Living Happily Ever After


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It’s Really About Moving On

“Life is really about moving on.” (Oprah)

The unexpected life moves on.

And eventually becomes…your life.

This summer marked four years living mine: four years that I have lived in Utah, four years since I began living in a completely different world than the one I inhabited before, and I confess, I’ve spent four years looking out my window at the beautiful mountains of Utah County, admiring their rocky and jagged beauty, remembering the comfort and strength I took from them as a college student and taking those same feelings about them into the life I live now. A part of me has even considered them my personal barrier of safety from the horror I left in Colorado.

And then, a few months ago,  I realized it has been FOUR YEARS. Unconsciously or not, I’ve spent the past four years on this side of those mountains. Safely and far away from “terrible” Colorado. I didn’t tell anyone that’s how I felt or that that’s what I was doing, but it was. I haven’t set foot in the Centennial State I left it in the rear view mirror of my used Subaru July 13, 2009.

I’ve been invited to visit. There are people there that I love and miss. But there has been NO WAY I would ever return to the hard things I endured before I moved to Utah. I’ve stayed WELL away.

And then one day my husband looked at me and said, “Lets go to Colorado. It’s time you go back.”

I was stunned.

There is NO WAY I would ever go back.

Or is there?


Step 6: Look for miracles and tender mercies in your life, they will be there, and be grateful for them.

“David Bednar said, “…Tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, [and] support…which we receive.”

I received many tender mercies at a time when I seemed to have not much else.

For example, and as I’ve mentioned before, when people asked if I needed anything, I told them we were fine. And we were “fine.” We lived as scant an existence as possible and although we had food to eat, it was very basic food—NO extras of “fun” food. And then one day, a friend showed up with an entire carload of “fun” food from Costco: Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, Oreos, chips, doughnuts, fruit snacks, crackers, juice, fresh fruit, all the fun “extras” when you’re eating and living as inexpensively as possible. My children were overjoyed! It was like Christmas to them (and they still talk about that delivery to this day.)

But the tender mercies didn’t end with Colorado.

I moved to Utah and began a new life feeling very much a failure. I didn’t think things could get any worse until they did—when I made the fateful error of heading to the grocery store on a Saturday night. I didn’t have anything else to do, I didn’t know anyone, I had to feed my kids, there was a big sale at a neighborhood grocery store, so off I went. I was convinced I was the only “loser” who grocery shopped on a Saturday night!

Every shopping cart that night appeared to be pushed by a happy, in love, couple with plenty of money to pay for their purchases. I had none of that anymore and had never felt so alone or worthless. When my shopping was done and just when I thought I couldn’t feel any lower, a car drove by me in the parking lot and the driver ridiculed my purchases through his open window. Those thoughtless words uttered by one man devastated me!

In the dark, tears welling in my eyes and feeling SO ALONE and appalled that apparently I couldn’t even purchase food for my children without being persecuted and wondering how I was going to endure the next 40-50 years of my new life, I unlocked by mar, turned to unload my cart, and was stunned to see a man standing there in the darkness. He had come from out of nowhere and without a word, grabbed the purchases from my cart and unloaded them into the back of my car.

When he was done, he paused for a moment, looked into my eyes, and smiled at me—a smile of compassion, and although it was dark, I noticed that his eyes were light blue, his skin was tan, his teeth were white and his hair was dark but slightly graying. And then without a word, he got into an older, dark-colored Suburban I suddenly noticed was parked next to me, and drove away.

I got in my car, completely changed, thanks to that anonymous man, whoever he was, and his kind service to me. For a brief moment I hadn’t been alone, a man had been kind to me (which I really needed at that stage of my life!) and for a moment I felt like everything was going to be ok.

I don’t believe anyone makes it through this life without problems and challenges and sometimes, tragedies and misfortunes. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will see the miracles and tender mercies that are ours and will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” (Henry David Thoreau)

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)

Proma Drama

“I get letters from all over, all sorts. It’s really cool. I get a lot from inmates, which is kind of scary. But the best was the guy who wanted to send me a plane ticket to fly me to his prom.” (Laura Prepon)

Prom (at our house) is 10 days away and the drama continues. In fact, it has resulted in modifications to the English language: Proma Drama (say it like it rhymes with drama). Although my husband coined the term, if it were in any dictionary you could find it defined as, “anything having to do with the events leading up to the high school ritual known as Prom.” Or something like that.

Date to prom? Check.

As reported earlier, my daughter was asked to prom. A boy she works with and goes to school with asked her. (The invitation itself caused drama, as I’ve mentioned earlier, because the boy asked my daughter and another girl at the school walked around school for days crying in the halls and all of her classes and told everyone it was because the boy she wanted to go to prom with asked my daughter!)

We live in Utah, where “creative dating” is practiced by teens, so the boy didn’t just ask my daughter in person or text or call with his invitation, he did it in a creative way. Late one night our doorbell rang, I opened the door to find no one there, looked down and there sat three goldfish swimming in a container with the message: “If wishes were fishes and I had three, I’d use them to ask, ‘Will you go to prom with me?’” (Cute, huh? They even came with fish food!)

Due to my daughter’s busy school, work and spring track schedule she didn’t have time to answer for a few days. In the meantime, everyone enjoyed the fish. And fed them. Until sadly, I don’t believe any were actually alive by the time the reply was delivered. Oops!

Prom dress? Check.

Believe it or not, we found it online—a far different prom dress shopping experience than mine were in the 1980s. I never actually did find one that was “perfect,” which resulted in my mom designing and sewing me the perfect dress for prom my junior year (she was a fabulous seamstress, as good as any professional anywhere)—and then flying to another state the following year in quest of the perfect prom dress so she wouldn’t have to EVER sew another one!

Referencing prom throughout the days and weeks leading up to it? Check.

For example, my daughter’s birthday came a few weeks after the “fishy” prom invitation. Her birthday incorporated a bit of Proma Drama when her best friend sent her a beautiful bouquet of roses with two wishes: “Happy Birthday! I hope these flowers live longer than the fish did!” (For the record, the flowers are still thriving and looking beautiful.)

And then the moment came when my daughter’s date had to be told what color her dress is so their attire could be coordinated.

Stay tuned.

Oh. And speaking of dresses: “Some women hold up dresses that are so ugly and they always say the same thing: ‘This looks much better on.’ On what? On fire?” (Rita Rudner)

Celebration of Life

One day I found the book, “The Barber’s Shop,” by K. Douglas Bassett (published by Cedar Fort books in 2005) on my nightstand.

In the book the author shared an experience he had getting his hair trimmed by an elderly Utah barber when he was a young married man and father. He shared something special that happened with every hair cut—and it had nothing to do with cutting hair.

“As this old gentlemen trimmed our hair, he would sing the songs of his youth. Occasionally as he would sing, he would weep ever so slightly and sometimes even chuckle but never enough to interrupt his singing. As he sang I thought: ‘When I grow old, I want to feel as deeply about my life as he does about his. I don’t ever want to forget the events that have touched and shaped me. But most of all, I always want to feel a passion toward life that supplies the very kind of depth that gives joy and hope, even admidst adversity and pain.’ I didn’t want to devalue my life with the passing of time by forgetting the intensity of life’s moments. My old barber friend had felt the pain and tragedies of life, which accompany anyone who has lived a long time. Yet, his was not the expression of regret or remorse…but a celebration of life.”

Feel deeply.

Remember the events that shape you.

And celebrate all of it.

“The more you praise and celebrate your life, the more there is in life to celebrate.” Oprah Winfrey

On Facebook

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” (Alfred Hitchcock)

Finally the day came when we expected the anticipated letter in our mailbox. (Our bishop (pastor) had announced the mission call would be arriving that week, and we’d heard from everyone around us that mission calls generally arrive in the Provo/Orem area of Utah on Wednesdays.)

It was Wednesday.

Everyone was full of anticipation. Especially my oldest son for whom the call would be issued. I occasionally joke at his absentmindedness, but even HE was calling ME to check the status of the mailbox. I was stuck at work, so I couldn’t check myself. So I called home and had my youngest son checking every few minutes. That day, it was so odd,  but the mail NEVER came! I was becoming increasingly stressed by the unknown, and then to not have the mail delivered was indescribably frustrating. I drove home, somewhat frustrated, when I thought to call my son.

I found out the call had come, and that my son and a group of his friends would be at my home that evening for its opening. (I guess he’d had his sister checking the mail, too, and she’d gotten it and taken care of everything related to it. They just forgot to tell their mother or their younger brother. So there I am, calling occasionally from work, hounding my son about making another trip to the mailbox and thinking the mail hadn’t been delivered when it had been, only to be scooped up by another pair of excited hands!) My  son excitedly told me everyone who was coming that night for the opening of the envelope and when he mentioned even some of MY friends, I finally had to say it: “You mean even MY friends knew you got your call…but you forgot to tell your own mother?” My son defended his actions; to him, he’d done the most logical thing in the world.  ”What do you mean I didn’t tell you? I put it on Facebook!”

It’s times like that I see I’m a dinosaur in a new generation. Facebook—now why didn’t I think of that?

“We all have a dinosaur deep within us just trying to get out.” (Colin Mochrie)

Spontaneous “Date”

“I like Vegas for its spontaneity.” (Tony Curtis)

Due to the new developments at our Utah home, I went alone to my Las Vegas business trip. As part of the trip, my company was having an event in conjunction with “The Donny and Marie Show” at the Flamingo hotel. I was there in an official capacity, coordinating everything (including a photo of my corporate group with a photo company), working with Donny and making sure the meet and greet between Donny Osmond and the distributors of my company went smoothly. Afterward, everyone got to see their show. (Which, by the way, is fabulous. I recommend everyone see it! And Donny didn’t even ask me to say that.)

While waiting for the show, I was seated at the table of my assigned ticket. My co-worker on the project had been seated beside me but he left for a few minutes and another man sat down across from me. He introduced himself, I introduced myself and we chatted for a moment before a cocktail waitress appeared and asked if we wanted drinks. I ordered a bottle of water and reached for my wallet when my new friend said, “It’s ok, it’s on me.” I thanked him but said I would get my water. He insisted, “No, it’s on me, I’ve got it” and he paid for my drink and his. (Very nice, I guess, just very unexpected. I’m sure the man was just being friendly and nice but I confess, I did look down to make sure I had my wedding ring on and that it looked like a wedding ring; I also mentioned my husband a few times during the conversation.)

While waiting for the show to begin and now the drinks to arrive, a photographer approached and asked if he could take our picture. I didn’t know what to say. I’m a corporate employee of my company, my new friend was a distributor and I didn’t want to offend anyone. I’m also married and was wearing a wedding ring, but I didn’t want to offend a corporate distributor by making a big deal about that—so I didn’t answer. My new friend took over the conversation and said, “Sure.” (Maybe he didn’t want to offend anyone, either.)

The photographer directed him to move around and sit by me for the photo, which he did. Then he kept directing him to sit closer to me, to put his arm around me, for me to lean in to him, for me to put my hand on his chest, the photographer snapping photos with each new adjustment and before I knew it, I felt like we had a full-on engagement portrait session going!


Oh well, I reasoned, I just won’t purchase the pictures after the show. I wasn’t going to make a big deal about a very crazy, unexpected experience and a photographer’s mistaken impression. At the last minute before the show started, I was called away to take care of some work business and I returned just before the show started–long enough for my co-worker to hand me the bottle of water my new friend had purchased and to direct me to a seat on the front row of the show! What an unexpected surprise! (My thanks to Donny’s manager and my co-worker for working that out for me as a special treat.) I did as I was directed and didn’t even have the chance to thank my friend for the water.

After the show (which, by the way, in addition to being wonderful was so amazing that, according to Donny’s manager, I had a goofy grin on my face through the whole thing–he joked that these day, he watches the people, like me, rather than the actual show! haha), I walked out and paid the photo company who had taken the group photos for my company as an employee of the photographer came up, handed me a bag and said, “Here are your pictures with our compliments.”

I was a little surprised; I’d thought the photographer was simply going to provide me with a disk of the group photos he took but I thought, “Oh, that was nice of him to go the extra mile and print a group photo so I’d have a preview of what’s on the disk” and continued on my way. While riding in a cab back to my hotel I reached into the sack and pulled out the photos to take a look. Except that as I reached my hand into the sack for the flimsy photo I was expecting, instead, my hand grasped a leather portfolio folder!

I thought, “Wow, they REALLY went the extra mile for these group photos,” opened the binder and saw, instead of the group photo I was expecting, a lovely assortment of romantic poses and pictures with, apparently, my new boyfriend! Bound nicely in a leather portfolio! Official documentation of what I’d accidentally and unknowingly been up to in Las Vegas!

I busted up laughing at the crazy and unexpected gift, wondering how I end up in these crazy types of experiences, just as my phone rang. I answered it. Wouldn’t you know, it was my husband! Calling to see how things were going at the show and in Las Vegas! All I could answer was that things were going a little too well! LOL.

“…Vegas…It was quite an experience.” (Davy Jones)


The Honest Answer I Didn’t Expect

“I don’t believe in dressing up reality. I don’t believe in using makeup to make things look smoother.” (Lou Reed)

My husband called me back less than 20 minutes later and the issue was resolved.

My husband and his daughter arrived in Utah the following evening and we moved her in to our home. When the settling in was complete, we sat down with her and went over the house and family rules, what we expected from her and what she could expect from us. (I printed them out and gave her a copy so there could be no misunderstanding.)

One week later, one night when she came to say goodnight before going to bed, I took the opportunity to ask her in more detail how things were going and how she was feeling about her new life.

“Ok, you’ve been here a week,” I said. “Tell me, how are you doing? How are things going? How are you feeling?”

I don’t know what I expected to hear, or what I expected her to say, but I wasn’t expecting to be so entertained by her reply: “I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be!” she answered.

I kept a straight face and waited until she left the room…to laugh! I’ll never forget that (honest) answer.

And really, isn’t that pretty much life?   It rarely ends up as bad as we think it’ll be. And if it’s really that bad or worse, it doesn’t stay that way forever—I learned that myself from personal experience. Eventually, with enough faith, work and endurance, you’re on to a different happily ever after—if that’s what you choose.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” (Denis Waitley)

Boys—And The Occasional Lapse In Common Sense

“Everybody gets so much information all day long that they lose their common sense.” (Gertrude Stein)

And if raising sons has taught me anything at all that the rowdy twin brothers I was raised with failed to do, it’s this: boys not only think very differently than girls (in my experience), they occasionally have a lapse in common sense!

My oldest child was an energetic child. His antics led me to many unexpected experiences—like the time I took him to a McDonald’s play land and while he was in a tunnel, I watched children stream from every colorful plastic opening, running and screaming in terror in the race back to the safety of their mothers’s arms. I watched mothers attempt to comfort their crying children as they complained of a “beast” in the tunnel, and before I knew what was happening, out came my son: growling, hissing, clawing the air with his hands, roaring for all he was worth and looking as fierce as a 3 or four-year-old possibly can. Followed shortly afterward by all mothers’ eyes upon me in condemnation for raising such a child who would behave in such a way. I was mortified! It was a long time before I dared let him venture back to a play land. (Probably a healthier choice for him anyway.)

But I realized a few months ago, when confronting the behavior of my second son, that for all my oldest son’s energy, creativity and questionable boyhood antics that led to a few broken bones and several surgeries over the course of his life, he still made it through high school graduation without a single visit to the principal’s office.

Wish I could say the same about his younger brothers!

Shortly around the time my youngest ditched kindergarten a few months ago (which resulted into a trip to the principal’s office) I got a call from my middle son. He called from school, crying so hard he could hardly speak, and all I could understand was, “I’ve made a terrible mistake, I’m so sorry!” over and over again.

You know, it’s interesting. Having lived through some of the lovely adventures that have been mine in the course of my life, particularly since my first husband dropped the Ponzi scheme bomb that destroyed my world and others in 2009 and revealed the double life he had been leading and the crimes he had committed, I have some crazy “automatic” responses. When I got the call I was mentally thrust into a different time, and instead of reacting like a normal mother (I assume normal mothers worry about…what? Missing the bus, or a missing homework assignment?) my mind immediately races to thoughts of big lies, cheating, stealing, serious betrayal and behavior worthy of prison time. I think, “Oh no! It has finally happened! I knew this was coming, that THIS is how the trauma my children lived through is going to manifest itself.” It’s a crazy split second or two until I calm my psyche and ask, “What happened?” never letting on that my mind has already imagined the worst.

Turns out, my middle son had gotten in a fight at school on the playground! I guess the bright side of it was that he had chosen to confront a boy well-known for bullying students and who had been in several fights at school already (if school yard gossip can be relied upon at all), and after my son had turned to adults at the school for help and the situation didn’t change, my son took matters into his own hands and decided to take a stand. I was shocked at how intentional the decision was: the boys had scheduled their “fight” via Facebook! And both showed up at the appointed place and time, the next day, to follow through.

Needless to say, my middle son sent his last Facebook message that day. When I got home from work, I told him to write his last internet communication—a Facebook message apology to the boy—to send it and then suspend his account, and to prepare to go to the boys’ home and also apologize in person. I ended the conversation with something about how disappointed I was by his choices and how poorly his actions reflected not just upon himself, but upon our family and the type of mother people will assume he has because of his behavior! (My husband let me handle it, but had his own questions: like, did my son get any good punches in before school officials broke up the fight? Men! Boys!)

Both boys apologized, shook hands and agreed to go to school the next day and let everyone know they had worked things out. Make that TWO visits to the principal’s office for this son (he called 9-1-1 from an old cell phone of his dad’s that “didn’t work” while out on the school playground with his friends in Colorado, trip #1, followed by a visit from the sheriff who responded to the call; and enjoyed excursion #2 six years later because he got into a boxing match with a bully in Utah) but all’s well that ends well, right? As long as a good lesson was learned!

“To me, boxing is like a ballet, except there’s no music, no choreography, and the dancers hit each other.” (Jack Handy)

Snakes, snails, puppy dog tails, Facebook fights, boxing matches, visits to the principal’s office and occasional lapses in common sense aside, I love my boys and the opportunity that is mine to be their mother. My greatest effort and work will be, I hope, in raising my boys to become amazing men—upstanding citizens, good husbands and wonderful fathers.

Despite, or perhaps because of, the unexpected life…and their occasional lapses in common sense!

One Unexpected Adventure…Revealed

“When I was a child I had a crush on Abraham Lincoln. Why I would choose to reveal this, I know not.” (Julia Roberts)

Revelation time.

I’ve had a few crushes in my day.

Not only that, I have something in common with Janet Jackson who revealed, “My first crush was Barry Manilow. He performed on TV and I taped it. When no one was around I’d kiss the screen.” Let me clarify: I have the crush part, NOT the kissing the screen part, in common with Janet.

When I was a child I also had a crushes on Mike Smith (a little boy in 1st grade–but the crush soured, sadly, when Mike gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day that was too big to fit in my desk and my classmates teased me about it!); Tim Horn (a boy in my 2nd grade class); The Lettermen; Shaun Cassidy; Kurt Russell; the buck-toothed boy from Disney’s original “Escape To Witch Mountain;” Stewart Peterson; and Donny Osmond.

I remember several nights as a child, arguing with my cousin, Athena, about our Donny Osmond crushes and who “got him.” Athena never failed to insist, “I get Donny because I’m older than you and closer to his age, you can have Jimmy—because you’re younger.” But I didn’t want Jimmy Osmond, I had a crush on Donny!

I even watched “The Donny & Marie Show” each week and I knew every song on their “Deep Purple” album by heart! And then Donny filmed “Goin’ Coconuts,” he married, and I grew up—and experienced many other crushes, but those are another blog post. (It did strike me as ironic, and funny, however, that as I drove off “just married” in 1989—my first marriage—Donny Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” was playing on the radio! A fitting conclusion to my childhood.)

I was married for 20 years, and happily so. I was a mother of four children, absolutely fulfilled in devoting my life and my efforts to my husband, children, home and church and community service. And then, in one moment, on one day, it all ended. Oh, the bleak and black absolute despair I felt! Indescribable. Within a few months I found myself divorced, single, working full-time and living in Utah attempting to create a new life for myself and my children as I raised my four kids alone. I carried on, but a big part of my shattered heart was sure I’d had my turn. That every good thing that was ever going to come to me was in the past.

And then, unexpectedly, I fell in love and got married again. Now I have a crush on my husband.

Even more unexpected: the day I found myself driving through the roads of Utah County in my trusty Subaru Outback station wagon to have lunch with…Donny Osmond!

All I can say is that if anyone had told me when my life fell apart in 2009 that lunch with Donny Osmond was in my future as part of my unexpected life, I’d NEVER have believed it! But it’s true.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” (Orson Welles)