Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Garden Report 2011

Neighbors have begun sharing the bounty from their gardens. My co-workers are bringing their home-grown produce for lunch. Looks like it’s time for a report on my attempt at gardening this year. (Note the foreshadowing.)

Of the four almost two-year-old fruit trees I began the growing season with…two were chopped down by my youngest and his friend wielding toy swords. The third tree, loaded with approximately 30 little apples when I left on vacation earlier in the summer, was stripped bare 10 days later when I arrived home. (No sign or trace anywhere that there had once been the hope of fruit. I don’t know if little neighbor boys, birds or some other force of nature deserve the credit!) The fourth tree currently has 5 small nectarines clinging to two of its delicate branches; my husband is considering offering our youngest a cash reward if the fruit is allowed to remain there until it ripens!

The surviving peony bush (one of three hauled to Utah in orange Home Depot buckets from my Colorado yard in 2009 and transplanted in my Utah yard shortly after my arrival) still hasn’t bloomed. It has now been two years. I cut it some slack last year, wondering if perhaps it was still in shock at the upheaval and turmoil it had endured (I could SO relate!), but no fluffy pink flowers yet.

Of the flowers purchased by me and my husband at a local nursery earlier this year, the hanging basket (as I reported earlier) died within weeks; the rest were planted in three different pots and placed on the front porch. One pot died within a month, one is half dead, and the last bunch, though struggling terribly, is still hanging on.

Our pumpkin plants grew huge, beautiful leaves and approximately 75 blossoms (more blossoms than I’ve ever seen on anything.) The bounteous green vines are mounding and spreading…yielding, so far, two small light orange pumpkins and one tiny green one!

The zuchini starts we planted never did anything—in fact, they look about the same as when we bought them. The 8 tomato plants are all still alive, although two never blossomed or grew anything, one we harvested 4 small tomatoes from and the rest appear to be loaded with green tomatoes. Of the 6-7 lettuce plants, we made salad out of 3 of them before the rest died.

You know, life is like a garden. Some years, the growing conditions are easy-breezy; other years are more challenging. Some years plants thrive. Some years, not much appears to survive. The point is to keep watering and weeding, acknowledge every bit of growth or progress and to never quit planting. Always make the best of the plot you’re blessed with.

“I want it said of me by those who knew me best, that I always plucked a thistle and planted a flower where I thought a flower would grow.” (Abraham Lincoln)

So What Do You Do When…

Not too long ago my youngest was in the tub singing as he bathed. Thanks to the influence of my husband and his performance in Sundance resort’s summer theater production of “The Sound of Music” (I think), eventually the singing turned to yodeling (or shall we say, “attempted” yodeling?)

So what do you do when your son is yodeling? If you’re me, you join him!

There he sat in the tub as I stood at the counter doing my hair, both of us providing QUITE an impression of Julie Andrews and the Von Trapp children’s song about goats! Later in the day, when my husband called to say hello, I let him know what my son and I had been up to in the bathroom before the neighbors did. I’m proud and thankful to report that accidentally shaving an eyebrow off wasn’t in the report this time. My husband listened quietly as I detailed our activity.

I don’t know what I expected him to say, but here’s what happened. Without missing a beat, he started yodeling the song from Disneyland’s “It’s A Small World” ride—demonstrating a suggestion for future material my son and I could yodel to!

Second marriage moment #22.

Because if you had told me, pre-March 18, 2009, that in 2011 I’d be working full-time, residing in any state other than Colorado, married to a different man than the previous 20 years, living a completely different life (aka. yodeling in a Utah bathroom and actually married to a man who sings, yodels, dances, plays musical instruments and wears lederhosen when the occasion requires it)…I NEVER would have believed it!

Still loving the unexpected life.

How’s yours?

“If you ever teach a yodeling class, probably the hardest thing is to keep the students from just trying to yodel right off. You see, we build to that.” (Jack Handy)

Good to know.

“Because I’m Worth It” (Loreal, 1967)

“Whenever I don’t have to wear makeup, it’s a good day.” (Cameron Diaz)

The other night I was in the bathroom, removing my makeup, getting ready for bed. About the time I entered the raccoon stage—big black circles of eye makeup and mascara mixed with Vaseline (I’m an 80s girl, what can I say? And it’s less expensive than professional makeup remover from Mac, Clinique or any other department store makeup counter), my husband walked in.

He asked, “Do you have any of those makeup remover ‘sheets’?”

I assumed he saw the archaic yet inexpensive makeup removal system I was using and was suggesting I splurge on something better. I clarified, “You mean the little towelettes that come pre-moistened? I’ve used them before, but they’re expensive; not a part of the budget in my new life.”

“Yes,” he replied. “I know they’re more expensive but…”

I assumed he was telling me he thinks I’m worth the extra few dollars said product would cost. But instantly, in that moment, just as I began to get swept away by the romance of my new husband’s caring and concern for even my makeup removal, and before I could respond, he lifted his hair back, showed me his forehead and said, ” I mean, look at this! I tried to take it off, but it doesn’t come off easily. Those towelettes work really well.”

Stage makeup.

For the theater production he’s in this summer at Sundance  resort in Utah.

“The Sound of Music.”

It opens this Friday, July 29.

I gave him some of what I was using, and we both stood at the counter, together, and removed our makeup as we talked about the day.

Second marriage moment #20. Standing in front of the mirror, removing my makeup, while my husband did the same!

I never EVER expected that one.

“I mean, look, I wear makeup in films. I don’t wear makeup in real life. It’s just part of the gig, that’s all.” (Bruce Willis)

Really. At least I’m pretty sure that’s the message my husband would want me to share with the world should I reveal (as I have) that he sometimes wears makeup because, “not everyone is as liberal-minded as you are,” he says.

Speaking of liberals and conservatives, and politics in general, here’s a good one: “The reason there are so few female politicians is that it is too much trouble to put makeup on two faces.” (Maureen Murphy)

Second Marriage Moment #18: Family Vacation

“It would seem that something which means poverty, disorder and violence every single day should be avoided entirely, but the desire to beget children is a natural urge.” (Phyllis Diller)


We have quite a few of them, thanks to our remarriage. Eight, to be exact. (Plus one daughter-in-law.) And we recently took all of them on our first family vacation.

It was quite a feat (not just the traveling as a group of 11 part, but in even pulling it off financially, not to mention coordinating the calendars of 11 different family members and 7 different work and vacation schedules to find dates that worked for everyone!) My husband, the two youngest children and I flew ahead of the rest of the group; the 7 teens/young adults flew to our destination a few days later. We met them at the airport.

I hugged my daughter and asked how her flight was. She reported the adventure of having a conversation with a woman sitting next to her on the airplane. Apparently, the group was seated in three rows of two, with my daughter sitting across the aisle from the group. The woman asked, “Are you traveling alone?”

My daughter replied, “No. I’m traveling with my brothers and sisters.”

The woman commented, “You’re a little young to be traveling alone, aren’t you?” She wanted to know who the brothers and sisters were. My daughter pointed to the three rows of passengers (ages 13-24) across the aisle and the woman was stunned to realize how large the group was. “There are so many of you— and no parents!”

My daughter explained, “Yes, our parents flew out early for our dad’s birthday.”

The woman nodded, knowingly, and said something about the parents getting away alone and leaving the children behind. My daughter clarified, “Oh no, our parents took the two youngest children with them!”

The woman’s face showed her surprise as she mentally calculated the total number of children that had to be connected to just one family, our family, and asked one more question, “Where are you from?”

My daughter replied, “Utah.”

Conversation over! I guess that state explained it all, because the woman didn’t talk to my daughter after that.

As my daughter related her travel experience, the others shared similar stories. The oldest daughter reported she’d also had a lot of strangers comment on the size of her family and said she handled all conversations with a quick explanation: “It’s a ‘Yours, Mine & Ours’ family.”

Not that I doubted their experiences, but I was surprised to have one of my own on the return flight. We boarded as a group and as we stepped on the plane, a flight attendant asked me, “Is this a family reunion?”

I shook my head and answered, “No, it’s just a family vacation.”

The flight attendant looked at me with big eyes, like she wasn’t sure she believed me. I added, “Really, we’re just one dad, one mom, eight kids and one in-law.”

Before I could explain further, the oldest daughter swooped in to rescue me with her well-practiced, “It’s a ‘Yours, Mine & Ours’ family.”

All I can say is that if fellow travelers couldn’t believe the size of our family, there’s something they would have to have seen to believe as well: the packed cars filled with all 11 of us, our suitcases and everything else the kids hauled on vacation.

Apparently, “Those that say you can’t take it with you never saw a car packed for a vacation trip.”

Even On July 13

“If you wish to forget anything on the spot, make a note that this thing is to be remembered.” (Edgar Allan Poe)

Two years ago today, July 13, 2009, I thought my world had ended.

As I drove from Colorado to begin a new life in Utah (crying as discreetly as possible so my children wouldn’t realize tears were uncontrollably rolling down my cheeks), I could not comprehend ever healing or feeling whole again. I anticipated that date, July 13, would be burned in my memory forever and would always haunt me, as a day of personal infamy, never to be forgotten.

Cut to 2011.

A few days ago I realized (only because my middle child reminded me) that July 13 was approaching. I marveled at the healing that has taken place in just two years. I can’t believe all that has transpired in my life and in the lives of my children since 2009. We’re living a completely different, yet still unexpected, life. And honestly, this isn’t a painful date any more.

But I decided I needed to at least attempt to give it the respect I had once thought it deserved, to remember it and to mark the occasion by doing SOMETHING, so I made a plan to dispose of the dead hanging basket of flowers previously mentioned today—July 13.

This morning I got up, went to work, had a lunch meeting, worked all day, came home, did some work from home, enjoyed my children, made dinner, ate dinner with my family, sent #5 off to rehearsal for Sundance Resort’s summer theater production of “The Sound of Music,” and on my way back into the house happened to notice the basket of dead flowers hanging on the front porch. It brought me to a screeching halt. July 13!

Today was once THE day! I was supposed to have remembered it, wasn’t I? I had a plan to carry out! And here it was, almost 6 p.m., before I even remembered today. Just two years from the day I thought my world had ended, and already, I have completely forgotten July 13!

But never let it be said I don’t follow through with my plans. I asked my oldest son to throw the basket in the outside trashcan, he grabbed it and went to toss it out, and I turned around and went back into the house without a second glance or another thought.

How did it happen? How is it possible to have suffered such tremendous loss, to have endured such devastation and grief, only to forget such a landmark date just two years later?

I think it’s one bonus of not just living the unexpected life, but choosing to embrace your unexpected life.

Accept what you’ve been dealt. Take stock of what you’re left with. Use it to rebuild. Count your blessings. Laugh. Choose to find happiness and joy in your new realm. And guess what? You will. Each and every time. If it happened to me, it can happen to you. I know it. And then at some point, you realize the pain is gone. If you hang on long enough, choose to let go of it and focus on your new blessings, at some point, the pain is gone.

“My focus is to forget the pain of life. Forget the pain, mock the pain, reduce it. And laugh.” (Jim Carrey)

Even on July 13.


“No date on the calendar is as important as tomorrow.” (Roy W. Howard)


July 13.

Two years to the day I got divorced, loaded my youngest children and two dogs in my new-to-me-but-used Subaru and drove to Utah without a backward glance at my home, neighborhood, former life or home state of Colorado.

A new beginning.

That’s what I had to make.

A new life.

That’s what I was desperate to create.

A few nights ago, my middle son reminded me the anniversary of an important day was coming. “Mom, in just a few days we will have lived in Utah TWO YEARS. Can you believe it? July 13!” (I guess that date had an impact on my children that I hadn’t realized.)

I can’t believe I’ve lived in Utah two years,although thankfully, the number of times I dial “303″ when trying to call a Utah number is dramatically decreasing. But what I really can’t believe is all that we’ve experienced, all that we’ve been blessed with, in such a short amount of time.

It has been QUITE a ride.

“The only reason for time is so that everything doesn’t happen at once.” (Albert Einstein)

A Conversation I Never Expected

“Nice duds. What is that, lederhosen?” (“Leprechaun 3″)

Life is full of the unexpected. We have experiences we never expected to have; we sometimes end up in places we never planned to be.

I’ve lived through some very major unexpected moments and some that were easier to embrace–like a very minor one I had the other day. In the form of a conversation. The day my new husband came home from work and asked, “Tell me, how do you feel about lederhosen?”


They’re what every wife dreams of her husband wearing, right? Prior to my unexpected life, I admit I’d never given lederhosen much thought. But I have now. Because as it turns out, my husband will be wearing some when he appears in this summer’s 2011 summer theater production of “The Sound of Music” at Sundance resort in Utah. And as an added bonus, it’s even…embroidered!

Lederhosen. For sure, something I never expected to have to have an opinion about. But it provided me with a very unforgettable second marriage moment #17, and it has also caused me to revise my expectations for the future. Now I know he’ll wear them, and I’m sure he’ll look very handsome in them, but I still never  expect to hear,  ”I very much like vearing ze lederhosen.” (Ross Noble: Sonic Waffle)

I’ll keep you posted.

Love, Marriage, Eyebrows…Or The Lack Thereof

“You have to walk carefully in the beginning of love; the running across fields into your lover’s arms can only come later when you’re sure they won’t laugh if you trip.” (Jonathan Carroll, “Outside the Dog Museum”)

I haven’t run across a field into #5′s arms yet. However, as for the whole “walking carefully” thing, it’s a little too late for that.

Due to a tiny, pink Panasonic “personal” trimmer.

Because I own one, and finally put the battery in it and decided to test it out.

It has been awhile since I’ve shaped my eyebrows, so I thought that would be a perfect project for my little pink trimmer. Consumer report: It worked really well. It was easy to use. I was impressed with its trimming capability.

Until my arm slipped.

And before I knew what was happening, I had shaved off half of my right  eyebrow!

It was one of THOSE moments.

I stood there, staring in the mirror, filled with horror at what I’d done. Then I remembered: I’m married now;  WHAT was my husband going to say? (Note to self: Not a wise mistake any time, but especially when you’re a newlywed AND turning 44 years old. You’d think you’d have the hang of eyebrow grooming by the time you reach middle age! Apparently…unless you’re me.)

That evening, when I saw my husband and he asked me what I’d done that day, I REALLY had something to report! I don’t think it’s what he expected to hear I’d been up to, but he had the good grace, following his initial shock and disbelief, to shake his head and laugh (despite the fact we were on our way to an anniversary party for his talent agency, Utah’s TMG, to spend the evening with actors and models! JUST what you want to do and where you want to go, particularly after you’ve shaved off half of one eyebrow!)

Second marriage moment #15. Having to tell my new husband of less than 4 months that I’m missing half an eyebrow.

I never expected that.

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.

The New Feel of Darkness

“I wondered vaguely if this was when it would end, whether I would pull up tonight’s darkness like a quilt and be dead and at peace evermore.” (William Manchester)

When I was thrust into my unexpected life two years ago, it felt dark and very overwhelming. I confess, I probably had a moment or two where I could absolutely relate to William Manchester. Several nights I went outside in the backyard of my Colorado home to be alone, mourn my losses, cry, pray, and to try to figure out a plan: as in, how was I going to feed and shelter four children? By myself? And how was I going to not just start over, but start over “from a hole?”

Although, “There’s nothing like a nighttime stroll to give you ideas,” (Mad-Eye Moody, Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, 2000), I was short on ideas and options back then! But at least I knew, “When the darkness comes, keep an eye on the light…no matter how far away it seems.” (Jan Berry) I’d been raised to believe in and have faith that “For every dark night, there’s a brighter day.” (Tupac Shakur) And it’s true. I know it now, just as I knew it then, as hard as it was to always believe it.

So I didn’t succumb to the night’s darkness. Despite the black hole that was my new world, I didn’t quit. I may have ended every day in tears by crying myself into a fitful sleep (what little I slept), and I woke up and cried when I opened my eyes to my new reality and realized it wasn’t a bad dream but my new life (THAT is something–when your reality is worse than a nightmare! LOL), but I carried on as best I could.

Last night, I was out in the backyard of my Utah home. It was late, close to 11 p.m., but I wasn’t alone or mourning anything; I was planting a garden with #5!

With our busy work and family schedules, that was the time we had available to do it–so I kept the dirt moist with water and held the camping lantern so we could see, and #5 dug the holes, placed the plants in the earth, and covered them with soil. We talked, laughed, worked side by side and enjoyed one another. And when we finished, #5 went to put the tools and equipment away. I was left, alone, in the late night blackness of a summer night.

It has been awhile since I’ve thought about the dark summer nights alone in my Colorado yard, but brief memories of that time came unbidden. I indulged in them for just a moment, wondering if I’ll ever experience dark summer nights alone without remembering that traumatic time in 2009 but also marveling at the difference time, and light, can make.

“I guess darkness serves a purpose: to show us that there is redemption through chaos. I believe in that.” (Brendan Fraser) So do I. Because I’m living proof. Out of darkness and chaos came redemption…in the form of a very unexpected life. Time and again I’ve seen it happen—in this century, in previous ones, to every person, everywhere, regardless of the challenge or struggle.

There is ALWAYS light, and life, at the end of the tunnel, your tunnel, whatever that challenge may be.

That’s life. And since that’s life, while we’re here, we ought to experience it and remember that, ”Only the person who has experienced light and darkness, war and peace, rise and fall, only that person has truly experienced life.” (Stefan Zweig)

And if you’ve never planted a garden late at night by the light of a lantern, I recommend you experience that too.

“See you in the darkness.” (Gary Gilmore)