Living Happily Ever After


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A New Year, A New Life

It’s a new year–a time to reflect on the past, learn from it, and also to look forward to the new adventures, opportunities for growth and the many other “unexpected” things life brings. As such, I have reflected lately on many things. (After all, it has been almost five years since I began this blog and nearly six years since I began my unexpected life–a life I’m so busy living that I hardly have time to write about it much less share the lessons I’ve learned from it!) And after all is said and done, one memory stands out in my mind.

It was July 2009. I had just moved to Utah and was getting things settled in my new home. I entered the laundry room, closed the door to sweep behind it and came face to face with a poster left by my home’s previous occupants. (It was so perfect for my situation at that time, I wondered if they knew about me and had intentionally left it for me.) It said, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.” Wisdom from Dr. Seuss.

I couldn’t stop the tears. (They came easily and frequently back then.) And as I stood there sobbing because of everything that had happened, crying because of everything that was over and wondering how I would ever smile again much less smile because anything had happened, I realized that should be my eventual goal and the eventual outcome for everyone living life, unexpected as many of those lives turn out to be.

Reflect on the past, learn from it, and then move forward (with a smile!) choosing to use the experiences that come to become better. Perhaps Jeffrey Holland said it best: “As a new year begins and we try to benefit from a proper view of what has gone before, I plead with you not to dwell on days now gone nor to yearn vainly for yesterdays, however good those yesterdays may have been. The past is to be learned from but not lived in. We look back to claim the embers from glowing experiences but not the ashes. And when we have learned what we need to learn and have brought with us the best that we have experienced, then we look ahead and remember that faith is always pointed toward the future. Faith always has to do with blessings and truths and events that will yet be efficacious in our lives.”

Welcome, 2015.

Welcome, unexpected life, whatever it turns out to be.

I’ve learned for myself that every end is also a new beginning. That every life, even the unexpected ones, have the potential for joy and happiness–all it takes is moving forward, carrying on through the difficulties, never quitting, being thankful for what you DO have, and continually striving for happiness and joy no matter what happens.

Life “ain’t over till it’s over.” (Yogi Berra) So hang in there, this year and in every year to come.

And now I end this in the manner of every good story and with what I hope will always be said of me:

She lived happily ever after. (After the hard times, after the difficulties, after everything and even sometimes, despite them! Haha.)





Happy Anniversary

“A wedding anniversary is the celebration of love, trust, partnership, tolerance and tenacity.  The order varies for any given year.” (Paul Sweeney)

And then, before we knew it, our first wedding anniversary was upon us.

We’d made it not just three Valentine’s Days but through everything the premarital counselor had warned us about regarding remarriage, plus the usual marriage challenges, plus the typical first year of marriage adjustments and learning experiences as well as everything else life had brought our way in one year. Looking back, the whirlwind of experiences of just that one year almost makes my head spin! I feel like Steve Jobs who said, “Each year has been so robust with problems and successes and learning experiences and human experienes that a year is a lifetime at Apple. So this has been ten lifetimes.”

The honest assessment of this remarriage “lifetime?” As with life, some of it is bordering on perfection; some of it hasn’t gone as planned;  much of it has been better than anticipated; and then there are a few things we’re not going to stress over right now, we’re simply going to give them time and trust they will improve in the coming years. I’ve learned for myself again and again in this unexpected life that time is a great healer; that things have a way of coming together, improving and resolving themselves, with time. And I’ve been told over and over again by those who have lived through remarriage, combining worlds and families and everything else, that things will be different (and even better) seven years down the road. Even more to celebrate.

More anniversaries to look forward to.

So here’s to love, marriage, the blessing of finding the one you love and getting to marry them, family, life and every part of the “happily ever after”—including the few and far between less happy moments that are a part of it all. Here’s to making marriage work, that it may never be said of us: “She’s been married so many times she has rice marks on her face.” (Henny Youngman)

“Oh, How Nice!”

“The first of April is the day we remember what we are the other 364 days of the year.” (Mark Twain)

Actually, it was the first of March…but it showed me pretty much the same thing April was bound to.

Our first Sunday back at church after our honeymoon, our pastor asked #5 and I to address our congregation the following week. The Sunday of our assigned talks, I gave mine and sat down. I was followed by #5, who gave an excellent and heartfelt talk and ended it by expressing his love and gratitude for his wife; thanking her for her good example and for all she had taught him.

I sat there watching #5 conclude his talk, listening to him express his love and gratitude for his wife, and never thinking a thing of it–other than to think to myself in a very detached way (like I did the entire time I was single), “Oh, how nice. That man is married and that man loves his wife.”

He finished, turned to sit down and then suddenly it hit me:  Wait! He was talking about ME! I was HIS wife!

Married two weeks, and I’d already forgotten who my husband was! I’d found adjusting to being single after 20 years of marriage very difficult. I never imagined that the fulfillment of my dream–to find an amazing man, fall in love and remarry–would be an adjustment, too! But apparently it was going to be, since I experienced a total brain freeze about being married again just two weeks into it!

Second marriage moment #3.

“If it’s hard to remember, it’ll be difficult to forget.” (Arnold Schwarzenegger)

Thank goodness my forgetfulness only lasted a moment.:)


“Remember God’s bounty in the year. String the pearls of His favor. Hide the dark parts, except so far as they are breaking out in the light! Give this one day to thanks, to joy, to gratitude!” (Henry Ward Beecher)

Last year, at this time, I felt so alone. I tried not to, but there was no disguising the emptiness attendant with the shock of being thrust into a life you don’t feel prepared for.

Last Thanksgiving, the first of my unexpected life, made me apprehensive. It was our first–in our new home, in a new state, we didn’t know many people yet, we were still reeling from the shock of so much change that had taken place so quickly, it was my first as a single mother and…it was the year all of my siblings were scheduled to spend the holiday with their in-laws.

A good friend (“family,” to me and my children) invited us to share the day with her family in Utah. They could not have been more gracious to us. They all made us feel so welcome, we didn’t even feel like guests! And instead of the hard day I’d feared (we had a lot of those back then) my children ended the day saying it was their best Thanksgiving ever.

What a difference one year makes. This year, I couldn’t feel less alone.

I will be sharing the day with my siblings and their families in the little town of our heritage, Ephraim, Utah. Bachelor #5, his family and his mom will be joining us. My birth mom also invited us to have dinner with her. If you’d have told me last year, at this time, that in just one year’s time I’d have more family and loved ones to celebrate with than I could work into one day, I’d have laughed in your face. Yet here I am–juggling time with many loved ones!

I would have to write a novel if I tried to record the bounty in this year; or string the pearls of the many blessings I’ve received in 2010. There haven’t been many dark days, just a whole lot of light! How grateful I am to give this day to thanks, joy and gratitude of which I have much. What a relief!

So if you happen to be in the throes of your unexpected life, if this day is one of your “firsts,” know that you are going to make it and that next year, there will be even more to be thankful for. I guarantee it.

You may even be amazed, as I have been, at the bounty that can come out of such devastation, destruction, grief and challenge.

That pretty much sums up my unexpected life…today. It says it all.

Oh wait. One more thing.

“Thanksgiving, man. Not a good day to be my pants.” (Kevin James)

A Miracle

“Miracles happen to those who believe in them.” (Bernard Berenson)

One year ago, my oldest was having a rough time–and who could blame him?

He has always been an easygoing, level headed, great kid so some moments of grumpiness and impatience on his part, as he adjusted to his unexpected life, stood out like a sore thumb. I had a chat with him.

He cried and cried about how bad things were. He had no friends, no passion for sports, no life, no anything. I’ll never forget how he sobbed and sobbed; his heart broken. I could relate to everything he said because deep in the recesses of my soul I felt like I was living a life like that, too, I just wouldn’t let myself acknowledge it out loud. But I was old. He was only 16.

I cried with him and for him. I had wanted SO MUCH MORE for him. I couldn’t understand how my innocent children had ended up with such a mess. (Actually, yes I could. I knew I had chosen their father–which gave me a huge burden of guilt to bear for the part I played in bringing such horror to their childhood.) I didn’t know why they had to go through what they did, what I could do for them or how I could help them through it.

I needed a miracle. A serious miracle.

One year later, I have to acknowledge, again, that I got one. In fact, my family and I have received countless miracles and blessings. And nothing is as priceless as the miracle of light after incredible darkness and despair (aka. the unexpected life.)

“We can only appreciate the miracle of a sunrise if we have waited in the darkness”

Here’s just one example.

Today, this same child, is a senior in high school. He has great friends. He has created an amazing life for himself and keeps busy with school, work and social and sports activities. He went to homecoming this year with the homecoming queen. After only one season of play with his high school team hockey team, he has been selected team captain. Additionally, he has the privilege of practicing with his dream team–the BYU Cougar’s ice hockey team on their development squad. (He’d NEVER have had that opportunity if it weren’t for his unexpected life and what he chose to do with it.) And, it looks like he’s going to meet the admission criteria for the college of his choice, BYU, the college he has dreamed of attending since wearing his first BYU apparel (at six months old. Ok. So maybe it began as his parents’ dream, but it has since become his as well!) In fact, he is closer than ever to achieving all of his childhood dreams, despite his unexpected life, or perhaps, because of it. His only regret, now, is not getting to attend all four years of high school in Utah!

“Even miracles take a little time.”

Sometimes…just one year.

“Now the weight of gold that came to Solomon in one year was six hundred threescore and six talents of gold, Beside that he had of the merchantmen, and of the traffick of the spice merchants, and of all the kings of Arabia, and of the governors of the country.” (The Bible)

New Year’s Eve 2009

Earlier this month marked the one year anniversary of the day my new and unexpected single life officially, legally, began.

It has been quite a year!

All of the fireworks this month reminded me of the last fireworks I experienced–New Year’s Eve 2009. My first New Year’s Eve as a single woman.

I spent it with one of the bachelor’s I’ve already written about. And as optimistic as I like to think I am, I probably felt a little pessimistic that night too. “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” (Bill Vaughan) That was me that night.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” (Brooks Atkinson) That was exactly how I felt. That was exactly what I did.

My New Year’s Eve involved dinner, dancing…and fireworks. And as far as “firsts” go, it wasn’t too bad.

But at midnight, as the fireworks exploded and I stood watching them light up the Salt Lake City skyline, I felt something unexpected.

Each time a firework exploded into a colorful shower of sparks and light, I felt the “thunder” of it in my chest and saw a moment from 2009 flash before my eyes: I was sitting with Shawn Merriman at the table as he told me of his crimes, pending prison sentence, that I was left alone and with nothing to raise our four children and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was watching my children’s world shatter, seeing their shocked expressions, tears and grief, wondering how I would survive the moment I was present as my children’s hearts were broken and their childhood illusions were shattered and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was driving away from my entire life, the only life I’d ever known as an adult into a completely unknown life in Utah, wondering how my heart would ever heal and then, BOOM! That moment was gone.

The flashbacks continued for several minutes. Each explosion of light blasted away a hard experience from 2009; a piece of pain from the previous year. Pain I didn’t even know was mine, I’d become so accustomed to living with it.

Burdens I hadn’t even known I’d been carrying were lifted. I was stunned at how good it felt to see, hear and feel it all going away. It was healing.

So aside from the marriage proposal I got earlier that day (#2, if anyone’s counting!) that is what I remember most about New Year’s 2009. The fireworks. What they represented and how they felt to me.

Life was getting better every day and I knew that someday, every day would be a celebration again. That my children and I would continue on the path to happiness and joy in our new and unexpected life.

Just as the old moments had passed with each firework that exploded, new moments and memories were taking their place: my three-year-old taking off on his bike sans training wheels down our new Utah street, the family dance party my middle son was standing on a bench busting his best disco-karate moves and the bench shattered beneath him (he was ok, but we all got a huge laugh out of the whole adventure–and the first time I’ve ever lost a piece of furniture to a child’s antics), our first Christmas as a new family unit, our “group hugs,” the family drives, evenings in the canyon, and even our first family vacation.

“Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor.” (Francis Lucille)

You just have to keep living.