Living Happily Ever After


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The Speech Concluded: ‘R’ is for Resilience

The original definition of resilience had to do with a material’s ability to resume its shape or position AFTER being bent, stretched and compressed: the ability to “bounce back.”

To help you bounce back, I recommend the following:

1. Reflect. Think about other challenges you’ve faced and how you successfully overcame them. Do those things.

2. Write about your feelings. Writing processes thoughts and feelings differently in the brain by putting words to them. Writing about something can change the way you view it. Interestingly, I heard about a 1994 study on job loss that found that participants who wrote about their loss 30 minutes each day for five consecutive days found work significantly faster than those who didn’t.

3. Find the lessons in your loss. Writing can help you do that, too. No matter how bad the circumstances ask, “What can I learn from this?” These lessons can help you avoid giving up despite setbacks, too.

4. Reinvent yourself. Sometimes, you have no other choice–you lose your entire life (like I did) and you’re forced to create a new one. If you aren’t forced to completely reinvent every aspect of a new life, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, join a new group or meet some new people.

5. Move forward! The shortest way to the other side is through your challenge. Don’t be a pickle sucker. Get through your challenge and move on. And “suddenly” (no guarantee on how long it takes!) you’ll realize your smile is real–not something you’re faking for your children or the world. You’ll realize, with shock, you feel like your “old” self again. You’ll realize your new life is good, although not exactly the same, as the one you lost. And you’ll realize that you’re happy.

So…believe in wearing lipstick. Believe in pink.

Laugh, it’s the best calorie burner.

Be strong when everything seems to be going wrong.

Remember that happy girls are the prettiest ones.

Believe that tomorrow is another day. Believe in miracles.

And you’ll find yourself living your own personal one. Your “happily ever after.”



Everyone has them. Some are more public, or visible, than others but the older I get and the longer I live the more I realize that regardless of what it looks like on the outside, EVERYONE is blessed with them. And no one can live them for us, we each must do with them what we will.

That’s a hard truth to face, sometimes.

So when I’m tempted to wish away a challenge for myself or someone else, I try to remember this: ”When we long for life without difficulties, remind us that oaks grow strong in contrary winds and diamonds are made under pressure.” (Peter Marshall)

That’s the reality. Pressure, adversity and difficulties not only make you stronger, but dazzling!




Dandelion Death

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

While doing yard work and weeding a few weeks ago, my middle son surprised me with a bouquet of dandelions. I was thrilled, delighted and quickly rushed to put them in water to preserve them for as long as possible. For that day, they sat in a vase on my kitchen windowsill. Soft, puffy, cushions of yellow sunshine. The next day they were dead.

I confess, I was a little surprised. It has always seemed to me that dandelions, creeping into grass, springing up unbidden, are hardy plants. And although I’m not a weed, flower or gardening expert by any means (as evidenced by the many plants and flowers I’ve managed to kill), I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in their short life span.

From my perspective, dandelions have it pretty easy. They bloom into being uninvited and there they stay. Cheery, yellow, WEEDY; rain or shine. They don’t need water, they don’t need fertilizer and it seems like lawn mowers even have difficulty making an impact on them! It’s an easy life, as long as they remain in their expected and “natural” habitat—outside. But pluck a few, put them in a vase full of water, and they’re dead by nightfall (or at the very latest, the next morning.) I expected them to last at least as long as flowers do in a vase of water!

With such an easy existence, dandelions haven’t had to learn to be hardy, to adapt to change or to challenge. They don’t appear to have ever had to “hang on” when times get tough. They haven’t had to develop roots. Hand them an unexpected new life—indoors, in a vase of water—and they wither and die faster than anything I’ve seen.

Makes you grateful for the unexpected life, YOUR unexpected life of growth opportunities, doesn’t it? Because it’s through our trials that we become stronger. Our challenges strengthen us (if we let them) and by triumphing over them, we become stronger. Better. More than we would otherwise have been. Draught, hardship, the unexpected life…cause us to develop roots and to sink those roots deep to survive. The character-conditioning program called life, especially the unexpected one, makes us more than we ever could have become on our own. And in the end, we master not just surviving new circumstances or new challenges, but blooming wherever we’re planted.

We can find happiness and joy in whatever garden, or yard, or patch of dirt, or pile of manure we’ve had the good fortune (or misfortune!) to land in. Life is good regardless of where life transplants you to. Sink your roots into the soil of your unexpected life, look for the beauties of it, count your blessings and strive not just to survive but to bloom.

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

A News Story

It’s official.

Another opportunity for me and my children to share some of what we have experienced and learned in our unexpected life.

Jennifer Stagg, a news personality on NBC affiliate Channel 5, in Salt Lake City, Utah, did a story on our family which aired last week.

Here is the link to see the news story, if you’re interested:

What I noticed most about this opportunity was the continued healing that has taken place in myself and my children, especially my middle son. He was just 9 years old when his world shattered; too young to understand a lot of what was taking place and to understand why it was happening. However, last week’s interview reminded me that a lot of growing up takes place from 9 years old to 11 years old!

Although this particular child didn’t want to participate in the interview, he agreed to stay in the yard and play while it was taking place. And then, unexpectedly, before the filming wrapped, he came in the house and hung around the film crew. I asked, “Is there something you want to say?”  He replied, “Yes.”

So Jennifer sat down and asked him some questions, including things about his old life, things about his new life, what he had learned and how he felt about it all.

As for what he missed about his old life? The fields behind our Colorado home that he played and rode his dirt bike in–and his friends. “If you have friends and family, that’s all you really need to be happy though,” he explained. “And I’m happy in my new life. My new life is just as good.”

“Really? What do you like about your new life?” asked Jenn.

“That I have a stepdad who is really nice, nice to me, who really likes me and who I really like.” (Too bad #5 was out of town on a business trip and didn’t get to hear that, huh? I shared it with him when he got home!)

He concluded by offering his wisdom: hard things happen, you just have to carry on.

Count his emotional well-being and healthy outlook and happiness in life as yet another miracle we’ve been blessed with, thanks to the triumph of living…the unexpected life.

“We are all broken and wounded in this world. Some choose to grow strong at the broken places.” (Harold J. Duarte-Bernhardt)

He sure has.


“Do it, dump it or change it.” (Jim Janz)

I couldn’t believe it!

It was SO unexpected.

After all of the time we’d been engaged, after all we had resolved or overcome–even a flat tire in the desert, after everything and despite his complete commitment to us that had never wavered, unexpectedly…one Sunday night, Bachelor #5 broke up with ME.

There’s a part of me that thinks it was for the best. I mean, “Giving up doesn’t always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.” (Author Unknown)

There was a tiny part of me that was glad some of the frustration had ended. I hoped I could be like Phyllis Diller who said, “My recipe for dealing with…frustration: set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes, cry, rant, rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.”

Besides, I was tired of knowing that every couple we knew who got engaged the same day we did had already married; every couple we knew who got engaged after we did had already married; and that even couples we knew who met each other after we got engaged were already married. Sometimes I felt that, “If  I hear about one more couple who marries before I do, I’ll scream.”

Well, #5 took care of that. He dumped me. And I wasn’t feeling the urge to scream. I was devastated.

WHAT was he thinking?

“I’ve always been a fella who put most of my eggs in one basket and then take a dump in the basket, but I really don’t know.” (Robert Downey Jr.)

A List of Stuff

“I made this list of stuff that it’s time for me to try to do.” (Rick Moody)

When you’re in your forties with four children, and you get engaged to a man in his forties with four children, there is a lot to the “simple” act of getting married. In fact, it’s not so simple. When I got engaged in May 2010, I realized in the first few days of my engagement that there was no way I was going to accomplish all that I thought I needed to prior to my wedding without making a list of everything I needed to do and remember. So I did that. I made a list.

It included things like: take an engagement photo, choose a wedding announcement, plan a wedding dinner, purchase a wedding dress, plan a wedding, plan a honeymoon, go to Colorado so my friends can meet my fiance, introduce fiance to the Utah people that are important to me, participate in premarital counseling, know fiance one year prior to marriage  (November 2010), decide financial issues, decide parenting issues, make him a wedding gift, get family organized (ie. work chart, etc…), clean out middle son’s room, clean out youngest son’s room, move middle son out of his bedroom so fiance’s son can have his own bedroom, purchase wedding rings, find a car that holds 7 people, pre-nuptial agreement, set up new step-son’s bedroom, organize home office, organize family photos, clean out garage, clean out shed, fiance participate in Christmas show “Savior of the World” at the L.D.S. Conference Center, fiance participate in Sundance summer theater “Big River”, future mother-in-law needs surgery, fiance needs surgery, save up vacation time for a 2-3 day honeymoon, save money for a wedding dinner, fiance get his home ready to sell, fiance sell his house…You get the idea. Not one of the items on my list was inconsequential or small.

It was May 2010 and our plan was to marry in September 2010. (I know. I was already setting myself up for failure! If we married in September, I wouldn’t accomplish “know fiance one year prior to marriage.” But it was the date #5 suggested, and I was trying to be o.k. with it and work toward that.)

Interestingly, by September 2010, the date we had originally planned to marry, I had only accomplished 4 things on my list of 34 things. We rescheduled our date to January 2011, and by the time that date rolled around, I had accomplished just 17 of the 34 things. Remarriage was a lot more complicated, and required a lot more work, than I’d ever imagined! We set our sights on the end of January 2011, and by the time that date came, I’d lost the list!

“A list is only as strong as its weakest link.” (Donald Knuth)

I abandoned all hope of being organized and prepared prior to remarrying. As a single mother of four children, employed full-time, there wasn’t time for that anyway.

And then tonight guess what I found? The list. Out of curiosity, I read it. I realized I had accomplished 30 of 34 things on my list, and two of those I had changed my mind about: find a car that holds 7 people and arrange a pre-nuptial agreement. I had somehow gotten almost everything done on my list. And I’d done it without the aid of a paper list!

“Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” (Donald Trump)

I’m A Bag

My divorce became final 18 months ago today.

You know what it has taught me?

That, as I feared all along, I’m a bag. A tea bag, to be exact.

“A woman is like a tea bag–you never know how strong she is until she gets in hot water.” (Nancy Reagan)

There’s nothing like the challenge of an unexpected life and subsequent divorce to show you how strong you are. And in my humble opinion, as a single woman and a divorcee, I’d say the trick is to not lose your flavor as you steep in your unexpected situation.

It can be done.

I know it can, because I’m doing it. I’ve been up to my neck in hot water more times than I can count since 2009, yet here I am. Holding it together (for the most part) despite the temperature and depth of my surroundings…and I’m still singing (trying to, most days, anyway.)

“Remember the tea kettle – it is always up to its neck in hot water, yet it still sings!”

If I can do it, anyone can.

And now I think it’s time to get real about a few things, my experience with them, and what I’ve learned.

Hang on! It has been the usual, unexpected ride.