Living Happily Ever After


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It Was Going To Take A Miracle

I believe in miracles. I believe they didn’t just take place in the Middle East centuries ago, but that we still are blessed with them today, in our time. I believe we just need to keep our eyes open and look for the tender mercies that come our way each and every day, and we’ll see them. I know I do.

Ironically, at no time in my life did I see them more than during the events of 2009. Although I lost pretty much everything I had ever known (except my children), I also have probably never felt, in some ways, more blessed than I did in 2009. Yes, my life had not just been turned upside down, it had been ripped from me. But there were positive forces at work, too.

Soon after March 18, 2009, THE DAY–the day my spouse revealed he had been running a ponzi scheme, that everything we had was lost or seized by the government, that he would be going to prison, and that I would be left alone to raise and provide for our four children, etc… I had a thought.

It was this. “If I can just find a job and a place to live, I can handle everything else.”

It sort of became my mantra.

Like “The Little Engine Who Could,” who dared to attempt what others hadn’t and who kept herself going by encouraging, “I think I can, I think I can, I think I can,” I kept telling myself, “If I can just find a job and a place to live, I can handle everything else.” I repeated that over and over to myself. Maybe if I said it enough, it would turn out to be true! But I knew it would take a miracle.

Yes, I had a college degree. But I hadn’t worked full-time in approximately 18 years! Yes, I had taught piano to 32 students a week at my home studio, but I hadn’t done that for 16 years AND I needed medical insurance for my children. At that time, the economy was a disaster, people were losing their jobs, times were tight for everyone, and very qualified people with current experience were out of work. I couldn’t imagine who would hire ME in a time like 2009. Yes, it was going to take a miracle.

And, like pretty much every other good thing that has come to me and helped me get through my unexpected life, I got one.

I had a good friend who kept his eye open for jobs for me and helped me get my resume together. I had a cousin and a brother who also reviewed my resume. By the way, putting my resume together and trying to make sense of a life I’d lived for nearly 20 years and how it would translate to help me on my resume was an overwhelming challenge in the state of shock I was in. Thank goodness I had good men to help me!

And then less than one week after everything feel apart, I got a call from a friend. He said, “Andrea, I have been so worried about you. I have prayed and prayed for days about what I can do to help you. And it came to me to call someone we both know. I told him a little bit about you, I hope that’s ok, and he told me to have you call him. He has a job for you.”

I still remember where I was standing when I got that phone call. I was at a park with my three-year-old, in that cold, Rocky Mountain spring afternoon where it’s sunny and “warm,” yet an icy breeze blows. I was shivering as tears of gratitude streamed down my face. A job? Like that? It seemed too good to be true. Things like that just don’t happen in real life, unexpected or not.

I thought about calling, I was sort of afraid to call, I put it off a day or two wondering if I dared call…and then the man called me. “Didn’t so-and-so tell you to call me?” he asked. “Didn’t he tell you I have a job for you?” He even went above and beyond (because he is just that kind of a good man) to reassure a broken, shattered potential employee that he wasn’t doing her a favor. He told me he knew me, he knew what I could do, that someone with my background and training was exactly what he needed at his company, and that actually, I would be doing him a favor by coming to work for him.

Approximately one year ago today, I received my formal offer letter of employment.

I had a job. It was a miracle.

Now, if I could just find a place to live…I could handle everything else. Anything. But it was going to take a miracle too.

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Volumes of “Lies”

I got a fun comment and suggestion from a former Colorado neighbor (that identity alone should explain what is coming) and client of my former spouse the other day. He, along with many others, has discovered this blog and is apparently QUITE a fan! He not only takes the time to read it, he even spends time commenting.

He kindly pointed out I’ve mistakenly titled my blog. He suggested the title of this blog should be “lies, lies and more lies.” In his honor, and to give credit where credit is due, I feel compelled to blog about that.

The first thing I did when I saw it was LAUGH. I got a kick out of his suggestion not just because it is totally ridiculous (and inaccurate) but because, in a way, I could relate.

You see, I have been a pretty good journal writer most of my life. I got my first journal about age 12 and have been quite consistent over the years in recording the events of my life. In 2009, after my former spouse revealed that He had been running a ponzi scheme most of our marriage, that He was heading to prison, that everything I thought we had was gone, and that I would be left alone to raise and provide for our four children, I had to prepare to move from our home and begin a new life. Having lived in the same home for 16 years, there was a lot of work to be done. Lots of packing. And one day I got to packing the room my old journals were stored in.

As I looked at the approximately 30 volumes I’d written over the previous years of my life, I didn’t know what to do with them.  I treasured the books I’d written as a youth and college student–everything prior to my marriage to Him.  But what to do with the journals recording the life I’d led married to a criminal? As I handled each one, I wasn’t sure what to think of them anymore.

Although what I had written and recorded was life as I had known it (because I had no idea what was going on in the double life my spouse had been leading for 15 years or even that he was living a double life), in that moment, none of the history I’d recorded seemed true or real. At that time, everything was so tainted by the dishonesty and criminal behavior of one man, I felt like I was in possession of Volume 1 of Lies, Volume 2 of Lies, and so on.

What DO you do with volumes of words that don’t seem to be real anymore?

I still haven’t decided.

But I’m afraid I’m going to need a storage unit for the memories! lol. A place to hold the volumes of personal history, the wedding photos from 1989, and everything else that is not mine anymore…that I still am not sure what to do with.  The only thing I’m sure of is time.

I have time to decide.

Because,”Time heals what reason cannot.” (Seneca, Roman philosopher in the mid-1st century A.D.)

Life Is Such a Roller Coaster Ride

One of the people left in the world who has known me the longest emailed me earlier this year with encouraging words and fabulous advice that I’ve tried to follow:  Life is such a roller coaster ride…we just have to hang on, scream real loud, and enjoy the ride!

In my experience, truer words have never been spoken.

And no ride made me hang on (or want to scream) more than the ride I was on April 2009 last year. My spouse had revealed His crimes, He was headed to prison, and I found out I would be left alone to provide for and raise our four children. My roller coaster car was rolling away from the gate and the ride of my life had begun!

Things seemed very black a lot of the time, yet the crazy optimist in me refused to give in to it and I tried to find the light in every thing that I could.  It was SUCH a roller coaster I can’t describe it. I was worried about providing for my family, finding a place for us to live, beginning a new life in every sense of the word, and I did it all amid negative publicity about my spouse for His ponzi scheme crime and the public collapse of my life and marriage. Yes, there were ups and downs!

One huge roller coaster was the financial aspect of things.  It was pretty bleak.

The day my spouse told me of His crimes, He had already turned himself in to the authorities and all of our assets had been frozen. I had no money.  I had four children to feed and shelter and I didn’t know how I was going to do it. That was a low.

The government authorities catalogued items for seizure and told me they were not interested in my jewelry.  I rejoiced!  That was a high!  I admit, I love things that sparkle; I always have.  And although I’d never asked for jewelry, my spouse had given me a few pieces as gifts over the years. I loaned them to friends as often as I wore them, and although I didn’t plan on ever wearing my jewelry again, I realized I could sell my jewelry for cash and use it to help support my children and rebuild my life.

Then my roller coaster car took one of those sharp, unexpected turns–the kind you hit just when you think your ride is about over–and started racing downhill again!  The government investigators returned to my home.  They apologized.  They said they knew they told me they weren’t interested in my jewelry and had told me I could remove it from my home but…did I have any diamond necklaces or tennis bracelets?

That day was a low.  That day I discovered my friends, who had worn my jewelry and knew everything I had, were providing lists of my possessions to the government, hounding them to take it,  and the government had to comply.  That day I wrote, “Sometimes I don’t know how I’ll go on.  I work so hard to think, ‘I’ll start over and make a new life,’ I make a plan to do that, and then every little thing the government tries to leave for me, my ‘friends’ make sure it gets taken away.  It’s not for me that I want anything.  It’s for my kids. I just need to provide for them. I want, I want, I want! There is so much I want. So many injustices I’m being dealt and there will never be any restitution to me for any of it.  I am the one victim who is not on the victim’s restitution list.  I am THE ONE who will just have to let go of it, forgive, and go on.”

The government asked me to give them a list of the jewelry I owned, which I did.  And they called, amazed, that I had admitted to MORE than they knew I had!  That was a high for me.  I continued to value my character and integrity above all.

Then I met with bankruptcy attorneys.  They were appalled at how, in their words, “completely bereft” a position I had been placed.  I don’t think they’d seen anyone left in my position, to start over with four kids to the extent that I had been.  That was a low.

That day I returned home feeling very alone, and when I arrived home my daughter said, “Mom.  It’s April Fool’s Day!” The irony completely got me, and must have shown in my face, because my daughter said, “What?  What’s wrong, Mom?”  I just smiled and said, “Nothing.  I’m fine.  I’m great.”  It was becoming my answer to everything.

There were many other financial highs and lows that followed and I eventually learned not to get too worked up in either direction, to wait and see how everything played out to avoid getting devastated time and again.  Sometimes roller coasters can be a bit much, too many highs and lows.

So I rode the roller coaster.  And I hung on.  I don’t recall that I ever screamed but I cried. And although I wasn’t overly successful at enjoying the ride, I had two goals for myself as I rode:  To not hate anyone.  And to be cheerful, happy, and optimistic.  I didn’t want to be anyone’s “downer.”

Snow Day

I remember snow days in Colorado were always a celebration. Cozy, unexpected family time; days filled with sledding and hot cocoa; relaxing by the fire; snuggling on the couch.  But the snow day we had in the spring of 2009 was completely different.  It just felt cold and alone.

That snow day I saw what an outcast I had become. Even regarding snow!

Every single driveway of ALL of our neighbors had been plowed, except ours.  (We hadn’t shoveled our snow in years–a neighbor with a snow plow on his truck, or a neighbor with an ATV and snowplow, always took care of it for everyone.  Not in 2009.) To make matters worse, all of the plowed snow had been piled, four feet high, at the top of OUR driveway.

A subtle message.

Aristotle was right.  ”Misfortune shows those who are not really friends.”

My son and I shoveled and shoveled the snow in an attempt to clear the driveway.  There was so much snow, snow that was that heavy, wet, spring snow, and the snow was piled so deep, we hardly made a dent in the piles although we shoveled until we felt like we’d sprinted a 10k.

My daughter was going to be late to meet her friends due to the snow situation blocking the exit from our driveway so I finally called a friend and asked her to pick my daughter up so she wouldn’t miss the activity. When her husband drove up and saw the piles of snow deposited in front of our driveway by neighbors, he was appalled! And angry.  He went home, got his snowblower, drove it over to my neighborhood and home, and cleared the snow away. (His wife told me he glared at every neighbor he saw as he did it–he was THAT disgusted by the hateful actions of our neighbors.)

That day I wrote, “I’m an outcast. But like the old song says, ‘I get by with a little help from my friends.’ Thanks, Dan.”

And truly, with good friends you’re never REALLY an outcast. Aristotle forgot to mention that while misfortune shows those who aren’t your friends, it also shows those who really are!  At a time when I felt like the biggest loser on earth and a total failure–believe me, ending up with my life at 41 1/2 years old had NOT been my life plan–I had friends who showed me otherwise.  ”The making of friends who are real friends,” said Edward Everett Hale, “is the best token we have of a man’s success in life.” If that was the measure of success, I hadn’t failed at all!

I don’t know how I would have survived my nightmare without friends.  ”A friend is someone who knows the song in your heart and can sing it back to you when you have forgotten the words.”  (Anonymous) At a time when I felt like I had lost everything, including myself, they reminded me of who I was, what I had always been and showed me I was still me.  Me. Me PLUS the adventure of my unexpected life!

They helped me make the transition into a new chapter of my unexpected life. And although it was very hard to leave them in Colorado and begin a new life in Utah (so hard, in fact, I couldn’t say goodbye to anyone–I just drove away), how fortunate I am to have known such good people, to have been blessed with such incredible friends, that it WAS so hard to say goodbye!

My friends, old and new, help keep me going even to this day. Truly, I get by with a little help from my friends.  Don’t we all?

I Am SO NOT AFRAID…of Driving!

I’ve had a few fears in my life, but driving isn’t one of them.

Even as a kid, riding a tricycle on the sidewalk in my dress (remember the 1960s and early 1970s?  LOTS of dresses!  Every day!  Those were the good old days, when people truly dressed for success.  In fact, I have pictures of family picnics in the mountains where the women are all in dresses and the men are in shirts and ties!  But I digress…)

Riding my tricycle, I liked to pretend the sidewalk was the road and that my trike was really a car.  My shiny, sexy (aren’t vehicles always described with that word?) purple trike with the metallic streamers coming out the end of the handle bars…I loved it!  And of course, I LOVED every amusement park ride that offered a mini car to drive.  I sacrificed riding roller coasters for those!  So while some people have a fear of driving, I’m not one of them.

Thank goodness for that, I thought, as I drove from Colorado to Utah to begin my new life post-divorce and post the rest of the trauma I had survived the almost four months previously.  But I couldn’t help myself.  While I drove, with lots of time to think, I thought of things I have been afraid of.

Spiders and Bugs; Snakes and Mice. I didn’t think Denver even had mosquitoes.  And then I moved to a home in the “country.”  Back in 1993, people used to joke I’d moved to Kansas; it was THAT far out there.  I missed the sidewalks and community parks and swimming pools of a planned neighborhood. And then I discovered my new home was also replete with everything I feared.  Giant spiders I thought only grew in rainforests were crawling on my porch.  I found bugs I’d never even seen in museums crawling INSIDE my house!  There were snakes of many varieties outside the house–and one VERY HOT SUMMER, I found two GIANT snakes actually INSIDE the house.  Not to mention the little black things I found that I eventually learned were mouse droppings…when I found mice.  I HATED all of that.

I hired exterminators and pest controllers.  I threatened to move to a hotel until they were completely eradicated from my life.  (You should have seen the exterminators’ reactions (yes, I went through countless different exterminators and pest control companies in an effort to have someone remove this fear from my life) to my hatred of pests, “Lady, you live IN THE COUNTRY!”  They must have thought I was a lunatic, an idiot, or both.

I did everything I could to remove these unpleasant things from my life, but none of them ever completely went away.  It seemed like I faced one of those above-mentioned fears every day, in one form or another, and after 16 years, I realized that although I didn’t like them, I wasn’t afraid of them anymore.  It’s true:  ”Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing.”  It was a good lesson for me to learn.  I was going to need it.

The dark. Even as a little girl, I was afraid of the dark.  Afraid to be alone in the basement even, especially if it was dark.  I was afraid of thunder and lightening in the dark (so afraid that my thoughtful dad got so he’d come and check on me, in the middle of the night, during every storm–even when I was a teenager!) As a woman, I didn’t sleep a wink when my spouse traveled and I was home alone.  And as a mother, the bedtime routine on nights alone was quite a production:  I’d haul all of my children into my bedroom, push a big piece of furniture in front of the door, and STILL lay awake afraid all night while my babies and kids slumbered peacefully!  The confession of a coward, I know.  But, somehow, over time, the fear went away.  I realized a year or two before I got divorced I wasn’t afraid at night anymore.  I don’t know if it was because my spouse traveled so much I got used to being alone at night or if it’s because I simply gave in to the exhaustion and finally slept; or if it’s because my oldest son got old enough I felt I had some protection; or if I just finally “grew up,” but whatever the case, I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.  And that’s good.  Because I’ve had some darkness.  And I’m all alone in it.

Which brings me to my next fear:  Being alone. LOVE this one.  (NOT!)  I was always a social person. Had lots of friends.  Had lots of dates.  Never thought I’d end up alone, much less at just 41 years old.  But I’ve learned to deal with it.  And in many ways, it isn’t as scary or as bad as I’d always imagined it would be. Either that, or I’m getting used to it. (I didn’t want to get used to it, darn it!  I liked being married and wanted to get married again!  Oh well.  At least I’m open-minded about a possibility that includes me being alone for the rest of my life now.)  Good for me for conquering this fear.

Being responsible for a child. Ironic, I know, that a mother of four children would be afraid of this.  But in college, as I saw new parents strapping a baby on their back and going to class, it FREAKED ME OUT.  The thought of having to feed a child when I was a poor college student kept me single until I was ready to graduate!  I was always so afraid of the thought of being financially responsible for keeping someone else alive–I worried I wasn’t up to that.  I was fine when it was just me, but the thought of anyone else relying on me for support terrified me.  Lucky for me, I eventually matured and was married to a good provider before I had children.  I wasn’t so afraid of this anymore because the providing was on his shoulders AND I had a partner in the parenting endeavor.  I wasn’t doing it alone.

Enter March 18, 2009.  I found out not only was I going to be alone, I was going to be SOLELY responsible for FOUR CHILDREN.  Responsible financially, emotionally, physically, in every way responsible.  I WAS TERRIFIED! But I didn’t have the luxury or time to sit around and think about how afraid I was.  (THAT part came as I drove to Utah.)  I thought I had just six weeks to get everything resolved as it related to being alone and being solely responsible for four children.  I had a SERIOUS deadline.

Like the children’s “bear hunt” rhyme, I was going on the hunt of my life and I couldn’t go over it, under it, or around it.  I had to go straight through it.  I had to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do what you are afraid to do.”  (No offense to anyone named Ralph or Waldo, but I’ve always found it ironic that someone named Ralph AND Waldo had such great things to say and in such a brilliant way! lol)

And as I did that, I stretched and grew. Again.  Every day.  Just a little bit more.  Until now I can say I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson on another thing:  ”He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

But as I drove to Utah from Colorado on July 13, 2009, I hadn’t learned this yet. I had eight hours to think and I thought about how afraid I was of my life.  And how afraid I was of what was ahead of me…for the rest of my life.

Too Much Time To Think

“Eight hours is too much time to think and my thoughts are definitely too hard to think!” That was another thought I had as the miles rolled by under the Subaru, driving from Colorado to Utah to begin a new life–thanks to divorce and other things.

My mind was doing a 19-years-in-review recap as I drove, and given the new perspective I had on those years (thanks to the revelations my former spouse made to me on March 18, 2009), every memory was tainted.  Even after the almost four months I’d had to think, to question, and to attempt to process, I was still coming up with new and more questions.  I was grateful, then, that I’d had almost four months to try to understand everything (as difficult as those four months had been.)

In fact, and believe it or not, almost one year later, the questions are still coming.  Someone recently asked me something I’d never thought of before.  I don’t know the answer to it.  I have to wonder: is that what the rest of my life is going to be? Another 50 years of random memories surfacing, causing questions that I will never know the answer to?  An interaction with someone that results in a question that somehow, in all the thinking I’ve done, I have never thought of?  And even if I could ask the question and get an answer…how do I really trust that the answer is the truth?

The answer to that is just one reason I got divorced.

As my sister said to me, when we chatted about things we’ve experienced in life that we never anticipated, “You are THE LAST person I EVER would have thought would get divorced!”  I totally agreed with her.  I am the last person I ever expected it to happen to too.  But in life, unexpected things happen.

As I drove, I wondered how everything was going to work out.

My greatest concern was, and is, for my children.  I wondered HOW they were ever going to rise above the life they were completely innocent of in every way?  I mean, my children and I are completely innocent of any wrongdoing–THAT, I know.  But they had landed in a situation they hadn’t chosen in any way, shape or form.  They hadn’t even gotten to choose their dad!  I had done that for them.

Everything I have done in all of this has been in an effort to do what I think is right (the way I’ve always tried to live my life) and to do what I think is best for my children.  Those two principles have guided my every action and reaction.  There are many who disagree with my choices, with some of the things I’ve done–or not done.  I’ve lost some friends over it.  I’ve been misjudged on some of it.  But pardon me for putting my kids first, even at my own expense, and for having the courage to do what I felt was right!  How dare anyone expect me to do anything else?

My thoughts turned, again, to my children and the evening of March 18, 2009.  When I had gathered my family together for the last time, as a united family, and let my children hear, from the mouth of the destroyer, the destruction he, the head of our family and home, had brought upon all of us.

I remembered how he sat alone in a chair, across the room from the rest of us, and told our children what he had done and what he anticipated the consequences would be.  They were as shocked as I had been when I’d been told earlier that day. It took a moment or two for them to comprehend what he was saying and they looked to me, with shock and horror on their faces, questioning with their eyes what they had just heard.  They looked to me for confirmation.

How do you shatter your children’s lives?  How do you destroy their hopes and dreams?  How do you ruin their world?  How do you do ANY of that?

How do you answer even a question about that? All I could do was sit there, with tears streaming down my face, my heart more shattered and broken than I knew a heart could be and still keep beating.  And I guess that was answer enough.

One of the children got up, crossed the room, and hugged their dad as they cried.  The other children spontaneously joined them and they all huddled, hugged and cried together.  We used to end our family prayers each day with a “group hug.”  But like everything else, those days were over.

I sat alone on the couch and watched the whole thing.

Then the destroyer got up, walked out the door, and left our family alone.

I was alone with my children.