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The Open Book of My Life

“We do not need to proselytise either by our speech or by our writing. We can only do so really with our lives. Let our lives be open books for all to study.” (Mahatma Gandhi)

A few weeks ago I had the opportunity to speak to graduate students of Brigham Young University’s business school who were studying fraud and ethics. The professor who invited me asked me to share my story and my thoughts on how fraud happens and how good people can get caught up in it. I’ve written about my experience quite a bit, I’ve spoken about it to various audiences quite a lot, but it was a different experience to ponder what to say when my life was an open book for all to study in an academic setting!

Here are some highlights from what I shared. I began by introducing myself with Part One of the 2010 Colorado 9News story by Cheryl Preheim. Then I said, “Well, there you have it. That’s me. I’m Andrea Merriman and I’m here today to talk about what it’s like after almost 20 years of marriage, four children, and what I thought was a wonderful life of world travel, financial prosperity, community and church service to have my life and my world collapse in one unexpected moment, the result of something I never EVER imagined would be a part of my life: FRAUD.

It was the worst nightmare I could never have imagined, only unfortunately, it was very real and sadly, it was now my life. You could title it:

Hold On—I’ve Never Smoked, Tasted Alcohol, Tried Drugs or Cheated in School, This Can’t Be Happening To Me!

No Way! I’m A Cougar Club Member and Have $10 Million In The Bank, I Can’t Be Penniless

I’ve Never Stolen A Thing In my Life, Not Even A Grape From the Grocery Store Without Paying For It

But the reality is titled more like this:

Think and Grow Rich…With A Ponzi Scheme

How To Win Friends and Influence People…Then Spend The Best Years of Your Life Behind Bars

What To Expect When You’re Expecting…5-7 Years and Get More Than The Max

Gone With The Wind…And The U.S. Marshalls

Crime and Punishment

From BYU to Federal Prison in 16 “Easy” Years

In truth, however, it’s much worse. You lose every material thing in your life, you lose the immaterial things like your good name and reputation, your wife, your children, your family and your friends, and then on top of that, you lose your entire life and your freedom, as well.

So what does all of this have to do with you? You may be sitting comfortably in your seats knowing you’re eagle scouts, you practice your religion, you’re at BYU living the honor code… something like this could never happen to you. Twenty-two years ago, I was just like you.

So how does this happen? How did a decent man fall so far? How did he do what he did to himself, to me, to his children, to his family, and to his victims?

I was interviewed by the MSNBC show, ‘American Greed’ recently and they asked basically the same question: How does a Ponzi scheme take place? How does a person get caught up in fraud that results in crime? How does it happen?

My answer?

One component of fraud is fear—fear of failure, fear of having to tell others you’ve failed, fear of losing your reputation for success by failing at something, fear of loss of job…But I also believe that selfishness, greed and pride are at the heart of it. You can’t commit fraud without them.

I also don’t believe every criminal sets out with the intent to commit a crime. I think there are good people who make a mistake, try to ‘fix it’ and fail and then choose to cover it up as they continue to work to fix it, but it’s too late. The MOMENT you ignore a mistake or attempt to disguise or try to hide even a small error is the moment your fraud begins.

Dieter Uchtdorf taught ‘Small Errors Can Have a Large Impact on Our Lives.’ He related it to airplanes and flight, but I believe it has application in business as well. He said, ‘The difference of a few degrees may seem minor. But even small errors over time can make a dramatic difference.  Suppose you were to take off from an airport at the equator, intending to circumnavigate the globe, but your course was off by just one degree. By the time you returned to the same longitude, how far off course would you be? A few miles? A hundred miles? An error of only one degree would put you almost 500 miles off course. Guard against the many little rationalizations, little white lies, misleading statements that are true but maybe not the whole truth, and courageously stay the ethical course.’

Stay on the straight and narrow path professionally and personally. (By the way, I believe ‘narrow path’ is no exaggeration.) It’s a narrow path, and when you start rationalizing and messing with the boundaries of it, you’re quickly into the gray and questionable area. And when you step off the clearly defined track of righteousness, it’s a very slippery and surprisingly short fall to the mists of darkness and impropriety.

In addition to correcting your course immediately and frequently, keep your heart in the right place. Lock your heart against things with no eternal value. Do whatever you need to do to keep your heart and your priorities in the right place in the workplace and in your professional endeavors. It can be pretty heady to go from college poverty making $4.90/hour (what I made when I was at BYU) to after graduation making $18k/month—I know, because that was my experience; that’s what my former husband made as an investment banker right out of college in the days when he was a law abiding citizen, prior to creating his Ponzi scheme.

Check your greed. Because at some point, close to $20k/month wasn’t enough. He had to have more and more and more until he sold out his wife, his children and his soul for money. Don’t make that mistake.

How do you prevent a fall like the one that destroyed my ex-husband? I think Mosiah (in the Book of Mormon) said it best: “But this much I can tell you, that if ye do not watch yourselves and your thoughts and your words and your deeds and observe the commandments of God and continue in the faith of what ye have heard…even unto the end of your lives, ye must perish. And now, O man, remember and perish not.”

I apologize for the seriousness of my comments today, but I not only feel very strongly about the importance of living a life of integrity, I’ve lived through the nightmare that results when a person fails to do that professionally. So here’s my last bit of advice, courtesy of Benjamin Franklin, before you depart, as many of you graduate and go forth not only to serve but to establish your career, demonstrate to the world of business what you’ve been taught, what Brigham Young University is about and what you stand for:

‘Let no pleasure tempt thee, no profit allure thee, no persuasion move thee, to do anything which thou knowest to be evil; so shalt thou always live jollity; for a good conscience is a continual Christmas.’

Your career and the rest of your life will be what you make of it—make them ethical, keep them fraud free and make sure every workday is, as Benjamin Franklin advised, a continual Christmas through your hard work and ethical business decisions. Thank you for letting me share a little bit of my story with you today. My best wishes and good luck to you all in your futures.”

There was a brief question and answer session afterward. As I drove home after it, I was struck by the thought that again, another unexpected experience has been mine. Had anyone told me in March 2009 when my world ended in a moment that three years later I’d not only be blogging about my unexpected life but also speaking to various groups and organizations about it, including Brigham Young University, I would NEVER have believed them!

Life is great, isn’t it? Hard, but full of amazing experiences. Never forget that wonderful blessings and moments are born of adversity, even from those challenges you can’t comprehend surviving much less enduring. I met some great people that day of my BYU speech—sharp college students with their futures ahead of them, children of friends and blog readers from Colorado, a successful businessman, BYU professor Mark Zimbelman and his cute teenage daughter.

Prior to my speech, the businessman asked me if I was nervous or if it was difficult to speak about my experience. No, it isn’t difficult. But here’s what apparently is: ”There are two things that are more difficult than making an after-dinner speech: climbing a wall which is leaning toward you and kissing a girl who is leaning away from you.” (Winston Churchill)

Unexpected Wife

This is not a joke or a test of the emergency broadcast system. For anyone who logged on today for a word from me, my apologies. I thought I’d switch things up in honor of April 1st, April Fools and to accommodate the requests from readers who have asked for a formal introduction to my husband. I figured after six months of dating, a 10 month engagement, one year of marriage and everything else…it’s about time! This is no April Fool’s joke. Ladies and gentlemen, here he is: Mr. Mike Ramsey. (Formerly known as #5.)

“Do you ever hear a song that immediately transports you back to another time in your life?  Not to just a small memory of the first time you heard it, but it literally takes you to where you would swear you were, in that place and in that time?  It happened to me a few months ago.

I can’t remember the song (and that’s a good thing) but it took me back to the first few months after my separation. When I was living in the basement of my best friend’s home.  The song reminded me of waking up that first morning, on a mattress on the floor, and looking up at the unfinished ceiling thinking, ‘This nightmare was not a dream.’ Once again I felt that sinking feeling in my chest that my whole world had fallen apart and was never going to be the same.  What a horrible feeling!  (Now you know why I don’t want to remember the song.)

Thankfully, these days I’m singing a different tune.

You’ve read how Andrea and I met—the whole Spaghetti Factory thing—after we found each other on the internet. I am so thankful we did! You’ve read of the awful things that she and the kids had gone through: after she told me her father’s unexpected death when she was a teen and about the Ponzi scheme that led to her divorce, I asked her why she wasn’t on medication! (Ha!) What you may not know is how genuine Andrea really is. And that the way she comes across on the blog is the way she really is in life: an amazing, down-to-earth woman who knows who she is. Each day she tries her best to reach her God-given potential. I love her for that, and for many other things. One of my best friends summed it up so succinctly when she said, “Andrea is good for you, Mike!” I agree.

I’m sure in five years, although there may not be one song in particular I remember from our dating time (she kept me too busy dancing to too many tunes to have just one memory!) I know that every time I hear a song from our dating I will be whisked back to those great memories and feelings and remember what a lucky fellow I am.

Yes, when you are Bachelor #5 you definitely need someone “good” for you.  And I got the best there is. My “unexpected wife.”

The Blunders I Make

“I’m more financially successful, but it just means the shopping blunders I make are bigger now.” (Cathy Guisewite)

I’m not more, or even successful at all, financially, now—in my unexpected life.

But that doesn’t mean I’m not capable of a shopping blunder on the rare occasions I venture into the retail arena, I proved that on my husband’s 50th birthday cruise. You can count the number of times since 2009 I’ve “gone shopping” on less than 10 fingers. (Why shop, or even “look” or window shop, why tempt yourself to spend money you don’t have, when you have no money?)

It happened after the candy store incident. (The moment in a store my husband accidentally called me by his ex-wife’s name. Poor guy! He’s only done that once but he’ll probably never live it down, especially since I’ve immortalized it in this blog:)

We were strolling along the sidewalk of a quaint eastern town when I glanced in a window of a store that looked like it sold all kinds of fun, unique, interesting, vintage, boutique-style items. I announced to the group, “I’m going in here. Does anyone want to come?” Everyone kept walking so I told my husband to tell the group to go ahead, I’d catch up, I just wanted to look in the store for a minute, and I headed inside.

To my surprise, my husband followed me. I thought, “Ah, new love! I’ve forgotten that the newlywed phase of marriage is so nice! How wonderful it is that my husband will follow me into a store simply for the sake of spending time with me. How nice of him. How patient.”

A few moments later, his brother joined us. I thought, “Wow. What nice men in this family—to follow their wife, or their sister-in-law, into a store so they won’t be alone. How chivalrous.”

I started to look around at the merchandise for sale and then suddenly it hit me. Just WHAT kind of store had I ventured into? Lets just say the items for sale were…inappropriate. Of a…suggestive nature. And the theme underlying everything appeared to be nudity and…private parts. OOPS.

“Oh my goodness!” I exclaimed. “What kind of store is this? This is NOT what I thought I was going to find in here!”

My husband laughed. “I wondered what you were doing shopping in a place like this,” he said. His brother agreed. “Yes, I didn’t expect you to shop in a place like this, but I was even more surprised that you announced to everyone where you were heading, so I had to come and see this for myself.”

Leave it to me to unknowingly stumble upon a store like that and to unwittingly go inside to shop. Only I would do something like that—and announce it to my mother-in-law, her sister, friends and other relatives, some of whom I was meeting for the first time! I quickly made my exit and caught up to the group. There were many an eyebrow raised in my direction, lets put it that way!

I’d finish this tale by saying, “Andrea Merriman does it again.” Only it’s Andrea Ramsey now. But apparently, I’m still blundering. You know what they say: ”A blunder at the right moment is better than cleverness at the wrong time.” (Carolyn Wells)

I guess.

Unexpected “Brotherhood”

A few moments after our meeting, my husband’s old friend (now my new friend) caught me alone and quietly said, “I’m sure you could tell from my reaction that I know who you are.”

Yes, I’d noticed.

He then went on to express his sympathy for all that I had been through. He told me the day he’d heard about my former husband’s Ponzi scheme, his heart had broken for me and my children and that he knew many people who experienced those same feelings of sorrow on our behalf. He took the time to ask about me, how my children are doing and couldn’t have been nicer. Unexpectedly, in the course of that conversation, something in me began to change.

I realized I wasn’t worried, or ashamed, of anything I’ve lived through any more. I don’t think I’ll be hesitant to meet anyone ever again, regardless of the name they associate with me.

A few minutes later, his wife approached and said something so unexpected it changed my world. She, also, was very nice and told me we had something in common. For the life of me, I had no idea what that could possibly be! Then SHE dropped a bomb, sharing something very unexpected that we had in common and I was absolutely stunned! I was caught so off-guard all I could think to do was joke, “WHERE have you been? WHERE were you two years ago? I SO could have used a friend like you in 2009!”

Better late than never, I guess. And for some reason, meeting a good woman who lived through something similar to me, who shared her experience with me however briefly, helped the last few scales of shame (or whatever it is I’ve felt but didn’t realize I was still carrying with me) fall from my eyes. It’s totally gone. I don’t think I’ll want to hide my head, ever again, to have anyone know I’m the former Andrea Merriman.

I don’t think I’ll be cringing any longer when my husband introduces me to people; I won’t be afraid of what they’ll think of me—or him, for choosing to marry someone with past experiences like mine.

After all, “…let us never forget that mankind constitutes one great brotherhood; all born to encounter suffering and sorrow, and therefore bound to sympathize with each other.” (Albert Pike)

And to think: if it weren’t for karaoke, I wouldn’t have met my new friends, my new “brotherhood,” born of adversity and facilitated by empathy. Additional proof that life is unexpected and…amazing. Every encounter an opportunity to bless the life of another.


“I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them.” (Princess Diana)

I finished my Madonna representation and was anxious to change out of the costume and hide. But I had one more hurdle to clear. The cast had to go to the ship’s main lobby, greet family, friends, “fans,” and pose for a group photo.

I wanted to do all of the above almost as much as I’d wanted to sing a solo of “Like A Virgin” in front of hundreds of people and wear the costume I’d been provided with—but I did it anyway, comforting myself that at least I wouldn’t know anyone and hopefully, that what happened on a Carnival cruise ship stayed on a Carnival cruise ship!

After the group photo, a man approached. Turns out, he’d been an old friend of my husband’s parents and their family in Winslow, Arizona, and hadn’t seen my husband in approximately 30 years! Their reunion was joyful. As I watched and listened to the conversation, I realized the man had also been a leader in the L.D.S. church when my husband was called on his mission to Japan—and there I stood dressed like Madonna! I took that as my cue to leave, and quick!

I turned to make my escape just as my husband said, “And let me introduce you to my wife!” I wanted to die, but instead, got to make a new acquaintance while wearing a black bustier. Not exactly what I’d expected. I sort of felt like a deer caught in headlights. But it got much, much worse when my new acquaintance revealed he now lives in the Denver-metro area. My husband replied, “Oh! My wife is from Denver!” The man turned to me and asked, “Really? What was your name?”

Have you ever seen television shows where everything comes to a screeching halt and all of the characters “freeze?” That’s how I feel, still, when people ask the question, “What’s your name?” I know, instantly, they’re going to recognize my name and it’s 2009, to some degree, all over again. (To those who think I can’t fully escape my past, try as I might…sometimes it feels like you’re right!) I felt like I stood there, mouth open, as my mind raced to solve the problem of how to answer that question but before I could give a response that did not include the name “Merriman,” my husband introduced me: Andrea Merriman. (He is such a nonjudgmental, kind man, but as much as he thinks he understands what I lived through as the wife of a Ponzi schemer clueless about her husband’s crimes until their 2009 revelation, I just don’t think he gets it; and it’s moments like that that reinforce that suspicion in me.)

It was the man’s turn to look like a deer caught in headlights. I’d known he would. I’d just been hoping to avoid it. A part of me wanted to die, inside. The good news, is that those moments are becoming fewer and further between. The bad news is that they still happen. The conversation resumed and I tried to remove myself from it as unobtrusively as possible.

I’d outdone myself that evening: inappropriate clothing, inappropriate lyrics, a forgettable solo in front of hundreds of strangers…courtesy of Andrea Merriman!

“When a relationship dies, do we ever really give up the ghost or are we forever haunted by the spirits of relationships past?” (Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex In The City”)


The Power Of A T-Shirt

“It’s great to just disappear, grab a suitcase, switch the answering machine on and just go somewhere else.” (Dido Armstrong)

We made the most of our cruise, our time alone together and even our packing.

Prior to our departure, as we were packing for the trip I saw my husband add his BYU t-shirt to the pile of things he was planning to cruise with. I thought it was odd (in my prior cruise experience, we had packed evening wear, tuxedos, jewelry and business casual clothing to wear during the day; t-shirts had been for exercising—but I had a sneaking suspicion in this new life that wasn’t what they were going along for!) but I didn’t say anything. Finally, I couldn’t help myself.

“A BYU t-shirt, huh?” I commented. “Don’t we want to dress nicer than that?”

“I always make sure I take a BYU shirt on cruises,” my husband replied. “You’d be amazed at the people you meet and the conversations you have because you’re wearing one.”

I didn’t really believe that, but one thing remarriage to a man who is now 50 has taught me: he has his own mind, his own way of doing things and it has all worked very well for him for the almost five decades prior to meeting me so what can I say? Absolutely nothing. He is a tidy, helpful, very sufficient man who knows how to cook, clean and do laundry better than I do and he always looks nice…so I decided to trust him on that one. We didn’t discuss his packing choice any further.

A few days later, on the cruise, he put on his BYU t-shirt. I looked at him but was determined to not say anything—or request a shirt with a collar. He winked at me and acknowledged his wardrobe choice for the day by reminding me, “You never know who you’ll meet because you’re wearing a BYU shirt!” and we headed out to tour the city of Boston.

Believe it or not, before we got to the heart of the city of Boston, my oldest called me from college to share a Ponzi scheme-related experience he’d had with relatives of a victim (Yes, 2 1/2 years later we still confront those types of things several times each year) and I confess, as much as I try to rise above all that garbage, I hung up the phone feeling a little low.

I tried not to let it show, but I’m a terrible actress. My husband asked, “Are you ok?”

I stalwartly replied, “Absolutely.”

My husband added, “Are you sure? Because if I’d just received a call like that, I think I’d be a little bit upset. Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m fine.”

So we continued on in search of The Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s house, Harvard campus and various other destinations we had planned. However that day, they were filming a movie in Boston. Many streets, like most of the streets on our tourist map, were blocked off. So we wound our way around different streets, side streets and made all kinds of detours.

And then unexpectedly, I heard it.


I paused. Had I just heard my name?

And then I heard it again: “ANDREA MERRIMAN!”

And before I knew it, one of my favorite people in the world and one of my closest Colorado friends (my friend who’d been with me through my nightmare in every possible way—she even helped me write my divorce) was running toward me. Before I could even say anything, the first words out of her mouth were, “Thank goodness your husband is wearing a BYU shirt, or I’d NEVER have noticed you!”

What are the odds that one of your favorite people and closest friends from Colorado moves to NYC for one year after you have moved to Utah and you both end up in the city of Boston, on the same day, at the same time, winding your way through the same off-the-beaten-path streets due to the filming of a movie and you run into each other…thanks to a BYU t-shirt?

Another beauty of the unexpected life.

(And by the way, although I didn’t tell her anything of my crazy Ponzi morning, that chance encounter with my good friend was exactly what I needed to shake it off and have one of the best days of my cruise! The entire day, and everything I got to see, and getting to share it all with my husband turned out to equal one day of absolute perfection.)

All because of a BYU t-shirt.

The power of a BYU t-shirt.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Mark Twain)

Flowers: A Sign of Healing

“I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.” (Georgia O’Keefe)

Unlike Georgia, I love flowers. I love to smell them. I love to see them. I love to plant them. A big part of my life has always been planting flowers every year–as a girl, I loved helping my mom plant flowers each spring; and I’ll never forget my first spring as a married woman, living in my own home, planting my first flowers.

However, when I entered my unexpected life two years ago, I gave up a few things (and I’m not talking about the “things” seized by the federal government.) For example, I didn’t play the piano for awhile. And then when I reached a point where I did play the piano again, I realized some healing had taken place.

It wasn’t always a conscious decision. Sometimes, as I healed and began doing something I hadn’t done in awhile again, I realized what had happened.

I had one of those unexpected epiphanies the other day.

It came as a result of a trip to a nursery. We, #5 and I, bought what we needed to plant a small garden, along with some flowers to plant in the yard. I spent part of an afternoon planting all of the flowers, thoroughly enjoying myself. And when I was done, I admired what I had created. I felt so energized and that feeling lasted all day.  I even had the thought, “Wow, I feel like my ‘old self’ again.” And then it hit me.

For the first time in my unexpected life, I planted flowers.  For the first time, since spring 2008, I planted flowers! I marveled at the healing. I mean, I didn’t plant flowers because money was so short but also because I had no energy or inclination to–I had too many other things to wade through, to take care of, to worry about and flowers were the least of my problems. Like so many other things from my former life, I guess I thought that flower planting part of my life was over. I didn’t have jewels anymore, my children were my jewels. I didn’t grow flowers anymore, I was raising children.

But somehow, miraculously (to me), the new life with which I have been blessed is full, complete and it even includes flowers. I am healed. I realize, again, that Andrea Merriman is back! Only it’s Andrea Ramsey now. And she’s planting flowers!

“Flowers really do intoxicate me.” (Vita Sackville-West)

Living Legend

“Deangelo: ‘Why do you use your name when you answer the phone?’ Erin: ‘Oh, that’s how Pam does it. I just copy her. She’s sort of a living legend.’” (The Office)

I had my new name, not too long thanks to the Social Security Administration, and now all I had to do was remember it. And answer to it. Easier said than done, as it turns out.

One Sunday, sitting in the women’s meeting at church, I suddenly noticed everyone in the room looking at me and laughing. They joked, “She doesn’t even know her name!” I assumed they must have called me “Andrea Ramsey” and I had failed to respond to it.

After the meeting a friend joked with me about it and I promised I’d get my name right the next time. That was when I found out they were laughing because they had called me “Andrea Ramsey” not just once, but THREE times! And it hadn’t registered with me, I hadn’t realized they meant me and had failed to respond to it every single time!

“Respond intelligently…” (Lao Tzu)

If you can. I’m going to work on that.

Second marriage moment #7.

My Ellis Island

“Choose your new name carefully. Practice signing with it. Have a few people close to you call you by that name, and see how you like it. You can change your first name, middle name, last name, or all of the above. Just make sure your new name doesn’t imply “fraudulent intent” or is not in the public interest.” (wikiHow)

I took more time off work and returned to the Social Security Office the very next morning. I thought, since they closed at 4 p.m., that they’d open at 8 a.m. but I was wrong. I waited an hour for the doors to open, took a number (I was first in line and got the first number of the day), and stepped forward to wait my turn.

As I stood there waiting for my number to be called, the only clerk helped someone. Then another person. Then another. I finally stepped forward and asked, “Excuse me, are you calling numbers?”

The clerk looked at me with a blank expression. I explained, “The guard told us to take a number as we walked through the door, you have several signs posted that direct us to take numbers, but I haven’t heard you call any numbers…”

Despite the full waiting room, they hadn’t been calling numbers. But they decided to help me next anyway. I stepped forward, thoroughly prepared for the name change (after all, it was my second attempt to change my name at the Social Security Office; I’d had an additional wait I hadn’t planned on which gave me time to make sure I’d filled everything out correctly) and handed the clerk my paperwork. The paperwork to add “Ramsey” to my name, to make it my new and official last name.

Unfortunately, the clerk had a problem with it. “It’s too long,” she said.


She showed me that her computer screen had three boxes: first name, middle name, and last name; with a limited number of characters per box. My proposed name was too long for the Social Security Administration computers! She told me I could have three names. I asked, “Wait a second–what about the famous people and movie stars who name their children 5-6 names? How do they do that, if my 34 letter name is too long?”

She said she didn’t know, but I had these options: my maiden name with the addition of “Ramsey,” “Andrea Merriman Ramsey” (without any part of my middle or maiden names),  ”Andrea Merriman-Ramsey” (but I’d have to sign that long last name every time I signed my name, not to mention it would give me a last name different than my children AND my husband!), Andrea L.C. Merriman Ramsey,” “Andrea L.C.M. Ramsey,” and a few other options. I stood at the counter, suddenly unprepared, facing a huge decision that was going to follow me every day of my life, and feeling pressure to hurry because I had to get to work and I knew other people in the room were waiting!

It was my own, personal Ellis Island.

But there wasn’t time to choose my name carefully because I had already carefully chosen my name and it had been rejected by the government, I had to get to work and people were waiting for me to make a decision and complete my business. I never thought to practice signing it. And at that point in my life, I was being called by pretty much anything and everything–no one was sure what I was going to go by. In fact, one Sunday the program at church one listed me by one name in one spot and a different name in a different spot!

Basically, it came down to the fact that I could use my maiden name (the name my church records used and the name of my parents, my ancestors and my heritage) or Merriman (the name of the man I wasn’t married to anymore.) In that moment, that spur of the moment, I chose my heritage. Merriman was gone.

Second marriage moment #6.

“I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have changed several times since then.” (Lewis Carroll, Alice In Wonderland)

Wake Up Fresh And Continue

“The day before is what we bring to the day we’re actually living through, life is a matter of carrying along all those days-before just as someone might carry stones, and when we can no longer cope with the load, the work is done…” (Jose Saramago, “The Cave”)

And then it was the day before my wedding.

Those months of soul searching following the revelations that led to my unexpected life; the shock, grief and loneliness that had once been mine day in and day out during the aftermath of an unexpected divorce and move to a new state; the dating, the bachelors, the going it alone without parents or a partner came to a screeching halt.

I was getting married the very next day–if all went well.

It was a bit more complicated than the first time, though. I didn’t just have to show up at the ceremony, packed and ready to depart on a honeymoon afterward, without a care in the world.

I had to finish my work and meet some deadlines. I had grand plans to make a wedding gift for #5 and had procrastinated finishing it, so I had to get that done. I had to arrange for childcare while I was gone. I had to make sure my house was clean enough for someone to stay in during my absence and for #5 to move in to when we returned from our honeymoon. I had to make sure financial details were taken care of and that there was food in the house for my children while I was gone. I had to make sure I had not just my wedding dress and was packed for a honeymoon, but I had to make sure my children’s wedding clothes, etc…were clean, and packed, as well! LOTS of details to remember and attend to.

But I did it. I worked all day, rushed home, went to the bank, went to the grocery store, did laundry, packed, loaded the car with everything I needed to take to Ephraim, Utah, including my younger children, drove there and arrived safely that night. My sisters and their families helped with final wedding preparations. I even finished #5′s wedding gift that night, thanks to help from my sister. And after all of that, I was still in bed by midnight or 1 a.m..

My last night as a single woman was also very different than the first time. The first time, in the 1980s, I was in a hotel room with my mom and my sisters, so nervous I couldn’t sleep. My mom gave me a tranquilizer to calm me down but it didn’t help and my sister and I lay awake in bed, talking and laughing, until the wee hours of the morning. (Actually, we didn’t go to sleep until my mom reprimanded us, just like she had when we were little girls!)

But in 2011, the night before my wedding, I slept alone. In my sister’s basement. (Although she came to check on me once or twice through the night.) And I was so relaxed and calm I couldn’t believe it. I went to sleep and actually slept! However, I woke up unexpectedly at some point in the night.

I couldn’t sleep.

And then I couldn’t quit thinking. Even worse, I was thinking about things I never expected to think about–and it was hard to think about some of it: dreams I’d had as a little girl; experiences I’d shared with my parents, knowing they weren’t alive to share one of my most important of experiences, marriage to #5; everything that had led me to the new marriage opportunity, including the shocking revelations, the Ponzi scheme, the divorce, the move, the aloneness, everything I had been through and everything I had learned.

It was sort of a life in review. I think it was me, Andrea Merriman, doing some introspection on the eve of one of the most important events of my life. Allowing myself to look back one final time. I had forgiven, I had healed and was continuing to heal. I guess I was making sure I’d made peace with it all; getting ready to take a major step forward. I couldn’t help it; I had one final, brief, cry. And I went back to sleep, knowing the next time I awoke, it would be my wedding day.

“But the important thing is to lie down and fall asleep. That little nap means you wake up fresh again and can continue.” (James Levine)