Living Happily Ever After


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I Want A Man

“I want a man who’s kind and understanding.  Is that too much to ask of a millionaire?” (Zsa Zsa Gabor)

As a teenager, I compiled a list of everything I wanted in a man. I found that list after my divorce…and laughed. In many ways, it was a bit, as #5 would call it, “Twilight-esque.” (In other words, unrealistic and total, imaginary romanticism that exists in the fictional world of vampires and werewolves, Edward and Bella. Ah, the emotional depth of teenage girls!) Here are a few important qualities from the early 1980s: tall, brown hair, tan skin, hard working, handsome, good at sports, funny, nice, good dancer, smart, good singer, polite, straight white teeth, opens doors for me, rich, writes romantic things to me, fun, spiritual, honest, hairless chest, sends me flowers, loves me more than anything, romantic, wears good cologne, stylish…let’s see, did I leave ANYTHING out?

When I grew up, I was self-aware enough to know looks and athletics alone might be fine for some women, but I knew it wouldn’t be enough to keep me “in love” for the rest of my life and into eternity so I decided long term (what I would most appreciate as a married woman in my 40s) was a smart man who treated me well. I married the first guy I felt was smarter than me. And boy, did he turn out to be smart! A lot smarter, more clever and cunning, than I’d ever imagined, in fact! I was happy and in love, until I found out our 20-year marriage had been built on 14+years of deception and lies. (Ironic, isn’t it, that I based my choice on what I’d want 40-something, and that’s when it all ended and I was alone and single anyway?)

It was the personal loss that caused me the most pain. My childrens’ loss of their dad, their childhood, their innocence, their life, their family, everything as they knew it, was the worst; followed closely by my loss. I had lost the man I had loved, relied on and built a life with; the man who should have been loyal to me and my biggest protector. I just knew I was destined to be alone the rest of my life. I felt those losses powerfully.

I remember standing in my Colorado kitchen one day, my heart literally breaking over those losses. And mother that I am, this is why I cried that time: “Even if someday when I’m 80 years old and some man takes pity on me and marries me because his wife died and he needs a housekeeper, I’ll never have a whole and complete family. Even if a one-in-a-billion miracle happens and a man ever loves me again, no one will love my children. My kids will never again run into my room, jump on my bed, and wrestle with a dad.” (It may sound crazy, but out of everything I had lost that was a big one for me.)

I began dating less than 3 months after my divorce, and I realize now, I entered into it without a lot of thought. I was reeling from the shock of what had transpired in a matter of months; I didn’t know what I was doing because everything related to singles and socializing had changed so drastically since the 1980s (it was sort of like entering the playing field without a game plan.) I was lonely. However, after meeting my first single man, it didn’t take long to list the things I couldn’t live without: spiritual depth, integrity, emotional stability, family-oriented focus, employed, a good father to my kids, a man who loves ME. Oh, and good credit. (The crimes of my husband and his incarceration destroyed MY credit. I didn’t need a man with money because I’ve never needed money to be happy, but I had to have a man who could at least qualify for a rental lease, a home loan, or a car loan because I can’t–and I can’t ask friends and family to do that for me for the rest of my life! The Catch-22 is that what man with good credit would want me and my financial disaster? But that’s a blog for another day…)

Cut to the other night.

Mr. Awesome (aka. #5/Agent M) and I were sitting on my bed talking. The door was locked. (With a small house and many children around, it’s what we’ve occasionally had to resort to when we need to discuss something important.) In the middle of it, my youngest knocked on the door. I didn’t open it, but told him I’d be with him as soon as my discussion was over. He went away for awhile and then knocked again. I repeated my instruction, he went away for awhile and then knocked on the door again. The third time he knocked, #5 looked at me and asked, “Do you think we should open the door and let him in now? I like it when he runs in and jumps on the bed. I love his hugs. And it’s fun to wrestle him.”

He opened the door and their wrestling match began. Pillows were flying, tickles were traded (along with a few karate chops) and all I could do was remember that moment I stood in my Colorado kitchen, sure that my youngest would never know what it was to have a dad, much less wrestle with a dad.

Can you believe it? Dreams really can come true.

Every single one of them.

“I tell people I’m too stupid to know what’s impossible. I have ridiculously large dreams, and half the time they come true.” (Debi Thomas)

What Miracle Is Wrought

“Don’t rush me sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” (“The Princess Bride”)

Not long ago, I was reviewing my unexpected life; pondering all that has happened and the many miracles I have received since March 18, 2009. There have been many.

Although, it’s funny what you become accustomed to. For awhile, my situation was so desperate I was blessed with huge miracle after miracle. They almost became “the norm!” Then I realized it had been awhile since I’d experienced a jaw dropping miracle so I thought, “That must be a sign that I’m healing and things are getting back to normal. I guess I must not need many big miracles any more.” (And I admit there was a tiny part of me that was sad miracles, for me, had ceased. I felt like I still needed a little help!)

I should have known better.  ”Miracles happen everyday, change your perception of what a miracle is and you’ll see them all around you.” (Jon Bon Jovi)

The other day, one of my cute, single college student co-workers shared a miracle she received with me: someone purchased a plane ticket for her to fly to visit her family at Christmas. She was so touched, and so grateful, she felt like crying! I was happy for her, and full of gratitude and admiration for whoever made that possible for my friend.

It made me think about miracles I’ve received. For example, that my children and I have remained healthy and safe the past 21 months is a miracle. That we have wonderful old and new friends that bless our lives is a miracle. That I got a job in a tough economy after not working for 19 years is a miracle. That I survived two corporate down sizings, and kept my job, is a miracle. And last but not least, not only did Bachelor #5 arrive in our lives, but that he continues to hang in there with me during an engagement much longer than either of us anticipated as we prepare to marry some time in 2011 and blend two families and eight children is also a miracle!

I could go on and on.

I receive miracles every day; but I’m overwhelmed by tender mercies lately. The following have all come to me THIS month:

As mentioned earlier, my neighbor fixed my car. It was a blessing to have it repaired. And of course, it goes without saying that each time we drive it, we continue to be grateful for functioning windows and a warm driving experience!

I got a little bonus at my work Christmas party last week, which will allow me to purchase Christmas gifts for each of my children.

Two issues that have plagued me since my spouse revealed his Ponzi scheme and crimes, were finally resolved. THAT is a miracle.

We got to see a current movie in a theater (AND buy treats!), courtesy of a Denver man who saw the NBC-affiliate news story that ran on our family and he contacted us with words of encouragement–and a gift card to a movie theater so we could enjoy a movie as a family! It was the first time we’ve been able to do that since our unexpected life began and it was a thrill! In fact, I don’t think my youngest remembers ever seeing a movie in a theater. Current movies in real theaters are one of those “luxuries” that aren’t in our family budget any more. The man said that although throwing rocks is fun, so are movies, and he is right! What a great start to our holiday season.

I guess the season for miracles in my life is not over.

And I realize that it never is.

For any one.

Regardless of which end of the miracle you’re on.

“When we do the best that we can, we never know what miracle is wrought in our life, or in the life of another.” (Helen Keller)

Manner of Travel

“Driving a brand new car feels like driving around in an open billfold with the dollars flapping by your ears as they fly out the window.” (Grey Livingston)

Not that I know a heck of a lot about driving a brand new car these days. However, when in one moment you discover all of your possessions (including your money, your home and your automobiles) have been seized by the government, and you’re visualizing being left alone as a single mother to raise your four children in a cardboard box on the street, you’re grateful for ANY vehicle to drive, regardless of how used it is.

At least, that’s how I felt and what I was telling myself the day the passenger window of our little, used, red car unrolled itself for no reason as we drove down the street—and unfortunately, wouldn’t roll itself up again. We tried everything we could think of to “fix” it, but to no avail. We consulted a car dealer who estimated it would cost between $200-$300 to fix. So we taped up the gaping hole with garbage bags and hockey tape (no duct tape for the Merrimans, we’re a hockey family!) and drove the car as it was while my children and I contemplated what we were going to sacrifice to be able to afford to fix the window.

It was a chilly, unforgettable experience that resulted in having to keep a close eye on Utah weather, to ensure our little car was in the garage when it rained, or snowed.

“…that’s the wonderful thing about family travel:  it provides you with experiences that will remain locked forever in the scar tissue of your mind.” (Dave Barry)

As the temperature dropped and the precipitation increased, and as I experienced the unforgettable memories that come with driving a car in the winter with no window, buried under blankets and blasting the heat in an attempt to stay somewhat comfortable as I drove around town…I had to shake my head and laugh at another unexpected adventure that was now mine! How far I’ve come from my previous life! (It was a chilly reminder of some not so subtle differences between my old life and now.)

And then, safety reasons aside, it simply got too cold. There was no other choice; we had to fix the window. And as in more times than I can count since moving into the cul-de-sac with the greatest neighbors in the history of Utah and the world, once again, a neighbor came to my rescue.

One neighbor noticed the “garbage bag window” and suggested we have her husband look at it. Her husband followed up on her offer before I could even call him. He recommended a repair place, we dropped the car off, and when my son went to pick it up, the repair shop wouldn’t let us pay for it because my neighbor had taken care of it. I called my neighbor, asked how much I owed him, and he wouldn’t let me pay him. When I tried to argue against that, he hung up on me. (Just kidding. He said the call dropped for no apparent reason.) But the bottom line was, my neighbor took care of our car problem for us. (Not for the first time, I might add.)

Scar tissue. It comes with the territory of an unexpected life. But the above is an example of the kind of “scar tissue” I’m experiencing. The kind that covers everything. And heals.

Thanks to our neighbors, we’re traveling in style (with all windows in the car) again. And we couldn’t be happier.

“Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of traveling.” (Margaret B. Runbeck)

Isn’t that the truth?

And many thanks, again, to all those who exemplify traveling in such style and who help us make happiness our manner of traveling, as well.

Life Lesson From The Ski Hill

“Too bad Lassie didn’t know how to ice skate, because then if she was in Holland on vacation in winter and someone said, ‘Lassie, go skate for help,’ she could do it.” (Jack Handy)

You can’t grow up in Colorado without learning to ski. And you can’t be raised by a ski enthusiast (like I was) without skiing practically every weekend of the year that the resorts are open–blizzard or shine. Such was my childhood, such was my life. I just had no idea it was preparing me for the real thing.

I was about 4 years old when I rode my first poma lift and experienced my first bunny hill. I didn’t grasp a lot of the concept of skiing, mostly I just rode my skis between my dad’s and held on for the ride. I remember the day was pleasant and sunny, and I remember what I was wearing: maroon knit stretch pants with stirrup straps on the bottom, and a turtleneck sweater. You may think it’s strange I remember what I was wearing that day, despite my young age. But I remember because of what happened.

“Stretch pants – the garment that made skiing a spectator sport.” (Author Unknown)

When I tired of skiing, I played in the snow and around the lodge while my dad got in some real runs on slopes more advanced than the bunny hill. In my wanderings, I saw a dog that looked exactly like Lassie. I LOVED Lassie and made a beeline for her before my mom could stop me. “Lassie” bit a hole in my ski pants that cut all the way through to my leg; it was then I realized she was no  Lassie. I went home tired, dog-bitten, tear-stained and not entirely in love with the sport–not to mention upset that the ski pants I loved were ruined.

My dad didn’t let me quit. The next year, he took us skiing again. This time I skied on my own. My memory of this ski trip exists solely of following my dad down the hill and falling into the  horizontal “splits” position, face down in the snow. I’ve never been flexible, not even as a child; I was in pain, and I couldn’t move. In trying to help me, my mom and my sister ended up in the same position, splits, face down in the snow. And we had to stay that way for the time it took for my dad to hear us calling him for help; for him to stop and yell encouragement to us to rescue ourselves, and finally, for my dad to side step all the way up the hill to help us when we couldn’t help ourselves.

But again, my dad didn’t let me quit.

It was 1974. I was in second grade. And this time, my dad hired a private instructor named Bruce to teach my sister and me how to ski. I was only seven years old, but I had such a crush on dark-haired, tan-skinned, patient and nice, happy and handsome Bruce. And it’s a good thing I loved him, because I didn’t love what he taught me. I did as he instructed, but I did everything not for the love of skiing, but for the love of Bruce. For example, my entire first day of skiing consisted of side-stepping up hills on my skis! Not fun. But you have to endure the “hard stuff” to get to the ease of the downhill experience.

Eventually I learned to ski. I skied anywhere and everywhere my dad led me. In fact, I was in college (and skiing alone for the first time, without my dad) when I learned ski hills were rated for difficulty. My entire life I had simply followed in my father’s footsteps, or ski tracks, to be exact.

So there I was, in 2009, breezing down the slopes of life when an avalanche hit. I was knocked off the mountain of my life and buried under the heavy snow of a disaster of epic proportions. But I couldn’t quit. I had the beacon of a lifetime of teachings and parental example to guide me; I knew what was expected of me; and I never considered anything but digging myself out of my misery.

Because in life, as in winter, when snow falls, you shovel it. You clear pathways so you can get around and continue to live your life. You endure the storm that brought the snow. You wait out the cold. You have to admire the beauty of the snowy landscape–even if you don’t love the storm that brought it. And eventually, the snow melts and life returns to normal…until the next big storm hits. When you fall, you don’t quit skiing. You pick yourself up, side-step up the hill if you need to, but you always get back on the slopes.

How grateful I am for a dad who taught me how to ski; who didn’t let me quit when the going was rough, painful, or cold; who led by example and made it easier for me by carving tracks down the mountains all I had to do was follow. Who made me expert in navigating rocky terrain. And who prepared me for any and every slope, not matter how steep or the amount of moguls, I’ve ever encountered.

“Skiing combines outdoor fun with knocking down trees with your face.” (Dave Barry)

And I think it’s an apt description of the unexpected life, too.

Edward Eyes

“I have looked into your eyes with my eyes. I have put my heart near your heart.” (Pope John XXIII)

I don’t know how it is for all divorced, single women, but I can tell you how I felt and what I thought.

I couldn’t believe it had happened to me. I was a in a bit of shock at the events that led to my divorce and the fact that I was divorced. My divorce hadn’t happened in what I imagined were the typical ways–we had never fallen out of love, become indifferent to one another, fought with each other or hated each other. It wasn’t a downward spiral leading to a break-up. The necessity for a divorce came in one day, out of the blue.

My feelings of self worth suffered. I walked around, sure that all eyes were on me, that everyone knew I was single, that everyone probably thought I’d done something wrong to end up that way and that people either pitied me or thought I was a loser.

I was filled with grief that a marriage had ended and an intact family unit had been destroyed.

I felt the marriage that ended had been my one marriage, my one chance at having a husband or being married, and that I was destined to be alone the rest of my life.

But at the same time, my divorce didn’t destroy my belief in the institution of marriage or in the purpose of families; I remained a fan of both. I remember sitting in church one day a month or two after my divorce became final and the Sunday School lesson was on marriage. I sat there, listening, as I always had when a woman sitting next to me leaned over and whispered, “I’m sorry. Is this hard for you?” No, I answered, and I meant it. It hadn’t dawned on me to sit there and feel bad for myself or mope about what I didn’t have.

However, as a single woman, there were certain things I noticed.

I noticed every wedding ring on every man’s finger. My husband had never worn a wedding ring, and although it had never bothered me or been an issue for us (due to my dad’s profession, he hadn’t worn one either, so I didn’t grow up with the expectation that married men should wear wedding rings) I began to appreciate them–after I was single.

I noticed young couples in love, particularly the way they looked at each other, specifically the way the young men looked at the young ladies. I couldn’t help but see it, probably because I’d been told my spouse hadn’t looked at me in years prior to our divorce. Somehow along the way, I decided I wanted that for myself someday.

Some people look for money. Some people choose a mate based solely on chemistry, intellect, physical appearance or personality. I decided, among other things, I was going to hold out for a man who looked at me with “the look.” I didn’t want a relationship where my husband spent year looking at the tip of my nose again.

Enter Bachelor #5.

He told me he’d marry me tomorrow if I were willing; I was slower than he was to come to that decision. I had a lot of observing and investigating to do before I committed myself. And one of the things I was checking out was “the look.” Did he look at me that way?

I wasn’t sure.

It was time to find out.

One night I sat nose to nose with Bachelor #5. I directed him to look at me. He laughed and told me he couldn’t, things were too blurry to see that close up! I explained he didn’t need to see me, I just needed to see the way he looked at me. He shook his head, teased me about trying to live a teenage fantasy in my 40s and holding out for something that doesn’t exist in real life, but he had the good grace to look me in the eyes anyway.

For a second or two, as I looked into his warm, brown eyes, I wasn’t sure what I saw. Then before I could decide, he opened his eyes as wide as he could, gazed intently into mine, raised his eyebrows (to the point he was looking a little like a zombie) and asked, “Can you see it? I’m looking at you with my best Edward eyes. Do you see my Edward eyes?”

I told you he gets me.

He’s not even a Twilight fan, but he somehow knew what I was thinking, what I was looking for, and at least jokingly, tried to be that for me.

Just one more reason I finally decided it was time. Why I said, “Yes.” And why we’re still…engaged.

“We are all a little weird and life’s a little weird, and when we find someone whose weirdness is compatible with ours, we join up with them and fall in mutual weirdness and call it love.” (Author Unknown)

It’s all part of the unexpected life.

Random Strangers

“What is it that makes a complete stranger dive into an icy river to save a solid gold baby? Maybe we’ll never know.” (Jack Handy)

Ok. I’m going to sound old here, but “back in the day” (one year ago) when I was operating in absolute shock mode, simply trying to get through each day, one at a time, as I adjusted to the unexpected life that was mine, and while I was waiting and worrying about a miracle for my son, I got a small one for myself.


A local grocery store, Macy’s, was having a case lot sale. I went and stocked up on some food items for my little family at a bargain price. It was Saturday night, I was newly divorced and couldn’t help but think what a loser I was to have a shopping trip as my only plan, the big thrill, for the evening. As I walked into the store, I was sure every other customer knew I was single, knew my shame (why I was single), and was staring at me.

When I finished, as I walked out the door pushing my grocery cart piled high with cases of canned food, a man driving by in his car called out a comment to me, ridiculing me for my purchases. I couldn’t believe it! In all the years I had grocery shopped in Denver, no one had ever commented on my purchases or made fun of me for the amount of items in my cart. It was only after I had moved to Utah, the land of family and food storage, that I was ridiculed.

I walked to my car feeling so dumb.

I was embarrassed.

And believe it or not, my emotional state hung in such a delicate balance one year ago, that my feelings were actually hurt by that stupid comment from a thoughtless stranger.

I wanted to cry out, “I’m just a single mother trying to feed her children!”

Or, “Believe me, buddy, I already know what a loser I am–I don’t need your help and encouragement!”

But I tried not to think about it as I fought back tears, opened the trunk of my car and began to unload my cart in the parking lot. I was grateful it was dark so no one would see me, the biggest loser among all women, married or single, crying like an idiot in the dark while she unloaded her shopping cart.

I felt more alone than anyone else in the parking lot.

I wondered how I was going to get through the rest of the weekend, the next week and the rest of my life feeling as I felt. Instead of feeling rejuvenated by the weekend and able to face the coming week, I was crushed.

And then, out of the darkness, and without a word, a man was standing beside me, helping me unload my cart. He didn’t really say anything while he unloaded everything into my car, but as he handed me the last case, he paused for just an instant and smiled at me. It was dark, but I was struck by his beautiful, clear light eyes as he looked into mine and smiled. And then he got into his old, dark-colored SUV parked next to mine, that I hadn’t noticed until that moment, and drove away.

I stood there. I watched him drive away, my burden so much lighter from our encounter. I marveled at such kindness from a stranger, especially on the heels of exactly the opposite experience from another one.

He was probably just some nice man, a former Boy Scout, doing what he does for everyone, for me, that night. But to me, it was as if he was heaven sent, that moment, that night. He will never know what his small act of kindness meant to someone like me. In the parking lot of Macy’s grocery store.

“I have always depended on the kindness of strangers.” (Tennessee Williams)

Especially while living an unexpected life.

Don’t we all?

You’ve Got To Smell A Lot Of Manure Before…

“You got to have smelt a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly.” (Hank Williams)

Bachelor #5 is a self-described oldest child and a “planner.” So am I, although sometimes Bachelor #5 makes me look like a disorganized, fly-by-the-seat-of-my pants hippie compared to him.

Nowhere was this more evident than the time we shared our first “intense discussion.” Although it wasn’t a fight, it was probably the closest thing we’ve ever come to fighting about anything. It was over the dumbest thing, especially for this age and stage of our lives, but isn’t that how most “intense discussions” are? Over silly things?

It must be our oldest child, “planning” natures…because our discussion was regarding death, funerals, and where to be buried–even though we’re both healthy forty-somethings who SO don’t need to worry about that right now. Ridiculous!

But who says every courtship conversation has to be sensible? If that’s in the rules of dating, Bachelor #5 and I both missed it.

It began one night while driving to see a play. Somehow the topic of where to buried after we died came up. We had very different ideas about it. And for some reason, like mules, we both dug our heels in. I can’t think of another time we’ve done that, but like I said, it was an intense conversation. Let the braying begin!

Some highlights. Just to reinforce my mule status (and Bachelor #5′s, too.) Not in any order…

He (patiently) said it was a good thing we didn’t have to make a decision about that now. I said it was a good thing it came up before we got engaged, or married, because it was a total deal breaker for me. He looked at me, in shock, and asked, “You seriously wouldn’t marry me over a difference of opinion on where to be buried?” Like a mule, I said, “Oh, yes. Absolutely!” (Round one went to me. Hee-haw!)

He said it was a second marriage, so who dictated we had to be buried together? He said we could each do what we wanted. That hurt my feelings and made me feel as though he thought a remarriage wasn’t as important as a first marriage. And I couldn’t believe he’d want to be buried somewhere other than beside me! (I declare Bachelor #5 the winner/mule of round two. Hee-haw! Hee-haw!)

Ironically, in the debate I was holding out for tiny Ephraim, Utah, where my parents and ancestors are buried as my final resting place–even though I have never even lived there! For some reason, I was kicking against the pricks for all I was worth. (I have to give myself additional mule points for that.)

We discontinued the discussion, sort of agreed to disagree, and enjoyed the remainder of the evening. But I couldn’t believe how stubborn I’d been about something so silly. The more I thought about it, the more embarrassed I became about my stubbornness. What had I been thinking?

When I saw Bachelor #5 the next night, I brought it up again to apologize, and as soon as I opened my mouth, Bachelor #5 did the same thing: I told him I didn’t know why I made such a big deal about that and was so stubborn about a place I’ve never even lived, I just wanted to be with him; Bachelor #5 said he didn’t care where he was buried, he just wanted to be with me–but also added he had been trying to show me that other families, besides the Christensen family, love their traditions and are as steeped in their heritage as I am in mine!

However, I recently discovered that issue is not completely over. Last week the subject of funerals came up. Don’t ask me how. We really do talk about many other things that are not death-related. In fact, to my recollection, we’ve only had two death-related discussions ever–and I’m blogging about both of them.

Bachelor #5 felt very strongly about some things, of which I feel strongly in exactly the opposite direction, and I could sense another hillbilly conversation coming. So could Bachelor #5, because he said, “I can be flexible on where to be buried, do whatever you want, but I will not negotiate on THIS.”

To which I jokingly asked if a disclaimer could be printed on his funeral program stating I had nothing to do with, and no control over, the program! We both laughed. And knowing Bachelor #5…he has probably already written the disclaimer and filed it away for future reference.

Hee-haw! Hee-haw!

Apparently, you’ve got to smell a lot of mule manure before you can sing like a hillbilly or…before you get an engagement ring.

The Ring

“It’s not that I’m so smart, it’s just that I stay with problems longer.” (Albert Einstein)

Bachelor #5 persevered. He stuck with his problem (me–Lol) a little longer. He took me to more stores. I found bands that I sort of liked, but nothing that felt right. They were all just ok. I didn’t know what I was looking for or what I expected, and maybe I was being unreasonable about the whole thing, but felt that if I was going to get a ring, it needed to feel “right.” And was that even possible for me to feel, the second time around, at my age and after all I’d been through?

I only knew that the first time I’d married, the wedding dress had been the dilemma. Until that moment. The moment I stepped into a dress and my mom and I looked at each other, stunned, and said, at the same time, “THIS is the dress!” I looked completely transformed in it. I fell in love with it. And I guess I was expecting MY ring to hit me in the same way.

The saga of the quest for an engagement/wedding ring continued. The bright side was that at least we’d narrowed the search for a band that would serve as my engagement ring and wedding band. Now we just had to find it.

We went to several more stores and found nothing. And then one day we went to a little family-owned jewelry store to look at their selection. Nothing. And then the man said, “Wait. I think I might have the perfect ring for you. Of course, it would have to be made. But what do you think of this?”

He showed me a picture. It appeared to be everything I’d been looking for and had imagined for myself. But I was nervous about committing to it based on a picture. The man told me not to worry, ordered a sample and we returned to the store to look at it when it came in.

I put it on. In that instant I knew. It was the band for me. It was MY ring.

After all of my hesitation and unwillingness to choose a ring, even look at rings, much less wear a ring, I would have taken it and worn it then and there without worrying about how to pay for it (and without even being officially proposed to!) I loved it.

I left the store feeling a slight sense of loss that my ring had yet to be created. The wait was on.

But there’s always a lot of other stuff to keep you busy and occupied. Especially in the unexpected life.

In my case, Bachelor #5 had yet to propose; we had to blend two families. And trust me, none of that is as easy as it sounds.

“Frogs have it easy, they can eat what bugs them.”

Understanding Simple Pleasures

“I believe the nicest and sweetest days are not those on which anything very splendid or wonderful or exciting happens, but just those that bring simple little pleasures, following one another softly, like pearls off a string.”

It has been 18 months, to the day, since my unexpected life began. Back then, there were some dark, difficult days!

What are my days like now?

Very different from the previous two decades I lived as a married, stay at home mother who spent her days caring for her family and volunteering service in my church and community. These days I’m up early, get myself ready for work, my children ready for school and daycare, I try to get dishes unloaded from the dishwasher, dinner in the crock pot, and a load of laundry done before I drive a carpool to the elementary school, drop my youngest at daycare and commute to work–arriving at work between 7:30 a.m. and 9 a.m., depending on the day and the traffic.

What do I think about it all?

Mostly I think how carefree I feel. When my unexpected life began, and my entire world changed so quickly, completely and unexpectedly, I doubted I’d ever feel carefree and light-hearted again. But thank goodness I was wrong.

We’ve healed. We have sweet days again. And although not every day is splendid, wonderful and exciting, we’ve been blessed with time together (now that I work outside the home, our family time is even more precious and we know it, appreciate it and try to make the most of it), an increased appreciation for one another (a result of the additional service we’ve each had to render to one another to help our little family function) and an abundance of love for one another within our family circle (our shared experiences have strengthened the bonds of our unity even more.)

An additional opportunity has been the chance we’ve had, as a family, to appreciate the simple pleasures of nature. We live five minutes from the mountains. Access to them is just right up the street from our home.

One such simple pleasure was the night Bachelor #5 took my boys up the canyon to “throw rocks.”

He came by after work and picked us up. There was a river he wanted to show the boys. When we arrived, Bachelor #5 taught the boys the simple pleasure of throwing rocks into the river. My sons were thrilled!

Bachelor #5 climbed all around the river bank, searching for the biggest rocks he could find, and then threw every giant rock he prospected into the river with a BIG SPLASH. My boys “oohed” and “ahhed” on the shore, thrilled with the splashes. It was like The Bellagio in Las Vegas, only without the beautiful opera music, instead, accompanied by the music of nature. It sounds unbelievable–because doesn’t every adult have the childhood memory of throwing rocks into water and making splashes? But I don’t think my sons had ever done anything like that before. (My former spouse excelled at showing our children the world and providing many material opportunities, but getting him to share the simple pleasures of life with us was not something he made time for very often, if at all.)

Bachelor #5 also demonstrated the simple pleasure of floating things downstream. He walked upriver from us, threw a big stick into the water, and encouraged my four-year-old to look for it floating by as the current carried it past him. It was so exciting for him to see the item traveling down the river! I don’t think the boys had ever done anything like that before, either.

Then Bachelor #5 said, “Ok! Now lets skip rocks!” He picked up a rock, threw it into the river and we all watched as it hopped and skipped on the surface of the water.

“Your turn!” he encouraged. My boys stood there, looking at him with puzzled expressions. I whispered, “I don’t think my boys have ever skipped a rock before, I don’t think they know how.”

Bachelor #5, so kind, patient and calm, looked at me with a flash of disbelief, probably wondering how my boys had missed these simple pleasures of life, but just as quickly, he turned and taught my sons to skip rocks on the water.
Then they all went back to throwing boulders into the water.

As I watched Bachelor #5 patiently carry rocks and help the boys throw them, and my boys dancing in excitement on the shore, I had to look away. So no one would see my unexpected reaction. Tears rolled down my cheeks as I watched my sons, traumatized way too early in their young lives, happily playing, learning new things and having an adventure enjoying a simple pleasure on a river bank–with a man. (I don’t know if all single mothers are like me, but I am almost desperate for my children, especially my sons, to be able to spend time with men so they will have male influence in their lives.)

I am so thankful for the simple pleasures that are ours to enjoy. We lost a lot entering our unexpected life, but we never lost each other OR the simple things that are free, all around us, in nature. And we ended up moving right to them.

Despite the challenging circumstances of our unexpected life and all we’d had to pass through to get to it, I realized that my children finally have everything I always wanted for them. I have something I always wanted to have too, something REAL.

I may not have found a diamond ring yet, but we were stringing the strand of our life with the pearls of simple pleasures, every day.

“The noblest pleasure is the joy of understanding.” (Leonardo da Vinci)

We owe a lot to our unexpected life. We have sweet days, simple pleasures and the noblest pleasure of all: understanding. Perspective. Appreciation. And a depth I doubt we could have acquired any other way.

The Unexpected Life.

The Secret To Staying Young

“The secret to staying young is to live honestly, eat slowly, and lie about your age.” (Lucille Ball)

Or if that fails, you can try this:

It was spring break. Bachelor #5 invited my little family to join his family and extended family for the break, but we already had plans so we went on our spring break and he went on his. He wanted me to meet his mom, brother and sister-in-law and extended family, so we made arrangements to meet the final night of break in St. George, Utah.

It led me to discover the secret to youth, no fountain involved, or at least the secret of feeling young. And no, it isn’t to date someone older than you. (That just makes them seem old! Lol.)

If you want to feel “young” again, get divorced in your 40s and then meet a new man’s family! The whole night, as I looked around the clan gathered, I kept thinking, “This is NOT me. I should not be here, I should not be having to do this like I’m in my 20s again!” But in reality, that was exactly the position I was in and exactly what I was doing.

At my age, and after 20 years of marriage, it had been decades since I’d been the “new” person getting to know an established family. It was a disconcerting position to be in and I felt every bit of my single status that night. The unexpected bonus was how “young” it made me feel! Lol.

So I met his mother. She was nice, made me feel welcome, complimented me on my children, invited us to visit her at her home, and she went out of her way to speak with each of my children; I liked her and felt very accepted by her and comfortable around her.

His family and relatives were polite and kind to me, but they seemed to keep their distance. (As did I, I admit. I had a hard time getting past the strange position I felt I was in that night.)

After meeting everyone, late that night when we were alone after not seeing each other for one week, he hugged me. It must have been SOME hug, because I felt like crying when he hugged me! I’d never had that happen. I didn’t know what to think of that–was I was a crazy, divorced woman? Or, maybe it was more like this: “Millions and millions of years would still not give me half enough time to describe that tiny instant of all eternity when you put your arms around me and I put my arms around you.” (Jacques Prévert)

Ever had a hug like that? If so, you know what I’m talking about.

But the real shock was yet to come.

One of the first things out of Bachelor #5′s mouth after he hugged me was, “I know I said I would wait as long as you need me to, and I will, but I’m thinking September.”


I probably looked like a deer caught in headlights, but at least I didn’t throw up this time!


“Make measurable progress in reasonable time.” (Jim Rohn)