Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Winston’s Words

Last April I read that Winston Churchill said, “…to every man [and woman] there comes… that special moment when [they are] figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a special thing unique to [them]… what a tragedy if that moment finds [them] unprepared or unqualified for [that]which [could have been their] finest hour.”

It hit me that I had an opportunity to let 2009 be my finest hour.  It was a critical time.  I believed my life and the lives of my children, then and forever, hung in the balance.  As daunting as it seemed, I had to make 2009 my finest hour for the sake of my children.

I didn’t know what the future held, but I had faith enough to KNOW there would be one.

I believe these moments, to one degree or another, come to each of us. And it is what we do with them that makes all of the difference. Finest hour or failure.

This was reinforced to me during my service as president of the women’s organization of my church congregation.  One day a new woman joined our group.  I made an appointment to visit her in her home to officially welcome her to the area.  When I arrived at her apartment, I discovered she lived there with four other adults and sublet a bedroom in the apartment.  As we sat on her bed and talked, I looked out the window and noticed snowflakes beginning to fall.  At the same time, I glanced into her open closet door and saw only one pair of flip flops, one pair of athletic shoes, one skirt, and one shirt hanging on the rod.  No other clothing.  Not even a coat.  (Remember, I lived in Colorado.)

When I asked about her situation she told me she didn’t have a coat, didn’t have shoes other than the two pair I saw, didn’t have food to eat and she didn’t have a job. I arranged to take her shopping for a coat and through our pastor provided her with some groceries.

As I drove her to the store, she told me more of her life story:  her dad died when she was a teenager, her family lost their finances, she was raised by a single mother, she had had health challenges…and she attributed all of her experiences as the cause of her current situation.

In that moment I was struck with a powerful realization.  She and I had experienced many of the same life challenges. Yet while her experiences had changed her life in very difficult ways, I had been taught to rise above the challenges, to turn my stumbling blocks into stepping stones, to continue to live and achieve, and to attempt to utilize my adversity to make myself better than I would otherwise have been. (More wise words from my mom.)

What a blessing to have been taught, and to instinctively realize, we each are blessed with moments that can be our finest hour.  It is all in what we do with them.

I believe that now more than ever.  I hope my actions and attitude as I carry on, continue to live, and rebuild my life one day reveal my finest hour.

And it caused me to ponder:  What if everyone, in moments of heartache and seemingly insurmountable challenges, chose the path that would lead to their finest hour?

Imagine the legacy we would leave our children and those who come after us if we did.

Snow Day

I remember snow days in Colorado were always a celebration. Cozy, unexpected family time; days filled with sledding and hot cocoa; relaxing by the fire; snuggling on the couch.  But the snow day we had in the spring of 2009 was completely different.  It just felt cold and alone.

That snow day I saw what an outcast I had become. Even regarding snow!

Every single driveway of ALL of our neighbors had been plowed, except ours.  (We hadn’t shoveled our snow in years–a neighbor with a snow plow on his truck, or a neighbor with an ATV and snowplow, always took care of it for everyone.  Not in 2009.) To make matters worse, all of the plowed snow had been piled, four feet high, at the top of OUR driveway.

A subtle message.

Aristotle was right.  ”Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.”

My son and I shoveled and shoveled the snow in an attempt to clear the driveway.  There was so much snow, snow that was that heavy, wet, spring snow, and the snow was piled so deep, we hardly made a dent in the piles although we shoveled until we felt like we’d sprinted a 10k.

My daughter was going to be late to meet her friends due to the snow situation blocking the exit from our driveway so I finally called a friend and asked her to pick my daughter up so she wouldn’t miss the activity. When her husband drove up and saw the piles of snow deposited in front of our driveway by neighbors, he was appalled! And angry.  He went home, got his snowblower, drove it over to my neighborhood and home, and cleared the snow away. (His wife told me he glared at every neighbor he saw as he did it–he was THAT disgusted by the hateful actions of our neighbors.)

That day I wrote, “I’m an outcast. But like the old song says, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ Thanks, Dan.”

And truly, with good friends you’re never REALLY an outcast. Aristotle forgot to mention that while misfortune shows those who aren’t your friends, it also shows those who really are!  At a time when I felt like the biggest loser on earth and a total failure–believe me, ending up with my life at 41 1/2 years old had NOT been my life plan–I had friends who showed me otherwise.  ”The making of friends who are real friends,” said Edward Everett Hale, “is the best token we have of a man’s success in life.” If that was the measure of success, I hadn’t failed at all!

I don’t know how I would have survived my nightmare without friends.  ”A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”  (Anonymous) At a time when I felt like I had lost everything, including myself, they reminded me of who I was, what I had always been and showed me I was still me.  Me. Me PLUS the adventure of my unexpected life!

They helped me make the transition into a new chapter of my unexpected life. And although it was very hard to leave them in Colorado and begin a new life in Utah (so hard, in fact, I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone–I just drove away), how fortunate I am to have known such good people, to have been blessed with such incredible friends, that it WAS so hard to say goodbye!

My friends, old and new, help keep me going even to this day. Truly, I get by with a little help from my friends.  Don’t we all?

I Never Knew

“I never knew until that moment how bad it could hurt to lose something you never really had.” (From the television show, The Wonder Years)

In 2009, I lived that line for real.  I felt like the life I thought I had, the life I had lived, had never really been real. I didn’t even trust my memories of my “former life” for a long time; everything seemed so tainted by the crime, the lies, and the betrayal. The pain of losing something I’d never really had hurt more than I imagined.

The spring of 2009 can best be described as the season my heart hurt.  It literally hurt ALL of the time.  It ached all day, every day, every moment, and I didn’t know if it hurt because it was broken or if I was actually physically in trouble due to the stress I lived under! Can healthy women have heart attacks at 41?  I wondered…

Here’s how “optimistic” and hopeful I felt sometimes.  Last April, one year ago, I wrote, “I’m looking at an eternity alone, people hating me the rest of my life, latch-key kids, if you name it and it’s miserable it’s my lot in life! I wonder how will I make it three months, much less the rest of my life? How can one man destroy so much? I deserved better. I deserved more, and so did my children.  His lies stole my life from age 26-41.  The consequences of his lies will steal the rest of my life. Everything looks so black. I never imagined pain like this existed, especially for someone so innocent.”

I spent depressing days packing stuff to move, preparing to leave the home I had brought each of my babies home to, had lived in for 16 years and had always thought it would be the home I’d live in when I was 80 years old.  I cried a lot. I reminisced. I mourned. I felt as if my heart had broken and would never heal.  And when I thought about my kids…I felt grief like I’d never felt before.

But I always pulled it together by the time my kids got home from school.

I had to carry on and keep it together (or at least look like I was keeping it together!) for my kids.  I had to show them what we do when our world falls apart:  we keep living.

My mom taught me that.

When I was 19 and my dad died unexpectedly in an airplane crash, I came home from college for the funeral to a house full of well-meaning neighbors and friends who told me I would not be returning to school because I was needed at home to help my mom and family.  So many told me that I thought my mom had decided that in my absence.  When I asked her if it was true that I wouldn’t be returning to college because my dad died, she was stunned.  And she corrected that mistaken assumption.  ”Absolutely you will be returning to school!  Andrea, you don’t stop living just because something terrible has happened to you!  You keep doing what you need to do, you keep living, you keep smiling even though you don’t feel like it, and some day your smiles will feel real again.”

So I smiled in 1986-1987 when I didn’t feel like it.  And I smiled in 2009 when I REALLY didn’t feel like it too.  They were forced.  They were ‘fake’ in that I didn’t feel them on the inside but I showed them on the outside anyway.  I smiled for the sake of my children.

I remember I was still forcing myself to smile in August 2009.  By then, it killed me that I didn’t mean them. I’d always been a pretty cheerful and positive person and it was hard for me to not feel like myself any more.  I had moments that I wondered if, in addition to losing everything I had known as my life, I had lost myself too.  I remember wondering if I’d ever smile, for real, again.

However, my mom turned out to be right.  As usual.

By October 2009, the smiles were real and the tears were less and less.  Sometime that month I realized I had gone an entire week without crying!  Baby steps forward, but steps forward all the same.  I think that’s one thing 2009 reinforced to me:  it doesn’t matter how fast you move along the path of your unexpected life.  Just as long as you keep moving.  Forward. Pressing on.

Oh, and smiling!

An Old Bag

I met with a leader of my church regularly.  He was there for me, took time to chat with me, to find out my thoughts and to offer a wise perspective.  We covered temporal issues, spiritual concepts, my children, me, etc…

On our last visit, before I relocated to Utah from Colorado, he gave me some excellent advice.  He told me I was going to be working full-time and I was going to be a single mother.  He said, “Andrea, as you go on and rebuild your life, remember to have fun!  Don’t let yourself be so burdened by all of your responsibilities that you forget to laugh and have fun! THAT is my advice for you as a single woman.”

Exellent advice.  I’ve tried to follow it and live it. I recommend it for everyone.

Another visit, though, he broached the subject of me marrying again some day.

I shook my head and said, “No.  I’m not marrying again.  I’m 41 years old.  I have four kids.  I’m an ‘old bag’! No one will want me!”

He was kind enough to laugh and say, “Andrea, you’re NOT an ‘old bag’.”

Then why did I feel like it?

But my church leader had a bit more perspective than I did.  I went on my “first” date less than three months later (VERY unexpected.)  And I don’t feel like an “old bag” any more. Or maybe I really am one, but I’m too busy laughing and having fun to know it!

There’s Nothing Like Love Songs

I used to watch a t.v. show where real-life people, singers, perform.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  ”American Idol.”

The last time I regularly watched was in 2009.  That night, most songs were love songs, and by the time the episode was over, I was thoroughly depressed!

To know what I didn’t have, to know what I probably never had (and just hadn’t known it), to realize how ripped off I got in love, marriage, eternity, romance, partnership, trust, honesty, life, a whole and complete family, a father for my children (even in alimony and child support) was sadly overwhelming.

There’s nothing like love songs to make you realize what you don’t have!

I finally couldn’t let myself think about it, or I was afraid I might not carry on. So I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind, I quit watching “American Idol,” and it was a long time before I could hear a love song and not cry.

Kahlil Gibran said, “Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”  He was right on.  Inside, I felt like a burned, blackened, twisted, dry, bent, lifeless, broken, dead tree!  (If you’ve ever seen a mountain scarred by a forest fire, that’s how I felt.) And thanks to “American Idol,” and love songs, I realized that.

So, if you are in love, or are fortunate enough to be loved by someone, take a moment today and acknowledge that blessing in your life.  Because life, with love, IS a tree blossoming with flowers and fruit, boughs bending toward earth, laden with goodness and beauty. Bounteous. Beautiful to behold. Fragrant. Nourishing. Satisfying. Satiating. Protective.

Even love songs recognize that.

And if you aren’t currently in love, or loved, don’t give up.  I haven’t.  I’ve seen new life, flowers, and green leaves grow out of the most inhospitable environments–cracks in rocks on cliffs, charred fields, even burned, dead, twisted and broken trees.  I’m counting on that.