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NOT Some Kind of Soft Drink

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” (Joe DiMaggio)

Something happened in my unexpected life I’ve been holding back on. I almost spilled the beans last month the day I blogged that something exciting was happening the next day. (In fact, Bachelor #5′s mom read that post and called him to ask if he was getting married the next day! Sorry, no. It actually had nothing to do with that.)

But I guess today is the day to share.

Last month, a reporter from NBC’s Channel 9 in Denver, CO, Cheryl Preheim, contacted me via email. She had found my blog, read it and wanted to talk to me. My first inclination was a resounding “No Way.” But, in true Andrea Merriman style, I read on anyway. And then I re-read the whole email. And then read it again.

Cheryl told me she was interested in my story from the perspective of my children and helping them through our challenge. She told me about her family, her children and her philosophy of life and motherhood. (Mothers know the way to other mother’s hearts, don’t they?) She said all the right things; and for some reason, I believed her. I was wary but warming to the idea of talking to her.

I turned to my trusty co-workers for advice. They are sharp, smart good men who haven’t led me astray in the 15 months I’ve known them. The comment I remember most came from our Emmy-winning film guy who said, “You’ve worked with media, you know reporters are never your friend.” So I googled Cheryl Preheim to find out what I could. I thought about it. And then I responded to her email.

We talked on the phone, emailed, got to know one another and…I liked her. I trusted her. (Can you believe after all of the lies and deception by someone so close to me I still trust people? But I do.) I had a good feeling about her and what she wanted to do. So we made a plan to meet.

She and a very nice cameraman named Ken flew to Utah and spent a day with my children and me. They were kind, generous and respectful of our family. They were easy to talk to. They became our friends. We were nothing showy or impressive, but they sat around our kitchen table and ate dinner with us anyway–and filmed my 5-year-old eating hot dogs and chips. I begged Ken not to show the unhealthy meal I was serving my young son, so he graciously zoomed in on the carrots my son WASN’T eating! We opened our home, our lives and our hearts to Cheryl and Ken and in the end, were so sorry to see them go.

After they left, I gathered my children together and asked them what they thought and how they felt. They said, “It was fun. They were nice.” It was a positive experience for them.

I was struck by it for different reasons.

The interview brought everything full circle for me. I’ve thought about my experiences, I’ve written about them, but I’ve never verbalized any of it on record. It was also eye opening to see how far we all have come. I observed my children objectively, and I realized they seem completely normal. Healed. The smiles and the laughter are real. (As are the bad manners, unfortunately!) I feel like it was the final chapter to this portion of the unexpected life that was thrust upon us last year.

Afterward, all I could think was, “It was unexpectedly fun and positive, a good experience for me and my children. And I REALLY like Cheryl Preheim. She is a good woman. A genuine person. A caring human being out to make a positive contribution to the world. A friend.” (Not to mention the fact she’s a talented reporter and a great writer.) Regardless of the outcome of putting myself out there, I stand by that.

And now I’m looking forward to seeing what she has done with my story.

Tonight. On NBC’s Channel 9. In Denver, CO.

I just wish I’d had time to have my hair done. Lose 20 pounds. Or maybe get a little Botox.

“I wish my name was Brian because maybe sometimes people would misspell my name and call me Brain. That’s like a free compliment and you don’t even gotta be smart to notice it.” (Mitch Hedberg)

Shock…And A Grin

“Crimes sometimes shock us too much; vices almost always too little.” (Augustus Hare)

Night before last I was up until midnight, hanging out and chatting with my oldest. Talking about anything and everything EXCEPT the sentencing of his father which took place yesterday. But it had to have been on his mind because he didn’t seem to want to be alone with his thoughts; I sensed he needed someone to talk to.

When he went to bed, I checked on my 10-year-old and found him crying in his bed, worried about the pending sentencing of his father. I offered words of encouragement, tried to help him look at the bright side and attempted to cheer him up–until nearly 1:30 a.m. It broke my heart and I realized in that moment, regardless of the outcome of the sentencing and the remorse my former husband feels for what he has done to so many people, there are some things he just won’t quite understand. He hasn’t been around to witness it firsthand; he has been incarcerated. He hasn’t had to look into the devastated faces of our children. He didn’t have to (or get to) watch them live with pain He caused. He hasn’t had to help them pick up the pieces and struggle to carry on and create a new life when the going was tougher than any of us ever imagined.

But, I sent everyone to school, to press forward in their lives and with their responsibilities despite the challenging circumstances–and I went to work, too, awaiting word of the sentencing outcome. Looking back, I think I worked all day under an inordinate amount of stress. I don’t think I even realized the stress I was operating under until I got a phone call near the end of the day. A Colorado friend was calling to report the outcome of my former spouse’s sentencing hearing for operating a Ponzi scheme/stealing over $20 million.

I anticipated, based on the last collect call I received from my former spouse, that the hearing would take two hours. Instead, more than eight hours later my friend called, crying, to report the maximum sentence had been handed down in a courtroom whose atmosphere was so tense and hateful she felt sick to her stomach.

I don’t know what more I can say about the importance of choosing to heal instead of hate, but I love what Martin Luther King Jr. said: “Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else? The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.” (Martin Luther King, Jr.) He was absolutely right.

So as my friend recounted the events of the day, I really only heard a few words: The maximum, 12 1/2 years.

How was I going to tell my children?

I don’t know what I wanted the outcome to be; I don’t know what I expected. I have only prayed that I will be o.k. with whatever the judge decides and that somehow, I will be able to help my children be o.k. with it too. But to hear the words, “151 months,” “12 1/2 years” shocked me. It sent me into a very unprofessional, uncontrollable crying-in-the-workplace episode; the likes of which I never expected or imagined.

My poor co-workers. I’ve held it together for over a year. I’ve never done anything like that in public that I can recall. But today was so unexpected. The unstoppable wail of a woman in shock, broken-hearted, traumatized by the senseless destruction and tragedy unleashed on so many by the terrible choices of one man. The grief of a mother knowing the next time her teenage son saw his father that son would be almost 30 years old. The cry of a single mother trying to hold her little family together, knowing she had be the one to share the bad news and see pain in a little boy’s eyes, again, when he learned the fate of his father.

If I ever think I’m having a bad day…remind me of March 18, 2009, or September 14, 2010.

Shaking, somehow I managed to drive all the way home, bawling, and tried to pull myself together enough to face my children. To break their hearts one more time. I’ll never forget the dread I felt as I pulled up to my home, knowing what I had to go inside and do. Break my children’s hearts.

I spoke with my daughter first. I told her the outcome and she accepted it calmly, with grace and dignity (unlike her mother.)

I sat my 10-year-old down and prepared him for the news. He was happy and smiling until that moment then a serious expression came to his face as I shared the events of the day. Instead of the devastation I anticipated, he chose to look at the bright side, “Well, if he has already served 13 months, and he gets time off for good behavior, he’ll be free to see us when I’m only in college! That’s not so bad!”

Stoic and optimistic. All on his own. I could not have been more proud of him than I was in that moment. And despite the terrible struggle coming to terms with his father’s choices has been for him, I was amazed at how my sweet son has grown over the past 18 months. If I can only help him realize that if he will choose to handle all of the setbacks that come his way like today’s, he is destined for greatness–regardless of, or perhaps because of, his adversity.

My oldest son got the news on his phone before he even got home. When I sat him down to tell him, he already knew. Everything was what he had expected, and he is to the point in his life where he is actually grateful for all that he has learned as a result of all that he has passed through. He can see how he has been blessed as a result of his trials, so he tried to laugh about it–revealing he and his sister had placed bets on the outcome and he had gotten out of doing the dishes this week!

I guess everyone deals with shock, grief and trauma in their own way. Who’s to say which way is right or wrong? Certainly not me. But as one co-worker encouraged when I was in the throes of my unexpected reaction and trying to apologize for it, “I’d worry about you if you didn’t react.”

Note to self: one “secret” to the unexpected life is to let yourself feel so you can heal. (Just remember: no wallowing!)

We did that yesterday, each of us in our own way, and as I sent my children to bed each had a smile on their face, which brought one to mine. We’ve survived another unexpected development in our unexpected life…and we came out grinning.

“It’s easy to grin when your ships come in and you’ve got the stock market beat, but the man worth while is the man who can smile when his pants are too tight in the seat.”

We’re going to be o.k.

And now, back to the chick-flick portion of my unexpected life. What’s coming just might be worthy of a grin, too.

It’s Time

It’s time. The two words Bachelor #5 (and many of the rest of you) have been waiting to hear. So today, I write them. But not about what you may think. (Sorry!)

The “chick flick” portion of my unexpected life has come to a screeching halt this day. I now put my story on hold because it IS time…for something else. It’s time for the sentencing of my former spouse.

September 14, 2010.

Just four days short of 18 months since the day my unexpected life began due to the revelation of His fraudulent business dealings, Ponzi scheme and crimes. On that day He revealed everything to me, March 18, 2009, and told me He had already turned himself in to the government and our church authorities and that He anticipated being charged for what He had done within 7-10 days, and taken into custody to begin serving a prison sentence less than 30 days from that day. But things never seem to happen how you plan or expect them to, especially in crime. Especially in life.

Instead, He was free to “come and go” (which drove the neighbor victims crazy, but what can I say? There is a lot to not understand about crime, other than it is wrong!) and take care of what He could, wrapping up the details of His former life for several months as He prepared for a new one: prison inmate.

In the meantime, the divorce I filed for became final and my children and I moved to Utah and began living our new life.

Late August 2009 He was taken into custody to await His sentencing and has been residing in Jefferson County Jail in Golden, CO, for over one year. And unexpectedly, it is suddenly, finally, here.

He doesn’t know the time of the sentencing hearing. He anticipates He will be awakened at 3 a.m. and taken to a holding cell by 3:15 a.m. to await transportation to His hearing. He will spend time in the holding cell with many other men who have broken the law, all confined in one little space, waiting to be shackled and transported to the courtrooms in which judges will decide how long the next phase of their lives, incarceration, will be.

I can’t imagine being in a place like that, surrounded by people who have done all manner of reprehensible things. I am actually terrified at the thought, so when He called me collect for one final conversation prior to the sentencing I asked Him, “What will you do while you wait in the holding cell? Do you keep your head down and try not to draw attention to yourself?” (It was my best guess, based on the Hollywood movies and t.v. shows I’ve seen.)

He said, “No, I’ll probably try to get some sleep.”

He offered one last apology regarding the choices He made and the things He did with His life which thrust my children and I into consequences and a life we did nothing to earn. It was one last opportunity for Him to express His sorrow and remorse for His choices and He reiterated to me, again, His desire and willingness to do anything He could to help me and to do what is best for our children, whatever I feel that may be. And as usual, I have no response to that. I honestly don’t know what is best.

I’m just Andrea from Colorado, who never bargained for any part of my unexpected life. I never imagined a situation like the one that has become mine. I simply seek inspiration at every turn, guidance to know what to do, and attempt to remain patient and take the high road at every opportunity, hoping and praying I’ll be blessed as to how to best help my children when they, and I, need it most.

Life truly brings unexpected experiences. I certainly never expected having a conversation like that with anyone. And I never expected my former husband, who always had to have just the right mattress and the perfect pillow, on the highest quality of sheets, in a perfectly dark, cool and quiet environment to even begin thinking about going to sleep for the 20 years I knew him…to sleep in a holding cell, surrounded by criminals, while awaiting transportation to His sentencing.

After the hearing, He will return to a holding cell, waiting to be shackled and transported back to the jail until He is transported to the facility in which He will serve the remainder of his sentence.

Meanwhile, my children will go to school in Utah this day and try to focus on their school work rather than worry or wonder about what is taking place in a courtroom in Denver, CO. And I will be at work, attempting to focus on my projects and deadlines, preparing myself to help my children accept and adjust to the outcome when I get home.

The media once reported the maximum sentence for His crimes was 20 years. I’ve heard people speculate He’ll receive a 10-12 year sentence. Others anticipate 5 years. So we wait for word of the duration of His sentence, although at this point, no one knows what it will be.

A few of my children keep asking, “How long will He serve?” (I can’t comprehend being a child and having to ask a question like that.) And what do I say–20 years, so that anything less will seem “short” and be a relief? Or do I minimize it and risk devastating them should the outcome be longer than my guess? And it’s all a total guess for my part,because I am not His wife nor am I considered by the government or anyone else to be a “victim,” so I receive no word of communication from anyone regarding any part of His case.)

All I can do is tell my children the truth. I honestly don’t know. I only know this: “If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through,” (Chinese Proverb) the unexpected events that comprise Life.

A Phone Call

She thought it would be a fun joke for us to call our mutual friend together.

In some ways it would have been, but due to the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by my former spouse, I was scared to call. Although he hadn’t been a victim, my friend’s husband was one person my ex-husband had specifically mentioned to me as being unfriendly toward him after his crimes were revealed. I wasn’t sure how a phone call from Andrea Merriman would be received. But I didn’t want to get into all of that my first meeting with my birth mother!

So I made the call. I figured if the husband hung up on me, THEN would be the time to explain. And wouldn’t you know it? Just my luck. The husband answered the phone when I called.

He isn’t a mean man, just gruff, and I am sure a phone call from me was the last thing he imagined for himself that night. He asked me my name a couple of times. When he finally realized it was Andrea Merriman, he said simply, “What do you want?” I asked if I could speak to his wife.

She got on the phone and asked me if everything was all right. We hadn’t communicated for awhile. I told her I didn’t need anything, I was just calling to let her know I’d met an old friend of hers and gave the phone to my birth mother.

They had QUITE a chat. Old friends catching up on their lives in the most unexpected of ways!

The rest of the evening consisted of things you’d expect when reuniting with the mother who gave you life. I showed her pictures of my childhood and life, she showed me pictures of her children. I met one of her five children (and I really liked him.) She told me everything she could remember about my birth father, I told her about my children and divorce and new life; we enjoyed a very comfortable visit.

But at the top of my list of interesting things about our first meeting was the fact that my Colorado friend, a friend of mine since approximately 1994, had not only known my birth mother but had been her best friend and college roommate!

Have I ever said it’s a SMALL world? Because I really believe it is!

I Interrupt This Blog

To anyone who grew up in the 1970s-1980s: Do you remember those tests of the emergency broadcast system?

Right in the middle of a good song on the radio, or a fun television show, the song would silence or the screen would switch to a rainbow of colors and that irritating beeping noise would fill the air! It lasted forever, it seemed (to me) and then the voice would conclude the whole ordeal by thanking you for your participation. (Like we had a choice!) Then the song or t.v. show would return.

I didn’t enjoy those tests. So I apologize in advance, but I have to do the same thing to my blog.

Get ready!


I interrupt this blog for a very important announcement!

My blog is a bit behind the “real time” of my life. I’m trying to catch up as quickly as I can to the present day. However, something very unexpected happened recently and I can’t not share it.

Last weekend I was at a Sunday evening singles meeting. I was asked to play the organ. Over the pulpit, the man conducting the meeting thanked Andrea Merriman for helping with the music. After the program was over, as I sat waiting for the crowd to disperse so I could leave, a woman approached. She walked toward me with a huge smile and said, “Andrea Merriman!”

I looked at her, trying to place her face. She seemed very nice, but not at all familiar. My first thought was, “This person knows me! Did I grow up with her and I just don’t recognize her? Is she a friend-of-a-friend I’ve met and I can’t remember?”

But before I could place her, she clarified, “Are you Andrea Merriman of…The Blog?”

I admitted my connection to, she smiled and said, “I knew it! When they announced your name I wondered if it was you, so I had to come and meet you! I love you!” She put her arms around me and hugged me. An instant friend.

Because of a blog.

She could not have been friendlier or nicer. She gave me her name and contact information and told me we are going to do something social, as friends. I can’t believe it! It has been a long time since I’ve been invited to do something with a girl friend!

I met a new friend!

After our encounter I realized a couple of things.

First, what an amazing world blogging is! How grateful I am for the connections we make through them. To stay in touch with friends, get back in touch with old friends, and even to connect with new friends we haven’t met yet is an astounding bonus of blogging I’d never imagined.

Second, for what seems like the first time since my unexpected life began, someone said my name, Andrea Merriman. And I didn’t wince, cringe in fear, feel sick to my stomach, or want to hide! It hit me after my new friend left that I’d “forgotten” to feel afraid when someone said my name.

Somehow, I’ve been able to let go of that part of Andrea Merriman. The part I was so ashamed of for far too long as I was thrust into my unexpected life. I don’t know how, all I know is it’s gone.

The healing power of blogging is something I never expected. I guess it has been my self-therapy. Maybe putting myself out there on my terms, instead of the media, Ponzi scheme victims and hostile former clients of Shawn Merriman doing it for me, has something to do with it. (Not that they don’t have a right to be angry, I’ve just never understood their passion for persecuting me because of the actions of someone else.)

So whatever the reason, all I know is that I forgot to be afraid to be recognized. I didn’t even think to be.

I am back to the old me, the original me–Andrea Merriman.

Ironic, that they’re both spelled the same yet the feelings they engender within me are so dramatically different.

So, sorry for the interruption. Thank you for your patience. I just HAD to share that I met a blog reader! In person! A new friend!

Very unexpected.

But such a thrilling aspect of…the unexpected life!

“Nearly all the best things that came to me in life have been unexpected, unplanned by me.” (Carl Sandburg)

That night, that new friend, is certainly one of them.

Bachelor #14: The Rule Breaker

Bachelor #14 was a nice, normal, successful businessman I met online. He lived several hours away from me. And broke one of his “cardinal rules” to date me: he didn’t drive distances for women or to date them. Yet he drove them for me.

As Katharine Hepburn said, “If you obey all the rules, you miss all the fun.” And as he said, “I can’t believe how many ‘rules’ I’ve broken for you.”

Although we laughed a lot and had a lot of fun, Bachelor #14 isn’t memorable to me because of any particular weird thing he did (he didn’t do any, like I said, he was totally nice and normal!) He is memorable to me because I learned something from him that literally changed my life.

Thank goodness he broke the rules! “If I’d observed all the rules, I’d never have got anywhere.” (Marilyn Monroe)

I have learned a couple of things from certain men I’ve dated. One that stands out in my mind occurred while dating Bachelor #1.

At some point in dating, when things get to a certain “stage,” every man has asked me if I really, truly am “over” my former spouse. They say, “I know you’ve said you are, I know you act like you are, but are you REALLY? How can you be over Him so quickly after being married for 20 years?”

I never know what to say to that, other than the truth: I am over Him. I don’t know why, I don’t know how, I just know that I am. I always assumed it was because the lies, the betrayal, and the deception were so deep, so complete and so thorough (into every aspect of our life, our faith, our friends and family, and his career.) I assumed all of that was what had helped the love die so quickly and the tie fade so fast after I had the rug of my entire existence ripped out from under me in that one fateful moment on that one terrible day: March 18, 2009.

But I learned there was probably more to it than that. Bachelor #1 pointed it out.

He told me I was missing something important. That I’d received a blessing I didn’t even realize. He had known people married only 3-4 years and unable to move on after their divorce. He said I had received a huge blessing that I was able to get over something so huge and to move on so “quickly.” He said it really was a blessing to me.

I believe in counting your blessings, looking for the good, acknowledging the tender mercies you receive each day and living your life with gratitude every day in all things. So I was thankful that although I’d been too clueless to see it, someone else had seen it and pointed it out to me so I could realize it. So I could acknowledge a miracle, a blessing, in my life.

I realized, “When we lose one blessing, another is often most unexpectedly given in its place.” (C.S. Lewis)

That was certainly true for me.

Bachelor #14 taught me something different: “You don’t have to tell your story any more.”

It was a moment for me. An absolute epiphany.

I looked at him in shock. “What? Not tell my story? But how? Everyone always wants to know why you divorced, what dysfunctional tendencies you have that led to something so terrible. I can’t lie!” I said.

Bachelor #14 replied, “I’m not telling you to lie. I’m telling you that you don’t have to tell your story any more to anyone. You don’t have to tell it to the people you date. Of anyone I’ve met, your story really isn’t your story–it isn’t what you did; it’s what someone else did. You did nothing wrong or criminal, you were not involved, it has nothing to do with you other than it completely changed your life and you ended up with a new and different one in Utah. But you don’t have to tell your story to any one any more.”

It was one of those things that had been right in front of me all along, yet I had never seen it! However, as soon as I saw it, it made perfect sense to me and I wondered how I’d never realized it before.

I clarified, “Well, what do I say to people who asked me why I got divorced? Everyone always asks that.”

Bachelor #14 had a good sense of humor. He laughed and said, “There are so many things to choose from in your case, can’t you pick just one?”

That made me laugh. What he said was totally true. There were SO many reasons I got divorced. I seriously could pick just one “little” one from the plethora of reasons I’d had and it would be a big enough reason for any normal person to understand!

Bachelor #14 encouraged, “You CAN do that! Just tell one little reason and the rest is nobody’s business.”

That conversation changed my life.

It allowed me to separate myself from everything my former spouse had done. In that moment, I was able to let it all go. I had known all along my former spouse’s actions weren’t mine, but because I had been married to him, they were a burden I carried to some degree–as I lived each day with the consequences His choices had thrust upon me and as I felt shame not only for knowing someone who had done such terrible things but for having been married to him while he did them.

But in an instant, I wasn’t ashamed any more. I wasn’t humiliated any more. I wasn’t trying to hide any more. I wasn’t worried about living a life of anonymity or about trying to hide who I was and what I had come from.

I was free to be me, and only me, again.

Andrea Merriman.

Why had it taken me so many months to realize that? I’d had good friends who had told me that over and over, but somehow I hadn’t been able to see it or believe it before. But in that moment, I finally did.

Like that old game “Red Light, Green Light” where you take baby steps at first so you don’t get caught by the “it” person, but the closer you get to the end and to winning, your steps get bigger and bigger until the last one or two steps are giant, almost reckless leaps…THAT is what that conversation and the realization it led me to were for me.

Prior to that, I’d felt almost completely healed. Thanks to Bachelor #14, the remaining gap narrowed considerably. In fact, was there even a gap any more?

Things with Bachelor #14 were perfect while it lasted, but it wasn’t meant to be. There were some core values we differed on. So goodbye Bachelor #14, but I’ll never forget you.

“You are remembered for the rules you break.” (Douglas MacArthur)

I’m so grateful he did.