Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

The Speech Continued: ‘A’ is for Integrity

A: ALWAYS Integrity

I believe integrity will see you through anything. Be who you are, be true to yourself, be honest with yourself and others in whatever situation you may be.

Ironically, if I’d had to describe myself or the person my parents had taught me to be prior to 2009, it would have been that I was a person of integrity. Yet there I was, my entire life, family, past, future, reputation, destroyed by a man the complete opposite of that. And I’d never known that or seen that.

I never, in my life, thought integrity would be a challenge for me. However, I was shocked at some of the thoughts that came to me, to abandon my integrity, out of sheer desperation for my circumstances.

The day the U.S. Marshalls came to inventory my possessions for seizure was one of those days. While waiting for them to arrive, I actually had the thought to hide some of my jewelry. (Not that I’m a big fan of jewels. I saw my jewels simply as an asset that could be sold to help me feed my children in my desperate circumstances.) I was shocked at the thought! I was an honest person, I couldn’t believe that thought had even crossed my mind.

I dismissed it, briefly waged a silent battle within my own mind, and quickly came to the determination that I was not going to let someone else’s lack of integrity cause me to lose mine! I’d rather starve to death! (Which at the time I didn’t consider a remote possibility–I thought that’s where I was headed.) I’d also love to say that’s the only time I had that thought to be dishonest, but interestingly, I was presented with another opportunity to choose integrity regarding my jewelry within a few weeks of that initial challenge, and I had to decide, AGAIN, to choose to have integrity! Once again, I decided my integrity was worth more than anything to me.

I decided, as did the mother of Cornelius in ancient Greece, that my children were to be my jewels! My ONLY jewels. And I’m ok with that.


A Different Kind of Richness: Step 5 Continued

“Be yourself. Above all, let who you are, what you are, what you believe, shine through…” (John Jakes)

So later, when federal agents told me they were coming to inventory my possessions for seizure, unexpectedly came the thought into my mind, “You should hide some of your jewelry, no one will every know, and then you’ll have something to sell to help feed your children and keep them alive.” I was shocked! I’d been honest my entire life—my parents had taught me not to eat even a grape from the bunch at the grocery store without paying for it first; at great inconvenience I’d driven back to stores that had given me a few incorrect cents of change, and now I’d had the thought to, basically, steal something? (Granted, they HAD been MY things, not to mention the stakes were very high for me personally, but I never anticipated ever having such a thought.)

However, within moments I decided, “I am not going to change who I am just because someone else was never who they professed to be!” So I didn’t hide anything, I even reminded the investigators of my jewelry when they came to my home.

The bad  news? Yes, my jewelry was seized and I lost an asset I could have sold and used to begin a new life with. The good news? I remained true to myself and who I’d always been. And it’s always worth it to remain true to yourself, on every level and in every way. Always. No matter what happens.

And when you do that, you’ll survive; you’ll be ok. You may not have all the jewelry you wish you had, but you’ll be ok! You’ll have a different kind of “richness” in your life that no one can seize from you.

“Ordinary riches can be stolen, real riches cannot. In your soul are infinitely precious things that cannot be taken from you.” (Oscar Wilde)

That’s How We Learn

“I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance – waiting for the bathroom.” (Bob Hope)

I can relate, although I learned to dance in the kitchen watching my parents cha-cha before breakfast and taking a spin when my mom needed to stir something.

But that is the grand adventure of life, isn’t it?

Learning the most unexpected lessons at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected places.

I learned honesty as a child, but learned, again, how committed I was to it when government agents were coming to my home to seize everything of value and I knew the contents of my jewelry box. It would have been so easy to take something I could sell to feed, clothe or shelter my children and none would be the wiser. Except me. And that was the problem.

So I didn’t do it, although I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. It absolutely did. When you’re left alone, financially devastated, and have four children to provide for, it’s amazing how desperate that situation can make you feel. However, I’ve never been one to sell my soul for “things” and even when the stakes were so high in my eyes, I learned I still wasn’t going to. I learned for myself I wasn’t going to break down and be dishonest after living a life of complete honesty just because my spouse had. I learned I’d rather starve or be forced to rely upon the charity of others than to choose to steal or sell my soul for any “thing.”

In that moment I also learned that as much as we know what is right, and regardless of how much a virtue (like honesty) we possess, we are never absolutely above temptation. At least, I’m imperfect enough not to be.

Life is an endless opportunity to prove ourselves and reprove ourselves and prove ourselves again, even when we think we have something mastered–we get to learn and prove ourselves in an entirely new, and unexpected, way!

Like dance. I graduated from high school and dancing in the kitchen to college, social dance class, and returning home for New Year’s Eve 1985 to cha-cha with my dad, one last time, but in public, at a dance. Later I added clogging, BYU Folk Dancers and Irish dance to the resume of my experience. And eventually, a dance class with Bachelor #5. He keeps inviting me to country/western dance, so that may be next on our list. But wherever our lesson, and our life lessons take us, this I know:

That’s how we learn. And we’re learning all the time. The tombstone will be our diploma, said Eartha Kitt.

“Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” (Henry L. Doherty)

Especially in the unexpected one.

Life Is Such a Roller Coaster Ride

One of the people left in the world who has known me the longest emailed me earlier this year with encouraging words and fabulous advice that I’ve tried to follow:  Life is such a roller coaster ride…we just have to hang on, scream real loud, and enjoy the ride!

In my experience, truer words have never been spoken.

And no ride made me hang on (or want to scream) more than the ride I was on April 2009 last year. My spouse had revealed His crimes, He was headed to prison, and I found out I would be left alone to provide for and raise our four children. My roller coaster car was rolling away from the gate and the ride of my life had begun!

Things seemed very black a lot of the time, yet the crazy optimist in me refused to give in to it and I tried to find the light in every thing that I could.  It was SUCH a roller coaster I can’t describe it. I was worried about providing for my family, finding a place for us to live, beginning a new life in every sense of the word, and I did it all amid negative publicity about my spouse for His ponzi scheme crime and the public collapse of my life and marriage. Yes, there were ups and downs!

One huge roller coaster was the financial aspect of things.  It was pretty bleak.

The day my spouse told me of His crimes, He had already turned himself in to the authorities and all of our assets had been frozen. I had no money.  I had four children to feed and shelter and I didn’t know how I was going to do it. That was a low.

The government authorities catalogued items for seizure and told me they were not interested in my jewelry.  I rejoiced!  That was a high!  I admit, I love things that sparkle; I always have.  And although I’d never asked for jewelry, my spouse had given me a few pieces as gifts over the years. I loaned them to friends as often as I wore them, and although I didn’t plan on ever wearing my jewelry again, I realized I could sell my jewelry for cash and use it to help support my children and rebuild my life.

Then my roller coaster car took one of those sharp, unexpected turns–the kind you hit just when you think your ride is about over–and started racing downhill again!  The government investigators returned to my home.  They apologized.  They said they knew they told me they weren’t interested in my jewelry and had told me I could remove it from my home but…did I have any diamond necklaces or tennis bracelets?

That day was a low.  That day I discovered my friends, who had worn my jewelry and knew everything I had, were providing lists of my possessions to the government, hounding them to take it,  and the government had to comply.  That day I wrote, “Sometimes I don’t know how I’ll go on.  I work so hard to think, ‘I’ll start over and make a new life,’ I make a plan to do that, and then every little thing the government tries to leave for me, my ‘friends’ make sure it gets taken away.  It’s not for me that I want anything.  It’s for my kids. I just need to provide for them. I want, I want, I want! There is so much I want. So many injustices I’m being dealt and there will never be any restitution to me for any of it.  I am the one victim who is not on the victim’s restitution list.  I am THE ONE who will just have to let go of it, forgive, and go on.”

The government asked me to give them a list of the jewelry I owned, which I did.  And they called, amazed, that I had admitted to MORE than they knew I had!  That was a high for me.  I continued to value my character and integrity above all.

Then I met with bankruptcy attorneys.  They were appalled at how, in their words, “completely bereft” a position I had been placed.  I don’t think they’d seen anyone left in my position, to start over with four kids to the extent that I had been.  That was a low.

That day I returned home feeling very alone, and when I arrived home my daughter said, “Mom.  It’s April Fool’s Day!” The irony completely got me, and must have shown in my face, because my daughter said, “What?  What’s wrong, Mom?”  I just smiled and said, “Nothing.  I’m fine.  I’m great.”  It was becoming my answer to everything.

There were many other financial highs and lows that followed and I eventually learned not to get too worked up in either direction, to wait and see how everything played out to avoid getting devastated time and again.  Sometimes roller coasters can be a bit much, too many highs and lows.

So I rode the roller coaster.  And I hung on.  I don’t recall that I ever screamed but I cried. And although I wasn’t overly successful at enjoying the ride, I had two goals for myself as I rode:  To not hate anyone.  And to be cheerful, happy, and optimistic.  I didn’t want to be anyone’s “downer.”