Friday, July 31, 2015

Greetings From Orlando

I have heard (not verified it though) that Orlando is the number 1 tourist destination in the world. If this is true, I am so sad! Let's see.... Orlando or London? Orlando or Iguazu Falls, Brazil? Nonetheless, here we are, staying in a lovely hotel just steps from Disney World, where Mickey is everywhere.

Our trip to Flordia should be a fun one.

First, my best friends Julie and Shane are here, too. We hung out with them last night.

Second, my aunt and uncle from Uruguay are coming in a few days.

Third, William will be joining us in a week. I really miss my guy. I am so grateful to have a happy, healthy, peaceful and respectful relationship. I have lived the opposite, a life of sadness, chaos, high conflict, confusion and utter frustration. I am so lucky!

We have not been to Disney yet, we will do that next week. Tomorrow, we are going to Savanah, Georgia and then up to Charleston, South Carolina. Why? Because I haven't been there yet, and neither have my daughters. I love exploring everywhere and any where so why not this part of the country? (I have been to Florida several times in the past, including Orlando but I have never been to Disney World. I suppose we must, right? I mean, RIGHT?)

Travel is expensive but I cannot think of one trip I have ever regretted. It is worth every penny and then some. I could happily burn just about everything I own and just travel, live, experience, and surround myself by amazing people that I love. I'm working on that one!

I am doing well physically. I was incredibly tired and fatigued the last few days, thanks to the awful Dex crash but who can complain? I mean, I could really complain but what is the point? We flew red eye, picked up our car, came to the hotel and went directly out to the pool where the girls fell asleep and I got a poolside one hour pedi and massage. If I'm going to be tired, I'm still going to make the most out of it. It is hot and humid. And I am blessed.



Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Morgan's words: Her reunion with her dad and step sisters (first time in over THREE years!)

I love writing happy stories. I love even better when my children write happy stories. Here's the latest from Morgan. This one is published on Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

Stories From A Teen: Reunifying With My Dad (Finally!)
by Lizzy Smith                    
July 29, 2015
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I have written many times about my ex cutting off all contact with the children about six months after our split. His excuse to me? They were too stressful. His excuse to his family? He was afraid I would sue him for more child support. Either excuse is shocking and horrific. Nonetheless, last weekend, 15-year old Morgan flew to San Diego for a few days to visit her step-sister, Kellie. It turned out to be a joyous reunion with her other step-sister, Nicky, and her dad! Next up, he’s invited both Morgan and her younger sister, Siena, to come back any time for a visit. A new direction? I hope so! Let’s hear from Morgan all the details…

Reunifying With My Dad & Sisters!
By Morgan Nielsen (15 years old)

I was laughing so hard I was crying. It wasn’t because of what my sisters said, it was because we couldn’t take a single good picture of the three of us. We were in the movie theater waiting for the movie to start and my sister, Nicky, wanted to get a good picture. As she tries, she keeps moving her phone and they were all coming out blurry. We did this about five times. We took 15 pictures and only got one that was ok enough to post on Facebook and Instagram. These little moments can mean so much because you look back later and say, “Wow were dumb but it was a great day.”

I will never let me forget this important weekend, where I had the opportunity to go to San Diego to go see my two sisters and my dad. It was so amazing to see them because I missed them so much. It has been over three years since we have spent time together because my mom, younger sister and I left my dad and moved to Utah when my mom got sick. So this was amazing. Some of the things we did together was go to the beach, a movie, a Padres baseball game, and we had Sunday family dinner before I flew home (my first flights alone!). We also went shopping.

When I left for San Diego, the only thing I knew for sure is that my sister, Kellie, would pick me up and we would meet my older sister, Nicky, for dinner. The rest was kind of a great surprise.
The first thing we did when I got off the plane was go to dinner and a movie. Dinner was really nice because that is where we caught up and talked. It was funny because we ate at a restaurant called Stacked and they don’t wait on you—we ordered on an IPad and then the server brings out your food. Kellie ordered a drink and the guy came like a minute later. It was cool but surprising. After the movie I went home with Kellie and she gave me her bed to sleep in. It was so comfortable and I was so tired and I fell asleep right away. I was so happy!

The next morning we woke up and went down to the beach to meet up Nicky at a coffee shop on the beach that she works at. She made me an iced caramel macchiato, yum! A couple of minutes after I got my drink my dad showed up with his two dogs. I was so happy to see him I ran up to him and gave him a big hug. It was the first time I had talked to him or seen him in over three years. I missed him so much. I Kellie and my dad decided to go to dog beach to walk his two dogs, Ollie and Bullet. I missed the beach so much. It reminded me of my prior life before my parents’ split because we used to go at least once a week. Walking with my dad and sister seemed so normal. It was weird but it seemed like almost no time had passed. That night I went to the Padres baseball game with Kellie and Nicky. They won and after the game Nelly preformed and it was cool.

On Sunday we went back to the beach. As it turns out, we walked past an ear piercing shop and I decided I wanted to get my cartilage pierced, just like Kellie. I knew my mom would never go for it but I called and asked anyway. After she thought about it, she said yes, that she wanted this weekend to be the best ever and it would be a token memory. I couldn’t believe it!

Keep reading...

Bill Conley and I are featured in this month's Utah Cancer Connections magazine for our work in raising funds to cure multiple myeloma!

Local Candidate Bill Conley Aims To Raise Funds To Cure Multiple Myeloma While Building A Stronger Community 

From The Myeloma Crowd 
We are excited to be featured in this month’s Cancer Connections magazine (page 15). This is an excellent example of how patients and caregivers can help support the Multiple Myeloma Research Initiative (MCRI) while having fun doing it. Creative? We say yes!
Bill Conley, candidate for Lehi City Council, was campaigning one hot morning. Just weeks earlier, he had decided to walk every major neighborhood in the city before Election Day meeting residents and business owners. On this particular walk, his fiancĂ©, Lizzy, was at Huntsman Cancer Institute for her monthly doctor’s visit and labs. She was diagnosed with multiple myeloma in January 2012 and, though doing well, there is no cure. This means endless monitoring, infusions, and exams. He began wondering how he could support her cancer battle in a bigger way while also campaigning.

An idea was born that included long walks, lemonade stands, donations and talking. All right up his alley.

“I have owned several businesses in my past professional career,” says Bill. “My success involved thinking outside the box coupled with a willingness to talk to people.”

Lizzy was already working with a fellow myeloma survivor, Jenny Ahlstrom, on launching and growing the Myeloma Crowd (, a patient-driven web site with information for the myeloma community, tips for navigating treatment, and new medications and treatments available to patients. In addition, Jenny and Lizzy helped launch the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (MCRI), which aims to find a cure for the disease. In August, they will begin crowdsource funding to sponsor a potentially curative clinical trial.

“What makes the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative unique is that it is happening now, totally transparent, and its progress is trackable,” says Lizzy. “Typically, cancer research donations go into a big bucket and donors have almost no way of knowing if their generosity makes any difference. But the MCRI is potentially a game-changer. We want a cure now. As a patient, I am not satisfied with hoping someone else cures me. I need to be part of finding that solution.”

It wasn’t long before Lizzy and Bill were walking neighborhoods together wearing neon T-shirts (the front is a large Myeloma Crowd logo, the back a Vote Bill Conley for Lehi City Council message) and talking to residents about cancer and Bill’s campaign. Lizzy also put her two daughters to work– nine-year old Siena and 15-year old Morgan. They designed posters and began running lemonade and cookie stands on select walks. The snacks are free but they accept donations for cancer research. Additionally, they can also be seen around town wearing those T-shirts. This effort is a family affair. Lizzy’s dad even joined them on a walk.

“I will be a dedicated and tireless member of the Lehi City Council if elected,” says Bill. “I live in Lehi and have a vested interest in making this city an amazing place to live. But all funds raised go straight to the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative. Not one single penny goes to my campaign. We are doing this for the right reasons—to make a difference in the world.”

Monday, July 27, 2015

On reunions with sisters and dad

What a huge weekend we had! You can read about Morgan's below in my latest Divorced Moms column. On the home front, Bill and I spent some 20 hours at Lehi Appreciation Days as part of Bill's campaign for Lehi City Council. It was fun, exhausting, and totally worth it. While we chatted up attendees in the heat, Siena and her friend went swimming and enjoyed the rides. Last night, I have to say that we cooked up one amazing dinner using up fresh plums off my mom's tree. Fresh salsa with mangos, and quinoa-kale salad from my aunt's garden. Fresh, delicious, organic food, who can dream up anything better?

But, really nothing compares with what I write about here. On Wednesday, we leave for Florida, our last big vacation day of the summer.



On Reunions and Re-Establishing Sisterly and Fatherly Ties
by Lizzy Smith                    
July 27, 2015
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When my 15-year old daughter was younger, she was timid when it came to doing anything without me, her mom. We were tight, the only thing that mattered was the two of us. After all, my side of the family lived a few states away and there was no dad or siblings. When I married my (now) ex, she started developing close ties with him, too, which was fantastic. She also got to two older step sisters, which she mostly worshiped. And then we adopted her younger sister. All of a sudden, she had a family, a large one, with siblings, a dad, two sets of grandparents, cousins, aunts and uncles. I was so happy to see my little girl, then just five-years old, learning to love and trust and open up.
She loved her dad like no other. Even though our relationship was a disaster from pretty much the beginning and was extremely high conflict, Morgan was secure. I watched my tiny child start coming out of her shell—diving off the diving board, fishing, being the first to dive into the ocean from a boat in the Bahamas, swimming with sharks, playing with snakes, and even diving off cliffs in Maui. She child was becoming a daredevil.
When I decided to leave my ex in the wake of my cancer diagnosis, I asked my daughter if she wanted to stay with Daddy or move with me. I was leaving San Diego and heading to Salt Lake City to begin cancer treatments, which over the next ten months would include two stem cell transplants, massive amounts of chemo, and going bald (I lost my eyelashes and eyebrows, too). “I’m going with you, Mommy!” she said without hesitating. While she loved her dad, no way could she be without me for more than just a day or two, and even that was hard.
So off we went, Morgan, my younger daughter, Siena, and I starting a new life, away from our beloved beach and this time surrounded by four seasons, mountains, and even snow (and illness). While our new life started taking shape, Morgan was nonetheless in deep pain and I could see it. She was no longer seeing or talking to her dad at all. Total silence. It took some of her mojo away. That confidence and lightness in step was heavier, sadder. And there was nothing I could do to stop it.
In my attempts to drown out the deafening silence, I did my best to distract, keeping life so full and busy, hoping she wouldn’t notice. Trips, more trips, more activities, retail therapy, Mommy-Daughter dates, snowboarding, tumbling classes—you name it. But it didn’t work. We spent many nights talking and crying, trying to understand how her dad could just vanish. “What did I do wrong?” she would ask. I had no answers.
This summer, I realized that it was time to start providing opportunities for Morgan to start spending time away from me. It was painful, I hate being away from my children, but it was time. I signed her up for several camps where she would travel alone. The first, a Girl’s Camp for five days in the mountains. The second, a writer’s camp at a nearby college. For six days, she lived in the dorms and met all new friends. The third, a Bible camp for a week. This one was very “out there”—they went boating, hiking, and played paintball. She came home happy, with bruises and contusions all over her body.
In addition, I took her on some trips recently—a cruise in March where, for the first time in ages, she was able to jump in the ocean and snorkel, go zip lining, and cave tubing. New(er) experiences. We also went to Seattle and Canada where she swam in lakes and stayed up almost all night wiring together fireworks for the 4th of July.
But the zinger was this past weekend when she completed her first flight alone. Last Friday, I drove her to the airport and while I choked back tears, I watched Morgan board a plane for San Diego to visit her (former) step sister. Kellie and Morgan were going to spend the weekend together. I was so nervous. While we have kept in touch with Kellie and saw her every summer, this was far different. Because other than Kellie, Morgan had lost contact with that entire side of the family—her other former step sister, her grandmother, aunts, uncle, cousins—and most importantly, her dad. This trip held no promises other than sister bonding with Kellie but who knew how it would all turn out.

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Drama queens and kings are a nightmare. Here's how to manage them without going insane yourself

My latest via Divorced Moms. When it comes to perpetual Drama Queens and Kings, just say no! Preserve your sanity. Here's how.

How To Handle The Drama Queens (And Kings) In Your Life
by Lizzy Smith                    
July 21, 2015
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When I was first diagnosed with cancer and left my alcoholic husband, he accused me of being a drama queen (among other things). Me, a drama queen? Call me all kinds of things but “drama queen” never fit. I could either let that accusation destroy my spirit (more than it already was—after all, I was grappling with a potential death sentence and had uprooted by entire life to seek treatment), or ignore it. But before I could decide either way, I had to understand what a drama queen really was.

Drama Queen Defined
A drama queen is self-centered. She lets small setbacks become emotional, outlandish events. She involves as many people as possible. She is neurotic and exaggerated in her responses. A drama queen  enjoys the stimulation of becoming angry, emotional and exaggerated. Tears, anger, unhappiness and frustration actually cause a drama queen a sick kind of joy. She demonstrate diva-ish behavior and her needs and wants, regardless of how minor or inconsequential, trump most everyone else’s.

So was I a drama queen?
Based on this definition I was most emphatically not a drama queen. During my entire marriage, my needs and wants came dead last. I never worked harder or more selflessly in a marriage where I got just about nothing in return but emotional outbursts of a drunk husband (or a husband desperately in need of a drink and resentful that I was standing in his way). Upon diagnosis, I dropped everything to seek treatment but, according to the hubby, I was selfish because my needs finally came ahead of his. Truth was, my behavior was called self-preservation. And, besides, I truly don’t know how one can overstate the severity of a cancer diagnosis. Dramatic? Hell yes!

So now that I could ignore that accusation, I looked around me and realized that there were a few drama queens in my life (in addition to the hubby was the ultimate drama king). One of them was my nine-year old child who can’t possibly exaggerate her needs at that very moment. The other is a “friend” who I’ll call “Alice.”

The drama queens in my life
The first example is a child and as her parent, it is my responsibility to redirect that behavior so that it stops. Because I don’t know too many people who think drama queen behavior is fun or appropriate.
The second, Alice, is an adult. Truth be told, if I could cut Alice out of my life, I would. But for a variety of purposes, I can’t. And it isn’t my job to redirect another adult’s behavior.
But in both cases, there are ways to manage these people so that it doesn’t negatively impact me or my home.

How to manage drama queens

1. Their emergencies aren’t your emergencies
Just because a drama queen demands immediate attention doesn’t mean you need to give it. In fact, by addressing their endless needs for help and attention, you are feeding that behavior and encouraging it to continue. Because drama queens needs to be constantly tended to and they will keep looking for someone who will give them immediate attention. If you simply don’t go alone with it, you can claim your sanity. If this is your child, ignore the behavior. If they need you to jump and take them to Target to get school supplies for a project they forgot about, don’t do it. Maybe next time they’ll learn to plan ahead.

If it’s an adult, “no” is a powerful word. Practice it often and use it. Case in point: Alice once called me and, in near hysterics, asked me to come to her home. Between tears, she said that her husband had taken the wrong car to work and she needed someone to take her to his work so they could switch cars. Um… so I was on the way to an infusion appointment and, really, what was the urgency? She had a nail appointment she was going to miss. Let’s see… my chemo infusion or her nail appointment… I was stunned at her audacity. And then I remembered the word NO. “I can’t, sorry but good luck!” And that was that. Next thing I knew, she had called a mutual friend and had her deal with the whole car issue. Our mutual friend called me after the drop-off and vented for 30 minutes.

“Why did you say yes?” I asked. It took her a long time to respond. “Good question, I won’t be doing it again,” she promised. Sheesh, I hope not!

Just know that drama queens (children and adults) can be incredibly abusive. You cannot allow this behavior to continue. If this is your child, you have a duty to stop it cold.

Keep reading...

Tuesday, July 21, 2015

On lemonade stands, raising funds for myeloma & running for Lehi City Council

lemonade stand1

Our Lemonade Stand Fundraiser for MCRI: A Family Affair                  


I tend to keep my daughters very busy during summer months. So in addition to travel plans (we just got back from a very fun road trip to Seattle and Canada, and we are leaving for Florida in two weeks), camps, and lots of physical activities, Bill and I decide that they should also learn a bit about giving back to their community. What better way to do this than raise fund for the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative (MCRI)?

So we have planned a series of lemonade and cookie stands in our neighboring town, Lehi, Utah. Bill is running for Lehi City Council  and has vowed to walk every major neighborhood in the city before Election Day meeting residents and business owners. He ordered up neon T-shirts with one side the Myeloma Crowd logo and the other a Vote Bill Conley Lehi City Council. I often join him on these walks and we are impossible to ignore. On one particular evening, we started off Bill’s walk with our lemonade and cookie stand. We raise $70 for my personal MCRI fundraising page!

Here’s how we did it:

1. My two daughters, 15-year old Morgan and 9-year old Siena, baked cookies the day prior. We kept it simple, buying ready-made cookie dough.

2. On the day of our event, we loaded up our car with a five gallon water bucket filled with lemonade, cups, our cookies, a table and signs that we were raising funds for cancer research.

3. While Siena and her two friends managed the donation table, Bill, my parents and I held up signs for Bill’s candidacy and the fundraiser.

We are hosting another lemonade stand next week on the same evening of a “Meet the Candidates” night. Since Bill will be at this event, we’ll set up across the street an hour prior and when we are done, attend Bill’s event and meet Lehi residents and discuss Lehi issues.

This is a fun activity that is also a family event. We all have a vested interest in helping find a cure for myeloma, after all. It is teaching my children some important lessons about what it means to do something selfless, and we have fun together doing it.

Consider doing something fun with your family and raising money for MCRI. For ideas to get you started, click here. Share with us your family activities or fundraising efforts at

Monday, July 20, 2015

Renewal. What remarriages can offer children

There is no question that divorce is beyond difficult for children. In my case, even though my marriage was high conflict and abusive, filled with alcoholism and rage, it was still hard on the children. They loved their dad, though they both knew that it was a really terrible situation. Keeping them in that environment was irresponsible and it was one of the biggest reasons I left-- because I knew that if I stayed, they would learn some really bad life lessons on what relationships and marriages should look like. The thought of it was terrifying, actually. What if they ended up with a husband like the one I was married to? It was an intolerable idea.

Now when one remarries, it is a mixed bag. First, the children know that their dreams of their parents getting back together are over. And that is devastating. And then there is combining a new home, new expectations and parenting, new dynamics and traditions.

But it also offers HOPE and that is huge.

This weekend, William's daughters came down and stayed at the house. On Saturday night, William and I had date night. Morgan and Siena were home watching TV and William's daughters arrived while we were out. When we got home, we sat up and watched TV, all six of us on the couch. We were laughing, commenting on the show, and just hanging out. Morgan said, "This is some serious family bonding time." I could feel that she was, well, excited. Excited for the future, for a new family and step sisters and all of it.

On Sunday, we went to church and brunch, and later, we celebrated William's birthday with a house full of guests. It was simple and fun. And it brought me something powerful, too-- hope. Excited for the future. I've always dreamt of having a home filled with children, grandkids, boyfriends, dogs, and people around. Maybe we can achieve that. We don't have a dog yet, but we do have Princess our cat. And we are all subtly working on William about the dog.

It's called progress. And on this Monday morning, despite heat and sun and looming treatment on Wednesday and Thursday (infusions are so time consuming), I am excited for the future.

Thursday, July 16, 2015

How to teach children empathy and kindness? 5 tips

My daughters, honestly, are really kind girls. But we can often work on the whole "me first"-thing. I wrote about it in today's Divorced Moms column. Enjoy!

5 Tips For Teaching Our Children Empathy & Thoughtfulness
by Lizzy Smith                    
July 16, 2015
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Most children are narcissists by nature. Their primary needs are most important. That doesn't mean that most children aren't also innately good, kind and capable of being great. But it is our role as parents and caretakers to teach them empathy, putting others' needs above their own (sometimes), and, generally, how to be thoughtful people.

This summer, in addition to keeping my children really busy with camps, trips, and activities, I've also honed in on this one. Because while I love my daughters and they truly are amazing people, we can really work on the whole "but I want something"- thing. There are days that, thanks to the myeloma maintenance therapy medications that I take every day, I am simply wallowing in extreme fatigue. Yet when they want to go swimming or have friends over, they fail to notice that I'm struggling with getting off the couch.

"Mom, can you get me water?" my nine-year old asked me last week. I was lying down on the living room couch and she was sitting in the dining room, just feet from the kitchen. Really? I wanted to scream. Instead, I told her NO but she could get me a water! And then I reminded and waited until she did it.

"Mom, I need you to take Ally and me to Walmart to get snacks. We're hungry," my 15-year old daughter stated just minutes later. Not even a question, a demand!

It was time for a serious chat about empathy and thinking about their mom. Clearly they weren't getting it and it was my job to teach them.

So this whole "teaching empathy"-thing has been on my mind and has become a summer theme of mine, which I'll describe more below. But if we moms don't teach our children the importance of thinking of others, they are either:

1) Going to have a lifetime of struggling in their future relationships. Their friends, boyfriends or girlfriends, and co-workers won't like them very much and, really, our children probably won't understand why;

2) They will learn how to develop these traits the hard way-- because those around them will simply not tolerate narcissistic behavior.

Please don't let it be the first option. I have someone in my life who SCREAMS "struggling with relationships." She is one of the most narcissistic, thoughtless people I've ever met and if I had a choice, I would cut her out of my life like a cancerous mold. I don't have the option but I am polite to her when I must see her and that is it. She gets new friends all the time but a month or two later, those friends have vanish. Her co-workers often head out to lunch when she's in the restroom or at times they know she's unavailable. And yet she doesn't get it. Wow, I want to scream, I can tell you why-- you are thoughtless, selfish and, well, awful. Ladies-- let's try not to raise kids like this one!

How to do this?

1. Lead by example
If we aren't good and kind to others, and if our children don't witness our behavior and actions, we can't possible expect to raise kids with these traits. They must see us acting in a way we expect them to pattern. Help those in need. Be nice to your children. Be a gracious hostess. Be an even more gracious guest in someone else's home. Be nice to people on the phone, your restaurant server, and the person at the check-out counter. Refrain from flipping off rude drivers (this is a really hard one for me). Be nice to people in lines. Let your children see you giving up your seat to someone who needs it more than you. Let them see you practicing thoughtfulness all day, every day. If someone is having an upcoming birthday, consider baking them a cake or buying a small gift and dropping it off. Have your children help you.

2. Get them involved in giving back to others
This summer, I am getting my children involved in raising funds for curing multiple myeloma (my cancer, the second most common blood cancer). A few days ago, we hosted our first lemonade and cookie stand and took donations for the Myeloma Crowd Research Initiative ( We raised $70 and will host another similar stand next week. Our goal is to do five of them before summer's end. I got them involved by helping bake cookies, make signs, and go shopping for lemonade and cups. On the day of the event, my nine-year old daughter brought friends with her to manage the table and donation bucket. They loved it! We all have a vested reason to help cure myeloma and they can finally participate in helping make their mom well. This is a critically important venture-- giving back to others for simply no reason than it is the right thing to do. No strings attached. (Side note, if you'd like to make a tax deductible donation, visit, click on the box at the top that says Build a Team Today, look to the far right and you will see my name Lizzy Smith, click on that, and donate to my team! No donation is too small!)

My fiancĂ©, Bill Conley, is also running for local office-- Lehi (Utah) City Council ( He is walking every major Lehi neighborhood by Election Day. We wear neon T-shirts and join him on these walks. It has become a family affair. They are getting great exercise and learning a bit about the election process in the meantime. Why are we all doing this? Because it's simply the right thing to do-- help someone else out. No payment, no strings attached, no promises of gifts afterwards.

Keep reading...

Monday, July 13, 2015

Lessons from my teen - on finding the perfect boy and taking your time

I sent my 15 year old daughter to a one week writer's camp a few days ago. It took place at BYU and she stayed in the dorms the entire time. I missed her like crazy. It was her second camp of the summer (she's doing three)-- the first was a Girl's Camp sponsored by our church, the second was the writer's camp, and in a few hours I'm sending her to an outdoor adventure-type camp sponsored by a church we sometimes attend, South Mountain Community Church. Anyway, she developed her writer's voice and some new writing skills. It was quite intensive (it better have been-- it wasn't cheap!). When she came home, I decided it was time to put some of those newly acquired skills to work and have her guest write one of my Divorced Moms' columns. Here is her first. I think she did a great job writing it but, more importantly, she is so dang smart and wise. At her age, I was boy crazy and any attention I got from a boy was good attention. (Not that I was a floozy-- I made it through high school a very innocent girl.)

Anyway, enjoy! I hope you all are having a fabulous summer. We leave for our last trip of the summer in two weeks. I cannot believe that at some point soon, the summer will be over. I'm so sad! Except... I'm getting married on October 3 so when the kids head back to school, I am in full wedding planning mode. In fact, while Morgan is off to camp, Siena and I are doing a Mommy-Daughter date wedding dress shopping. Fun!

Lessons From A Teen: Finding A Perfect Boy (And Taking Your Time)
by Morgan Nielsen for the Lizzy Smith column                    
July 10, 2015
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My very wise teen daughter is learning important life lessons on how to find a good guy. She shares part of her journey of discovery right here. I had to share because I think we can learn a lot from her. Why wasn't I that smart when picking my ex? Enjoy!
Finding A Great Guy (They Do Exist!)
By Morgan Nielsen (age 15)

A couple months ago my friend introduced me to a cute boy who I will call “Guy” and we started talking and texting. Guy seemed really cool and sweet and we talked every day and realized we liked the same things. After a couple of months of talking he told me that he was starting to develop feelings for me and I realized that I was developing feelings for him, too. He told me he was single but wasn’t looking for a relationship. I was fine with that because I didn’t want one either. But every time I talked to Guy I got butterflies in my stomach. One of my guy friends asked me who I liked and I told him about Guy. He told me that Guy had a girlfriend. So I texted Guy asking if that was true and he told me it was. My heart dropped to my stomach and I felt like curling into a ball and crying. I told him that he should have told me and that he shouldn’t be telling me things like he had a crush on me when he already has a girlfriend. I told him that I said it was nice to meet him and that he shouldn’t text me again. I then deleted him as a contact. It was the right thing to do. As hard as it was to say goodbye to Guy it had to be done because I deserved more than what he was saying and giving to me.

This experience taught me how important it is to find a good boy to date. There are three things that you should watch for when dating. They are loyal, funny, and shares the same interests. These three things are essential for dating a person you like, at least it is for me.

Loyalty is a quality of being faithful to the person you’re dating. That means that when you are in a relationship that you don’t go talking to other boys or girls for the purpose of building a relationship with someone else. Loyalty is very important because that means that you can trust the person that you are dating. No one wants to go out with a boy after you hear he has cheated on his girlfriend because you ask yourself “will he do the same thing to me?” That is such a simple answer YES. He will try to sweet talk you and say cute things to you but you can’t fall for it. Someone once said “once a cheater, always a cheater.” I live by that because I believe it’s true.

Going back to my story about Guy... A couple of weeks later I got a weird text saying “sup babe?” I was really confused. I asked who it was and he said, “whoever you want this to be cutie.” I asked again who it was and he told me it was Guy. I never replied to him because earlier that day I talked to one of my friends that’s a girl and she told me she was going out with Guy. So I knew again that he was talking to other girls not just his girlfriend. So I’m learning at the age of 15 that once a cheater, always a cheater. So I plan to avoid them the best way I know how.

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Thursday, July 9, 2015

I LOVE summer! Divorced Mom column: How to have the perfect road trip

Summer is THE BEST! Here are tips for creating a perfect road trip (from my experience). I wrote about it on Divorced Moms. Heat aside, make it great!

Road Trip! Summer Is A Perfect Time To Hit The Road
by Lizzy Smith        
July 02, 2015
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road trip.jpg
It's been a long time since I have planned a road trip. For one, I'm not a fan of sitting in a car for very long. And second, how to keep children entertained for long stretches? I'm not just referring to the four-hour drive to grandma's house, a place you have already been many times. You get in the car and race to your destination as quickly as possible. That is not a true road trip. Rather, I am describing a leisurely drive to somewhere new, where the entire point of the drive is to discover and explore points along the way. Now that is a road trip, and one in which you ought to consider planning for you and the kiddos. In fact, I am on a road trip as I write this article and you know what? It has been fabulous.

We left home a week ago and drove from Salt Lake City to Seattle. This is a 13-hour drive but we divided it in half, spending the first night in the adorable town of Pendleton, Oregon. The next day, we took our time making our way into the city. We stopped at Snoqualmie Falls and hiked down to the waterfalls. It was really hot but the cool water that awaited us was more than worth it. We got lunch in town, one of the most picturesque places on the planet. We stopped at a raspberry farm and picked our own fresh fruit and purchased locally-produced marinades and dressings. Discovery is so fun.

The next day, we took a ferry to Victoria, Canada (thank goodness I remembered to bring our passports). We spent the next two days meandering the beautiful city, walking around Butchart Gardens, and eating grilled corn on the cob and organic fresh lemonade. We napped, went swimming, and watched street performers well into the evening. The weather was spectacular.

Next stop was Vancouver for a day, then on to Harrison Hot Springs, located right on the edge of a pristine lake. We soaked in hot springs and went for long walks.

For the next five days, we are in Seattle before heading home. We haven't been bored, nor have we done too much. It's been a near perfect trip so far and the kids haven't once complained. While they are well traveled, they have never been to the Pacific Northwest or Canada, so this is a very new experience for them.

Road trips are great for bonding, which is just what the doctor ordered. There are fewer distractions and it's a fantastic time to talk. And it's possible to build a perfect trip around almost any budget or timeframe. Here are tips that have made this road trip so great for us. I think they are mostly universal so here goes:

1. Build time
Build in extra time during your trip so you feel free to pull over when you see something interesting. Three years ago, we drove from Salt Lake City to Denver. On our way back, we could see phenomenal red rock formations off the side of the road near Moab. "Mom, let's stop!" my then 12-year old daughter said. This was not our plan but without thinking, I quickly pulled off at the exit and called Priceline, securing what I believe was the last hotel room available in the town. That evening, we walked the main street and got dinner. The next day, we hiked the Arches. it was one of the most amazing places I've ever been. What a shame if we had missed it in favor of racing home. Plan extra time in your road trip to stop at places along the way. You never know where a road trip might take you, and that is a great thing.

2. Be flexible
Allow for your plans to change at the last minute. Try not to over schedule your trip so you can't explore the unexpected if you want. You never know-- you may love a place so much that you aren't ready to leave as scheduled. With a road trip, this should be perfectly ok.

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Tuesday, July 7, 2015

In most failed relationships, the RED FLAGS were there all along

My latest via Divorced Moms. Enjoy!

I Smell A Rat. Looking For (Obvious) Red Flags in Mr Wonderful
by Lizzy Smith                    
July 07, 2015
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Fotolia_67523899_XS.jpgSome divorce stories leave me scratching my head wondering why the heck she married the guy in the first place. (Not to say I haven't made some mistakes that were real whoppers, but I digress.) Some marriage mistakes are so incredibly avoidable that there is no other explanation than gullibility and, well, desperation. Here's the latest.

"Kim" is in the middle of a divorce and is very sad and disappointed with her ex. You see, he was a con-man in the literal sense. Like, he had another family several hours away that she didn't know existed. And she saw no warning signs. The guy was so kind and loving, he was faithful in his Mormon religion, and was just "perfect." Even her Bishop said the marriage (and subsequent divorce) wasn't her fault and she never could have known he was a fraud. So there you have it.

Wait a minute, I thought, no warning signs at all? I had to probe further because I found that very hard to believe. I wrote to her:

Question: If he had another family, I'm assuming he would disappear for days and weeks at a time. Where did he tell you he was?
Answer: He worked really weird hours in construction, one month on and one month off.  He left town to go work and he was really tired so he didn't call during his work months.
Red Flag: Thanks to cell phones, there is no reason whatsoever not to be calling and at least texting someone unless you're on a plane. If this isn't a red flag, I don't know what is. Think about it-- are you ever truly SO BUSY that you can't find a way to contact your children for an entire MONTH? Even in some of the most remote regions of the world, I've been able to text and email. If your guy disappears like this, run away and fast.

Question: Did he have a Facebook account and were you friends? Did you have access to his phone?
Answer: He didn't do Facebook so no. And I never looked at his phone.
Red Flag: Wow, from a guy you are going to marry and you can't have access to his phone?

Question: How do you know he was religious?
Answer: Because he told me.
Red Flag: Oh, ok... No observation here, I see. He probably also told her he was honest, too, and she believed it.

Question: Did you ever do a background check? Where was he living, did he own a home, did he own the car he was driving? Did you look at his driver's license?
Answer: I did look at his driver's license and his last name was spelled differently but I didn't catch it. I don't do background checks because you should trust the man you are falling in love with.
Red Flag: Oy vey.

Question: Did you meet his family and friends, co-workers, neighbors?
Answer: He said his parents had died in a car accident. He had a friend in our city and that is the only person I met.
Red Flag: Double oy vey.

Question: How long did you date before getting married?
Answer: Six months. He really pushed the wedding, not me!
And here is the kicker: She had young children at home and they had never really met the guy before she married him and they couldn't stand him from the get-go. And for the next two years that Kim and hubby were married, he never deposited a check from his job (he really didn't have one), let her touch his phone, or contribute to household expenses in any meaningful way. He was also "so" religious that their views on how to run a home or raise children were dramatic. He was strict and pious with everyone, including her children. (Can we say DISASTER loud enough?)

I am honestly not sure where to go with this other than it is so incredibly, well, shocking. Here is my take:

First, if a guy is an asshole to your children, he needs to go. Like immediately. Know that before you get married!

Second: She dated the guy for six months and never gave her children the chance to meet him before she moved him into her home? Wow. Like, so WOW that it borders on irresponsible.

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Monday, July 6, 2015

Road trip for this myeloma ends but this is JUST THE BEGINNING! Let's keep going!

We just got back from our road trip and it was a perfect 10. There is literally not ONE thing I would change about our trip. And so I wrote about this topic on Divorced Moms.

Just a quick update and I will retire this topic. After our Canadian trip, we headed back to William's daughter's house. For the next four days, we hung out with her awesome husband and their 15 month old daughter. We all fell in love with the whole family. Plus, their house is totally charming and adorable and I love it. They made us feel so comfortable and welcomed and at home.

We went everywhere in the city and beyond. Pike's twice where I spent a small fortune on sauces, marinades and spices, the big huge ferris wheel, the beach, awesome restaurants, outdoor markets and the Indian reservation where, between two families, we spent over $2,000 in fireworks-- no typo! Ryan (William's son in law) and Morgan stayed up the night prior until 1:00 AM setting up. The results were SPECTACULAR. The 4th of July was our favorite EVER. We started off by watching a parade on the Lake Sammamish while eating grilled corn on the cob, followed by a street party. We started setting of fireworks (no exaggeration here) at 2:30 in the afternoon and, without a break, ended at 12:30 AM. It was INSANE. We ate, played street football and ping pong and went pyro. The fireworks were just about as good as city fireworks, no lie. There were probably 75 people at the street party, and the food and libations were super yum. Please I want to move to Seattle now.

Liz Lizette Smith Nielsen's photo.

We are home for just a few more weeks and then we're off to Florida, South Carolina and Georgia for two weeks. Best yet, my best friends Julie and Shane are in Florida at the SAME TIME. We didn't even coordinate this but they fly into Orlando the day before we get there and we all fly home within an hour of each other! Guess who we are hanging out with? Hooray and I LOVE it when this happens (does this EVER happen)?

Myeloma SUCKS beyond belief but despite this HUGE limitation, I am so happy. Life is joyful, has so much purpose, and is FUN. Live, my dear readers, LIVE LIVE LIVE. Love. And find happiness. YES, no matter what happens in life, this is possible. And it is FAR BETTER than the alternative.

Much love,


Thursday, July 2, 2015

Good men are good dads. Here are signs to look for

From Divorced Moms. I don't know how many women marry guys who are awful fathers and then wonder how they ended up with an asshole for a spouse. What? They had no idea he was such a jerk. If you ask me, the signs were all there (with my ex, too, I'm hardly perfect) and they needed to start looking at his fatherhood skills. My take is right here... Enjoy!

Want To Date A Good Man? Then Make Sure He's A Great Dad First
by Lizzy Smith                    
June 29, 2015
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Fotolia_70534505_XS.jpgA good friend of mine, "Amber," started dating a guy six months ago. She's pretty crazy about him -- he treats her well, he's kind and generous, thoughtful. The sex is fabulous. But she has children and he is only "average" with them. Mostly, he seems to put up with them and sometimes is visibly annoyed. But here's the biggest warning sign: he has two daughters who he rarely sees. When he does, Amber notices that his interactions with them are distant and cold. He isn't all that interested in spending a lot of time with them and Amber feels she has more of a connection with his children than he does. She is just about ready to end it because his daddy skills seem seriously lacking. She wanted to know my opinion.

"If he's not into the whole kid and family thing, he's not a keeper," I said. "Can you imagine living with a guy who wants all the kids to go away? That's not going to be comfortable for anyone. Not the kids, him or you. Besides, if he's made children and yet this most important role in life isn't a priority, well, he's not a good partner. (or man, I wanted to add)

She agreed. I truly believe their relationship is on borrowed time. And it should be.

One of the best ways to know a man's true character is to pay close attention to his relationship with his kids. That pretty much tells you everything you need to know.

It is really hard being a single mom in the dating trenches. Sometimes we must make really tough decisions about the men in our lives. Maybe it might be a perfect relationship if kids weren't in the picture. But they are.

Our reality is that we are moms first and our children's needs must be paramount above our own. And that means that sometimes we must walk away from a guy we are crazy about because it is in the best interest of our children. I have huge admiration for women who do the right thing. It isn't easy, I've been there. But that's what being a good mom requires of us.

Seriously, having children and watching how a man interacts with his and yours, can also help you determine if he really is the right one for you. So here are some traits to look for in a guy:

1. He spends time with his children (consistently)
First, does he have at least partial custody of his kids and unsupervised visits? If he doesn't, that is a huge warning flag. I have heard of women dating men who are only allowed supervised visits with his children and having no legal custody. Why these women even attempt to date men like these escapes me. Perhaps his ex is really that lying bitch, but probably there was enough evidence to convince a judge that this man is bad news. And you should listen and run. Fast.

Assuming he does have access to his children, does he show up on time for his visits? Does he look forward to them? If not, that's another huge warning flag for you.

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