Living Happily Ever After


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A New Year, A New Life

It’s a new year–a time to reflect on the past, learn from it, and also to look forward to the new adventures, opportunities for growth and the many other “unexpected” things life brings. As such, I have reflected lately on many things. (After all, it has been almost five years since I began this blog and nearly six years since I began my unexpected life–a life I’m so busy living that I hardly have time to write about it much less share the lessons I’ve learned from it!) And after all is said and done, one memory stands out in my mind.

It was July 2009. I had just moved to Utah and was getting things settled in my new home. I entered the laundry room, closed the door to sweep behind it and came face to face with a poster left by my home’s previous occupants. (It was so perfect for my situation at that time, I wondered if they knew about me and had intentionally left it for me.) It said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Wisdom from Dr. Seuss.

I couldn’t stop the tears. (They came easily and frequently back then.) And as I stood there sobbing because of everything that had happened, crying because of everything that was over and wondering how I would ever smile again much less smile because anything had happened, I realized that should be my eventual goal and the eventual outcome for everyone living life, unexpected as many of those lives turn out to be.

Reflect on the past, learn from it, and then move forward (with a smile!) choosing to use the experiences that come to become better. Perhaps Jeffrey Holland said it best: “As a new year begins and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.”

Welcome, 2015.

Welcome, unexpected life, whatever it turns out to be.

I’ve learned for myself that every end is also a new beginning. That every life, even the unexpected ones, have the potential for joy and happiness–all it takes is moving forward, carrying on through the difficulties, never quitting, being thankful for what you DO have, and continually striving for happiness and joy no matter what happens.

Life “ain’t over till it’s over.” (Yogi Berra) So hang in there, this year and in every year to come.

And now I end this in the manner of every good story and with what I hope will always be said of me:

She lived happily ever after. (After the hard times, after the difficulties, after everything and even sometimes, despite them! Haha.)





The Rest of…the Trip

“That ends this strange eventful history…” (William Shakespeare)

I was in Colorado  less than 48 hours. But I conquered all the major hurdles:

1. I drove the streets of Denver, Aurora and Centennial, Colorado (all the areas of my old stomping ground and life) and I felt great! I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel like I didn’t belong there, I didn’t have an urge to cry…I just felt like I was in a place I knew very well and enjoyed. I felt welcome!

2. I drove to my former home. And I felt…nothing. I didn’t feel homesick, I didn’t feel loss, I didn’t have an urge to cry… I felt nothing but peace.

3. Although I didn’t get a chance to see a majority of the friends I would have loved to have seen, I got to see several people I love and have missed.

4. I even had the privilege of seeing and speaking with a few victims of my former husband. They could not have been kinder or more gracious to me. (There are some really good people in the world!)

5. I realized that I can, and want, to return for a visit again someday. (And I want to bring my children, too!)

And then, all too soon, it was off to the airport again and a quick flight back to Salt Lake City. I arrived home–everything looked the same yet everything was completely different. I went to work the next day–everything looked the same yet EVERYTHING was different.

I was different. I had conquered the last hurdle from my unexpected life. Consider me recovered!  But I’ll refrain from adding “The End” to this story. Because there never is one to…the unexpected life.

“Now this is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill)

Marital Advice

“This is not the end. It is not even the beginning of the end. But it is, perhaps, the end of the beginning.” (Winston Churchill) 

The official honeymoon, the part where we went away just the two of us, came to an end just four days later. It was time to get back to our children, our jobs and our new life. I confess, I’ve never been one to leave my children, but strangely, this time as much as I missed them, I could have stayed a few more days with #5:)

We drove back to Utah, enjoying every moment of the drive and the last few minutes of one-on-one time together.



And desirous to remain so. I found a fun suggestion: “Happiness consists of living each day as if it were the first day of your honeymoon and the last day of your vacation.”

Not bad advice, huh?

Anyone else have any marital advice for the newlyweds? We’re open to any and all suggestions…

“Over the next four years, I will continue to listen to different views and accept different suggestions.” (Chen Shui-bian)

Very, Very Lucky?

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry.  So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” (Lemony Snicket)

Isn’t that so…me?

I get what I’ve been waiting for, FINALLY; I don’t believe it. I don’t know what to do; so I hang up the phone and…cry?

I had no idea I’d respond that way. But I did. I sat at my desk and tears rolled down my cheeks. I guess it was a mix of emotions: Joy. Gratitude. That I’d received a miracle. And maybe it was a bit of a stress release. I’ve done that before.

When I was a girl I was TERRIFIED of shots. I was so afraid of shots I used every excuse in the book to avoid the doctor and once went 5 years without a doctor visit, between the ages of 6 to 11. (They were fabulous years for me, by the way.) And then I stepped on a rusty nail at my grandpa’s farm and had to get a tetanus shot. I went to the doctor in the tiny town of Ephraim, Utah, got a shot (which I did NOT even feel, it was over before I even knew it had begun), the nurse gathered her supplies and left the room…and THEN I cried! (Weird, I know.) Yet I did it again the day I got my letter.

The only thing I wasn’t crying about was that it was also the final end to everything related to Shawn Merriman, our love, our marriage, our life together and our family. (Not that I hadn’t shed tears over that, I had–many. But at some point, I chose to only look forward so I didn’t see the moment I received my letter as an end, but a beginning.)

My next thought was to share the news with a friend. My CEO was in town from San Diego that afternoon, in a big meeting, in the conference room. But some things are so important, they must even trump The Board. (Just kidding. I didn’t even stop to think I could be fired. I was so excited I wasn’t thinking clearly.) I walked to the outside of the door and sent him a text: “Boss, turn around. My papers came!”

From behind, I saw him pick up his phone, rotate his chair around, he saw me standing there beaming in the hall and gave me a giant smile and BIG thumbs up! I told a few other co-workers, returned to my desk, finished my work (it was hard to concentrate on it, I might add!) and began the drive home, calling friends as I drove.

It was an exciting time, yet didn’t seem quite real. When I saw #5, all we could do was keep looking at each other, saying, “Can you believe it? Can you believe we’re getting married?”

Several hours later, just as it was finally starting to seem real, #5 stood up to leave, hugged me, beamed down at me and asked, “Are you SO excited to become Mrs. Ramsey?”

And then everything came to a screeching halt for me.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

He Said, She Said

“Bed is the poor man’s opera.” (Italian proverb)

We went to my room.

He sat on my bed.

I didn’t know what to do, so I walked to the other side of the room and sat on the far edge of the bed, well away from him and prepared myself for the worst. Unexpectedly, he scooted to the middle of the bed and reached for my hand. (I love that about him, by the way. Even though he had broken up with me, and in the middle of an intense discussion, he chose not to be cold or distant!)

“Andrea, I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t know what to say,” he said.

I solved that for him. I said, “I do. I’ll tell you what you did and what you said: you dumped me. You dumped me before you even married me. I can’t believe it!”

He looked at me in surprise and said, “Dumped you? I did not!”

“Yes, you did, ” I replied. “You dumped me. You said you couldn’t do it anymore, that the timing was bad, you were going to leave…”

He corrected, “Yes, I said that but I was talking about THAT discussion. I meant that I couldn’t do that fight, right then, in that moment; that the timing for that discussion was bad–my family was arriving for dinner any moment.”

I stopped. Stunned. ”Wait. You didn’t dump me?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t dump you! I would never ‘dump’ you! I love you, our marriage is a very good thing, I KNOW it,” he replied.

There was only one thing to say to that.

“Then you mean to tell me I’ve been up here in my bathroom, throwing up, all night…for NOTHING?” I asked.

It was his turn to be stunned. ”Is THAT where you were and what you were doing all night?”

Long story short, we worked it out. After a minute or two of “apologizing” he stopped and said, “Wait a second. If you were throwing up all night, what am I doing making up with you?”

I assured him it was fine to continue making up with me, that I’d brushed my teeth after my reaction to our break up and that he’d never have known what I’d been up to if I hadn’t told him. He didn’t argue with me about that, only about one thing:

He says he never dumped me.

I say he did.

But thankfully, whatever the case, we got it together again–and just in time! Because the next afternoon, Monday afternoon, I got a phone call that would have ended things for sure.

“Expect a phone call before lunch from the teacher informing you that your child has been launching hot dogs by compressing them inside a small Thermos and then removing the lid quickly.” (Erma Bombeck)

Or something like that.

That’s Real Glory

I called my sister today. She asked, “So what’s up?”

“Nothing,” I replied. And almost at the same time we both said, “That is a nice change! Isn’t that wonderful!”

We chatted a little bit about everything good in our lives and then my sister said, “This is terrible, but it makes me wonder when it’s going to end.”

We’ve had that conversation before, several times, over the course of our lives.

It reminded me of when we were teenagers and we’d lay in bed at night, talking, as we drifted off to sleep. I remember one conversation in particular. The night we discussed how great our life was. It seemed like all of our friends had major challenges and struggles, and we couldn’t really even think of any small ones. We had it pretty darn good. Almost perfect. Nearly too good to be true. And even though we were teenagers, we both knew how good our life was. (I believe we thought it bordered on perfection, marred only to a tiny degree because we’d been blessed with twin brothers who were overly…rambunctious, you could say.) One of us wondered when our fairy tale was going to end.

Turns out, 1986. (When our dad died unexpectedly in a plane crash, we lost everything, our widowed mom moved the family to Utah and our mother returned to work to support her five teenagers she was left to raise alone.)

It was glorious, let me tell you. But not in the way you might think.

“The real glory is being knocked to your knees and then coming back. That’s real glory. That’s the essence of it.” (Vince Lombardi)

That experience knocked us to our knees. But our mom led our family in a comeback that changed my life forever and prepared me for my unexpected life, and my divorce, better than I ever could have imagined.

So in 2009, when my unexpected life hit and I got divorced, when I not only got knocked to my knees but felt as if my legs had been amputated at the knees, I knew a comeback was required; that somehow, some way, I was going to rise up again. I was going for the glory. I had to–because of the way I’d been raised, and for my children.

That’s one thing I’ve learned: No matter what knocks you down, no matter how far you fall, it is possible to come back. It is glorious to come back. In fact, there’s nothing like a comeback!

“There’s nothing as exciting as a comeback – seeing someone with dreams, watching them fail, and then getting a second chance.” (Rachel Griffiths)

Comebacks are real.

And while you’re making a comeback, don’t forget to note what you’ve learned because, “If you’re going to go through hell…I suggest you come back learning something.” (Drew Barrymore)

In other words, don’t waste your experiences. We’ll all get our feet knocked out from under us (multiple times throughout our lives, probably.) And when we think we’re down for the count, we have two choices: stay down or get up. (It can be a bummer that there are only two options. I remember in the midst of my unexpected life experiences in 2009 that neither of those options were my ideal and I SO wished there were more to choose from! But there aren’t.) The additional options come AFTER we pull ourselves up, after we work through the hardship, misery and pain, AFTER we don’t quit and decide to try again.

That’s what makes a comeback what it is.

Glorious glory. Courtesy of our unexpected life and resulting from things we possibly brought upon ourselves (aka. things that can be considered our failures) through choices we made and occasionally, from nothing we did. It really doesn’t matter how they come to us, it’s what we choose to do with them that counts. Our comeback.

“Our greatest glory consists not in never failing, but in rising every time we fall.” (Oliver Goldsmith)

The Next Step

“Do nothing in haste, look well to each step, and from the beginning think what may be the end.” (Edward Whymper)

It’s about time I stop to think about the above, huh?

I had acted in haste, I hadn’t considered any step beyond sending a message, and I certainly hadn’t thought what the end may be! I couldn’t quite take the next step and call, so I emailed back, shared a little bit more about me and my life, and gave her my phone number.

She called me the very next morning.

Her voice was kind, gentle and friendly. She apologized for not getting back to me earlier; she said she was never on Facebook, that her friend had put her on it, and she’d had QUITE a welcome surprise when she finally did get on it!

One of the first sentences she uttered was, “I want you to know, I didn’t have a choice regarding placing you for adoption.”

I assured her I was grateful she had and I appreciated what she had done for me. I told her I had been blessed with wonderful parents and a very full and amazing life with every opportunity, and more, that anyone could have ever wanted.

She told me the circumstances of my birth. She told me about my biological father. She told me some of my medical history. She told me she loved me.

The whole thing could not have been more unexpected or more positive or a better experience for me. I’m so glad she called!

It was an unexpected phone call that changed my completely unexpected life.

“If you were going to die soon and had only one phone call you could make, who would you call and what would you say? And why are you waiting?” (Stephen Levine)

The wait was over.