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Changing course when life takes unexpected turns

When I was in college, I remember "having the dream." I wanted the whole enchilada: Getting a degree. Building a solid, enjoyable career. Meeting and marrying Mr. Right. And living happily ever after.

Fortunately, my career in marketing communications has been enjoyable and incredibly rewarding. I worked 60-to-70-hour weeks and moved up the ranks at local advertising agencies. Then I successfully shifted into corporate marketing. And now I "work in my slippers" as a freelancer, mainly for nonprofits and charitable foundations. I have the pleasure of working with incredible, passionate people, and I feel like I support those who make a difference in this world.

On the personal side, however, things didn't work out as planned. Mr. Right turned out to be really wrong for me and I went through the "big D" (divorce). It was definitely not what I had planned. I felt like a failure. And really, really lonely. I thought I would stay that way for the rest of my life.

About year after the split, I met my hero – my second, wonderful, perfect-for-me husband. I felt like I was given a second chance at happiness. We were friends for many months before we dated. Then things just sparked. We married soon afterward, and we still love each other's company more than anything.

Of course, nothing is perfect. One of the most challenging parts of our marriage has been mixing our two families. We each had a daughter from our first marriages. The girls, who were used to being the "only child," were now thrown together as siblings.

The girls are different in so many ways. His daughter has substantial processing power, creative talent, a quirky (and sometimes dark) sense of humor, a wonderful zest for life, and an interest in building family ties. My daughter is bright, hard working, silly, lovable, energetic and thrives on making lots of friends. Both can be moody, touchy and have major attitude. (They are, after all, teenage-ish girls.)

As we have all grown together through the years, we have met many challenges. My stepdaughter moved in with us full time over three years ago. She was depressed at first and slept uncountable hours day and night. We sought help from a variety of professionals, and after much effort and numerous conversations (some of them quite loud) she has made major strides … working part-time, trying out college, helping around the house and happy to be newly single again. Despite our differences, I love her to pieces.

My daughter has had her own challenges. For the most part, we are her taxi service, even though she usually can't tell us where she's going or when. She hates chores, gets super cranky when she's nervous, and can't make a decision on clothes or shoes in less than 30 days. She suffers from anxiety after experiencing controlling behaviors from someone close to her. Luckily for us, she makes things easy at home. She works hard at school and gets awesome grades. She helps with Grandma, who is deep into dementia. She is just a godsend. Virtually every day, my husband and I say, "Thank God for Sam."

I have learned two major lessons from these experiences. The first is to seek help from others – people who are experts on solving issues. We all spent quite a bit of time "in chairs" with a local counselor who helped us communicate with each other better and made us realize our problems were not insurmountable. There are so many groups and individuals to turn to: Child & Family Services, your church, your family physician, or any number of support groups or counselors. These folks have useful insights and tactics that can help families manage today's many challenges.

The second lesson that I learned was to never give up. Never give up on finding love that lasts and never stop believing that there really is a perfect match … just for you.

Never give up on finding your dream job.

And never give up on family, no matter how challenging things might get. The return on all of these wonderful blessings is worth all the effort in the world.

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