Living Happily Ever After


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Of Victory, Defeat…and Birthdays

“Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.” (Horatio Nelson)

I celebrated my birthday yesterday. It was a WONDERFUL day, for many reasons and thanks to so many people. It was a happy day, all day, for me (and my husband, who shares my same birthday.) But then, unexpectedly, there came that moment.

That one moment when I couldn’t help but acknowledge the miracle of having such a wonderful 47th birthday…as I remembered how absolutely terrible turning 42 had been.

That lovely birthday that hit about a month after my extreme life losses and divorce in 2009, amid of a LOT of change, challenge, trauma and turmoil. I felt terrible, I looked awful, and I can’t describe the misery I experienced–feeling like a total failure in my 40s! (I don’t recommend it, haha.)

But I DO recommend hanging in there. Choosing to live anyway, despite your losses, burdens and adversities. Never give up. Get out of bed every day and accomplish something, even if it’s just getting out of bed!

Because time really is everything. And those ensuing minutes (or years, in my case) really do make the difference between defeat and victory. And victory feels so good and is literally, so SWEET.

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” (Malcolm S. Forbes)

Taste it.



The Speech Continued: ‘H’ is for Hang On

H: Hang On.

Don’t walk off into the sunset, disappear into the horizon and drop off the face of the earth as much as you may want to! Don’t lay down and die (like I really wanted to!)

“The best way to guarantee a loss is to quit.” (Morgan Freeman)

So hang on!

The reality is: if you hang on long enough and hang in there strong enough, eventually you’ll see light again. And when the dust settles, it USUALLY doesn’t end up QUITE as bad as you initially think it will. For example, I seriously believed at worst case scenario, I was innocent but would be sent to prison anyway; and at best case, I would be homeless–living in a cardboard box somewhere under a bridge. (It was me and my four kids, so I was envisioning a refrigerator-sized box!) The reality? Yes, I lost my life, my home, my husband, my intact family, many friends, my reputation, every material possession of value (including my wedding ring and most of the gifts my husband had ever given me); yes, I had to go to work and will have to work until the day I die; yes, I WILL be living paycheck to paycheck the rest of my life…but there IS a paycheck, there IS a roof over my head and there IS food for my children. We’re ok!

You CAN do it.

“You gain strength, courage and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I have lived through this horror, I can take the next thing that comes along!’ You MUST do the thing you THINK you cannot do.” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

Embrace your horror! Really, what else is there to do?

Own your story, whatever it is, and I promise you, someday you’ll be living with happiness and joy. Again.

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.

Keep Going

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” (James Cash Penney)

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to experience G-forces, courtesy of the summer training bobsled at Park City, Utah Olympians use to prepare for the winter Olympic games. I’m a pretty cautious person: there is a reason I’ve never had stitches or broken a bone (other than my nose in an unfortunate accident courtesy of my ex-husband, another friend and a lack of intelligence on my part many years ago.) Alpine slides, not Olympic training bobsleds, are the only degree of risk I’m comfortable with but the bobsled opportunity was free (offered at a work party), my husband and sons really wanted to do it and they needed an extra rider and then my company’s new COO joined us so I was pretty much trapped into participating!

As I climbed in the sled I thought, “What am I doing?”

As the driver oriented us, told us what to do and explained the forces we would experience I really wondered why I was in that bobsled—sons, husband or COO not withstanding.

And then as we were tearing down the track during THE MOST MISERABLE 60 seconds of my life, the G-forces wreaking havoc on my body and my psyche all I could think was, “I’m in my mid-forties, I’ve had four children, I hope and pray I don’t have an accident!” (ANY type of accident, take that any way you desire, they’d all be accurate.)

I got through it only by hanging on for dear life, trying my best to breathe deeply and in a relaxed manner while gritting my teeth, closing my eyes and counting to 30. (I figured I could survive 30 seconds of anything, which in this case I did—but barely!) And holding on, enduring, until the boblsed came to an eventual stop. THE LONGEST 60 seconds of my life.

Long story short, I survived. And I realize, now, that I did it by doing what we must do to get through anything life hands us: hang on for dear life, remember to breathe (sometimes that’s all you can do), grit your teeth when necessary to power through, and know that at some point, “this too, shall pass.”

And it always does.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Winston Churchill)

Hang in there!

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)

Even If It’s In Flames

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (T.S. Eliot)

No. Not in my garden. Here’s why.

Three years ago, when I lost my life (and pretty much everything else) in the aftermath of a Ponzi scheme, I moved to Utah. Along with my four children, I brought three peony plants from my Colorado yard I had uprooted and hauled several hundred miles in orange Home Depot buckets to transplant in our new yard. I’ve written about them before: one didn’t survive the journey, one made the journey and survived the first winter only to be uprooted by my youngest in his “chop down the new fruit trees and many other thriving plants with a plastic sword” phase, and the third, and final peony, bit the dust last week.

Not totally of its own volition, I confess. I just realized we’re entering the fourth growing season in our new life and while that peony has turned green every year, it has never bloomed. So last week I finally let my husband dig it up and remove it. We’re going to try something else in its place. Why?

Because life is too short to waste time NOT blooming.

I believe life isn’t meant to simply be “endured.”  I believe, instead, that life is a garden and we’ve all been given a patch of ground to do with it, to make of our life, what we will. Admittedly, all ground is NOT created equal. Some of us have a pretty easy, carefree row to till. Some have sandy soil; some are blessed with a rainforest (which has its own challenges); some have been planted in very difficult, rocky soil. And a few of us may not even be in any soil at all–but instead, like I found myself a few years ago, thrust into a pile of the absolute worst manure I’d never imagined! But regardless of the garden, or life, you’ve been transplanted to, you’ve got to bloom. Blossom. Achieve your dreams. Burst forth into something great. Let the soil of your experiences help you grow into something better than you’d have otherwise been. No matter what happens to you.

“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.” (Les Brown)

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)

A Hero

Sometimes I think the world is in need of heroes—people who inspire us to be better because they are; people who tenaciously endure and overcome overwhelming obstacles and by their example, help us endure our own; people who are shining examples of the goodness and potential for excellence we each have. And then other times, so many times, I see or meet or read about a hero and realize how many good, inspiring people are already out there in the world, quietly living their lives but in the process, doing and accomplishing heroic things.

I have my own personal heroes, of course, and up until today, had been a hero once. That momentous occasion came courtesy of my oldest son. He had been assigned to write an essay about his hero, and for the first time in his life (or mine) had chosen to write about someone other than hockey legend Joe Sakic—me! As a mother, it was one of THOSE moments. Where you get a glimpse of the impact you’ve had in the life of someone you love most in the world. I filed it away in my memories of motherhood and figured I’d had my day in the sun, so the saying goes.

And then it happened a second time, recently. This time, courtesy of my middle son. He was working on a scouting merit badge and was required to interview someone and write an introduction about that person and he chose me. He borrowed my computer to write it, and I stumbled on to it tonight. He began by saying I was one of his heroes. (Can you feel that? His mother’s heart melting?)

“‘A hero is a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.’ ( Tonight I’m proud to introduce to you one of my heroes, my mom. Not only is she a great mom and a working mom, she has gone through so much in her life that she has even been on the news—and not just because she works with famous people, like Donny Osmond, sometimes!

My talented mom is the manager of communications at her company. She graduated from Brigham Young University and is a talented writer; she writes about the products her company sells and about the famous people who use them; she writes for herself—she has written in a journal since she was 12 years old; and her personal blog has had hundreds of thousands of views.

My mom is a very inspiring speaker too. She has spoken to small groups, church groups, women’s groups, adult groups, university groups, and even groups of 4,000 or more! When she speaks, she shares uplifting messages about life, making a difference in the world for good and about overcoming obstacles to find and create your own happily ever after. When she talks about her life, she speaks with such enthusiasm and is so happy, it doesn’t seem like everything hard she talks about could have ever happened to her.

Here she is…my mom.”

It was fun for me to get a glimpse into my son’s thoughts. I’m grateful for another motherhood moment, a glimpse into the positive impact I’m blessed to be able to have in a life of another of those I love most in the world. I’m grateful for all those who are and have been heroes to me, too. (I’ve even named my children after some of my heroes.) And while I’m at it, I thought I’d share some of my favorite thoughts about heroes:

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” (Christopher Reeve)

“A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.” (Novalis)

“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” (Bob Riley)

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.” (Felix Adler)

When I think about heroes or living a heroic life, it seems daunting, not to mention that it would be the life of another to do something huge and great. But we each can do the above things. We each are, and can be, a hero to another. Life almost requires it. So be a hero. Persevere through and overcome your difficult obstacles, hang on a little longer, choose to let the hard times you face reveal the hero within you that you will be a light for the world, lighting the darkness for others to see by.

Garden Report 2011

Neighbors have begun sharing the bounty from their gardens. My co-workers are bringing their home-grown produce for lunch. Looks like it’s time for a report on my attempt at gardening this year. (Note the foreshadowing.)

Of the four almost two-year-old fruit trees I began the growing season with…two were chopped down by my youngest and his friend wielding toy swords. The third tree, loaded with approximately 30 little apples when I left on vacation earlier in the summer, was stripped bare 10 days later when I arrived home. (No sign or trace anywhere that there had once been the hope of fruit. I don’t know if little neighbor boys, birds or some other force of nature deserve the credit!) The fourth tree currently has 5 small nectarines clinging to two of its delicate branches; my husband is considering offering our youngest a cash reward if the fruit is allowed to remain there until it ripens!

The surviving peony bush (one of three hauled to Utah in orange Home Depot buckets from my Colorado yard in 2009 and transplanted in my Utah yard shortly after my arrival) still hasn’t bloomed. It has now been two years. I cut it some slack last year, wondering if perhaps it was still in shock at the upheaval and turmoil it had endured (I could SO relate!), but no fluffy pink flowers yet.

Of the flowers purchased by me and my husband at a local nursery earlier this year, the hanging basket (as I reported earlier) died within weeks; the rest were planted in three different pots and placed on the front porch. One pot died within a month, one is half dead, and the last bunch, though struggling terribly, is still hanging on.

Our pumpkin plants grew huge, beautiful leaves and approximately 75 blossoms (more blossoms than I’ve ever seen on anything.) The bounteous green vines are mounding and spreading…yielding, so far, two small light orange pumpkins and one tiny green one!

The zuchini starts we planted never did anything—in fact, they look about the same as when we bought them. The 8 tomato plants are all still alive, although two never blossomed or grew anything, one we harvested 4 small tomatoes from and the rest appear to be loaded with green tomatoes. Of the 6-7 lettuce plants, we made salad out of 3 of them before the rest died.

You know, life is like a garden. Some years, the growing conditions are easy-breezy; other years are more challenging. Some years plants thrive. Some years, not much appears to survive. The point is to keep watering and weeding, acknowledge every bit of growth or progress and to never quit planting. Always make the best of the plot you’re blessed with.

“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.” (Abraham Lincoln)

More Embarrassing Than…

“Lost a planet Master Obi-Wan has. How embarrassing.” (Yoda)

I took 5 kids to see my husband’s dress rehearsal for “The Sound of Music” at Sundance resort the other night.

It was the first time my youngest has ever seen this daddy on stage. He was thrilled with each and every appearance. (My husband plays the butler, so there were quite a few entrances to catch my son’s attention!) Pretty soon it became apparent that my youngest was only interested in the show when he got to see his daddy on the stage; and eventually, after one small tantrum, and finishing the licorice Nibs he chose at intermission, he fell asleep.

Sadly, he slept through the best part—the part where my husband has abandoned the tuxedo-wearing butler role—and comes out, instead, in embroidered leiderhosen and knee socks, bowing over and over again, as the 3rd place winner in the music festival the Von Trapp family singers perform at and then escape from. (If I’m not mistaken, and based on the audience’s roaring laughter, that moment may have stolen the show!)

The most entertaining part of that moment for me, however, was NOT what was taking place on stage. It was looking at the row of kids beside me and their reaction. They were uproariously laughing and totally enjoying the sight. I’ll never forget my oldest son, laughing and shaking his head, looking at me with tears coming out of his eyes, at his stepdad’s lack of inhibition. (By the way, that is one of the things I love about my husband—he is always willing to do unexpected, crazy things, on or off the stage, in the name of entertainment, and especially to make people laugh. I have some special memories of those attempts, let me tell you, most of which cannot be publicly shared or he might be tempted to quit them altogether to preserve his reputation!)

In that moment, however, everyone was entertained. Everyone except for one. My stepson.

He sat there in shock, his jaw on the ground, disbelief masking his expression, at the sight of his dad. He shook his head in absolute mortification (he is a teenage boy, 13 years old, after all) and looked like he wanted to crawl under the bench! His embarrassment was so palpable, I reached over and gave his should a squeeze of reassurance as if to say, “It’s ok, you’re going to survive this moment.”

Because it’s my experience that the embarrassment eventually dims. The difficult becomes endurable. And then…you’re on to another adventure! That is life. (And the teens, isn’t it?)

However, as a parent who unknowingly and sometimes knowingly, I admit it, frequently embarrasses her children—like every time I dance—it was a priceless moment for so many reasons (not the least of which was the realization that I may have married my soulmate.)

‘I was always embarrassed because my dad wore a suit and my mother wore flat pumps and a cozy jumper while my friends’ parents were punks or hippies.’ (Shirley Manson)

The things parents do.

Apparently, there are things more embarrassing than losing a planet.:)