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.)





Hard Work

Three years ago I lost my entire life and was, literally, forced to live a new one.

Some might think the crime associated with my old life was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS traumatic.) Others might think the financial loss I experienced was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS devastating.) Still others might view my divorce, or the loss of my home, or my move to another state as the most traumatic aspects of the hardship we experienced. (And they were ALL very difficult!) However for some reason, for me, one of the biggest and most traumatic changes of all of the changes from my old life to my new and unexpected one was…losing my opportunity to focus solely on my children as a stay-at-home mom when I had to return to the work force full-time so we could survive.

I’m sure it seems silly to most people—especially in today’s world of powerful, independent women who juggle work, family, children, home, continuing education, community service, church activity and service, exercise, shopping, fashion, and a loving marriage all the while achieving astounding success in the world of business—but I guess I’m still in awe of the women who do that. Women have worked outside the home for decades and there are certainly worse things in the world than working full-time (after all, it’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to provide food and shelter for my four children) but as a stay-at-home mom watching my full-time working mother friends do everything they did, I never felt I was “organized” enough to do it all and keep it all, especially myself, together; I counted my blessings I didn’t have to prove that! And now, as a full-time working mother I prove myself right, not to mention disorganized, every single day.

There is always something I fall short in.

That my housekeeping standards have slid is a total given. Not enough time to serve extensively in schools and the community like I once did is another sad fact. Forgetting important things, like a soccer game (when I’m the assistant coach AND in charge of the team snack) has become part of my history as well, as has a little impatience, on occasion, with my children or others, in addition to a lot of miracles—like the fact I drive thousands of miles every year for long commutes on highways at high speeds, during major highway construction in the state of Utah, and I haven’t been killed much less injured in any of the frequent collisions I pass. (One of my co-workers had his car totaled when he collided with a semi on the same commute, so I feel quite fortunate.)

Following are a few of the experiences, lessons and realizations that have come my way as result of my return to the work force full time. Indeed, “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.” (Horace)

And by the way, “The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” (Jane Sellman)

Did I Say Strange?

“Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” (Eric Fromme)

Before I go any further I have to reiterate, again, that remarriage is a journey through a strange new world.

It’s unsettling, after living four or more decades of your life and doing things a certain way for specific reasons…to change it all up and do everything differently. But it’s also exciting, not to mention occasionally entertaining. You certainly have new experiences you never expected to have; you learn new things; and I like to think (or hope) that all of it will help keep me young!

Now back to the birthday cruise for my husband.

We both had prior cruising experience prior to our first one together. My husband had been on several cruises and I’d been on 10 myself (I had been married for 20 years to a man who did everything to excess; now that I know what was REALLY going on all those years, I see that he certainly lived up to Ponzi scheme criminal stereotype/reputation for “living the high life.” Bummer that I, like everyone else, simply thought he was just very successful and good at his job!)

We brought to our 2011 marriage our own (different) travel habits and expectations. But since this cruise was with in celebration of my husband’s 50th birthday and we were  traveling with his family and friends,  I told him not to worry about me; we were doing it his way—and while I don’t think we did the whole trip “his way,” (my husband is too considerate for that) I pretty much went along with everything my husband suggested (like karaoke) and had a lot of new adventures (like karaoke) that were part of his previous experience but had never been a part of mine.

It was a very different cruise than any I’d ever been on before, but it was also a LOT of fun!

“Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Make the most of it.

The Going Rate

“When one of Lisa’s baby teeth fell out here, the tooth fairy left her 50 cents.  Another tooth fell out when she was with her father in Las Vegas, and that tooth fairy left her $5.  When I told Elvis that 50 cents would be more in line, he laughed.  He knew I was not criticizing him; how would Elvis Presley know the going rate for a tooth?” (Priscilla Presley)

I’m not sure about the going rate for a tooth these days either. Although I’ve got to figure it out because my middle son–the one with a toothache, who ended up getting his tooth pulled at the dentist today–asked me upon our return home from the procedure if The Tooth Fairy, like Santa Claus, gives more to rich kids than poor kids.

I guess he has noticed some contrasts between his old life and our new, unexpected one. Thankfully, his older brother distracted him with talk of other things and I didn’t have to think of a brilliant answer on the spot.

“If you can’t dazzle them with brilliance, baffle them with bull.” (W.C. Fields)

Just kidding.

But I’ve got to think of something wise, yet truthful…FAST.

It’s Time…For Skid Marks

“What you need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring you to this very moment. And this is the moment you can choose to make everything new. Right now.

The day arrived. I was ready to say the words.

I didn’t want to think about what I was about to do, afraid I’d come up with a reason or an excuse not to. So while we were sitting on a sofa in a very special place I charged ahead, not letting myself think, and asked one more question. Bachelor #5 probably wanted to roll his eyes at yet another question, but he refrained.

I asked, “If I marry you, and after we’re married when my flaws and shortcomings are abundant, and you realize you haven’t gotten exactly what you bargained for, will you stay and make the best of it, or will you want to leave?”

He said, “Of course I’ll stay. Everyone has shortcomings. It will just give us something to work on together. I’ll help you and you help me.” I thought he’d say that, but I had to make sure. (THAT was the right answer, by the way.)

I responded, “Ok then, ‘it’s time.’”

I don’t think he expected that.

And although it’s hard to catch a man who is organized and plans ahead for everything off guard, I think I succeeded! He did a double take, looked at me with wide eyes and asked, “What did you just say?”

I repeated, “It’s time.”

I think he still couldn’t believe it. He asked, “Are you serious?”

I was.

He said, “I didn’t expect you to decide so fast!” Given the many weeks I had struggled to come to a decision and make a decision, it didn’t seem that fast to me–but I could relate to the whole speed thing. I definitely wasn’t expecting something like Bachelor #5 and what he offered to happen in my unexpected life…and so fast! Interestingly, for once, the man who always has something to say, didn’t have much to say.

He simply hugged me, took me home, and drove away–actually, sped away might be a better description–without a backward glance. He may have been shocked. Or scared. Or maybe, knowing how he thinks and plans ahead, possibly already working on “taking care of the rest.”

So, “If you never want to see a man again, say, ‘I love you, I want to marry you. I want to have children…’ – they leave skid marks.”

Not Fair

I met an old friend and his wife for lunch a few months ago. We hadn’t seen each other in person since 1989 but he was exactly the same–same good person, same nice guy, same handsome man (now a husband and father), same terrific sense of humor. In some ways, he hasn’t changed a bit! Then he smiled and I saw something was different.

He had gotten braces. As the daughter of an orthodontist, I had to acknowledge them. He made a joke about them–something about a mid-life crisis and how it wasn’t fair.

THAT made me laugh. I mean, what IS fair?

I corrected him, “No, what’s NOT fair is having to be single again after having four children! What’s NOT fair is having to date when the wrinkles are showing!” But I felt his pain. I was secretly fixing my own shifting teeth with Invisalign at night. The things we do mid-life.

What’s also NOT fair is having to repeat some teenage experiences–like dating and battling acne at the same time! That was an experience I always thought was best left in the 1980s and can you believe my good fortune? Forty-two years old and getting some acne again? I consulted my dermatologist about it. I wanted him to “magically” make it stop and he told me he couldn’t do anything, that the acne was most likely caused by hormones. Probably the “old age” kind of hormones, knowing MY luck!

No, life isn’t fair. Especially the unexpected life. But I’m thankful I’ve got one. Each new day is unexpected. Each new experience (and challenge) a blessing.