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.”

Time…And Life

“How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.” (Zall’s 2nd Law)

Minutes, and time in general, are funny things. Especially how they fly when you’re having fun. Or something like that. Lets just say lately I’ve lost track of it. Have I been so busy living life, I haven’t had time to write, or blog, about it—at all?


And although I knew it had been awhile, I didn’t realize it has been almost two months! MUCH has transpired. Evidenced by the fact that since I last wrote, I’ve had second marriage moments and “life” moments galore—not to mention WordPress reconfigured everything in my absence and I couldn’t figure out how to access my own blog! It took me awhile to get back here.

But I’m back.

Finally ready to write.

And I’m about to spill it.


If They Could Read

“In Hollywood, the woods are full of people that learned to write but evidently can’t read. If they could read their stuff, they’d stop writing.” (Will Rogers)

I live in Utah now, not Hollywood, and I enjoy the woods up Provo Canyon my fair share.

Just two years ago I lost everything I thought was my life, except my four children, and had to make sense of the unexpected events handed me. I had the world’s share of shame, humiliation and unwanted publicity; my fair share of ups and downs, failures and successes; but I realized again, with each passing day, that life is always a choice and your life will be exactly what you make of it. (Granted, sometimes you’re blessed with better material to work with than at other times, but you can always choose to find happiness and to experience joy regardless of your life conditions. You can always strive to look on the bright side and to treat others with kindness despite the misery of your current situation. )

In this blog I’ve explained some of what I’ve lived through, how I’ve chosen to respond and why I’ve done the things I’ve done and any and all mistakes that I have made. I’ve shared all that I’ve hoped for and worked toward, the unexpected experiences I never imagined I’d have, the things I’ve learned and their outcomes. And while I know not every unexpected life results in a happy ending of complete and utter perfection, I believe you can choose to create your own fairy tales and live happily ever after.

For example, Cinderella lived through a lot of hard stuff. It’s not fun being left penniless (been there, done that!), orphaned (I can relate to that) and at the mercy of a wicked stepmother. Cinderella, with the help of her fairy godmother and her friends (mice and other farm animals) did find her handsome prince, yet she never got her mom or dad back in this life–not every thing, not every aspect, of Cinderella’s unexpected life became total perfection at the end of her story, but she did live happily ever after.

I’m grateful for that example. Fairy tales are magical. They’re great stories. They’re a wonderful escape. They give us hope. And they can teach us important things. As I look back at my life and the countless hours I spent in the nurture of fairy tale fiction, I realize fairy tales helped give me dreams; they gave me something to set my little girl sights on, so that when I grew up and and was thrust into the worst nightmare I never imagined possible, I had all of those fictional examples of triumph over tragedy, all of those imaginary happily ever afters, to help me hold on and cling to the real dreams I’d once had. They gave me courage to press forward and keep going, to create a new chapter of my story and to live a new version of my happily ever after.

A happy ending doesn’t mean complete and total restoration of what you had before. Instead, I believe it is embracing what you have now been given, looking for the good, and choosing to be happy in your new story while working to create a new and continuing happy ending for yourself and your loved ones.

It was the same with Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Rose Red, Thumbelina, The Goose Girl and every other fairy tale heroine. Not necessarily a “perfect” ending, but a fairy tale perfect for them.

THAT is life.

Every single one.

Every unexpected one, because I believe we all have one.

But enough of that. Never let it be said that I can’t read–or understand Will Rogers’ wisdom–so I’ll close with this:

My undying thanks to everyone who was there for me in my old life, when my mostly-perfect world fell apart, during my divorce, and as I began a new life. Thanks to all who helped my children, who helped me, who shared our journey in person or via this blog, and for every single person who reached out to me and my family and shared their love and kindness with us. Every single one of you is known and remembered by us. Every single kindness will never be forgotten. We are better because of each of you.

In fact, we made it, thanks to you.

We’re going to live happily ever after.

The End.

As in, that’s the end of this portion of my story. Feel free to check in for occasional posts about life and my entirely new and unexpected life experiences in remarriage and as a stepmother. Like every other aspect of the unexpected life, it’s completely uncharted territory. I’m sure I’ll make my fair share of mistakes along the way, the only thing I can promise about all of it is that I’ll NEVER intentionally be a wicked stepmother! And I have a feeling, if it goes the way everything else has, it’s going to be quite another unexpected ride!

Are You SURE?

“Madam your wife and I didn’t hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won’t say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn’t me.” (Elizabeth Gaskell)

When you have children, meeting the other parent of your fiance’s children is part of the engagement leading to remarriage experience. It sort of snuck up on me. So although I don’t know what I was expecting that meeting to be like, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

We were at an event for #5′s oldest son. I didn’t know anyone, but #5 had been very good to introduce me to everyone. At some point he asked me how I was, if I was having fun and if I’d met everyone yet. I said, “I think so. But there’s an older woman here who looks a LOT like your oldest daughter that I haven’t met yet. Is she your ex-wife?”

He gazed in the direction I was looking and said, “Yes, that’s her. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”

We walked over to where she stood, #5 introduced us and then he got out of there! My conversation with his ex-wife was brief. She told me #5 is a really good person. She thanked me for being kind to her children. And then she said something about wanting me to know she would never do anything to cause a problem or come between us.

I appreciated her positive comments, but it was all a little surreal for me. I’d never expected to be divorced, much less getting remarried and having a conversation with someone’s ex-wife! And to have to discuss the drama ex-spouses can be (when I’m not a drama queen AT ALL) almost mortified me. I didn’t quite know what to say, so I agreed with her that #5 is a really good person; I told her how much I loved her children; and then said something like, “Oh, I’m sure you would never do anything–especially when there’s no reason to as I know I came around long AFTER your divorce–we don’t even need to talk about it, but thanks for saying that.”

Here is what I remember thinking:

“Am I REALLY having this conversation?” (The drama potential is SO NOT me.)

“She’s older than I imagined.” (I later found out she is older than #5; I don’t know why I didn’t expect that.)

“Wow. She is SHORT!” (I think the top of her head hit somewhere between my elbow and my shoulder. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that, either.)

“I really like her.”

Afterward, when we were driving home, #5 asked me for my thoughts about the day. I told him my feelings and then said, “But you’ll be amazed who, of everyone, I really liked.”

“Who?” he asked.

“Your ex-wife,” I replied.

And since I’ve always been a big believer in marriage and families, especially intact ones, I couldn’t help but add, “Are you SURE you shouldn’t see if you can put your original family back together? Your ex-wife seems nice. Your children could have their parents together again. Your ex-wife wouldn’t have to struggle… We could take a break while you see what you could work out. I would completely support you in that.”

I thought it was a very kind, generous offer on my part–I knew what I felt about #5 and what I would be giving up for him to do that, but I felt I had to suggest it, to do my part to see if there couldn’t be one less broken family in the world. Instead, #5 looked at me like I was completely looney. And in the interest of being concise and discreet,  I’ll sum his response with two words: “No, thanks.”

“Well, whaddya expect in an opera, a happy ending?” (Bugs Bunny, “What’s Opera, Doc?” 1957)

I sure do. Which is why on one other occasion during our engagement, I made the same offer to #5 again and asked, “Are you SURE you shouldn’t see if you can put your original family back together?”

To which he replied, “Andrea, you can decide you don’t love me. You can decide you won’t marry me. But no matter what, and even if it means I’m alone the rest of my life, the option you’re suggesting is not something that will ever happen.” And then, with a smile, he told me if I suggested such a thing again he might get really, really mad.

I may be slow, but I got it.

I decided I had done all I could do on that front, so I’d just enjoy the opportunity that was mine and continue to work toward my own happy ending.

“I’ve always felt that life is a novel, and part of it is written for you, and part of it is written by you. It’s up to you to write the ending, ultimately.” (Lynn Johnston)

Life is SOME Book

“Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.” (Mark Twain)

I began college as an English major. Somewhere along the way, I realized I just wasn’t deep enough (make that insightful enough) to compete with my peers; and at the same time, I realized they were ruining literature for me.

Here are just a few examples.

One class required we recite a poem. I opened a book, picked one that began “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night…” (You’ve probably heard of it, it’s a pretty famous one.) I was prepared to recite it, but I confess it sounded comparable to how an elementary school student might have done it.

I knew I was in trouble when a young woman in my class stood to recite her poem, and began, “I’ll be doing such-and-such poem in a Meryl Streep, ‘Out of Africa’ accent because…” She went on to explain her deep rationale, but I completely missed her poem because I was so blown away by the fact she had even THOUGHT to do an accent! And that she COULD do an accent! And that she was up there DOING an accent, and didn’t appear to be mortified at all!

Other times we read poems and other literature as a class and discussed them. The things my peers inferred from what appeared to me to be an ordinary story about an ordinary event made me realize English wasn’t for me. Where were they getting their deep thoughts and all of that meaning? I had spent my life getting lost in stories, and simply enjoying the escape into whatever book’s reality I was reading at the time, NOT looking beyond what was right in front of my face for…meaning. Their “meaning” began to ruin it for me.

I found myself beginning to dislike the classics because of the analyses that took place in my college English courses. I started to dread reading (something I’ve always loved to do–I never dreaded reading, reading assignments or writing research papers. I had always enjoyed everything associated with reading and writing.) So I knew it was time to make a change.

I got out. I changed majors.

I tried interior design for a semester because I liked decorating things. Little did I know how much artistic talent was required for a career in that, and unfortunately, I had zero practical art background and no  skill. (I drew like a preschooler, and still do.) THAT was a tough semester, with a very benevolent end, when my professors basically gifted me with “C”s–as long as I promised to change majors!

About the only thing I did somewhat decently as an English major was write. As often as not, my papers would be returned to me with lots of red markings and notes by my professors encouraging me to submit the piece to a magazine or newspaper for publication. I finally took an aptitude test. It recommended public relations. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I was told strong writing was necessary for that career, so I signed on. And I never looked back. I had found my thing.

It was very unexpected.

One of the most valuable things I gleaned from my PR education was the counsel, “Don’t be afraid of getting fired.” Fired? I’d never been fired, but I knew enough to dread it and consider it a failure. Instead, my professor taught us getting fired can be the best thing that ever happens to you. In fact, he encouraged us at some point to “fire ourselves” if no one else ever did. He said it was good for every career, and every person, to make a big change at least once in their life. He said oftentimes, the situation you end up with after being fired (voluntarily or involuntarily) is often better than your previous one.

I never forgot that. And I’ve been amazed how well it correlates to the unexpected life. Especially mine.

I was living life, loving being a wife and mother, serving others in my own small ways and trying to contribute to the world…and then one day the bottom fell out of my world. Shawn Merriman revealed the lies and crimes he had been perpetuating for 15 years, he went to prison, and I was left alone to provide for and raise our children; forced to re-enter the workforce. I got fired from my life. And had to find, or create, a new one.

Like networking in the business world that leads to job placement, I didn’t find my new life on my own. I was blessed with tender mercies, miracles and a friends (old and new) who stood by me, encouraged me and helped me begin again.

And now, on this side of it, just 18 months later, I wonder if my unexpected life isn’t one of the best things to ever happen to me? Not because it’s easy, it’s not. Not because it has been fun, it hasn’t always been–especially in the beginning. But because of all that I have learned, the many ways I have grown and the good things that have come to me and my children because of it.

An unexpected life is an abrupt plot twist filled with antagonists that threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes it seems its chapters goes on far too long. Yet if you keep pressing forward through the drama, you’ll make it through some difficult chapters, and the NEW story directions that come unexpectedly into your life can amaze and overwhelm you, this time, in a good way. I believe you can actually end up with a story (and a life) better than it would have otherwise been.

Life is SOME book.

You just can’t put it down.

And like the few special books that have touched me deeply, enough to make tears roll down my cheeks as I read them, I think I’ll cry when it’s over.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!’” (Robert Browning)

The Unexpected Life.