Living Happily Ever After


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Of Victory, Defeat…and Birthdays

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Taste it.



The Conditions for Beauty

“No object is so beautiful that, under certain conditions, it will not look ugly.” (Oscar Wilde)
My mom emphasized true beauty, what she called “inner beauty,” and taught me it’s what is on the inside of you that counts. I believed her. And  then my unexpected life hit.
Although it happened five years ago and much of it has become a blur, I’ll never forget what a scary and dark time it was. Overwhelming. All I can say is that I did the best I could given the circumstances. I probably made some mistakes. But one thing I stand by was my intentional refusal to indulge in the vicious hatred and negativity that came my way. (I’d like to say it was a soul perfection that allowed me to take the high road. But the truth is probably closer to the fact that I was so afraid if I allowed myself to indulge in ANY hatred or anger toward anyone who treated me unjustly or betrayed me during those dark days, I might have never been able to rise above it.)
So time passed, I recovered, and I’m still living. I moved on, minus most of the trappings (and some of the friends) who chose to not remain with me. And I’ve become o.k. with all of it. And then earlier this month I had an encounter that reinforced to me, again, that I made the right choice.

One of my biggest losses from my previous spouse’s crimes and Ponzi scheme was the loss of a few friends I’d know even longer than my ex. We weren’t just friends, we were like family. They were some of my heroes–and the first phone call I made when I found out I was married to a criminal and he’d destroyed not just our family, but countless other lives. However in the waning months of my ex-husband’s crimes, their relatives had invested money with him. And he had taken it. So at my greatest time of need (and in all of the years since), they couldn’t be there for me due to the depth of destruction.

And then earlier this month, I unexpectedly ran into one of them. That friend I once knew so well was a literal stranger. In fact, I almost didn’t recognize her. Our encounter was so brief but I was shocked. She looked so different to me. Maybe I just caught her on a bad day…or maybe my mom was right: inner beauty is the only kind of beauty that matters.

It isn’t easy to develop and it certainly isn’t easy to maintain–to rise above the destructive choices of others and the events of life that can be so difficult. But it’s so worth it.

Because in the end, and despite our losses (or perhaps because of them), we will each be truly beautiful.

Just A Journey

So, that’s my story.

A four year journey I never asked for or ever, EVER expected to be forced to embark on. But what do you do when you’re handed an unexpected life? You live it.

You take it, carry on, over time learn to embrace it, and eventually you conquer it! And along the way you learn to enjoy the journey–keep your eyes open and marvel at the many unexpected adventures that come your way as a part of it.

After all, “Life is just a journey.” (Princess Diana)

Sitting (or Standing, as the Case May Be!) Happy

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

What happened next is kind of…perfect; completely fitting for a first return to the state I’d left four years ago in total shock, grief, fear (even though I tried my best not to fear) and yes, complete humiliation.

First stop after DIA was to a restaurant for dinner.

As we drove, I was surprised to feel so calm and normal. I must have expected to feel the last feelings I’d had in Colorado (shock, grief, devastation, horror) or even worse, at this stage of life, to feel homesick for the city, state and life I’d loved so much (knowing that chapter of my life has closed and a permanent return to Colorado will never be a possibility) or worst of all, to feel like I didn’t belong there any more. I mean, Colorado had been my home since 1974. I was terrified to feel out of place there because if I didn’t feel I belonged in my home state, where would I EVER belong?

We had a nice dinner and at the end of dinner, I stood up to leave and instantly felt a freezing cold blast across my…nether-regions, looked down to determine why I suddenly felt so cold, only to see my maxi skirt puddled on the floor!

There I stood in a restaurant, on a Friday night, wearing–from the waist down– only my underclothing! I quickly bent down, pulled my skirt on again, and exited the restaurant!

Believe it or not, I could not stop laughing.

Leave it to my unexpected life to come full circle in the most unexpected of ways: depart in embarrassment, humiliation and mortification and  the VERY FIRST THING that happens to me upon my return most would consider embarrassing. (Except, I realized, me. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty difficult to be too embarrassed about anything given the “embarrassment”–revelation of crime, loss of everything, demise of family, divorce, and all of it played out on a very public stage– I’ve lived through! Haha)

Consider me filled with character. And sitting happy with it all. In my unexpected life.

Who EVER could have imagined that?

Not even optimistic, filled-with-hope, determined-to-create-and-live-a-happily-ever-after, little old me!

The Small-Minded…And Me

“For people who have…had curve balls thrown at them, it is easier to digest change… in other people. Change only scares the small-minded. The small-minded and me.” (Casey Affleck)

I’ll never forget the time I (literally) had a curve ball thrown at me.

My husband had installed a pitching machine and batting cage in our backyard and a friend came over to test it out. Not knowing anything about said equipment, I actually got in the cage WITH HIM to watch him bat. What I also didn’t know was that my husband had cranked the pitch speed from 30 mph to 90 mph.

The machine released the first ball and my friend tipped it…straight into my nose! I’m happy to report it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it sounds like it would, but it was successful in breaking my nose.  My previously pretty decent nose was crooked and had a new bump. And then the debate began: do I fix my nose or not?

I mean, the damage to my septum was done. Straightening my nose wouldn’t fix that. And since I’m pretty much a coward when it comes to undergoing medical (and dental) procedures, I wasn’t sure I wanted to undergo a medical intervention for vanity’s sake–just to have a straight nose the rest of my life–until a friend said this: “We’re getting older. We can’t do anything about that, we can’t stop the wrinkles or gray hair, but a crooked nose is something you CAN do something about. You can fix it. So at least you won’t be looking in the mirror every day at a crooked nose AND wrinkles!” We had a good laugh over her rationale…but I did end up straightening my nose. And one year later, all aches, pain, and tenderness associated with that curve ball had gone.

And then 2009 hit. (Who knew there was a lesson for life in my broken nose?) When I got thrown a VERY UNEXPECTED curve ball as a result of my former husband’s lies, secrets and crimes, there was SO MUCH  I couldn’t fix or do anything about. But I did understand the importance of fixing what I COULD fix. So I got out of bed every single day (even though I sure didn’t want to!) I pasted a smile on my face (although I wasn’t very successful at looking happy, the grief and shock were a little too fresh and huge back then.) I faced every day, and the new and terrible challenges that came daily with a curve ball like that, and eventually, like my nose, things straightened out again and the pain went away.

Call me small-minded, I mean, it’s difficult to embrace change–especially when you don’t choose it or didn’t do anything to “deserve” it. It can be scary. But you can do it. I believe you can triumph over ANY challenge. Fix what you can. And choose a life of happiness and joy. Regardless of the crooked developments, and curve balls, that may temporarily derail your peace and joy.

And live.


And don’t fear.

The unexpected life.






Instruction for Living a Life

“Instructions for living a life. Pay attention. Be astonished. Tell about it.” (Mary Oliver)

A few weeks ago I was asked to speak to a women’s group about gratitude—living a thankful life. It was a good experience, and another opportunity to reflect on my life, my experiences and to think about what I’ve learned from it all, and to try to share something from all of it that might help or encourage someone else.

I ended up titling my remarks “Six Steps to Surviving Anything And Living A Thankful Life.” And while I tailored my comments to that particular group, I thought I’d share a version of it over the next several days—one step a day.

My six step program.

To surviving anything.

And living a thankful life despite it all.

Here goes.

Step one: Count each day a success if you accomplish ONE thing. (And be liberal with yourself in what you consider an accomplishment!) Some days it may be only that you got out of bed OR took a shower. It doesn’t have to be both! Just one thing…and you’re a success. Because some days are just that hard.

I’ve had a few days like that.

A day or two when the fact that I got out of bed was my big accomplishment for the day. And that’s ok. I can’t remember a day when I succumbed to the awfulness of my life during a few of its most challenging moments by not getting out of bed to face another day.

So no matter what you’re facing, get out of bed that day and call yourself a success.

Although, “Lying in bed would be an altogether perfect and supreme experience if only one had a colored pencil long enough to draw on the ceiling.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton)

Fear…or Courage?

I was driving in the car the other day with my middle son who asked, “Mom, what is the scariest moment of your life?” I didn’t even have to think about it: March 18, 2009. When my unexpected life began.

It turned out to be a great conversation—an opportunity for me to share my perspective on the whole thing, three years later, with my son and to remind him of some great things, wonderful blessings, that came out of that nightmare.

I finished with a reminder that no matter what happens, no matter how fearful some situations may be, you can survive them, overcome them and go on to live a wonderful life. It just takes a little courage.

“Courage is fear holding on a minute longer.” (George S. Patton)

Don’t Forget

We went for a walk the other night with our two youngest boys.

It was a beautiful fall evening—not too hot not too cold, the sun was setting, the colored leaves were dazzling, it was Sunday night and we had nothing to do and nowhere to go—but to enjoy our walk and one another.

How often in life does that happen?

Sadly, not often enough.

It was a great reminder to me to slow down more, take pleasure in the little things and make taking time away from the hustle and bustle and hectic pace of life to enjoy the world and all of the beauties it has to offer a priority.

“In between goals is a thing called life, that has to be lived and enjoyed.” (Sid Ceasar)

Don’t forget to live.

And enjoy!

Or Maybe?

Or maybe the secret to life is…simply facing your fears.

My unexpected life was replete with ALL of my lifelong fears and many more I’d never even dreamed of, not even in my worst nightmare, all combined into one fantastically devastating, horrific experience that included, all at the same time, betrayal, crime, a double life, negative publicity, divorce, single motherhood, poverty, loss of home, loss of pretty much everything of worldly value, unemployment, financial devastation and a few other things I shall refrain from detailing.

What do you do when you’re handed your nightmare on a platter of poverty and publicity?

Accept it. You can’t escape it, so deal with it.

Conquer it. Keep at it until you overcome the mountains in your path. (Work at it every single day for as long as it takes to find happiness and joy, to live, again.)

I think THAT is the secret.

“He who is not every day conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)



“We are the hero of our own story.” (Mary McCarthy)

Speaking of birthdays, my husband and I spent part of ours (yes, we have the same birthday, six years apart) floating down the Provo River on inner tubes with my children. And with Elizabeth Smart.

In her defense, Elizabeth didn’t know it was our birthday, she didn’t even know we were tubing with her, but we noticed her and entered the water behind her. We floated for several hours and as I finished my ride and  the river guides helped me out of the water with my tube, I heard two of them talking.

“Dude, did you see who that was?” asked #1.

“No, who was it?” replied #2.

“Dude, that was Elizabeth Smart!” said #1.

“Elizabeth Smart, DUDE, seriously?” asked #2.

“Yes, dude. Elizabeth Smart.” #1 exclaimed. And then followed something I didn’t expect: “She’s my hero!”

If you’ve ever participated in guided adventures, such as river rafting, you’ll know what I’m talking about and trying to describe when I say I never expected to see two scruffy, scraggly, unshaven, barely clothed, rough, weathered, outdoor enthusiasts resembling mountain hippies more than anything else, absolutely in awe of and express their admiration for a twenty-something, smiling, pretty young woman minding her own business, tubing down a river. But they did. And they were touched to have been in her presence for a even brief moment.

She, the way she handled her unexpected life experience with grace and dignity, and the life she has gone on to create and live, was absolutely inspiring to many, including River Guide #1. I wish Elizabeth could have heard him gush about her. He truly loved and appreciated her and for all she has overcome and is inspired by her. What a great example she has been to many. A hero.

It reminded me that we can each be that in our own lives, through the triumphs over our challenges. We each have a story. We each have the opportunity to be the hero of it. And we never know who’s watching us overcome our challenges and who will be inspired, and be better themselves, because of our good example.

Be a hero.