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.)





A Bit Of Magic

“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

And then, wouldn’t you know, later that evening my daughter left on her first date.

I don’t know how to explain what I was thinking or feeling about that, but add to that monumental event my earlier experiences of the day, and I was feeling some loss pretty deeply. In fact, I felt like I was going to burst into tears at any moment. Again.

So while #5 was taking a very uncharacteristic break in the middle of the day and actually laying down for a moment or two (since I’ve known him, I’ve rarely seen him even sit down in the middle of a day, ever! He is one of the most energetic people I have ever known) I went down to the laundry room to fold clean clothes–mostly to hide the potential for another emotional breakdown. I was afraid tears were going to start streaming down my cheeks again, I wasn’t going to be able to stop them and I didn’t want to do that in front of #5.

I was right. No sooner did I step into the laundry room than the tears started flowing. I cried and folded clothes, cried and folded clothes, and felt very alone as I mourned my “losses.” I had piles to fold and expected to be there, alone, for hours, but within minutes I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey! What are you doing in here? Let me help you.” It was #5.

And there I was, breaking down. I kept my back to him and hoped he wouldn’t notice.

I told him I was just folding laundry, that I could take care of it and that he could go rest. But he told me he couldn’t do that. He wanted to help me, he insisted on helping me, stepped in front of me, saw my face and immediately asked me what was wrong. I was caught in the act of what I’d been trying to hide all day long, but instead replied, ”Nothing, I’m fine.”

But #5 didn’t buy that, despite the fact I was sort of at a loss to explain it, so he stepped forward, put his arms around me and I cried. ”I had a feeling I ought to check on you,” he said. “I was afraid you might be doing something like this. This is a big day. And WHAT are we going to do when our youngest goes on HIS first date in less than 11 years? I’d better start helping you to prepare yourself for that now!” And we laughed.

Thanks to #5, I couldn’t focus on my losses a minute more, I was too focused on my present opportunities and blessings. Second marriage moment #11: seeing, and feeling, the “magic” again.

The magic…of the unexpected life.

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” (Lou Reed)

So true.

Time Capsule

“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

Later that same day of the unexpected dream, the mail came, and in it, a very unexpected delivery: a time capsule.

I had completely forgotten about it. My oldest created it in 1999 as a first grader at Creekside Elementary in the Cherry Creek School District in Aurora, CO. It contained newspaper clippings, pictures, letters from his parents and other things that represented our life then, as well as plenty of our hopes and dreams.

I was shocked to receive a communication from an elementary school in Colorado several years after any of my children had attended there. I was surprised they’d found me. And I was very touched by the effort of many good people who have taught my children over the years, who have helped my children learn and create meaningful things, and who went to the effort to find us in Utah so we could have a memory and appreciate the contents of our time capsule.

I stood in my Utah kitchen, read through the contents of the time capsule, and once again, tears I couldn’t control streamed down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the contents of the time capsule compared to the reality we had actually lived through and had finally settled into. How was it all possible? How could it all have taken place? I’d never had ANY idea of all that was in store for my oldest and our family at the time he created the time capsule.

Not only was it finally, really, hitting me that my oldest is graduating and leaving home, I think I cried about all we have lived through and experienced since that time capsule was created. When I helped him compile the items for the time capsule, when I wrote my 1999 letter to him, life was very different. I was a stay at home mom; my mom was still alive; I only had 2 children; I’d never experienced grief and pain to the extent I did in 2009; back then, divorce was not even in my vocabulary (neither were Ponzi schemes, by the way, I had no idea what those even were at that time!); and the letter to my son from his father was written by a man now residing in prison for the next decade or more. Looking back, like was very simple then in 1999. It almost overwhelmed me that the expectations for the future as seen through the eyes of 1999 was very different than the reality we actually lived, and I felt additional sorrow at all my son has had to endure as a result of the choices his father made.

But I pulled myself together again, for the second time that day, and went on about my business. I was feeling emotional, but I was going to make it through the day with flying colors, including smiles and laughter. If only I could quit crying.

“Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall.  Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day.  Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down.  And this is all life really means.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

At least, that was my goal. But would you believe it? ANOTHER emotional breakdown…to come.


“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

It has been two years since my unexpected life began. I haven’t been haunted by the events that led to it for quite some time and then out of the blue, unexpectedly, I dreamed of a moment connected to it (not one of my favorite moments, by the way) and I could not shake the memory of it when I awoke.

The experience I dreamed of occurred a few weeks after certain events ended my life as I knew it. One ramification of the unexpected situation was that I was released from serving as president of the women’s organization of my church congregation. Another ramification of it was that due to the public nature of my former husband’s crimes and positions of leadership he had held within our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, local church leadership determined it was necessary to publicly address some of it to congregations our family had been closely associated with. My church leaders were very kind about it all; they told me it was necessary and explained why; they told me the day they were going to do it so I could be prepared (and probably, if I were smarter and raised by different parents, so that I could be absent from those meetings that day.) But unfortunately, I had been taught differently than that–taught to face what needs to be faced and that trials and tragedy don’t change what is right or what is expected of us.

It was a poignant lesson I learned in 1986 when my dad unexpectedly died in a plane crash. I was a teenager and dreaded going to church that Sunday after he died. He had been a leader in our congregation and I didn’t want to face people (even people I loved or people who loved me and my family) and I had a sneaking suspicion my mom was planning that our family would attend church. Late Saturday night I asked, “We don’t have to go to church tomorrow, do we?”

My mom was firm in her resolve and her answer. “Of course we do! Just because your dad isn’t here doesn’t mean the rest of us can stop living and it certainly doesn’t change what is right. We believe in going to church on Sunday, that is what we have always done and that is what we will continue to do.” She was a strong woman in a gentle kind of way (I don’t want to make her sound harsh–she was anything but that.) She took our family to church despite the loss we’d experienced just two days previously (although she relented a little bit and let us arrive 5 minutes late so we wouldn’t have to talk to anyone before the meeting.)

Interestingly, when our unexpected life began, one of my children asked me a question very similar to the one I’d asked my own mother 23 years before, “Mom, we don’t have to go to church this Sunday, do we?” and I gave an answer very similar to the one my mom had given me and we went to church and continued to attend each Sunday, regardless of some uncomfortable moments.

Like the Sunday I dreamed of recently. The Sunday I had to sit and endure public comments about my personal situation that was so public– comment about my former spouse’s crimes and the situation he created as a result. It was also the day the new presidency of the women’s organization of our congregation publicly recognized me, gave me a bouquet of flowers and thanked me for my service; and then after that, the leader of our cluster of congregations (known as a stake president) stood and addressed the issues that needed to be publicly discussed. I don’t remember a lot about that day, I mostly remember sitting in the back of the room, tears of grief, shame, humiliation, sorrow (and a host of other feelings and emotions) streaming down my cheeks as I stared at the beautiful flowers in my lap and endured what was being said to the women around me. I do remember a woman sitting by me on the back row, patting my arm or giving my shoulder a squeeze, through the whole thing. I can’t remember who she was, but how much I appreciated her kindness to me at that time! She helped me feel slightly less alone and helped me get through a very difficult moment.

That was a tough experience but I got through it and it’s now a part of my past. I honestly haven’t let myself think too much about it, or look back on it, until that recent morning when I woke up, tears streaming down my face. And #5 was asleep next to me in bed!

I was shocked. It has been two years! I am living a new life, remarried to a wonderful man, and I wake up crying over something that happened two years ago? I felt a little bit crazy. I didn’t want #5 to see, or know, he was married to such a wacky wife that dreamed about the past and woke up crying! I confess, I even felt a little bit guilty as I am the recipient of many miracles and kindness and have much to be thankful for; I have the great blessing to be remarried and am truly happy again–I can’t (or shouldn’t) be crying about the past (even if it was unintentional–something I woke up doing in a dream!)

I quickly got up to hide my insanity, pulled myself together and went on about my day. Except that I couldn’t quite shake the feelings that dream left me with. I felt slightly emotionally “off.” And that was just the start of the day.

“Going back to Ireland involves at least six to seven emotional breakdowns for me per day.” (Anjelica Huston)

Stay tuned. More emotional breakdowns to come.


“One day, out of irritation, I said, you know all of those years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, all those years of playing kings and princes and speaking black verse, and bestriding the landscape of England was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.” (Patrick Stewart)

Jean Luc Pickard had it right.

Life doesn’t always turn out how you planned. And you’re not necessarily preparing for the future you envision. I’m not sure why we go through all we do…only to end up in some very unexpected places having experienced some unimaginable things.

But this I do know.

Our experiences teach us valuable lessons—IF we allow ourselves to learn. ”Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” (C.S. Lewis)

Isn’t that the truth?

I also know this.

“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 lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

We’re stronger because of what we’ve overcome. And if we got through something that difficult, we can get through anything—especially the next unexpected new opportunities we’re blessed with!

Late last summer I took my kids swimming at a friend’s pool one Saturday. Afterward, we enjoyed a barbecue. Then we innocently returned to our home after several hours of fun. We walked into the house and noticed a strange humming sound. I thought, “Darn! Someone left the television on when we left. I’ve asked my kids not to do that a thousand times!” and in a bit of frustration, went to the turn the t.v. off. Only it wasn’t on.

My oldest headed down to his bedroom right about that time, got to the basement and cried out. In a panic I raced down the stairs to see what was wrong, got to the bottom of the stairs, and unexpectedly stepped into a puddle of water at least 6 inches deep! The entire basement of our home was flooded! The “humming” sound I’d heard was the dying echo of ruined electronic equipment.

As I stood there, water sloshing against my calves looking at the utter ruin of the lowest level of my home’s interior and its contents, I belatedly thought, “Is it possible to get shocked standing in water with electronics humming and crackling as they float by?” And then thoughts of death-by-electricity fled my mind as I realized I needed to get the water to my home shut off. A pipe must have burst.

But wouldn’t you know, inept single woman that I am, I couldn’t find it? I looked high and low, everywhere I could think of, but I couldn’t locate it. I had my children down there hunting with me and it never turned up. I assigned my son to find a male neighbor who could tell us where the water shut-off valve might be located. He returned with an actual neighbor who helped us find it and shut it off. Then he suggested we look for the pipe that had burst–the source of the water.

Would you believe there wasn’t one? The entire basement was like a giant kiddie pool but there wasn’t a source of water! The ceilings were dry, the walls were dry, but strangely, in one room, there was water spray on everything below four feet in height. It was the craziest thing.

And I learned something about myself: unsolved mysteries (aka. house floods) make me think the darndest things! After hunting high and low with my neighbor for the source of the water, and never finding one, I’m ashamed to say one of my next thoughts was, “Oh my gosh! It has FINALLY happened! A Ponzi scheme victim must have located us, broke into our home, and unleashed their anger at the situation with a hose—by flooding our home!”

That was ridiculous. I put that thought out of my mind and unexpectedly it was replaced it with, “How in the world have we made an enemy like this already? Just one year living in Utah and we’ve offended someone so badly that they’d want to flood our home?”

That’s when I noticed it.

My son’s bedroom window was cracked and broken, pieces were missing. And then I noticed grass floating in the flood, mud and grass splattered everywhere inside my home, and mud and water floating in the window well.

My neighbor and I headed outside to find the source of the water. As luck would have it, the patio and everything outside near the broken window was completely dry. NO trace of water! Where were Fred, Daphne, Thelma, Shaggy, Scooby and The Mystery Machine when I needed them? There was a mystery to be solved.

Another neighbor saw us outside and came over to see if we had noticed the water outside my home. Due to the heat of the day, the outside water had dried up, so we hadn’t seen ANY water. (That was why the situation was so puzzling!) I told him, unfortunately,the water wasn’t just outside my home, the entire interior of the basement was flooded. But at least he solved the mystery for us.

It was entirely unexpected.

There are irrigation wheels in the corner of my backyard. While I was out, a farmer came to take his watering turn and failed to check that the appropriate gates were open when he diverted his irrigation water. He drove away…and my home flooded. I wasn’t home, the farmer wasn’t there, so I didn’t know anything untoward was taking place or needed to be stopped. The water ran and ran. Unchecked. Out of control.

A different neighbor happened to look outside and saw water flooding our cul-de-sac and the connecting streets so filled with water he assumed a water main had broken. Until he tried to locate the source of the “break” and saw a literal river of water running through my backyard, into my home, and into the streets all around it. Just a little house flooding, courtesy of a farmer who failed to check (as they are always supposed to) that the appropriate diversion gates are open. Just one little gate. I NEVER expected that!

I don’t think the farmer did either. As he told me later that night, “I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never had a problem. I never thought to check that the south gate was open. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault; these things happen. That’s what your homeowner’s insurance is for.” The farmer advised me to get my belongings out of my basement as fast as I could. I never expected that, either.

I stood there, alone, with my four children and thought, “How in the world am I supposed to clear my basement all by myself?” (I was tending a baby at the time, as well.) I was overwhelmed. But that is a great thing about Utah. (Get ready for another one of those, “Only in Utah” moments.) My son went to one neighbor and asked if he could help us move some furniture out of our basement as it had flooded, he came right over, took one look, made a phone call and within minutes, literally, there were 30-40 people from our neighborhood and church congregation hauling our belongings out of the flood and into our front yard. An impossible task was completed in a matter of an hour or so.

I helped, I hauled, and then I confess, I had a moment of meltdown. I escaped to the privacy of my bathroom, called a friend in Denver, CO, and lost it. For a moment there, I was afraid a house flood was going to be my undoing. Silly, I know, but after a year of shock, trauma, and attempted recovery, I was temporarily at my limit.

Thankfully, my friend “talked me down,” we laughed and I put the situation in perspective. Really, after EVERYTHING I had lived through, a house flood wasn’t that big of a deal.



And I knew it.

Sadly, compared to decades of lies, betrayal, crime, drama, divorce, vilification and everything else played out in the media and on a public stage, a flood really wasn’t that big of a deal. I had lived through worse. Much worse. So that’s what I said when people expressed their sympathy regarding the flood. “We’ve lived through worse. Not a big deal. It’s just stuff. It will be ok.”

I never expected the collapse of my family and the public downfall we endured would  be preparation for a flood; would help me keep it all in perspective. But it was. And it did. We’ve certainly survived worse.

In the unexpected life.

Yet still, “I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream.” (Heywood Braun)

Or your first house flood.

“My Precious”

“Nothing is more difficult, and therefore more precious, than to be able to decide.” (Napoleon Bonaparte)

What to do? What to decide? Discovering the answers to these questions was uppermost in my mind for the rest of that month. Add to that the previous month where I’d simply been “observing” things, and I realized I’d been pondering and thinking about Bachelor #5 for quite some time (even when I was trying not to.)

In the course of trying to come to a decision I thought about my past, I thought about the present, and I thought about my future. I wondered what my parents would advise me to do. I consulted my sister and trusted friends. I prayed. I read the scriptures. I tried to be very thorough in all details; I brainstormed every possible thing related to re-marriage, marrying Bachelor #5, and the impact of such a decision on my family, children, extended family, friends, employment, new life, faith, finances, hopes, dreams, the future…EVERYTHING.

And in the end, “Everything that can be counted does not necessarily count; everything that counts cannot necessarily be counted.” (Albert Einstein)

I just couldn’t come to a decision.

Things You Never Even Knew

““A good friend is a connection to life- a tie to the past, a road to the future, the key to sanity in a totally insane world.” (Lois Wyse)

There was a lot we didn’t know about each other, but it wasn’t like being with a total stranger. There is some type of connection there. She said, “It’s just so strange having a daughter I have no mother-daughter history with!” That probably said it all.

At one point I noticed I was sitting on her couch with my feet tucked under me and to the side, like I always do. It dawned on me: I was putting my feet on her couch! How rude! I quickly moved to put my feet on the floor, hoping she hadn’t noticed my bad manners. And then I noticed the way she was sitting. With her feet tucked under her to the side. She had her feet on the furniture too.

Meeting a birth mother is like that. You see why you do things you never even knew you did.


It’s funny how things turn out.

On March 18, 2009, when I discovered my husband had been running a Ponzi scheme and would be heading to prison, in that moment I thought every possibility and dream for a bright future for my children and I had been shattered. Of course, I continued to press forward and talk positively about our opportunities for the sake of my children, but deep inside sometimes I wondered how my children and I were ever going to overcome the monumental challenges we were facing.

We moved from Colorado to Utah and began a new life. There were some dark moments and hard days, especially in the beginning. Some of us seemed to struggle more than others with the adjustment. But there were also many tender mercies, small miracles and blessings. And eventually, we all realized we liked our new home and our new life. We are happy in our unexpected life. VERY happy.

This was reinforced last week. I went with my oldest to his end-of-season high school track team banquet. We enjoyed time together just the two of us. Aside from our late night chats and drives, I couldn’t remember the last time it was just he and I alone in the daylight. Note to self: spend time with oldest more often when we’re both more coherent and awake! lol. Not only was it absolutely enjoyable to be with him, it was fun for me, as his mother, to put faces to the names and stories I’ve heard the past few months.

Then came the awards portion of the evening. As it was his first track season, and his first attempt at learning the hurdles, he wasn’t expecting any awards. In fact, every time I’d tried to go to a track meet this season he had discouraged me from watching, told me he wasn’t doing very well and that this was his season to learn and I should watch him run next year. So I almost fell off my chair when my son was awarded a varsity letter in track! And then he got an All-Region Academic Excellence Award too!

As we were pulling out of the parking lot afterward, I had to ask why he’d insisted he was performing so poorly in track all season. He said, “I did. I didn’t break one school record–that was my goal!”

I said, “So you aimed for the stars and only hit the moon and THAT is why you didn’t think you did very well? THAT is why you wouldn’t let your mother watch you race?”

And as we drove home I had to shake my head at the turn of events in our life the past year. Every single aspect of our new life is going so much better than I ever expected it would. I told my son what a great experience the track banquet was, and what a great opportunity it was for him to participate on his school’s track team. He agreed. I said, “You have created a great new life here. I am so thankful and so proud of your attitude and all you’ve accomplished.”

He replied, “Yes, it has been amazing. I am so happy here. The only thing I regret is…”

Here is where I started to die inside–gut reaction of a worried mother. I braced myself to hear the disappointment and prepared myself to instantly put a positive spin on whatever his challenge was.

Instead, he finished by saying, “The only thing I regret is…that I didn’t get to go to all four years of high school here. Next year is going to be AWESOME!”

Whoa. Last summer, and even at the start of last school year, I never imagined he’d ever feel that way or that I’d ever hear him say that! I realized we have come full circle.

“There must be a positive and negative in everything in the universe in order to complete a circuit or circle, without which there would be no activity, no motion.” (John McDonald)

Equation for the unexpected life: positive + negative = progress (and eventual peace and joy!)

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