Living Happily Ever After


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About Selling Out…

Ok, that’s not quite true. From the moment my unexpected life began, I was pretty sure there was no way I was going to avoid that day. I just hoped to put it off as long as I could. Mostly for sentimental reasons. But the unexpected life doesn’t allow for a lot of sentimentality. You HAVE to learn quickly, from day one, to lose, to let go, to not dwell on to your losses but to move forward, and look for the good you still have or that is within your reach.

Since March 18, 2009, I’d been afraid that day–the day Peter Paul Prier would buy my violin back–would come. And finally, in 2011, there was no other way around it. But as with everything else in life, it was a choice. My choice. Here’s why I made it.

I believe we learn, grow and develop ourselves throughout our lives. However, I also believe one of our biggest opportunities to do that is while we are children and teenagers. My life was greatly enriched by the music lessons, dance classes, performing groups, art classes, sewing classes and other experiences my parents provided me with as I was growing up so that I could learn new skills and develop new talents. Those experiences then created additional opportunities for me as a college student and an adult and have continued to greatly enrich and bless my life.

I want that for my children too.

Yet from the moment I entered my unexpected life, my primary focus has been physical survival: feed my four children and keep a roof over their heads. (We have been very blessed in this. I got a job and am able to provide for my family. And in the beginning, several friends helped us with groceries, a Costco delivery, a Costco gift card, grocery store gift cards, Target/WalMart gift cards, hair cuts, clothes and even some cash. Another friend and some of my extended family helped us get into a home. We couldn’t be more grateful for every bit of help we have received that has made our survival possible.) But my additional challenge is how to enrich my children’s lives on a limited budget.

“Don’t give up. Don’t lose hope. Don’t sell out.” (Christopher Reeve)

In life, even my unexpected one, I won’t ever give up. I can’t. I won’t ever lose hope. But about selling out…

I actually did that. I finally had to.

I did it for my kids.


Looking to Make a Statement?

Once a woman has forgiven her man, she must not reheat his sins for breakfast.  ~Marlene Dietrich
I got an email from my former husband last week. In it, he listed the many things he has said and done, all of the changes he is trying to make in his life (from prison), so that someday I’ll forgive him.

I was absolutely blown away by that.

I forgave him a long time ago. I’m not sure exactly when, all I know is that from the moment my unexpected life began, I sought to forgive Him. My children know I have forgiven their father. My friends and family know I have forgiven my former husband. I think the world knows it, too, but somehow He never got it.

I told him  I have already forgiven him; in fact, that I forgave him as quickly as I could.

He sent me another email, told me I have no idea how long he has waited to hear me say that, thanked me for forgiving him and again pointed out everything he had said and done to make my forgiveness possible.

I was blown away by that too.

I have always known to forgive. My parents taught me to say I was sorry when I did something wrong and to forgive others when they did something wrong and said they were sorry. As I grew older, they taught me to forgive others whether or not they said they were sorry, or even WERE sorry, for what they had done. I am so grateful for my parents and what they taught me. Because as an adult, I saw too many people who allowed the actions of others, or their life experiences, to literally ruin them. I saw too many people focused on the wrongs that had been committed against them, too many people with souls cankered by hatred for things others had done and not enough people focused on everything “right” in their lives.

I realized, not for the first time, that life may not be a lot of things–easy, breezy, calm or fair–but life is always a choice. To live or not to live. To be happy. To laugh. To have faith. To hope. To forgive.

Yes, forgiveness is a choice. Forgiveness is a choice we must make, regardless of the choices made by anyone else.

I was stunned that I lived with someone for 20 years and he didn’t understand that. I was amazed that He had watched me teach and train our children, including to forgive others, and he never got it. So I had to clarify a few things with him. I told him that although I was glad he sought to do what was right, my forgiveness has absolutely nothing to do with him or anything he has said or done to demonstrate his sorrow. My forgiveness is all mine; and it doesn’t hinge on what he or anyone else does. I forgive because I believe the world is in great need of its sweet fragrance.

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” (Mark Twain)

Forgiveness was a choice I made. And although I did it because it was the right thing to do, I also did it for me–so I wouldn’t destroy the rest of my life or poison my soul, harbor a grudge, or carry the burden of hatred and venom like an unproductive boulder-filled backpack weighing me down because of an unwillingness to forgive.

I don’t believe you earn forgiveness.

You earn money. You earn trust. If you’re wise with your money (and can keep it out of the hands of Ponzi schemers) you may even earn interest. But you can’t “earn” the forgiveness of another.

“I wasn’t satisfied just to earn a good living. I was looking to make a statement.” (Donald Trump)

One of the most important statements we can make in life, unexpected or otherwise, is this: I forgive.

The “Rich Life”

“The secret to a rich life is to have more beginnings than endings.” (David Weinbaum)

I’ve had a lot of chapters in my life close, and I’ve had some new chapters in my life begin. Here’s one I don’t think I’ve mentioned before.

While my 20 year marriage was ending in the worst possible way–I couldn’t have dreamt up all of the circumstances, not even in a nightmare, it was just so outside my realm of possibilities–my oldest was experiencing his own beginning.

He met a cute girl at a dance, developed his first crush, turned 16, went on his first date and somehow ended up with his first girlfriend. (I don’t typically advocate steady relationships for teens, but this situation proved to be a great distraction for my son from the other events in our life. Plus, I knew we were moving in a few short months.)

The girl came from a good family and was not only a good girl, a beautiful girl, and an intelligent girl but also a scrapper. (If I could have hand picked a girl for my son at that time, she would have been it.) Shortly after my son found out about his dad’s crime and pending incarceration, he worried, “No girl is going to like me now.” I have to admit, I was a bit worried about that too based on the fact that I was getting more than my fair share of animosity from some people. But he needn’t have worried.

Not one kid at his school brought up his disastrous personal situation. No one was mean to him; no one teased him. In fact, he went to a very integrated high school with students from all walks of life and that situation couldn’t have been better for him at that time. While I initially tried to prepare him for possible ostracism at school, suddenly something dawned on him and he joked, “Mom, it’s going to be ok! I just realized I’m probably not the only kid at my school with a parent in prison! I guarantee it!”

And the girl didn’t care. She got him a birthday gift and took him to a Colorado Avalanche hockey game for their first date. She was a help and a friend to my other children as well. And in between all of the fun, the girl was online defending our family from malicious comments posted in the media!

It was a little bit surreal to be living amid the devastation of my life and love while watching my teenage son begin his. He had his first crush. I had divorce unexpectedly looming on my horizon. Yet at the same time, it was fun to watch my son make a new friend, date her and experience his “first” crush. I was so happy for him, it gave us something fun to enjoy and delight in, and I confess it sparked some glimmers of hope within me that made me begin to dream that all of that might again be mine someday; that there just might be richness and joy yet to experience in my own life if I held on and didn’t give up hope.

“The marvelous richness of human experience would lose something of rewarding joy if there were no limitations to overcome. The hilltop hour would not be half so wonderful if there were no dark valleys to traverse.” (Helen Keller)

There were dark valleys to traverse, darker and deeper than I’d ever imagined. But the view from the top, now, couldn’t be more wonderful.

I’m rich.

For real.

And I’m not talking about money.

I Guess I Was The Enemy

“If you want to make peace with your enemy, you have to work with your enemy. Then he becomes your partner.”
(Nelson Mandela)

Bachelor #5 arrived to pick me up, looking his usual handsome, but more dressed up than was typical for our dates.

He took me to his favorite restaurant at Sundance Resort. We had a table by the fireplace. The service was excellent; the food was delicious. Everything was perfect.

The only odd aspect of the evening was that Bachelor #5 asked our server to take a picture of us at dinner. He’d never done that before, but I figured we’d known each other six months and he’d decided it was time for us to take a picture. I’ve never been a fan of photos taken at a table and tried to get out of it but Bachelor #5 insisted. I said, “But wait. What if I don’t like the picture?” to which he replied, “Oh well, I will!” and the server snapped the picture and documented the moment. An ordinary moment, I thought.

There are no ordinary moments, by the way. I was soon going to remember that.

We finished our meal and went for a walk on the wooded paths that are Sundance. It was a beautiful evening. Mountain flowers were blooming, birds were singing, you could hear the breeze gently blowing through the pine trees; fish were swimming in a little pond. We walked around a corner to a very private spot at the bottom of the mountain, facing beautiful pine trees, and Bachelor #5 stopped. He turned to face me and said, “I’ve actually brought you here for a reason.”

“I brought you here so I could propose to you.”

I was shocked. I argued, “You have not!”

He smiled at me and patiently said, “Yes, I have. Now, don’t move and don’t say anything.”

He got down on one knee, held both of my hands in his, said the most beautiful things he could ever have said to me…and then he asked me to marry him.

A perfect proposal of marriage. Right out of a fairy tale. (Minus the pumpkin coach, of course; we had traveled there in a Honda.)

I hadn’t been expecting anything of the sort that evening. I think it was Thomas Jackson who said, “Always mystify, mislead and surprise the enemy if possible,” and that night, I guess I was the enemy. I was so surprised, I can’t even remember the exact words Bachelor #5 spoke, I just remember how overwhelmed I was by the reality of the moment, and that in it he covered every hope, fear, concern and dream I’d ever had–especially since beginning my unexpected life.

“A thing long expected takes the form of the unexpected when at last it comes.” (Mark Twain)

Is that wedding bells I hear?


I’ll tell you tomorrow.

Want It More Than You Fear It

“Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” (Bill Cosby)

I had a hard time concentrating on reaching a decision. I had some concerns, and until I resolved my concerns, I didn’t feel I could make a decision or trust the decision I made.

I couldn’t believe my concerns.

One of the biggest devastations of my divorce was my belief that I’d had my chance at love, marriage and a whole and complete family, that no one would ever want me again, and that I was destined to remain alone the rest of my life. Yet less than a year after the tragic demise of my marriage and family, I had the opportunity to remarry a very good man who loved me and my children and was willing to take all of us on AND my children loved him. Sounds pretty ideal, especially for a second marriage, doesn’t it?

Yet all of THAT was the problem…for me!

I kept thinking there had to be something false, or flawed, in the opportunity or the man; there had to be something I wasn’t seeing.

I had an issue with the timing. It had happened so “fast.” Less than a year after everything fell apart, it had all come together again. Who has that happen to them? How could I go from such horror and devastation to such a dream, and so quickly?

I expressed this concern to a friend who said, “Andrea, someone like YOU has that happen to them. You lost everything unexpectedly in one day, yet you have risen above hatred, speculation and gossip and have carried on, you’ve sought to remain faithful, you’re doing your best for your children, and you can expect to be blessed for all of that.” She added, “Besides, if you consider how long you’ve actually waited to have a real marriage to the type of man you always thought you were married to…I wouldn’t say it’s fast at all. How long have you been waiting for that?”

Since 1989. Over 20 years.

And suddenly I realized that despite what others might think (those who don’t really know me, those who might judge my opportunity as “too fast” or “too soon”) I knew how long I’d been waiting. My entire adult life. Issue resolved.

I also had a problem with the fact that after all I’d been through, I just “happened to land” in a great situation. My sister handled that one for me. She said, “I have a problem with the fact you think you just ‘landed’ in this great situation. Do you have any idea how many people have worried about you and prayed for you, day in and day out, for the past YEAR? Do you have ANY idea? I have a problem with the fact you seem to think it was your good fortune, chance, or ‘luck’ that brought this to you.”

I instantly humbled myself regarding that one. She was right. I may have had my detractors, but I had also been very blessed with more than my fair share of friends who loved me, cared about me, and did everything they could to help me–including praying for me. That issue was resolved then and there, too.

My final issue concerned the availability of Bachelor #5. If he was so wonderful, WHY was he still around and still single? My sister said, “Maybe he’s still single because he was prepared, and saved, for you. With your past and all you and your children have been through, you couldn’t end up with just anyone, you know.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

So in the end, I quit making excuses. I quit trying to find everything WRONG with Bachelor #5 and the situation. I quit looking for every possible reason not to remarry. I quit hiding behind my indecision.

I decided that I wanted it more than I was afraid of it.

I chose to turn the page of my life’s story and continue on into the new chapter of the fairy tale of my life that I hoped would lead to the happily ever after ending I’d never given up on, that I’d believed in and had sought since I was a little girl. After all of that analyzing, thinking, pondering, worrying and indecision I threw it all out the window and instead, made a choice with my heart.

In the end, it came down to the simplest of concepts and principles that I already knew and had always tried to live by: Faith; Hope; Love; Trust; Commitment.

It came down to this: “Decide that you want it more than you are afraid of it.” (Bill Cosby)

I made my decision. Although it had taken me awhile to get there, I loved Bachelor #5 like I didn’t remember ever loving anyone before. So…

Hey-hey-hey, Bachelor #5! It’s time.

I just needed to tell him that.

Completely Unexpected

That next weekend we went out and I can’t tell you what we did. I don’t remember much about that night. I only remember this: Before he took me home, Bachelor #5 asked, “Do I even have a chance with you?”

That sounded a little heavy to me. And because I wasn’t about to be serious, I had to lighten things up. I joked, “Sure! I try to keep an open mind. Everyone has a chance with me!”

But that didn’t deter him. He then said, “I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing.”

“I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing?” THAT was COMPLETELY unexpected!

I didn’t know what to say. All I could think in that moment was, “He doesn’t realize what he is saying or how that sounds when it’s verbalized. He can’t know what he just said.” So I didn’t respond much.

Instead, waves of memories washed over me. I thought back exactly eight months to the day, to July 13, 2009, the day my divorce became final.

The day I left my life in Colorado and headed into the unknown, so broken and devastated I couldn’t even look back at what I was leaving as I drove away or think about anything that had happened to my children and I or I wasn’t sure I’d have the courage and strength to go.

The day I was sure my life, hope, and any dreams for a bright future had ended.

The day I was positive no one would ever want an “old bag” like me again.

Back to the days when I had to try so hard every minute of every day not to cry, because I was afraid if I started I might not be able to stop. (Trust me, I failed a lot more than I succeeded in that attempt!)

In the pause as I thought all of the above, Bachelor #5 added, “But no pressure. I can wait as long as it takes you to decide what you want.”

Isn’t life like that?

COMPLETELY unexpected!

“A Scout is never taken by surprise; he knows exactly what to do when anything unexpected happens.” (Robert Baden-Powell)

Too bad I’d never been a Scout. (Or even a Brownie!) Because far too often in my unexpected life I don’t know exactly what to do, or what to say.

Good Men Aren’t Jell-o!

“There are much easier things in life than finding a good man–nailing Jell-o to a tree, for instance.” (Author Unknown)

Don’t get me wrong. There are a lot of good men out there, I’m just thinking that many of them (most of them?) are already married! Thus the “long” list of bachelors I’ve compiled in my quest for a happy ending.

I’ve met some good men along the way. I’ve learned something from each new friend I’ve made. And interestingly, I even think most of them have helped me on the path to healing in one way or another, some much more than others.

However, after just two months of dating, I was tired of it. I had absolutely loved being single the first time. In fact, when I married in 1989, a part of me was sad to leave my single life. But not the second time around. Although I had determined to make the most of the situation I had been thrust in, and tried to look for the positive and attempted to make myself like it, after a couple of months I realized it wasn’t working. Given the choice, I would have chosen to be married to the right man rather than be single. The newness of it all, the “excitement” (if that’s what you call being unexpectedly single and forced to meet new people in your new life) had worn off.

I was simply a divorced mother of four who had never planned or expected to be in that position.

Now, many months later, the dreaded “I’ve gotten used to it” has transpired. Just what I didn’t want to have happen! But I guess you can say that about many aspects of the unexpected life. It is who I am. I don’t cringe when people realize I’m single (and divorced) and wonder what they’re thinking about me any more. I don’t try to hide the fact that I’m divorced. It is what it is.

I’ve had to completely leave my comfort zone and face life, and everything else, alone. I’ve learned to socialize by myself again. I’m happy. And believe it or not, there are even things I’ll miss about my single life should my situation ever change. I NEVER expected to say that!

I’ve also learned that life goes on. I don’t advocate divorce by any means, and I am a strong defender, despite my experience, of marriage and family. But I’ve learned the world doesn’t end when a marriage does. I still have my own little family. And despite the scar of divorce, we’re doing so well and feeling so whole, that on the infrequent occasion when someone refers to my family as “broken,” it surprises me. I don’t think of us as that way. Different than we once were, but NOT “broken!”

Yet I keep pressing forward in dating despite being tired of it. I tell myself I’m lucky. After all, not every woman gets to meet new people (handsome men), date them, and everything else attendant with the unexpected and single life. (That’s the PR spin I put on my situation for myself to motivate me not to quit or give up too soon. I just have to keep telling myself I believe it, too!)

So, in the spirit of pressing forward, let me tell you about another man.

Bachelor #5.

And I’m pretty sure he is NOT a fan of Jell-o.

Of Corpses, Fish and Flowers

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

I love “old-fashioned” flowers, like hollyhocks and peonies, but peonies are my favorite. Someone once told me peonies can live to be up to 90 years old. I don’t know if that is true, but it has made me love them even more.
I can’t imagine what they’ve seen and what they’ve survived to live that long.

Kind of like each of us as we live our unexpected lives.

My Colorado yard had LOTS of hollyhocks and peonies.

When I moved to Utah to begin a new chapter in my unexpected life, I left before my belongings. My former spouse, unemployed and waiting to be formally charged for the Ponzi scheme he perpetrated and the crimes he committed, moved my things to Utah for me after I was already working. Knowing how much I loved my peonies and that I had no money with which to buy new plants in Utah, the man I had divorced uprooted 2-3 peony plants from my Colorado yard and hauled them to Utah in buckets, hoping they could be transplanted in my new yard upon their arrival.

In the midst of working full time, tending my children in the evening, and trying to unpack and move in to our Utah home, one of the peony plants from Colorado died before I could plant them. I looked at it, dead, withered and lifeless in an orange Home Depot bucket, and realized I had a lot more in common with peonies than I’d thought. I felt like that plant looked and wondered if I was headed for the same fate. It felt like pieces of my heart were already there. But seeing the dead plant motivated me to plant the two remaining peony plants.

They looked dead, but I figured if that were the case, I couldn’t damage them further. I planted them in the middle of the July 2009 heat and went on living my life, not sure if they were alive enough to take root or if they’d survive the winter snow. I should have known better, though. I probably should have been more worried about whether or not they could survive my children!

Sometime during the winter, my four year old came to me one day, proudly holding an entire peony plant that he had uprooted. “Look Mom! Look what I found trying to grow in our yard! Look how strong I am! I ripped this whole bush out of the ground all by myself!”

My eyes were huge as I looked at the accomplishment dangling from his little hands–my peony plant, roots and all.

The loss of a plant, considering all I had lost, seemed like such a little thing. And it sounds petty, but in a year of disappointments I couldn’t help but add the peony plant to the list. But at the same time I acknowledged there were a lot bigger losses and issues in life, and in my world, than the loss of one pink peony plant. I had experienced too many to count in 2009 and as usual, knew I could choose to laugh or cry about things, so I shook my head at the absurdity of uprooting a plant from its home, hauling it several hundred miles in a bucket in the summer heat, transplanting it when it was mostly dead and with winter coming…and a small child finally doing it in.

I laughed.

It wasn’t THAT big a loss, but it’s still true: “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” (Bill Cosby)

It reminded me of our attempt at having a fish for a pet several years earlier. The fish was new to our family when we left on a vacation to Africa for one month. And wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to arrange for anyone to feed it while we were gone! I realized my mistake partway through the trip and prepared myself for a dead fish when we returned home. To my shock, the fish was alive and swimming in its bowl when we returned to Colorado! I fed it, changed its water, and secretly admired the little fish’s survival instinct. The next evening however, as I did the dinner dishes, I realized the fish was missing. Apparently, our cleaning lady had come, hadn’t realized anything was swimming in the fish bowl, dumped the contents down the drain and washed the bowl!

In the case of the peony plant, all I could do was compliment my son on his brute strength, give his “huge” arm muscles a squeeze of admiration, and help him heft the remnants of my peony plant into the big garbage can outside. Another peony dead. Sometimes the best laid plans die or don’t work out due to circumstances beyond our control.

One peony plant was left, but who knew if it was even alive, or if it could survive the rest of the winter?

I was walking in my yard recently and saw it. The peony plant was still in the ground, thankfully. It was finally green. And to my surprise, there were blossoms getting ready to bloom! Who ever would have thought? And after all of this time, one year since it was first uprooted, has passed?

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” (Lady Bird Johnson)

It looks like I’m going to have peonies after all. With my hope. In my unexpected life.

Three Weeks Later

In my new life in Utah, I commute to work. The entire drive I am fortunate to have beautiful, jagged rocky mountains to look at. Last year, my commute was my time to have a few minutes of silence every day–I couldn’t listen to the radio because most of the songs made me cry. And at that time, not crying when I was alone was hard enough, I didn’t need any extra help! lol. In 2009, my commute was also my time to try NOT to think about what had become my life.

Three weeks into my new life in Utah, I read a story about a pioneer man who lost his wife coming across the plains. He buried her, and by that night had also lost his infant son. He walked back to his wife’s grave, dug her up and buried the baby with her, and then returned to the wagon train he was traveling with. He quit writing in his journal for awhile, but when he picked up again, he wrote only, “Still Walking.”

That’s how I felt.

I didn’t have the time, energy, or opportunity to write about my life. I was hardly able to face what had become of my life. I wasn’t sure why it was my new life. I struggled with my new life. And because I’d been taught “if you can’t say anything nice, don’t say anything at all,” I didn’t say anything. I was so overwhelmed, I didn’t have the time to write anyway.

If I had written, I would have recorded that in the beginning of my new life as a single mother, I HATED leaving my children and going to work each day. I was filled with grief for the many things I had lost and for what my innocent children had been put through. It took all of my will to get up every day and go to work, come home, and do everything for the family.

I also had a moment or two, I admit, of thinking (while I commuted) “If this is the rest of my life, if THIS is what I have to look forward to for the next 40-60 years, I don’t think I want it.” Sometimes my optimism was…not optimism! As I drove, my mental “wallowing” was equivalent to a pig stuck in muck in the barnyard. I knew it. I didn’t want to be that, but sometimes I just couldn’t help myself. In the beginning, I couldn’t imagine ever healing, ever feeling “whole” again or ever being o.k. with any part of my life. I just felt like I had to live my new life and give the appearance that things were good and I was happy for the sake of my children.

I think, or at least I hope, that most of those feelings I wallowed in were normal. In my experience, it was part of the process of healing and overcoming. The trick, though, is to not allow yourself to get stuck in the “mental muck” for too long; to not allow yourself to wallow too deep. Because, “They say that time changes things, but you actually have to change them yourself.” (Andy Warhol)

He’s right.

So I hoped for better days ahead. I didn’t know how long it would take them to arrive, but I knew I had to hang on until they did. I had to hope that, as my mom used to say, “this too, shall pass.” I had to hope that I would feel comfort and peace, that I would be able to carry on just one more day. I had to hope that I’d be able to have fun with my children again. (We’d all grieved so much, I felt we needed FUN! I knew I needed to set a good example of fun for my children, I just felt so heavy in my heart I didn’t know how I would be able to do that, too.)

And in addition to hope, I had to do what I could to look for the good and count the blessings I still had. I had to work to create a life I could be happy with and I had to let go of the old one. There was still a good life to be lived. A very different life from the life I’d had or imagined as my future, but it was still good.

“Difficult times have helped me understand better than before how infinitely rich and beautiful life is in every way, and that so many things that one goes worrying about are of no importance whatsoever.” (Isak Dinesen)

Somewhere along I-15, and with time, by the fall of 2009 I noticed I was crying less and then eventually not crying at all. There isn’t a lot to cry about anymore. In fact, there may not be anything left to cry about. I can’t remember the last time I cried.

My mom was right. Again.

Things DO pass. Time DOES heal. You just have to let things and time work their magic. And you have to use the things you are “blessed” with, to make you a better person than you would otherwise have been. Difficult times have helped me realize that, again, and so much more.

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Like Christopher Columbus

Five days until I moved from Colorado to Utah.

I felt like I imagined Christopher Columbus had to have felt: sailing off the edge of the map, sailing off into totally unknown territory, sailing off from the only life ever known. Columbus, himself, said, “Following the light of the sun, we left the Old World.”

It sure seemed dark in my existence. But I had the light of correct principles I knew to be true to guide me. I knew I was leaving the “old world” I’d lived in for the previous 20 years, and I was going to who knew what? I was scared to death! I wondered if Columbus had ever been afraid. I sure was! I tried not to be. But I wasn’t very successful at fighting my fear.

I just kept going, fearful, but pressing forward and hoping Columbus was right when he said, “By prevailing over all obstacles and distractions, one may unfailingly arrive at his chosen goal or destination.” I hoped that somehow, some way, I would also prevail at what lay before me: an unexpected life.

I looked to other brave explorers for inspiration. Jacques Cousteau said, “Every morning I wake up saying, I’m still alive, a miracle. And so I keep on pushing.” I kept waking up and facing each new day. I kept on pushing too.

I took great hope from another wise bit of wisdom from Cousteau: “If we were logical, the future would be bleak indeed. But we are more than logical. We are human beings, and we have faith, and we have hope, and we can work.” Thankfully, I had been taught to have faith, hope, and to work.

I was facing a journey more daunting than anything I’d ever imagined. It certainly wasn’t a voyage I’d dreamed of, planned for, or wanted to be participating in. But it was mine. My unexpected life.

Looking back, as difficult as it was to live it, it was also something more. It was an opportunity not many people are presented with. I could make of it what I might for myself and for my children. And if I handled it wisely, I could learn and grow to become a better person, and most importantly, I could teach my children how to be successful (how to live and find joy) in any set of circumstances– that’s one of the most important things we have to learn in life, in my opinion. And by helping my children overcome the huge mountain that was now their life, I could do something extraordinary with my unexpected life.

“People do not decide to become extraordinary. They decide to accomplish extraordinary things.” (Sir Edmund Hillary)

THAT is life.

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