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Archive for May, 2011

“Where lipstick is concerned, the important thing is not color, but to accept God’s final word on where your lips end.” (Jerry Seinfeld)

I walked into my bathroom the other day and found a message from #5:  “I Love You.” Written with Mac lip liner pencil on the mirror. (He said he couldn’t find my lipstick!) It was totally unexpected and it delighted me. Other than the boy I had a crush on when I was a teenager who “soaped” the windows in my bedroom and bathroom with fun messages when I turned 16 and could finally date him, I can’t recall anyone ever doing anything like that for me before.

Second marriage moment #13; followed closely by #13a and #13b.

Shortly after I found the love message, my five year old wandered into the bathroom. “What’s that?” he asked.

“It says, ‘I Love You,’ and it’s from daddy to me,” I replied.

“How did he get it on there?” he asked.

I explained that it was written with lipstick, wasn’t that fun? He agreed, and got a big grin on his face. In the aftermath of the trauma we lived through two years ago, I confess, I’m always looking for signs that my children are healing, doing well, are happy and feeling secure in their young lives once again. Right about the time I started to think he must be feeling safe and secure knowing his new daddy love his mommy, he instead said, “Cool! I didn’t know we could write on mirrors!” (#13a)

I instantly realized my mistake and clarified that only daddies and mommies can write love notes to each other on mirrors. He was disappointed, but headed out to play while I breathed a huge sigh of relief that I had narrowly avoided who-knows-WHAT disaster should my youngest decide to add writing with lipstick to his creative arsenal.

But in a remarriage, if it’s not one thing, it’s another! For example, you can’t just quietly and privately enjoy a romantic message from your new husband. Especially if you have 8 children.

The next time I walked into the bathroom and felt my heart give a little leap at the sight, again, of the “I Love You” from #5, I saw a new message had been added below the original. “Ahhh, gee thanks!” Written by someone else. (Based on the handwriting, I think it was my 18-year-old.)

Second marriage moment #13b? The delight of having young adult children offer their take, and respond to, love notes from your husband!

“I love you more than I have ever found a way to say to you.” (Ben Folds)

Or write…on the bathroom mirror!

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“If you can sell green toothpaste in this country, you can sell opera.” (Sarah Caldwell)

You have to love marriage. It teaches you things, and shows you things about yourself, that you never ever knew. But here’s the difference between first marriage and remarriage (or maybe it’s the difference between youth and experience): you learn not to sweat the small stuff.

For example, in addressing the reality of marriage let us not neglect the infamous tube of toothpaste episode. We can’t!  I mean, doesn’t EVERY marriage have one?

Lest anyone has received the mistaken impression that #5 is walking male perfection (although he is very close), know that while brushing his teeth one day, he looked at me, held the tube of toothpaste we shared, and made a comment not just about which part of the tube had been squeezed…but about the tightness (or lack thereof) of the cap.

“Huh?” I asked. I had no idea what he was talking about. I confess, it has been years (probably 22 of them) since I’ve given any thought to squeezing a tube of toothpaste and where–and I don’t think I had EVER given any thought to the tightness of the cap on the toothpaste tube!

In first marriages, said incident has caused many a “first fight.” However, in remarriage, it is more like this:

The offending party (me) realized something about herself she had never known before; determined to pay more attention to the little details of toothpaste tube squeezing; and resolved, then and there, to work to always put the toothpaste tube cap on completely. A little thing on her part that would make such a difference to #5. No offense taken, just rational analysis and a determination to improve. No big deal.

The offended party (#5) knows there are easy solutions to the little irritations of life and relationships, ways to avoid potential problems (especially if you tackle them before they actually become problems) and he was willing to take action then and there. “Or should I just buy my own tube of toothpaste?” he asked. No big deal.

I warned him in advance that I might forget my new resolution and asked for his patience with me as I changed. He told me no problem, when I forgot to put the cap on or didn’t properly attach it, he would attach it VERY tightly when he put it on for me. And that was the end of that.

Both of us know there are a lot bigger issues to worry about in marriage and life than toothpaste tubes and caps; you have to pick your battles, and most aren’t worth the hassle or the fight. (Just “little” things like nurturing love, companionship, friendship, unity, kindness, respect, working together, cooperating, compromising, health, employment, raising children, blending families, serving others, making a difference in the world for the better and a host of other things.) Who really cares about toothpaste?

We also know this: “You can’t put the toothpaste back in the tube.” (H.R. Haldeman) There’s no sense crying over spilled milk. “The course of true love never did run smooth.” (Williams Shakespeare) And, “Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”

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“This moment in time, on this tour, you know, I’m discovering a lot of new things. And to be 45 and doing that, it’s a mixture of pleasure and pain, I can assure you.” (Eric Clapton)

I’m not 45 years old, but this week marks my three-month wedding anniversary; cause to reflect on my current “tour,” remarriage, and to evaluate my experience thus far–as in where we’ve been and where we’re headed.

I remember back to the “good old days” of being engaged. I don’t know how it all came across in the blog, but the reality of it was not 9 1/2 months of bliss, carefree romance and starry eyes and nights despite the many great moments we shared. In actuality, it was the majority of  one year spent getting to know one another even better, preparing to unite not just ourselves but our families, and of challenges, confronting issues and resolving them–and when you’re talking remarriage, you’re dealing with all of the aforementioned stuff to an even greater degree than a first marriage. In fact, there was so much to work through, #5 used to joke that marriage would be easy compared to being engaged and that there was nothing we wouldn’t know about one another by the time we got married.

I think I thought #5 meant being married would be “easier” and with less to work through than our engagement and that because we knew each other so well, there wouldn’t be any surprises or a period of adjustment to one another after our wedding. (You know, for being this old and somewhat experienced in life and marriage–having been married 20 years to someone else prior to marrying #5–you’d think I’d be a lot brighter than I am!) But boy, was I wrong.

I realized, again, that you never truly know someone until you live with them and in life, and especially the remarriage aspect of the unexpected one, it seems like there is always something to work through or resolve!

I’m a hopeless romantic. (I’ll confess that right here and now in case that has happened to escape the attention of anyone reading this blog.) I went into remarriage with my usual rose-colored optimism and romantic ideals of perfection.  And while my remarriage is wonderful, there have been a few moments of challenge (if I’m being honest.) Moments spent in resolving issues. And the truth, in my experience and based on what I’ve learned from premarital counselors and others who have lived through or are living through the remarriage experience, is that approximately 80% of issues, conflict, and anything else that needs to be worked out can usually be related directly to money, children and/or former spouses. (Which shouldn’t be THAT surprising, since statistics show most first marriage difficulties arise over money and children, too.)

One day, in the middle of an “issue resolution” I joked that despite all the premarital counselor had tried to prepare me for, remarriage was a lot more difficult than I’d anticipated. That stopped #5 in his tracks. He looked at me in all seriousness and said, “Really? I thought it was going to be a LOT worse than this! I thought it was going to be much harder than this! I’m actually amazed at how well everything is going and how few problems we have compared to what I expected.”

That stopped ME in MY tracks. I was stunned. “Wait, you thought it was going to be WORSE than this…and you married me anyway?” I asked.

“Absolutely, and I’d do it again,” he clarified.

THAT sums up the remarriage experience for me, as well as the unexpected life.

It can be a stretch to feel like an old dog learning new tricks in your 40s. A mixture of pain, growing pains, as you learn and grow through the new opportunities you’re blessed with as well as plenty of pleasure, like when your new husband tells you, despite the challenges, issues and the work required to resolve them, that it’s even better than he expected, that he loves you and that he’d do it all over again. For you.

Second marriage moment #12.

“Forever can never be long enough for me, To feel like I’ve had long enough with you…Marry Me, Today and Every day, Marry Me…say you will.” (Train, “Marry Me”)

I love it when #5 hums, sings, says that or plays it for me on XM Radio “The Coffee House” channel.

The Unexpected Life.

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“If you’re a young Mafia gangster out on your first date, I bet it’s real embarrassing if someone tries to kill you.” (Jack Handy)

Who can forget their first date?

My mom fondly recalled her first date many times over the course of my life: she was 5 years old, and went to a movie at a movie theater with a boy and his parents. She was a friendly gal, and dated a lot during her childhood and early teens, and then it was recommended by L.D.S. church leaders that dating be delayed until the age of 16 so she stopped dating–until she turned 16 years old!

I remember my first date: Derek.

It was late August 1983 after I had turned 16 years old. The boy I’d had a crush on since the moment I first laid eyes on him (at 14 years old) had asked me out and my friend, Carrie, had come over to help me get ready. I talked and hung out with her while I did my hair and makeup and decided what to wear–and she gave me a pedicure, which I promptly covered up when I put my Topsiders on! It was the 1980s, so of course my hair was something to behold, and accented by the skinny tie (anyone remember wearing those?) that completed my ensemble. We saw the movie, “Strange Brew,” and had a great time. It was a first date with no regrets, or embarrassing moments, that I can recall.

My daughter’s first date was an entirely different experience: Eric.

She went to a school dance with the boy she sits by in Chemistry class, a fun and casual friend. Watching my daughter get ready, and helping her, was a total flashback to the 1980s as she was headed to a decades-themed dance and she and her date had chosen 1980s exercise wear. I helped her find a Jelly belt, tear her sweatshirt to hang off the shoulder, find neon-colored tank tops to layer, get her hair in THE  high side ponytail, with her green eyeshadow (what can I say, we couldn’t find any blue eyeshadow in the house!) and with her hot pink headband (just like Olivia Newton John’s in “Lets Get Physical.”) It wasn’t in the original plan that my daughter drive on the date, but due to car troubles of other parties involved, she ended up driving her car. And accidentally, while slowly backing up, she backed into a friend’s car.

It was dark. Neither she nor her date saw the other car. Thankfully, she backs up really slowly. Thankfully, no damage occurred to either car or to any living being. In fact, the driver of the other car got out, hugged my daughter and told her it was no big deal. I was very relieved there was no damage to people or automobiles; but my daughter was so mortified about the whole thing she wasn’t even dwelling on that. That event overshadowed every other aspect of her first date. That event was what she talked about when she got home. Even late the NEXT evening she was still worrying about it, alone in her bedroom, so I went to check on her.

She was absolutely humiliated, mortified, and didn’t want to show her face anywhere, ever, again. I tried to help her put it into perspective so I said, “Sarah, you can survive this. Just think of other hugely embarrassing things you’ve overcome.”

“Like what?” she asked.

I was stunned. Had the events of 2009 faded that fast in her teenage mind? I clarified, “Like discovering a family member stole millions of dollars, was heading to prison, it was all over the national media, we lost everything and had to watch the government come into our home and take our possessions, some people were mean to us, other people were kind to us yet we had to rely on the charity of others…ALL of those embarrassing moments we endured. If you can survive that humiliation, you can get through anything! This is nothing compared to that.”

Adding that last sentence reminded me that embarrassment and humiliation is all in your perspective. It was also a mistake; add it to the many that continually stream from my mouth, far too often, as I say what I think pretty much as soon as I think it. Call it one of my many weaknesses.

My daughter countered that her experience was far more embarrassing than the one I referenced. I was stunned! I couldn’t believe she really thought that, but she did. She drove her point home (no pun intended, lol!) when she added, “And Mom, if you think criminals, Ponzi schemes, publicity, divorce, prison, crime, government seizure and everything else is more embarrassing than backing into another car on a date…you don’t know ANYTHING about teenage girls!”

Wow. How could I have gotten so old and so far removed from being a teenage girl? And how could I have failed my daughter like that?

You see, one of the great things about being my mother’s daughter is that no matter my embarrassing moment, when I returned home mortified about something that had happened to me, my mom could totally commiserate and share an embarrassing moment from her life that absolutely outdid mine, made me laugh and made me feel so much better about my humiliation! In fact, she survived such mortification that as an adult, friends would call after something embarrassing and ask, “Tell me a story about your mom to make me feel better so I can get through this most recent humiliation.” I thought that’s what mothers are for–and I wasn’t able to do that for mine! (Although I must be blinded by my past, because I could swear 2009 is the ultimate in humiliation. I can’t see myself ever being embarrassed about anything again, after that one!)

So I quit trying to reason with my daughter, stopped attempting to help her put embarrassment into perspective and just empathized with her. I promised that someday, we will look back on her first date…and laugh; we’ll even be the better for it, and we’ll be strong.

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

Now if we can only be totally hot when we have as much character, strength and wisdom as Batman, we’ll be absolutely set for…The Unexpected Life.

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“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

And then, wouldn’t you know, later that evening my daughter left on her first date.

I don’t know how to explain what I was thinking or feeling about that, but add to that monumental event my earlier experiences of the day, and I was feeling some loss pretty deeply. In fact, I felt like I was going to burst into tears at any moment. Again.

So while #5 was taking a very uncharacteristic break in the middle of the day and actually laying down for a moment or two (since I’ve known him, I’ve rarely seen him even sit down in the middle of a day, ever! He is one of the most energetic people I have ever known) I went down to the laundry room to fold clean clothes–mostly to hide the potential for another emotional breakdown. I was afraid tears were going to start streaming down my cheeks again, I wasn’t going to be able to stop them and I didn’t want to do that in front of #5.

I was right. No sooner did I step into the laundry room than the tears started flowing. I cried and folded clothes, cried and folded clothes, and felt very alone as I mourned my “losses.” I had piles to fold and expected to be there, alone, for hours, but within minutes I heard a voice behind me say, “Hey! What are you doing in here? Let me help you.” It was #5.

And there I was, breaking down. I kept my back to him and hoped he wouldn’t notice.

I told him I was just folding laundry, that I could take care of it and that he could go rest. But he told me he couldn’t do that. He wanted to help me, he insisted on helping me, stepped in front of me, saw my face and immediately asked me what was wrong. I was caught in the act of what I’d been trying to hide all day long, but instead replied, “Nothing, I’m fine.”

But #5 didn’t buy that, despite the fact I was sort of at a loss to explain it, so he stepped forward, put his arms around me and I cried. “I had a feeling I ought to check on you,” he said. “I was afraid you might be doing something like this. This is a big day. And WHAT are we going to do when our youngest goes on HIS first date in less than 11 years? I’d better start helping you to prepare yourself for that now!” And we laughed.

Thanks to #5, I couldn’t focus on my losses a minute more, I was too focused on my present opportunities and blessings. Second marriage moment #11: seeing, and feeling, the “magic” again.

The magic…of the unexpected life.

“There’s a bit of magic in everything, and some loss to even things out.” (Lou Reed)

So true.

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“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

Later that same day of the unexpected dream, the mail came, and in it, a very unexpected delivery: a time capsule.

I had completely forgotten about it. My oldest created it in 1999 as a first grader at Creekside Elementary in the Cherry Creek School District in Aurora, CO. It contained newspaper clippings, pictures, letters from his parents and other things that represented our life then, as well as plenty of our hopes and dreams.

I was shocked to receive a communication from an elementary school in Colorado several years after any of my children had attended there. I was surprised they’d found me. And I was very touched by the effort of many good people who have taught my children over the years, who have helped my children learn and create meaningful things, and who went to the effort to find us in Utah so we could have a memory and appreciate the contents of our time capsule.

I stood in my Utah kitchen, read through the contents of the time capsule, and once again, tears I couldn’t control streamed down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed by the contents of the time capsule compared to the reality we had actually lived through and had finally settled into. How was it all possible? How could it all have taken place? I’d never had ANY idea of all that was in store for my oldest and our family at the time he created the time capsule.

Not only was it finally, really, hitting me that my oldest is graduating and leaving home, I think I cried about all we have lived through and experienced since that time capsule was created. When I helped him compile the items for the time capsule, when I wrote my 1999 letter to him, life was very different. I was a stay at home mom; my mom was still alive; I only had 2 children; I’d never experienced grief and pain to the extent I did in 2009; back then, divorce was not even in my vocabulary (neither were Ponzi schemes, by the way, I had no idea what those even were at that time!); and the letter to my son from his father was written by a man now residing in prison for the next decade or more. Looking back, like was very simple then in 1999. It almost overwhelmed me that the expectations for the future as seen through the eyes of 1999 was very different than the reality we actually lived, and I felt additional sorrow at all my son has had to endure as a result of the choices his father made.

But I pulled myself together again, for the second time that day, and went on about my business. I was feeling emotional, but I was going to make it through the day with flying colors, including smiles and laughter. If only I could quit crying.

“Anyone can carry his burden, however hard, until nightfall.  Anyone can do his work, however hard, for one day.  Anyone can live sweetly, patiently, lovingly, purely, till the sun goes down.  And this is all life really means.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

At least, that was my goal. But would you believe it? ANOTHER emotional breakdown…to come.

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“And yet, I suppose you mourn the loss or the death of what you thought your life was, even if you find your life is better after. You mourn the future that you thought you’d planned.”  (Lynn Redgrave)

It has been two years since my unexpected life began. I haven’t been haunted by the events that led to it for quite some time and then out of the blue, unexpectedly, I dreamed of a moment connected to it (not one of my favorite moments, by the way) and I could not shake the memory of it when I awoke.

The experience I dreamed of occurred a few weeks after certain events ended my life as I knew it. One ramification of the unexpected situation was that I was released from serving as president of the women’s organization of my church congregation. Another ramification of it was that due to the public nature of my former husband’s crimes and positions of leadership he had held within our church, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, local church leadership determined it was necessary to publicly address some of it to congregations our family had been closely associated with. My church leaders were very kind about it all; they told me it was necessary and explained why; they told me the day they were going to do it so I could be prepared (and probably, if I were smarter and raised by different parents, so that I could be absent from those meetings that day.) But unfortunately, I had been taught differently than that–taught to face what needs to be faced and that trials and tragedy don’t change what is right or what is expected of us.

It was a poignant lesson I learned in 1986 when my dad unexpectedly died in a plane crash. I was a teenager and dreaded going to church that Sunday after he died. He had been a leader in our congregation and I didn’t want to face people (even people I loved or people who loved me and my family) and I had a sneaking suspicion my mom was planning that our family would attend church. Late Saturday night I asked, “We don’t have to go to church tomorrow, do we?”

My mom was firm in her resolve and her answer. “Of course we do! Just because your dad isn’t here doesn’t mean the rest of us can stop living and it certainly doesn’t change what is right. We believe in going to church on Sunday, that is what we have always done and that is what we will continue to do.” She was a strong woman in a gentle kind of way (I don’t want to make her sound harsh–she was anything but that.) She took our family to church despite the loss we’d experienced just two days previously (although she relented a little bit and let us arrive 5 minutes late so we wouldn’t have to talk to anyone before the meeting.)

Interestingly, when our unexpected life began, one of my children asked me a question very similar to the one I’d asked my own mother 23 years before, “Mom, we don’t have to go to church this Sunday, do we?” and I gave an answer very similar to the one my mom had given me and we went to church and continued to attend each Sunday, regardless of some uncomfortable moments.

Like the Sunday I dreamed of recently. The Sunday I had to sit and endure public comments about my personal situation that was so public– comment about my former spouse’s crimes and the situation he created as a result. It was also the day the new presidency of the women’s organization of our congregation publicly recognized me, gave me a bouquet of flowers and thanked me for my service; and then after that, the leader of our cluster of congregations (known as a stake president) stood and addressed the issues that needed to be publicly discussed. I don’t remember a lot about that day, I mostly remember sitting in the back of the room, tears of grief, shame, humiliation, sorrow (and a host of other feelings and emotions) streaming down my cheeks as I stared at the beautiful flowers in my lap and endured what was being said to the women around me. I do remember a woman sitting by me on the back row, patting my arm or giving my shoulder a squeeze, through the whole thing. I can’t remember who she was, but how much I appreciated her kindness to me at that time! She helped me feel slightly less alone and helped me get through a very difficult moment.

That was a tough experience but I got through it and it’s now a part of my past. I honestly haven’t let myself think too much about it, or look back on it, until that recent morning when I woke up, tears streaming down my face. And #5 was asleep next to me in bed!

I was shocked. It has been two years! I am living a new life, remarried to a wonderful man, and I wake up crying over something that happened two years ago? I felt a little bit crazy. I didn’t want #5 to see, or know, he was married to such a wacky wife that dreamed about the past and woke up crying! I confess, I even felt a little bit guilty as I am the recipient of many miracles and kindness and have much to be thankful for; I have the great blessing to be remarried and am truly happy again–I can’t (or shouldn’t) be crying about the past (even if it was unintentional–something I woke up doing in a dream!)

I quickly got up to hide my insanity, pulled myself together and went on about my day. Except that I couldn’t quite shake the feelings that dream left me with. I felt slightly emotionally “off.” And that was just the start of the day.

“Going back to Ireland involves at least six to seven emotional breakdowns for me per day.” (Anjelica Huston)

Stay tuned. More emotional breakdowns to come.

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