat me down and shattered my world. To anyone just joining us, that was the day he revealed his investment company, Market Street Advisors, was “a sham;” that he had been running a Ponzi scheme for 15 years; that he had already turned himself in to government authorities and anticipated being charged with crimes in the next week and incarcerated within the next 30 days for approximately the next 5-7 years; that all of our assets, money, home, vehicles and possessions had been seized by the government; and that I would be left alone to parent, provide for, and raise our four children.

That was also the day I realized why I found Edward’s intense look at Bella so compelling.

As part of his confession, my then-spouse expressed the guilt and shame he had lived with during the entire course of his Ponzi scheme. He felt so bad about what he had done, and so guilty, he said it became difficult for him to even look at me. “I haven’t looked you in the eye in years,” he revealed.

WHAT?

I argued with that. We had laughed, talked, joked, communicated and discussed things, ate dinner together, prayed together, interacted on a daily basis and lived as a happy, loving couple, married and raising our family for 20 years. He had looked at me all of the time! At least I’d thought he had. It seemed like he had. I was about to learn Shawn Merriman’s biggest deception of all relative to his life of crime.

It wasn’t the lies he’d told day in and day out, as he’d come home from work and report the usual business-related events of the day like all husbands do, conversations he’d had with this person or that client, stocks he had bought or sold. I found out he hadn’t bought or sold any stocks in years.

It wasn’t the fraudulent monthly statements he created and mailed to every investor, including me, each month. I found out he made all of those up.

It wasn’t the hypocrisy he exemplified to our children and the rest of the world, preaching one way of living and secretly choosing to practice another.

It was the way he had looked at me. Or intentionally had not looked at me.

He explained, “No, you only THINK I’ve looked at you. But I haven’t. Not once. I have looked at the tip of your nose every single time I’ve looked at you, and when I do that, you think I’m looking at you and can’t tell I’m not looking at you, but I promise you, I haven’t looked in your eyes in years.”

How long?

Most of our children had been born during the years he hadn’t looked me in the eye. I couldn’t count the number of events we’d shared, the memories we’d made and the daily expressions of love he had uttered to me…all while never looking at me. And I’d never even seen it. I had never known.

How could I not have been able to see that my husband was looking only at the tip of my nose instead of my eyes? How did no one else notice he didn’t look them in the eye either? And actually, how did I never know there were people out there who intentionally didn’t look people in the eye?

In a way, it was a fitting end to a relationship that came to a screeching halt due to crime, betrayal and other wrongs perpetrated by one man.

“I wanted a perfect ending. Now I’ve learned, the hard way, that some poems don’t rhyme, and some stories don’t have a clear beginning, middle and end. Life is about not knowing, having to change, taking the moment and making the best of it, without knowing what’s going to happen next.” (Gilda Radner)

Singles Conferences Probably Aren’t For The Engaged

“Finally Friday’s is first and foremost a singles dance. We never solicit married couples to attend. However, we do allow, even encourage, our single members to invite their married friends and relatives to attend as couples together (subject to the club’s rules and regulations).” (Gerald Pruitt)

While Bachelor #5 and I were engaged, a singles conference was planned. I’d heard about this particular one since I first moved to Utah. Held on the campus of Utah Valley University, lasting parts of 2-3 weeks, people come from all across the country and even outside the U.S. to attend. One day Bachelor #5 reminded me the conference was coming.

I looked at him. “Oh, that’s right! I forgot! I was going to go to that, before we got engaged. I’ve heard it’s really good. Maybe I’ll have to go and find out!”

Bachelor #5 shook his head and replied, “You’re not going.”

I said, “But I’ve never gone to a singles conference! And now I’m getting married. I’ll never know what they are like. I will miss that pinnacle of the single experience–do you know how many singles travel the world and attend conferences all across the country, and I’ve never even been to one?”

He laughed and said, “That is ONE singles experience I guess you’ll have to miss. You’re not going!”

So I gave up that dream, if you can call it a dream.

A few days later Bachelor #5 suggested, “About that singles conference…I’m thinking maybe you should go after all.”

I looked at him in surprise as he explained that he and a single friend had planned more than a year previous that the friend would come to town, stay with Bachelor #5, and they would go to the conference together. Bachelor #5 had never expected to be engaged, had forgotten about their arrangement and the friend was coming to town. He said, “I’ve thought about it, and what if we just go to the dance? We can see my friend, I’ll be at a conference event with him (and you) so I’ll have kept my word to him, and you can experience what a singles conference is like. We don’t have to stay long. And, we can dance!”

That was the plan anyway.

The night of the singles conference dance arrived. It was a Friday night, I was about to get the final singles experience the portfolio of my single life was lacking, and you’ll never believe it. I walked through the doors and had just one thought, “I am SO GLAD this is not me any more! I am so glad I don’t HAVE to be here!”

Somehow, it wasn’t all that it was cracked up to be. (Being single, that is. And the conference.)

Shortly after our arrival, Bachelor #5 drew in his breath, and if I didn’t know better, appeared to be looking for a place to hide. I think a woman he knew was heading his way. I’d never seen him try to avoid a woman before, but I’m pretty sure that is what he was trying to appear casual about doing! He decided we should dance.

We headed to the dance floor, Bachelor #5 took me in his arms, and as we danced I lifted my eyes to look over his shoulder and found myself staring right into the eyes of…Bachelor #1!

That was pretty unexpected.

I asked Bachelor #5, “Would you mind if we face a different direction?”

Bachelor #5, without a word, spun me around and as I lifted my eyes I found myself looking right at…Bachelor #12!

“I hate to say this but…”

Bachelor #5 said, “Wait, let me guess. This position isn’t working either?”

I nodded and suggested we go far across the dance floor to a new location. Bachelor #5 graciously moved to the complete opposite side of the room, we began dancing again, and I could not believe my eyes. I looked to the left and the right; we were dancing between Bachelor #7 and Bachelor #15!

Sometimes it’s as if you can’t get a break anywhere you turn, even on the dance floor.

So…I don’t recommend singles conferences if you’re engaged–or if you’ve worked your way through a list of eligible men and dated them. You just might have too many friends on the dance floor!

Sometimes, you just can’t win. Or even dance, in peace.

“Dance:10; Looks:3; the moves you do make us all pee. We laugh, we cry, we all say ‘HI!’ but when you dance it’s ‘BYE BYE BYE!’” (“Bring It On: In It To Win It“)

That Is Why You Must Sing

“I think I could sing and shear a few sheep at the same time.” (Robert Plant)

Not too long ago my youngest was eating his breakfast cereal. He spilled some milk on his chair, announced what he had done, “Mommy! I spilled milk on my chair!” And without missing a beat, changed the words to a popular rap song and sang about it: “Milk on the chair! Milk on the chair! Lookin’ like a FOOL with your milk on the chair!”

It was so unexpected. It made me laugh. And it made me realize there’s no sense crying over spilled milk…when you can sing about it.

I couldn’t help but think it’s a great choice for the unexpected life as well.

In life, you can choose to laugh or cry, as I’ve written about before, but also to sing!

“Music-what a powerful instrument, what a mighty weapon!” (Maria von Trapp)

Add that to your arsenal for dealing with the unexpected life.

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.” (Jiddu Krishnamurti)

Before I Committed Myself

“To be fond of dancing was a certain step towards falling in love.” (Jane Austen)

I made my decision, I needed to tell him, but I couldn’t. There was something else I had to know before I fully committed myself with, “It’s time.”

My problem was this: how can you think you’re in love with a man, how can you marry him, if you don’t know what it’s like to slow dance with him? One more experiment was needed. But I had to be discreet.

It didn’t even dawn on me to test his slow dancing mojo in my home or his, our own music playing. With 8 children between us, I didn’t even consider that a possibility. Instead, you’ll NEVER guess where I tested my hypothesis! A singles dance. (I know! After all I have written about them, I actually ended up going back to one, voluntarily, with Bachelor #5, just to see how I felt about slow dancing with him!)

It was going to require serious maneuvering though. Bachelor #5 was not a fan of singles dances. His ONE singles dance experience had not been pleasant. Thankfully, it occurred long before I went to one because he was not happy to be there, he sat on a chair against the wall with his arms folded across his chest and he didn’t dance once all night! (In his defense, that is SO not like him, I had to laugh at his hostility toward singles dances!)

So I didn’t tell him my plan. I didn’t tell him where we were going or why. I just buttered him up before the experiment by taking him to my favorite Provo restaurant. He was curious all through dinner about what was coming afterward, yet I never revealed a thing. I simply warned, “I’m sorry, you’re not going to like it, but it is simply something that must be done.”

That piqued his curiousity. As we walked to the car, he got a flash of inspiration and said, “I KNOW where we’re going! I know what we’re doing!”

I insisted he didn’t know anything. He insisted he did. He put me in the car, got in, turned the car on, looked over at me and asked, “Which building?”

Such is the price you pay when you have so much in common with someone else, when you’re so alike. He really did know where I was taking him. A singles dance. You can’t put much over on a soul mate.

But I didn’t back down. I gave him directions and we were off for the final experiment. We pulled into the parking lot and talked for a few minutes before going in. He had some concerns, but I assured him we simply had to dance a slow song or two and then we could leave.

Then he worried what he was supposed to do when women asked him to dance! I told him that wouldn’t happen; people would see we were together, and women would leave him alone. However, I guess he had enough experience with single women to worry about that anyway. We went inside.

It’s always that same, strange, weird feeling when you enter a singles dance, and that night was no different. Thoughts of, “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here!” flooded my mind as my senses were overwhelmed by the pulsing beat of old songs and current ones, and the sight of old people dancing like teenagers–or trying to, anyway. But Bachelor #5 and I pressed on.

After a minute or two, a slow song came on, he grabbed my hand and pulled me to the dance floor. A song neither of us knew was playing, but it was a very good, very appropriate song that led to a MOMENT on the dance floor. You know what I’m talking about; those MOMENTS in life that are amazing while they last, when time seems to almost stand still, and their memory lingers for years to come.

“There are moments in life, when the heart is so full of emotion That if by chance it be shaken, or into its depths like a pebble Drops some careless word, it overflows, and its secret, Spilt on the ground like water, can never be gathered together.” (Henry Wadsworth Longfellow)

Bachelor #5 passed the test.

And guess what? We had so much fun, we stayed most of the night–dancing every slow song and even some fun fast songs that he or I liked or that brought back memories of good times from previous decades. Unexpectedly, Earth, Wind and Fire’s “September” song came on, and although I was a pretty young teen when it was popular, it was totally Bachelor #5′s genre; we both love it and we danced to it. Looking back, and given his September deadline, that probably would have been a good MOMENT to say, “It’s time,” but I didn’t even think to. I just had the thought, “Dude, if you only knew what ‘September’ is going to have in store for you. There you are, innocently dancing and having a great time, until you get the shock of your life–’It’s Time’!”

After the dance, as I walked to the car, I had a moment of nostalgia. I thought, “This is not my life anymore. These singles dances are not for me anymore. This just may be the last singles dance of my life that I attend.” And despite my previous experiences there, despite the cast of interesting characters I’ve profiled, I had a sentimental moment as I realized how much I had grown and changed, even as a single woman, since my arrival on the singles scene July 13, 2009.

My singles experience was winding down.

And I felt a profound sense of wonder that it was, coupled with a feeling of gratitude for all that I had endured, tried to rise above, and eventually learned, as a result of being unexpectedly single in my unexpected life.

“Play with life, laugh with life, dance lightly with life, and smile at the riddles of life, knowing that life’s only true lessons are writ small in the margin.” (Jonathan Lockwood Huie)

The BIG “Board Breaker” (And A Bright Spot)

There was a time in my life when the following board breaker would have been, possibly, the ultimate humiliation.

But it’s funny how your perspective changes when you discover the man you have loved, trusted and been married to for 20 years has been running a Ponzi scheme, stealing millions of dollars, is heading to prison, and shatters your world very publicly ending in a divorce publicized in local and national media. (Just what every young girl dreams of. Not!)

Given the fact I’ve lived through what I believe is one of the more tragic yet embarrassing experiences, at least in my world, I’m not sure I have it in me to be mortified any more. Thankfully I’m unable to be embarrassed, because I’m still single and the following board breaker illustrates what single women are up against.

Single men.

Sometimes rejection.

Possible humiliation. (If you haven’t already lived through an ultimate humiliation, that is.)

One night, I went to a single’s dance alone. I danced, met some new friends, and then headed out for a break. When I returned, a song from the 80s that I loved was playing. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I decided to ask someone to dance. I looked around, found a man near me, asked, “Would you like to dance?”

And he said, “No.”

I was shocked! I never expected THAT. My parents taught me to never say no, regardless of who the boy was or what I thought of him. And there I was, rejected! Just like that. I know I’m not the biggest catch, but clearly, that man was not raised by parents. Lol.

I’m sure the shock showed in my face because he tried to explain that he’d had his eye on someone all night and wanted to catch her as she came off the dance floor. But it didn’t really help me. I couldn’t prevent the following thoughts: “What bad manners! How rude! What a loser!” And finally, “Well, you can’t expect to appeal to every one… especially VERY ordinary single men!”

I decided those dances didn’t work for me. And then, like Mr. Board Breaker who wouldn’t give up although his audience is cringing at his failure, he’s swaying on his feet from beating himself over the head with a board time and time again to no avail, I tried another dance the following month! (I know–slow learner.)

I danced, met some new friends, took a break, and then an 80s song I loved came on as I returned to the room. I didn’t want to miss the song, so I decided to ask a man to dance. What are the odds of a man saying no when you ask him to dance? I’d already experienced my “once in a lifetime” rejection at the last dance, so what did I have to lose by asking a man to dance a second time?

Apparently, what little dignity I had left because I asked a much less ordinary man to dance and HE said no!

He had an excuse, too. He said he had injured his leg and couldn’t dance. (Then WHY had he gone to a dance?) But at least he was nice, friendly, talkative and shared some singles information with me for the next few songs we didn’t dance. He told me to friend him on Facebook and he’d introduce me to lots of single people and singles activities. I tried to believe his excuse was real, and I didn’t see him dance once the entire night, so maybe it was the truth. But it was still a rejection!

At a subsequent dance I saw the same man (Reject #2, lets call him), this time dancing, and thought, “Hmm! His leg must be better.” I didn’t give him the evil eye or anything, I didn’t even stare at him, but before I knew it, the song had ended and he made his way over to me and asked me to dance–three songs in a row. So maybe he rejected me for a legitimate reason? Or maybe he was just trying to make up for his initial bad manners! Lol.

Too bad I’m not a gambler. Sometimes I have incredible luck. I mean, what are the odds of asking a man to dance and getting rejected? And getting rejected two dances in a row? For that matter, what are the odds of marrying a man who does what my former spouse did?

Lucky me.

However, a bright spot in the single life, a bit of glue that helps me hold it all together and keeps me going in the social “game” of dating and the unexpected life that is now mine, are singles lunches. (And I owe them to the second man who rejected me. He told me he’d introduce me to some great single people and singles activities and he did.)

Singles lunches are the best thing I’ve done as a single woman. They’re the most fun I’ve had, too. It’s just a group of singles under 45 years old who get together once a week for lunch. A different restaurant every week. You pay for yourself. And right up front the group informs you: don’t come to fall in love; just come, eat lunch and make friends.

The lunches are no pressure. They don’t cut into my evenings or my time with my children. I’ve only met friends there. Kind friends who text or call me to check on me occasionally or to let me know of a great activity I shouldn’t miss. Those lunches are my oasis in the desert of my single life! (A little dramatic, I’m just trying to emphasize how great I think they are. Thanks, Adam, for inventing them and coordinating them. I have loved participating in them!)

A bright spot amid my share of board breakers!

And yet, the dating continues despite the board breakers.

I just can’t give up searching for that happy ending.

A Seriously Small World

“Aw, man, it’s a small world!” (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” 2001)

We talked. We laughed. We shared experiences from our lives. It was uncanny how much we had in common. Seriously, a LOT in common. Even some of the same friends!

As an adult I’d made an older friend in Colorado. She had adopted her children and once we got on the subject of adoption; I told her I had been adopted too. She asked me what I knew of my birth mother and I told her everything except my birth mother’s name. Turns out, my friend had gone to the same university in Utah as my birth mother and had been on the same dance team! She wanted to know the name, she was just sure she’d know her.

I was afraid of that, too. Which is why I didn’t feel I could tell anyone the name. (I learned to be a lot more circumspect after that. I was learning how seriously small the world is.) So instead, my friend told me her maiden name and told me to go home and look at the pictures I was in possession of and see if she was in them.

She was.

I didn’t get back with her, hoping my friend would forget all about it, but she followed up with me. I admitted she was in the pictures with my birth mother and told her she probably had known my birth mother. She racked her brain trying to figure out who my birth mother could be. For years. But she never mentioned any names and I never volunteered any information.

In the meantime, we continued to visit together about once a month, and even went out to lunch for my birthday for several years.

The first time I met my birth mother in person, at some point in the evening I said, “Oh! I think I might know someone you know!” I mentioned my friend and our association over several years, revealed the woman’s first name but was struggling to remember her maiden name, when my birth mother named it for me.

She said, “Not only do I know her, she was my best friend all through college. We were roommates. I was the matron of honor at her wedding!”

How is THAT for a small world? A seriously small world!

“It’s a small world. No kidding.” (“Just Friends,” 2005)

Until It Happened To Me

The second singles dance I went to I met a new (female) friend who was my height, close to my age, and was fun to hang out with. We had a great time and became instant friends.

I wasn’t the only one who liked her.

That night, the MEN, liked her too. Old men. They all looked like grandpas to me, but she was very nice about it. She got asked to dance every song by different men clearly older than us, and was friendly to all of them. She had the magic that night!

After each dance, she’d return to the sideline with a dinner date set with the previous partner. I bet she got asked out by five or more men that night! I couldn’t believe it.

Who has that happen to them?

I was concerned about the age of her suitors until she told me the man she currently had a crush on and dated was in his 60s–that after two failed marriages she was ready for a good, mature man. He was in her church congregation, she sat by him every Sunday, and they went out on the weekends–she was just frustrated that she couldn’t get him to only date her. Thus, she had gone to a singles dance to meet men. I give her an A+ for effort! I’ve never seen anything like that.

And I didn’t believe dances like that happened to single women…until it happened to me.

The next month I went to a singles dance with a male friend. I danced with him quite a bit, but every time he or I took a break, a senior citizen man would ask me to dance…and then during the dance, asked me to dinner on a date! I got three invitations from three men who had grandchildren the ages of my children.

When it came time to go home, two were hanging around offering to drive me home.

My friend I’d gone to the dance with and I sort of had a system. We dated, we even went to dances together sometimes, but we danced with other people too (if someone caught our eye) and when the dance was over we both hung back until the other one was alone and ready to go.

My problem that night, aside from all those senior citizens, was that my friend kept hanging back because men were around me and talking to me, and all I wanted to do was leave! It took him awhile to figure that out, but finally, he caught on to my desire to escape and we got to leave in peace!

The next couple of weeks I fielded lots of phone calls and dinner offers from elderly gentlemen, but in the end, I had to admit that the 55+ crowd was just a little old for me.

It was an interesting experience to have “the magic” for just one night.

I couldn’t help but remember how I felt heading into my single life, newly divorced, feeling like an old bag, sure no one would ever want me or date me or desire to spend time with me–and although the men that “magical” evening were way too old for me, It was very nice of anyone to say they wanted to spend more time with me.

In a way, though, it made me feel like a teenager again. Those lovely years of boys I wasn’t interested in calling me and asking me to “go with them” and me trying to politely decline. Those years of never having the boy I liked like me at the same time!

After a total life change I had to shake my head and laugh that apparently some things NEVER change: the magic never seems to strike the one you want it to–or you and the one you want at the same time!

It’s so true. “Just because everything is different doesn’t mean anything has changed.” (Irene Peter)

Bachelor #11: Mr. Salsa

“Everything in the universe has rhythm; Everything dances.” (Maya Angelou)

And no one danced more than Bachelor #11: Mr. Salsa.

He was several years younger than me, he was very fit, and every date was an opportunity to go salsa dancing! I had never really salsa danced before. Bachelor #11 didn’t mind. He was happy (and patient) to teach me.

But I guess you could say we weren’t dancing to the same rhythm. I discovered he was unemployed, on welfare and lived with his mother. I, on the other hand, was the sole parent and support of four children. I needed someone dancing a dance more similar to mine.

Need I say more?

Except for this: “Salsa is something I usually put on my chips, um with a little cheese. I’m going to say that’s the only thing I really know about salsa.” (Travis Wall)

An Aside: Not So Bad

Bachelor #1 suggested we go to a Halloween party/dance and that we go as a “couple” in matching costumes. His idea? He dress as Clark Kent, and I go as Lois Lane. Lois Lane?

Although I have one sister who lives Halloween practically all year long, and my other sister is an artist and creates amazing new costumes every year, I’ve never been that way. I’m not super creative when it comes to Halloween. I wasn’t even as a kid. I preferred to be a witch or a gypsy, something easy, and I was fine with that. It worked for me. Didn’t require a lot of thought or advance planning, and I’ve always liked the color black. (It worked so well, I even won a costume contest at my church halloween party in high school: “Sexiest Witch” or something like that–I didn’t even know churches gave awards in that category. However, I missed experiencing it in person, because I left in the middle of the party to go to a haunted house with a boy. When we returned to the party, I was surprised when my mom handed me my prize!)

Since I was living a very unexpected life, and a single life anyway, I agreed to be Lois Lane. I was living totally out of my comfort zone every minute of every day as it was. What was a mere Halloween challenge? But how to be Lois Lane? I didn’t have a clue.

Thanks goodness I work in marketing, with clever and creative younger men. I showed up at work one day, told them my dilemma, and within minutes not only had they googled Lois Lane and told me what to wear, they’d printed off some sample pictures I could copy my look from! (If I haven’t said it enough, I absolutely love the men I work with.)

So I was off to transform myself into Lois Lane. It was quite a change from my usual as Lois Lane had dark hair. So I found a dark wig and prepared other Lois Lane essentials…but first, had to be in charge of my congregation’s trunk or treat Halloween party–after working in another city all day. (Halloween 2009 was my most hectic, to say the least!)

I worked all day, drove home from work, helped round up my children and their costumes, my trunk or treat candy, my food assignments for the church party dinner, and headed to the church an hour early to decorate and get it ready. I did the church party for two hours and left at 8 p.m. to transform myself into Lois Lane. In the middle of my costume preparations, I had to run pick up my daughter from dance rehearsal so she could babysit for me. It was 25 minutes, roundtrip, I wasn’t completely transformed yet, and Bachelor #1 was due to arrive in 30 minutes. Racing to the dance studio, I hit road construction. (More delays.)

My heart and my mind were racing. (Like I said, I had a lot going on that night.) Finally, I was almost there. One last stoplight to wait through and I’d be at the dance studio, picking up my daughter, and heading home. The light turned green, I drove through the intersection, and the next thing I knew the lights of a policeman were flashing in my rear-view mirror. I couldn’t figure out who he was after, so I pulled over to get out of the way. To my surprise, he pulled up behind me and came to my car.

He asked if I knew why he had pulled me over.

I was stunned. Until that moment, I hadn’t realized he was after me! Oops.

I said I honestly had no idea. He told me I was driving without my lights on. WHAT? I felt like the biggest idiot. I’ve never been that technologically talented, or very good with cars, but I did think I knew how to turn the lights on. And according to my understanding of the car I’d been driving for the past few months, the lights were on. I tried to explain that to the policeman. He had me turn the lights on, I thought I was turning the lights on, then he would check the front of my car and tell me they weren’t on. (Can you imagine what an intelligent blonde he would have thought I was? Thank goodness I was wearing a dark wig! lol)

I was embarrassed and felt quite dumb. I explained I was newly single, and clueless about cars, and would he mind showing me how to turn the lights on in my car? (Wasn’t that lovely to have to ask when you’ve been driving and turning car lights on for 26 years without a problem–until you get divorced?) He laughed, fiddled around with the light switches and finally said, “Actually, I think BOTH of your light bulbs must be burned out, because I think your lights ARE on.” Whew. What a relief to know I had known how to turn my car lights on!

He then told me he’d pulled me over for another reason too. He said I’d sat through a very long red light, and then simply drove through the intersection when the green turn arrow turned green! A giant oops. I’d had no idea I’d done that. My mind must have been elsewhere–like on all of the things I had to rush to finish before “Superman” arrived. And there I sat feeling like an even bigger idiot in my Halloween costume–dressed as Lois Lane. I wondered what the cop was thinking. I soon found out.

He asked for my license and registration. I was getting a ticket. But as soon as I reached for my license and registration, I knew I was getting a lot more than that. I was pretty sure I was heading to jail!

It was a new car (to me), with temporary tags, so I had no registration yet. I didn’t remember that until the cop asked for it. I explained that situation–about buying the car in Colorado, moving to Utah, the paperwork getting delayed in Colorado, so Utah couldn’t issue my license plates yet, etc… He let that go, and asked, again, to see my driver’s license. I reached for my purse to get my driver’s license. And discovered in my rush, in the hectic frenzy of the night, I’d left the house without it. The cop told me he could look it up. But that’s when I realized I had another problem: as I’d recently moved to Utah, I hadn’t changed my Colorado driver’s license to Utah yet! I asked if he could look up a license in another state–Colorado–and explained that whole situation to the policeman. I’m not sure what he was thinking as he looked at me. I couldn’t tell if he was trying not to laugh or if he was reaching for the handcuffs. Thankfully, instead he looked at me, shook his head, and said, “Tell me, do you at least have insurance on your car?”

Finally, a question I could answer with proof! I was mortified that I was looking so incapable and incompetent (and stupid) but I handed the insurance card over to the cop and he walked away. I sat there in the dark, in a panic, that not only was I totally late and looking like a lunatic, but that I was going to get a ticket and would never be able to afford car insurance after that! I started feeling bleak indeed. Waiting that terrible wait (although thanks to the unexpected events of 2009, waiting for the ticket verdict wasn’t as terrible as it could have been as I’d had a few perspective-altering experiences much larger than that in 2009, but I was panicked about the cost of a ticket and the impact it would have on my insurance rates) I started feeling a bit bad for myself. I was doing all I could to support my family and be a good employee, I was serving my church, I was trying to get everyone to everything all by myself (and that night have a little fun myself) and now this. A traffic ticket as my reward.

The policeman returned to my car, smiled, told me to be careful and have a safe night. No ticket. I was one fortunate (and blessed) single mom that night.

I drove carefully away, in the dark, without headlights, picked up my daughter, finally got home and amazingly was ready just in time for Clark Kent!

We had a great time that Halloween. But what I remember most about that night was that I was starting to see my new and unexpected life was…not so bad.

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The First Date (Continued)

I couldn’t believe it. I was in a car with a total stranger and it wasn’t weird at all! How could that be? How could I have been married 20 years and NOT feel weird my first night out? But I didn’t. At all. The man was friendly, talkative and very entertaining. I couldn’t believe how comfortable I felt. But at the same time, it was hard to let myself enjoy it. I kept thinking, “What is wrong with me? Why does this not feel weird?”

Then we got to the parking lot where the dance was being held. Suddenly I wondered, again, what I was doing. I felt like I couldn’t breathe. The comfortable feeling while driving must simply have been a bit of beginner’s luck.

He opened my door, helped me out of the car, and we walked toward the dance entrance. Like a coach preparing his player for a competition, the man was briefing me about the dance, what to expect, and offering last minute advice and encouragement. As I was beginning to wonder what hyperventilating felt like (and trying to figure out if I was experiencing it) I think I heard him say, “Don’t worry, you’re going to be great in there!”

It was a long walk to the dance from the parking lot. Periodically he’d look over at me and check my status asking, “How are you doing? Still breathing? Still doing o.k.?” Unfortunately, I was. So we continued on. It was all so new, I decided to set small goals for myself. That night I had just one goal: to walk in the door, dance one dance, and then I could leave and count the night a success. Progress.

But then we walked into the dance and I could have died. Lets just say it was a very eclectic crowd. The people were NOT who I expected to see. (Keep in mind the last time I’d gone to a dance was the 1980s when I was single the first time.) It wasn’t the 1980s anymore!

I stopped in the doorway and stared. I was in shock. Everywhere I looked, there they were: white haired grandpas, bald men, wrinkled men, heavy men; OLD men! My date looked at me, winked and said, “Yes…there’s a lot of heartache in this room!”

I guess that’s what you’d call it. But I was a bit more self-centered than my date. Instead of acknowledging all of the heartache that had to have been in the room, my thoughts were about me: “WHAT am I doing here? I don’t belong here! This is NOT me!” But I guess I did belong there and it was my new life. Although I hadn’t chosen my circumstances or my new life, although I’d never planned to be single, I was.

I guess in some ways, sometimes it still surprises me. To this day, every singles dance (all four of them) those are still the same thoughts I have each time I walk in to the room: “What am I doing here? I don’t belong here! This is NOT me!”

And then thanks to my rebound friend, I remember and think, “There’s a LOT of heartache in this room!” I know I’ve had more than my fair share in the time since my former spouse revealed His Ponzi scheme, crimes and everything else. So I try to make the night not about me, but about the heartache of others. I say yes to every man who asks me to dance, and I try to be friendly, polite, kind and interested in helping them have a good time for that song. (And I’ve met some fun women friends, too.)

But that night at the dance, my first date, we laughed. We danced. We had a lot of fun. And before I knew it, his cell phone rang. He looked at the caller and handed me the phone. “I think it’s for you,” he said.

“Mom? Where are you? What are you doing?” my oldest son sternly asked. (Who knew I had a teenage son in charge of my curfew?) I explained it was only 11:47 p.m., I was an adult in my 40s, and I was fine–I’d be home around midnight or a little after. My son laughed, said he was just doing to me what I had always done to him but that it too late for me to do that; it wasn’t almost midnight, it was almost 1 a.m.! At the same time my son told me that, I heard my date gasp and say, “Oh no! I’ve been in California on business all week–I forgot to reset the time on my phone. It’s actually…”

Too late. First date in 20 years and I had already blown my curfew! I was busted…by my teenager! CLEARLY, it wasn’t the 1980s anymore.

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