Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

The Innocent…and The Unusual

One day toward the end of Bachelor #1 I was talking to my sister about the single situation. She asked me, “So, have you found any other cute guys?” (That’s what we called them in the 80s.)

I had to laugh. Because I really hadn’t. I was expecting men to look 20-something (that was the last age I’d really checked out the looks of men) and instead, all of the men I saw or met were wrinkled, gray-haired (if they had hair), bald, and/or heavy. In other words, they were aging! And apparently, I was in denial that it was taking place in my life as well, because I felt like I was meeting and socializing (and getting asked out by) fathers and grandpas–not MY peers. (Told you, a little denial on my part!)

So, that was a challenge of re-entering the single scene in my 40s.

It was not the 1980s anymore.

The good news?

I discovered there are some handsome, kind, fun, and active single fathers and grandpas out there. And get ready. You’re about to learn about several I met–in spite of the fact that, “It’s always been my personal feeling that unless you are married, there is something that is not very dignified about talking about who you are dating.” (Luke Wilson)

In an effort to be dignified, I won’t name the real names of some of the memorable men I’ve met or dated. All names will be changed to protect the innocent…and the unusual.

Bookmark and Share

The Irony of Crime

So life in Colorado continued winding down. I was packing and preparing to move my four children to Utah and begin a new life. He was wrapping up the details of His life and preparing to go to prison.

As part of that, He went to our cabin to take care of some business. As soon as He arrived at the cabin, He called me, absolutely furious and disgusted by what He had found. We had been robbed!

He ranted about the situation, listing every thing that was missing. He was so upset to have been stolen from!

All I could do was laugh.

He stopped, mid-rant, and asked why I was laughing. I said, “I’m sorry, but I think it is kind of funny! So ironic! The man who stole has been stolen from and he is angry that someone stole from HIM!”

Funny how that happened, huh?

He tried to justify His indignation, but I just didn’t feel it. Now that I knew the truth about the life He had led, I realized the cabin had been purchased and furnished with money HE stole! It wasn’t really ours and never had been.

The irony of the situation entertained me for a moment in the nightmare that had become my unexpected life. And it validated something I had heard His mother say time and again in the nearly two decades we’d been married: “What goes around comes around.”

It surely did.

Bookmark and Share

You Know It’s Tough When…

You know you’ve been left with a tough lot to hoe when your good friend calls to tell you her husband has another tumor, has already had a stem cell transplant and yet, she’d still rather have her life than yours!

We laughed SO HARD over that one.

No one wanted what I had, including me! My worst fears were my reality.

My friend and I cried together, too. Few cried with me like she did. She had endured many years of trials and challenges she’d never expected; she’d had to adjust her dreams accordingly, and she felt my pain like few could. Interesting, isn’t it? That our unexpected lives have a way of helping us develop empathy and compassion in a way nothing else is able to. Although I would never wish hardship on anyone, what a blessing my friend was to me because of all she had endured and risen above.

And the best part about being with her and knowing her family challenges was that her situation made me simply grateful to be alive. To have a life to live, unexpected as it was. Because not everyone has that option.

“I have sometimes been wildly, despairingly, acutely miserable, but through it all I still know quite certainly that just to be alive is a grand thing.” (Agatha Christie)

Grand indeed.

Bookmark and Share

A New Family Picture

“Life is a rough biography. Memories smooth out the edges.” (Terri Guillemets)

Prior to my 2009 nightmare, I won a free 16×20 portrait at a charity auction. I had forgotten all about it, but as I packed to move, I found the coupon. I thought it was a timely discovery: I was moving and wouldn’t be able to use it after I moved away–at that time, I couldn’t imagine when, or if, I’d ever come back, if even for a visit. I was divorcing and didn’t have one picture of just my children and I to hang in our home. So I booked an appointment for a new family portrait.

We all got ready, wearing coordinating clothes, and drove to the portrait studio. It actually wasn’t any different, up to that point, than getting any other family picture taken had been. Except that even the youngest child was happy and in a good mood. (I had always been the one to schedule the appointment, choose the clothes, get myself and all of the children ready, and then He would show up, change, and go with us to the appointment–although He was usually stressed out about something and his stress would rub off on some of the children as we drove so that by the time we got there, things were a bit of a challenge. Then He’d do something to help everyone feel happy again, usually the promise of a treat afterward took care of it, so our picture experiences ended up being good memories. But His behavior was the reason we needed a treat afterward!)

I was excited that the picture was not going to cost us a thing at a time we had no money. I was excited to have a picture appropriate to hang in our home as we began a new life. Everything was going off without a hitch…until we were walking in the door of the studio.

My middle son, who was nine years old at the time, stopped, turned to me, and asked, “Wait. Where is Dad? Why are we getting a picture taken without Him?”

How do you answer that, at a time like that?

My poor boy. Every little thing about our unexpected life was so sad for him and hurt him. We couldn’t even get a picture taken without causing him pain!

It reminded me of something my oldest wrote in an essay at about the same age, only life, for him, was a lot different then: “I am like a camera taking pictures with my mind.” He was referring to happy memories, I think, and I couldn’t help but wonder what my middle son’s life camera was documenting for his future reference.

My challenge then, as it had always been, was to help my children create happy memories to record in the cameras of their minds. Only the material they were working with, the life they were documenting, had dramatically changed–and not for the better, I thought at that time.

But I had to help them do the best they could with what we had to work with. For them. And for me.

I had to hope that somehow, I could help them realize that, “Things that were hard to bear are sweet to remember.” (Seneca)

If you handle them right.

Bookmark and Share


In the spring of 2009, after I entered the beginning phase of my unexpected life but before my divorce was final and I moved to Utah, my oldest came to me and invited me to go for a drive with him.

It was dark, late at night, but you never turn down an opportunity to spend time with your children. Especially at their invitation. Especially living through what we were living through. We were all we had.

We got in the car, he drove, and he headed away from the city lights toward the rural areas near our neighborhood. Pretty soon he spoke. “Mom,” he asked. “Do you WANT to move to Utah?”

Clearly, the move was on his mind and I couldn’t blame him. He was one of the few kids today who had lived in the same house, with the same schools and friends, never moving, everything the same, since he was eight months old. And now we were moving to begin a completely new life his junior year of high school in another state. Not quite the ideal time for such change. But then again, is there ever an ideal time to lose your entire life and everything you have ever known? At barely 16 years old?

How did I answer that?

With the truth.

I told him I’d been a Colorado resident since 1974 and had lived in the Denver area, with the same phone number, for 20 years. The only time I had left Colorado since then was to attend college, and even then, I loaded the moving van THE DAY I graduated from college and returned to Colorado. I reminded him I had built my entire adult life in Denver and living in Colorado was all I had ever really known. Most of my friends were in Colorado. Would I choose to leave all of that? Would I willingly do it if I didn’t HAVE to?


But the job I desperately needed and had been hired to do (and was grateful for) was in Utah. Try as I had to stay in Colorado, everything had worked out for a new life in Utah. I had come to realize and accept that. I truly FELT that Utah was where we were supposed to go, for some reason.

My son looked at me with a shocked expression. (I guess I hadn’t complained enough about all of the changes and the move because he hadn’t realized the move might be hard for me too.) But it seemed to help him to know that the move was difficult for me too.

Kindred spirits in our grief.

So we made the move. It would be less than truthful if I didn’t admit IT WAS HARD. There were moments I wondered if my oldest would be scarred for life from the experience. It terrified me when I’d make the last round through the house late at night, before I went to bed, and I wouldn’t find him in bed. (That happened several times.) In a panic, I’d search the entire house and not find him. And then I’d eventually discover him outside, in the dark of the warm summer night, on the front lawn sobbing his grief.

It killed me. I couldn’t help but join him. All I could say through my tears was, “I’m sorry. I am SO SORRY that this is the life I have given you. I wanted more for you. You deserve more. But I promise you, I am here for you and will do anything I can to help you. Someday it will be all right.”

But inside I wondered how it, and he (and if I’m being totally honest, me, too) would ever be all right.

We endured the slow start to adjusting and making friends in a new state. We endured all that switching high schools entailed. It was hard for him to let go of his old life. Not the money–the life, the friends, the place he lived, the activities he participated in, everything BUT the money, actually. He felt as if he had lost everything.

In a way, I guess it was good for me. At the time I was so sick with worry about my children and helping them get through their experiences, I couldn’t really even take a moment to think about myself. I had to focus my effort and energy into helping my children make the transition, and as I did, somehow I made it right along with them.

Fast forward several months. And that same son came to me and told me he liked Utah. And then one day he told me he liked his new high school better than his old one. And then he told me he was happy and felt completely normal! I knew, then, that we had arrived. And everything really would be ok. All right.

Fast forward a few more months. And last night, my son got home from work at 11 p.m. and came to check in with me. The house was quiet, everyone else was asleep, and he invited me to go for a drive. All I could think about was the last drive I remembered taking with him. In Colorado.

I must have looked surprised, maybe even hesitant, because he entreated, “Come on, mom. I haven’t seen you all day. Lets talk.” You never turn down an opportunity to spend time with your children. Especially at their invitation.

We got in the car. He drove.

He talked to me about life and his contentment, happiness and joy with all of it was evident. He asked me about my life, and I told him how good my life is, but did share one small worry with him. He stopped the car, smiled at me, put his hand on my knee, patted it, and told me it would be all right.

And it will be.

Both he, and I, know it.

We just keep driving. And eventually, everything IS all right.

Our destination? Peace, happiness and joy…in our unexpected life. All right.

Bookmark and Share

Some Bright Spots

The events of 2009 showed me, again, that life goes on in spite of the trauma, and that even in the darkest times, there are still bright spots. Sunshine. Here are a few “rays” that stand out in my mind.

For one, despite how I felt on the inside as I navigated the morass that was now my life and world, the sun continued to shine, blossoms and flowers bloomed, and birds sang. And I was fortunate enough to have eyes to see it, ears to hear it, and olfactory senses still mostly in tact (after breaking my nose I don’t smell things QUITE well as I used to) to smell it all!

Then my middle son had a pinewood derby for cub scouts. For the first time in our family’s history, my spouse put A LOT of work and effort into helping a son make a pinewood derby car. My son went to the derby and did so well he made it to the district race. He was struggling so much with the demise of our family and life, getting to go to a championship race was truly a bright spot for him.

The pinewood derby win also gave me what I thought was a brilliant idea. I had my spouse cut out 5 car shapes from pinewood derby car kits, I put them back in the boxes, taped them shut and put them away for future pinewood derby events for my two youngest sons. I thought that would allow them to feel their father was involved in a future event in their life AND it saved me from struggling through a disaster should I be forced to have to try to help with the creation of a pinewood derby car. (Of course, then we moved to Utah and found out they weren’t doing a pinewood derby–they were doing space ships. You win some, you lose some. But this single mother is prepared for any future pinewood derby!)

My son also had a wonderful school teacher who went out of her way at school, and after school hours, to be there for him, cheer him, and share things with him to totally make his day. Not to mention some really good friends and their families who took him in as their own, allowed him to spend a lot of time in their homes and with their families, and helped him take his mind off the events going on in our family.

Another bright spot was seeing my oldest son score goals at his hockey games. I thought, “You know, his life is tough right now but I am SO thankful he can have a temporary lift when he steps out on the ice and plays. And as an added bonus, he gets to experience the exhilarating feeling of scoring!”

Sometimes I felt my children were being blessed with special achievements or accomplishments they might not otherwise have received…as if they were being given some “compensation experiences” to help them have some happy moments amid the trying time of losing everything they had known.

Other bright spots came in the form of employment for my two oldest children. Money was mostly non-existent for our family and times, economically, were tough everywhere. But my son got hired at Cold Stone and my daughter was asked to nanny and babysit nearly every day of the week. Both children were able to help us provide the things we needed and they were very generous to offer, of their own volition, the money they earned to help support our family. (My children amazed me. And continue to amaze me. Not every teenager thinks like they did.)

In fact, my oldest has pressured me many times in the year since our new life began to allow him to get a job working many hours each week outside of school–so he can earn the money, and pay me, the child support I am not receiving because my former spouse is in prison and unable to work. It is my opportunity and blessing to love and provide for my children–I would never have them pay for the privilege of being my family and having to endure me as their mother! lol. However, it has been a bright spot for me to see the growth and maturity my oldest children have displayed in our unexpected life. Those early glimpses into the amazing adults my children are becoming has certainly been a highlight of the past year for me.

I also attended a meeting of the women’s organization I had been president of and the new leaders presented me with a beautiful bouquet of flowers and thanked me for my service. It was very touching to me and a welcome ray of happiness during a difficult time in my life.

And lastly, in addition to everything many, many women and friends did to help and support me at that time, one of my most touching experiences was the Sunday two friends stopped me in the hall at church and presented me with a beautiful quilt they had made, comprised of squares embroidered by individual women and friends for me. Everyone embroidered their name on a piece of it.

A tangible reminder of many names, and friends, who loved me and served me in the most shocking, dark and difficult time of my life. Truly, the people who crossed my path and touched my life over the nearly 20 years I lived in Colorado were some of my brightest experiences.

No matter how dark, there is always a bright spot.

I had many.

Looking back, a bright spot was also coming to this realization, as well: “Like a plant that starts up in showers and sunshine and does not know which has best helped it grow, it is difficult to say whether the hard things or the pleasant things did me the most good.” (Lucy Larcom)

Bookmark and Share

Keep Climbing

I read yesterday about a young woman who was volunteering in Haiti at the time the earthquake that killed 230,000 hit.

Her name is Christa Brelsford and she struggled under the rubble of the earthquake until her brother, school workers, and a teenager were able to dig her out. She was flown to Miami for treatment, where doctors amputated her right leg four inches below the knee. She endured four additional surgeries but is back again pursuing her passion–rock climbing. (I couldn’t help but think what a great metaphor that makes for turning stumbling blocks into stepping stones in her life!)

Her fiance proposed marriage while she was in the hospital, she has started a non-profit named Christa’s Angels to rebuild the school she was volunteering at prior to the earthquake, and she is back to rock climbing for real. One friend of hers said, “She has a tenacious spirit–and she’s using this opportunity to help.”

What character it takes to do that. To use the opportunities we are blessed with to “help” others AND to help ourselves become better people than we would otherwise have been. I totally believe it’s possible. Christa said, “You don’t choose what happens to you, but you can choose how you respond.”

How amazing if all of us, when thrust into trying circumstances beyond our control, could act and think like Christa. That is MY goal and that is what I am trying to teach my children too: to make good choices as we respond to the things that happen, unexpectedly, in life–knowing that if we do that, greater character develops and is refined into something more glorious than it could otherwise have been.

Thanks to a friend and blog reader, Shari, for sharing this brilliant thought on character with me, spoken by an amazing woman who achieved greatness despite the circumstances of a very challenging life: “Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved.” (Helen Keller)

SO, thank you 2009 for the many and varied opportunities I was given to better my character. Thanks to all of those who belay me on the cliffs and climbs, then and now.

Go, Helen! Go Christa! Go, all of us! as we travel our paths and ascend our personal cliffs to character and eventual greatness in spite of it all!

Keep climbing.

Keep smiling.

Keep looking for the good.

Eventually you’ll reach the summit.

And you won’t BELIEVE the view!

Bookmark and Share

Divorced–And $1 More!

July 13, 2009, was a day I never expected to live.  Here’s what happened.

I got up in the morning, got ready (I remember I wore a skirt), drove to a courthouse in Arapahoe County, Colorado, with my then-spouse, chatting and making small talk as we drove. And then we got divorced.  An alien experience in the great expectations I’d always had for my life.

Getting divorced itself, in my opinion, was not like it’s depicted in the movies.  I expected a huge, empty court room, with just a judge, myself, and my spouse, but that isn’t what I got.  I got a tiny courtroom (seems like it was the size of a large master bedroom), 8-10 strangers observing my proceeding and hearing my private business, and a magistrate signing the paperwork.  And where were the attorneys that were always present in divorce?  Oh. That’s right.  I didn’t have a dime and neither did my former spouse.  We couldn’t afford attorneys.  (I had paid a family lawyer for unbundled services and basically wrote my divorce myself, with her help, input from my friend Holly, and the aid of life experience from what I’d observed my divorcing friends go through.  All 2 of my friends who’d divorced.  Obviously, my experience with divorce was pretty limited!)

I had the opportunity to hear the private business of the parties who went before my turn came.  If I could have been ANYWHERE else, I would have been.  But since I had to be there, I tried to not hear what was going on.  I tried not to think.

When my turn came, I stepped to the table and spoke into the microphone.  While I had done everything required, my former spouse had not taken care of details he was supposed to have and the magistrate did not look kindly upon him.  I was granted everything I asked for…and $1 more!

You see, due to the choices of my former spouse, there was no way I would get any financial support of any kind.  I wouldn’t even have asked for any, but legally he has to pay something, so the court assigned him minimum wage (even though he was not employed and didn’t anticipate that he would be for quite some time) and stipulated he should pay me $563 each month to support our four children.  (HA!  Not that he’d be able to pay me, but my health insurance is $400/month!  My daycare and preschool is close to $600/month!  My car insurance, for a teenage driver, is $300! $563 doesn’t even cover our food! But whatever makes everyone else feel better about the situation…I’ve know I’ve gotten shafted financially, and every other possible way, but who’s complaining:)

Back to the divorce proceeding.  The magistrate noted I had been a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for almost our entire 20 year marriage and asked if I was requesting maintenance from my former spouse.  When I wasn’t, she added $1 to the amount of child support for MY maintenance, signed the papers, and I was divorced.  As quickly as that.

Divorced and $1 more!

We walked to the car, got in, and drove “home.” I don’t know about him, but I was trying not to think about what had just happened and the reasons for it.  I had other events to get through that day.

When we arrived home, we hauled my suitcases out and loaded them in my new (to me) 2005 Subaru Outback station wagon.  We loaded our two dogs (Joe, a 100 pound yellow lab and Ella, a 25 pound cocker spaniel) into their crates and into the Subaru.  I put my two youngest children, my 9 year old and my 3 year old in the car, ignored the staring neighbors, and drove off without a backward glance.

I wish I could say I drove off into the sunset.  But that isn’t what happened.  That isn’t where I was headed.  Call me the Queen of Denial, but at that moment, I couldn’t look back on any part of my previous life or I’d never be able to move forward.  I drove out of my Colorado neighborhood for the last time, heading to Utah, acting like I was going on a quick roadtrip–NOT starting an entirely new life in a new state as a single mother who works full time, the sole emotional/physical/financial support of 4 children!

I didn’t take one last walk through the home that had been mine for 16 years.  I didn’t walk my yard, look at my flowers, or “say goodbye” to any part of my home, property or old life.  I knew I would never be able to move on if I allowed myself to look back, even one little moment or at one tiny little thing.

Because I had never felt more inadequate for any task in my life.  I knew I had an emotional marathon ahead of me of unimagineable proportions.  Had I really been trained for it?  Was I really prepared?  It certainly wasn’t an exercise I’d ever planned on or expected.  I hoped I was up to the race of my life.  My childrens’ futures, and mine, hung in the balance.