Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

A Good Word

I had the opportunity to attend a speech by Dan Clark at BYU this week. He talked about adversity.

Dan Clark lived through some. He wanted to be a professional athlete and attended college on a football scholarship. He was projected as a number one draft choice for the NFL Oakland Raiders but cracked his 7th vertebra during a tackling drill which ended his football career. Doctors projected a 10% chance of recovery, at best, but after several years he did recover and started speaking to high schools about his recovery. He spoke for Nancy Reagan’s “Just Say No” campaign, has written 21 books, has spoken to thousands of people around the world and has accomplished so much in the years following his “adversity”

Every life will have its share of adversity: affliction, bad break, bummer, burden, calamity, can of worms, catastrophe, challenge, crisis, crunch, difficulty, disaster, distress, downer, drag, evil eye, hard knock, hard time, hardship, hurting, ill fortune, jam, jinx, kiss of death, misery, misfortune, mishap, on the skids, pain in the neck, poison, problem, reverse, sorrow, suffering, the worst, tough luck, tragedy,  trial, trouble (or whatever you want to call it.)

But I’ve come to learn for myself it has a purpose.

“Adversity introduces us to ourselves,” Dan said. So true! You become acquainted with a lot of things during adversity–your true self is one of them. And I believe that if you choose to handle your adversity correctly and make the choice to overcome it, it will be a worthwhile introduction. Because I’ve seen it for myself and have seen it in others, as well, that “you can make setbacks, comebacks.”

“Comeback is a good word, man.” (Mickey Rourke)


New Job

“At one point I took on a new job, and I just didn’t have time to do anything but work.” (Sharon Olds)

Yes, that’s what happened to me, too. But I’ve been at my NEW JOB for 6 weeks now, I’ve settled in and…I’m back.

Change! In the form of…a new job! At Brigham Young University!

It’s really true: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn)


Such a Sappy Mom

“I’m a sappy mom now. I didn’t think I would be. I thought I’d be a cool mom who keeps everything in perspective.” (Katherine Heigl)

Not me! I’m such a sappy mom I had to step away from this blog for almost 3 months to get some perspective! And even when I did return, I couldn’t blog about the reason for my absence the first few posts. What  in the world happened? My oldest left home.

For real.

Yah, sure, he went “away” to college last year (as in lived in the dorms of Brigham Young University so he could have the complete college experience) but I live 20 minutes away and could drive by his dorm and look at the window of the room he lived in whenever I wanted, talk to him on the phone, text, help with his laundry, see and feed him once each week at Sunday dinner and ask him for help when I needed him. All of which I did.

But no more. And now that the Band-Aid of his departure has been ripped off what seemed like emotional millimeter after emotional millimeter, and my heart has had 3 months to heal, I’m ready to talk about it. Or at least explain why I haven’t been around: my son, Elder Merriman, is serving a two-year Christian mission for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. And although his missionary service is something I believe in and raised him to do, it didn’t make it any easier for this sappy mother to let him go.

I cried every time I even thought about him leaving. Even the day before he left when we were packing up his bedroom and had one of our infamous and impromptu dance parties, I broke with tradition and bawled while busting my finest moves, the memory of which had to last two years. My missionary son said, “You’ve got to be kidding me. Don’t EVEN tell  me you’re crying again!” But I was.

Thankfully, I’ve got the sap under control these days. Now I live for Wednesdays, the one day each week when Elder Merriman is able to take time out of his busy missionary labors to contact home and let us know what he’s been up to during his current assignment in the Canary Islands. Every week’s report is filled with a new adventure, fun fact of information I didn’t know before, or a growing experience; I’m so grateful he is where he is, doing what he is doing. (I just don’t think about the fact that last time I saw him in person was June 20, 2012 and the next time I’ll see him, in person, will be some time in June 2014! I don’t need THAT MUCH reality or perspective! Lol.)

What a privilege has been mine to to be a mother. What a joy that son, now Elder Merriman, has been every day of his life. (Despite a few moments isolated moments in 7th grade during his long hair and “skater” phase where his, or my, behavior may have given the illusion of something to the contrary! Lol.)

Love your kids.

And if you have a child, and if you have the good fortune to see them in person or to be with them today, give them a hug. From you, their mother…and from me.

“Son, you outgrew my lap, but never my heart.” (Unknown)







Speech: Your Happily Ever After

I had the opportunity to speak at a women’s meeting for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ephraim, Utah this week. I was asked to speak on “Your Happily Ever After.” Here are excepts from what I said.

“I was raised on fairy tales: Cinderella, The Goose Girl, Snow White and Rose Red, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast, The Seven Ravens, The Little Tin Soldier, The Emperor’s Nightingale and others.

Every fairy tale began with the words “Once upon a time.” Each one detailed the life of the heroine—which always included extreme adversity. And somehow, despite every hardship and challenge the heroines endured, they were obedient; they were kind to others; they performed their labors with a smile; and while every heroine in the illustrations was always beautiful on the outside they also each demonstrated their true beauty, their inner beauty, as they humbly accepted their unjust circumstances and the wicked treatment of other characters in the story and endured to the end, eventually, enjoying a “happily ever after.”

Fairy tales are and always have been absolutely believable to me. My mom, grandmother, female ancestors and other noble women have all lived them: life stories filled with ups and downs, adversities and triumphs, and in the end, a happily ever after. Doesn’t every woman do that? I believe we do when we endure to the end of challenging plot developments in faith, although each of our stories are in various stages of completion and many chapters have yet to be written.

Now you know my background and what I believed in when I was handed my own, but unexpected, “once upon a time” opportunity: a story of adventure, overwhelming darkness, evil, obstacles, injustice, courage, hope, tender mercies, miracles, overcoming, romance, eventually everlasting love and, of course, a “happily ever after!”

My once upon a time began when I was born to goodly parents. Later I graduated from Brigham Young University, married and enjoyed a happy marriage for the next 20 years, had 4 children, served in our church and community and enjoyed many material blessings as well—a comfortable home, a swimming pool, a Sport Court, luxury cars, a second home in Yellowstone, a world-class art collection that was loaned to museums around the world, world travel and financial means. (Over the years, I’d watched our investments and savings grow to well over $10 million dollars. I thought I was on track for, and living, the happily ever after of my life.)

And then our life, marriage, family, world, everything, ended in one moment when my husband sat me down and confessed that his company was a sham. That in reality, all those years I’d thought he’d been going to work every day and running an investment company, he had actually been perpetuating a Ponzi scheme. He’d already hired an attorney, turned himself in to the government and to church leaders, and anticipated serving 5-7 years in prison. Our house, cars and assets were gone; I was left alone, the sole parent and support of our four children; and my parents were dead.

To this day I can imagine very few storylines worse than the one that was written in to mine! (I even had a friend whose young husband was dying of cancer tell me she’d take her life over mine any day! And sadly, I would have, too.) Oh, and on top of everything else, he told me I’d need an attorney even though I’d done nothing wrong and how sorry he was that he’d maxed out the last of our credit cards paying for his attorney!

I can’t adequately describe the despair, the darkness, the shock, the grief, the fear and the humiliation associated with my nightmare—I mean fairy tale. As an added bonus, my husband’s victims included neighbors, friends, family members as well as my closest lifelong friends, and the shock and rage at my husband and what he had done was extended to my children and me, but especially to me. The hatred was indescribable.

My world collapsed, my marriage ended and it all played out on national television and in newspapers nationwide. The stress was so great it led to what I like to call the felony diet—7 pounds GONE that first day! But the worst was facing my children and witnessing the destruction of their world, their childhood innocence and their fairy tale lives go up in flames (or out the door, courtesy of the U.S. Marshalls.) Shortly after my husband’s revelations, I saw my 9-year-old writing on a piece a paper: “There’s a hole where my heart used to be. My dad is going to prison.”

We lost anything, everything and more that had been paid for with tainted funds; we lost everything of worldly value. It’s hard to describe what it’s like to be thrown into a fairy tale like that. Everything I’d worked toward and built my entire adult life was gone. I didn’t know how I was going to live, to feed my children or survive. I didn’t know what was ahead.

I’ve been asked to get personal with you regarding my experience so I thought I’d share the first person account of what I lived through, a few of my journal entries, written in those dark days—mingled with the things I learned and the principles I tried to live by.

1. As you’re writing your life story never forget that the story may develop in ways you never expected, you may get to live some very unwanted chapters, but that doesn’t have to change the end of your story—or that you’re expected to get there anyway.

Right and wrong don’t change just because your life does. Don’t let yourself make excuses for doing or not doing certain things just because things have become “harder.” And contrary to what I was tempted to believe when I was thrust into my fairy tale opportunity, life doesn’t end just because your world does. You have to keep living. You have to keep striving for happiness and joy in it too, you just may have to get a little more creative or work a little harder to make your life is one of equal happiness and joy to the one you lost! Make sure you’re doing everything you can to triumph, keep on keeping on, let go of anger/resentment/fear, and in the end, you’ll become more than you ever thought possible.

2. No matter what you think you’ve lost, you are still left with something you just may have to look really hard to find it! Count your blessings despite your trials. Look for the good.

“I found out today there will be notices on our home that it’s seized by the government. Embarrassing? Maybe, but I’m counting my blessings that at least it’s a roof over our heads for a little while longer.”

 “I realized today that while my husband has received hate mail from all across the country, I haven’t received one piece! Nasty comments in the public forum, public speculation, vilification by many but no hate mail! Each week I receive a few letters of love and support and good wishes from people, but I haven’t gotten a single piece of hate mail. THAT is a tender mercy. THAT is a blessing. Count your many blessings!”

Some days the only “blessing” I could see was that for some reason, I was still breathing. That’s ok if that’s all you can find to be grateful for.

3. As you’re enduring your fairy tale, keep walking. Keep pressing forward. Don’t quit.

 Years ago, I read a story about a pioneer man who lost his wife crossing the plains, buried her and by that night had lost his infant son as well. He walked back to his wife’s grave, dug her up, buried the baby with her, then returned to the wagon train. He quit writing in his journal for awhile, but when he picked up again, he wrote only, “Still walking.”

“Like that pioneer man who quit writing in his journal for awhile during his adversities, I guess that is me. I haven’t had the time or energy or opportunity to write about my life lately. I haven’t been able to face what is now my life. And I’m not sure why it is my life. I know I shouldn’t ask why, but I am so alone and discouraged I literally can’t hold myself back. I am filled with grief for the many, many things I have lost. And I am so lonely. What did I ever do to deserve any of this besides love and trust my husband—which, I’m told that’s what you’re supposed to do in marriage. I feel so much grief I can’t express it. I hope I can get over it. I hope I can keep going. I hope. I hope. I hope. I guess I do hope, because if I didn’t, I wouldn’t keep trying every day.”

Keep walking.

4. Realize how you react to adversity is a critical factor in whether or not you arrive at your own “happily ever after.” It’s up to us to make of our life and experiences what we will.

Dieter F. Uchtdorf taught: “You need to know that you will experience your own adversity. None is exempt. You will learn for yourself what every heroine has learned: through overcoming challenges come growth and strength. It is your reaction to adversity, not the adversity itself, that determines how your life’s story will develop.”

 “Winston Churchill said ‘to every man [and woman] there comes…that special moment when they are figuratively tapped on the shoulder and offered the chance to do a special thing unique to them…what a tragedy if that moment finds them unprepared or unqualified for that which could have been their finest hour.’ It hit me as I read that that I have an opportunity to let this time be my finest hour. It is a critical time. As daunting as it seems, I MUST make this time my finest hour. I don’t know what the future holds, but I have faith. I know there will be one.”

 “It’s taking all of my faith and trust to hope the kids and I don’t end up homeless, on the street, living in a cardboard box. My heart ached all day yesterday and I didn’t know if it’s because my heart is broken or because I was having a heart attack! I’m being dealt so many injustices and there will never be any restitution to me for any of it. I guess I am the one who will just have to let go of it, forgive and go on. I have only one goal: to not hate. Ok, I have two goals: to be cheerful, happy and optimistic again somehow.”

Be of good courage. One day I came across the theme for my new life: “If you can’t jump over life’s hurdles, LIMBO under them!”

It’s all in what you choose to do with it. You can let your trials “ruin” your lives and become an excuse for every future challenge or failure you’ll have; or you can hang in there, get through them, and figure out how to use them for your good, to make you better, and you can learn to smile in spite of them.

5. Remember that your situation never ends up as bed, in the end, as you imagine it’s going to. Things are never quite as bad as they seem. Have patience until things settle. (That was true even for me!)

Jeffrey Holland, president of Brigham Young University when I attended college encouraged: “Every one of us has times when we need to know things will get better. On those days when we have special need… remember there is help. There IS happiness. There really IS light at the end of the tunnel. Hold on. Keep trying. Things will improve…Even if you cannot always see that silver lining on your clouds, God can.“

It is another day of not being able to comprehend how I’ll make it through another day, but I have no choice. I have to try. Each time I think I am healing, or that maybe we can make it, or that everything will be ok, each time I start to feel even a tiny shade of peace or confidence, something HUGE happens to suck me right back in to the black hole I have been trying to crawl out of since March 18. I don’t believe God caused this calamity to come upon us, my husband did; but it doesn’t mean I don’t get to experience it, it means only that the Lord knew I was strong enough to handle this. It means God knows we can survive it if we choose to. It also means that we have to wade through the most incredible garbage I have ever seen! And I also have to hope it means things will, someday, get better.”

 6. Recognize your challenges are opportunities for growth.

I couldn’t help but laugh at the encouragement from my church leaders regarding tribulation at our recent conference. They always mention economic challenge OR job challenge OR family challenge OR marital challenge OR disappointment OR broken heart, etc…but they haven’t mentioned all of them together at the same time, and THAT is me! (If you add hatred and persecution from neighbors, friends, and many church members; orphaned and without parents; prison, crimes, divorce and everything else with it too!) HOW did I get so blessed? I have been given so many unimaginable opportunities for growth and all at the same time. Lucky me. I hope I can do it.”

You can do it. I did. I’m living proof.

7. Have a sense of humor during the hard chapters of your fairy tale. I firmly believe a sense of humor helps you get through challenges.

 “In church today the teacher asked us to think of our 5 most valuable material possessions. Hmmm. I don’t have any anymore! I had nothing to think of. That struck me so funny I laughed. I always thought ‘you can’t take it with you’ applied to death, but it applies to 41-year-old, alive me!

Another funny thing:  Today my daughter told me I need to get married to a good man so I’m not alone. I told her I won’t marry again because I am an ‘old bag.’ She helpfully said, “Mom! Botox!” (No disagreement on her end that her mother is a disgusting and old ugly ‘bag’, just a helpful suggestion to me on how to overcome it! P.S. to My Daughter: No shelter, no food, no job, no everything also means Botox IS NOT an option!)”

8. Realize that no matter what develops in your life your dreams can still come true—you just might get to them differently than you expected.

 “My high school son dreamed his entire life of playing hockey at the college level. But then our life happened, we moved to Utah, we are literally in the depths of poverty—short of the needed money for our expenses each month—and initially thought every dream had been taken from us. And then today my son was asked, as a high school student, if he had any interest in practicing with the BYU team. Does he? It’s amazing, this experience called life; how things work out for us, and how the Lord moves in mysterious ways and truly can make all things work together for our good. When our world ended, I thought every dream we’d ever had was gone too. Yet, because of my ex-husband’s crimes and the way things worked out for us, we ended up in Utah, right where we are, and my son is probably in a better position now to make his college hockey dream come true than he ever would have been living what we thought was our fairy tale life in Colorado. It proves once again that you can lose your entire life, be gifted a cesspool, and you can still grow flowers out of the manure someone else created for you. That is why you never quit, you never give up, you keep pressing forward, you keep doing what is right and living as excellently as you can, and eventually, you create out of your new life all of the good things you were aiming for in your old one. You arrive at the same happily ever after, you just end up taking a different path to get there.”

Long story short, we survived our losses, my divorce, our move to Utah and everything else which eventually led to a total lapse of sanity on my part resulting in me, on a whim late one Friday night, signing up online for a single’s site; which led me to me re-entering the singles scene!

I wish I could report associations with many handsome princes—and there were a few of those—but the reality consisted of a LOT more frogs! (No disrespect to any men intended.) But I eventually (in fact, a lot quicker than I expected) I found a prince! We married in 2011 and recently celebrated our first wedding anniversary.

 9. Lastly, remember every single life lesson will be worth it.

My 2011 marriage was one of the greatest moments of my life. All I could think was, “This is absolutely perfect. It was worth everything I went through to get here.” I was actually grateful for everything that had happened to me. Not only because of what I learned, but because my experience, MY LOSS, looking back on it, actually freed me.

My unexpected life freed me to find and receive what I’d always wanted, what I’d always thought I had but really hadn’t had—a true happily ever after with a wonderful man.  And not that every story has to end with a handsome prince; but mine did! And I’m so grateful.

“Life is a precious gift as precious a gift as ‘once upon a time.’ It’s our own true story of adventure, trial, opportunity for greatness, nobility, courage and love. But happily ever after doesn’t come without a price. Sandwiched between ‘once upon a time’ and ‘happily ever after is great adversity. In stories as in life, adversity teaches us things we cannot learn otherwise. Adversity helps develop a depth of character that comes no other way. Your own wondrous story has already begun. Your once upon a time is now.” (Dieter Uchtdorf)

If you remember nothing else from my remarks tonight, please remember this:

 Happily ever after is not something found only in fairy tales. You can have it. It is available to you. I am living proof—of that and that by seeking to not just endure but triumph in adversity, our challenges can make us better than we would otherwise have been. So keep living, reading and writing your own story with faith and courage regardless of the plot developments, creating your own happily ever after, until the day that you really do experience this phrase again: ‘And they lived happily ever after.’”


Some Kind of Husband

“A woman’s place in public is to sit beside her husband, be silent, and be sure her hat is on straight.” (Bess Truman)

Yes; sure. That’s exactly the type of woman I am and exactly what I do in public…when I’m not giving a speech, that is!

The day of my BYU speech it dawned on me that I was going it alone. My husband had the day off and hadn’t even asked about my little collegiate adventure! A few hours before the speech, I mentioned that to him. He replied, “Andrea, you haven’t said so much as a word about it to me. The only thing I know is that it’s today—and the only reason I even know that is because I dragged that out of you. I’m happy to come, if you want me to.”

Suddenly, I wanted him to be there. I’d never given it much thought prior to that moment; actually, I’d never even thought to consider it. But all of a sudden I thought he should be there, for some reason. For me. That’s not to say I wasn’t torn about my desire, however. We didn’t discuss this aspect of it, but here’s the honest truth: I absolutely would not want to sit and listen to my husband speak about his previous life, ex-wife or their experiences yet there I was, wanting him to support me when I spoke about mine! (All right. Go ahead and say what I’m sure you’re all thinking: what a rotten wife. Yes, I am. But what a great husband. Yes, he is.)

He rearranged whatever he’d planned on his day off to be there for me. He sat in the back of the auditorium and met me afterward. He told me I did a good job. And then he finally said the unspoken as he shook his head and joked, “Although what kind of husband am I to sit there and hear stories about your old life, see all those family pictures, and everything else about your first marriage. That was fun.” (Or something like that.)

Yes, I bet it was fun. (NOT!) I don’t know that I could be as calm or as kind about it if our situations were reversed. But let me take a moment to answer his question right now, so there is no doubt.

What kind of husband is he? The best kind.

“Strike an average between what a woman thinks of her husband a month before she marries him and what she thinks of him a year afterward, and you will have the truth about him.” (H.L. Mencken)

The truth is, I thought he was amazing a month before I married him. After I married him, I knew it. And in the year since our marriage, he has demonstrated it over and over again. Lucky me.

It’s my unexpected life. Married to SOME KIND of husband!

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)

No Sissy

I would like to make an announcement. To the fans packed in the stands of the BYU versus University of Utah hockey game February 2012. To all of the yahoos who stood there cheering and jeering, taunting my son as he lay injured on the ice and who led me to demonstrate my finest moment. (Not!)

Here it is: My son is no sissy.

He skated off the ice (with help from his teammates) that night…and three days later had surgery requiring the permanent installation of two metal plates and 13 screws to repair his BROKEN LEG…in addition to two pins to repair his BROKEN ANKLE!

“I didn’t want to be the sissy figure skater, you know.” (Scott Hamilton)

Trust me, he’s not.

“Usually when I wielded a hockey stick, it meant somebody was going to get hurt…” (Stan Mikita)

No kidding.


“Accidents will happen in the best regulated families.” (John Dos Passos)

So we finally knew where my son was headed for the next two years. I even made the mistake of thinking that was all the excitement we were going to have for at least the next…oh I don’t know…two to three months until my son departed for his mission. But it turns out, I was wrong. The unexpected life!

Not three days later, at the final BYU hockey game of the season, in the last six minutes of the game, my son went down. And he didn’t get up. I KNEW instantly something was wrong. But it seemed like everyone else was operating in slow motion! WARNING: Here comes the part where I look like the lunatic hockey mom that, apparently, I am.

I ran down to the box where his coach was standing. I tapped him on the shoulder, he calmly looked at me and I said, “My son is hurt! You need to send someone to help him, now! He’s not up because he can’t get up!” Slowly some teammates and the refs began heading over. (Meanwhile, I am in total panic mode. Trying every which way to figure out how to get down to the ice. I was such a maniac, I probably would have gone right on to the ice if I’d been able to figure out how—or if I’d thought I had the strength to climb over the glass wall dividing the crowd from the players!)

I finally saw a door that led to the ice but the opposing team’s fans were in the way. And they wouldn’t move. They couldn’t, they were too busy taunting my son, yelling things like, “What’s a matter, sissy? Get up off the ice, you big baby!” and other lovely comments to a college athlete, injured. (By the way, WHO does that? WHO EVER sees someone hurt and stands there and taunts them?) So there I am, in a total panic over a son who rises up after everything; I knew something was really wrong for him to lay there, unmoving. I knew he was supposed to be heading to Spain in a few months but was now hurt. I see a door and I can’t get to it. People are yelling terrible things to the young man down. And I lost it.

I’ve never been the type of person to confront people, especially strangers. I can think of two times in my entire life I’ve said something: once in the wake of the Ponzi scheme revelations, to a neighbor I caught photographing my three year old as he played outside as well as whatever he could capture on film through our open garage door and I asked, “What are you doing?” (I tell you, I don’t confront people!) And another time when someone was rude to my oldest son when he was a boy scout.

I was like a completely different person that night. I don’t know what happened! Total Jekyll and Hyde. Not my finest moment! I turned to the most vocal, nastiest of the group blocking my path and said something like, “Shut your mouth! (I’ve never told someone to shut up, I don’t allow my children to either. It’s the “s” word at our house!) Hockey is rough and players DO occasionally get hurt! If you had half the guts or any of the talent that player has, you’d be out there on the ice playing, yourself, rather than standing there like an idiot, ridiculing an injured human being! Shut up!” And with that, I pushed my way through the crowd and got to the door that led to the ice.

Only the door was blocked by six college men, student fans of the opposing team, who were calling their share of taunts and jeers as well. I looked behind me and saw my two youngest sons, both standing there with tears streaming down their faces, worried to death about their brother who still hadn’t gotten up from the ice. I wanted to deck someone. For a brief instant, I may have even considered it—but quickly decided a mother in jail for assault and a father in prison for a Ponzi scheme would not be a good thing for my younger children. Lol. So, instead, I lost it (verbally) again. I turned to the student standing closest to me and said, “Shut up! (I can’t believe it! The dreaded “s” word again!) What do you think you are doing? Do you see those two little boys standing there with tears streaming down their checks because of the things you and others are saying about their brother? And while you’re at it, you better tell your friends to quiet down, too, or I will!”

That poor young man. He looked at me, stunned, and stammered, “I’m sorry, I didn’t mean to say anything,” and he turned to his group of friends, told them all to stop yelling and they did! I was ready to pounce (although I refrained!) but maybe they could see that; I felt like a lion in a cage, pacing, every instinct on high alert. I have to give those young men credit. Not only did they quiet down, when my son came off the ice through the door next to them, that group of young men clapped for him, offered words of encouragement and acted completely differently than they had prior to our little conversation!

My son looked at me and said, “My ankle’s broken.” Never good words to hear, especially on a holiday weekend; when you’re a college student traipsing around on a big college campus; and when you’re supposed to be leaving the country for two years in just a few months. I followed him in to the locker room. My son had played ice hockey almost his entire childhood without a single injury, despite the fact that many teammates broke legs and other bones every year. I guess it was our turn, but it couldn’t have happened at a more inconvenient time. (But really, is there ever a convenient time for an injury?)

“What’s done is done.” (William Shakespeare)

Sounding Like Antonio Banderas

“I like going everywhere. And I love starting new things.” (Antonio Banderas)

I arrived home, fighting traffic all the way, having left work later than usual and during the drive discovering not only was a crowd arriving at my house in less than 2 hours (and it was a mess) but that my husband had invited all of his children for dinner to celebrate—I hadn’t even planned on cooking or eating dinner that night due to the new developments taking place in just over one hour. Lets just say I was suddenly a LITTLE stressed out!

Thankfully, my husband took care of dinner. I straightened the house, casting a few anxious stares in the direction of THE envelope on my bed (placed there for safekeeping, we have a busy kindergartener who gets into all kinds of things unexpectedly.) I couldn’t quit sneaking glances at the envelope that contained my son’s mission call. I wasn’t in the mood for anything but opening that envelope. But mostly I tried to figure out where the past almost 19 years have gone. It seems like I alternated between laying on my bed and crying in my bathroom. I NEVER expected to be doing that relative to a mission call!

But all I could see or think about was the moment my son had been born, the moment the doctor had placed him on my chest, the moment that he had looked into my eyes and stopped fussing as I caressed his fuzzy, blonde head, and smiled at him for the first time. I felt like all of my dreams had come true in that 1993 moment. I have absolutely loved being his mother. He is a great kid and I get such a kick out of him and enjoy him, a part of me (unexpectedly) suddenly didn’t want him to go on a mission! (Well, I wanted him to go, I guess. I just didn’t know how I’d bear his absence for two long years!) I just kept thinking, “Where did the years go? How did this moment arrive so fast?”

I heard activity downstairs. My son had arrived, the house was filled with company, the only person missing from the activity was the mother. My husband came up and announced, “You’ve got to at least come down and PRETEND to be a hostess, act happy and talk to a few people.” (I hadn’t even told him anything about how I was feeling and what I was thinking and feeling, but maybe he knew. Like I said, he “gets” me.) My only problem? I felt like someone was ripping that little 6 pound 3 ounce baby out of my arms 18 years too soon! But I went downstairs and attempted what my husband suggested.

And then my son picked up the envelope and opened it.

I remember thinking as he tore through the paper that within seconds, I’d know everything: I’d know where he was assigned, when he would be departing to fulfill that assignment and where he would be living, experiencing life (including rejection) and growing for the next two years. (By the way, I had NO idea what to expect. My son had been told to expect a United States assignment, so I was thinking New Jersey or somewhere on the east coast.) And then he read the words aloud that he had been called to serve in…the Spain Madrid mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I certainly never expected his mission call to be to Spain! And despite my worries, the stress I’d felt and everything else, all I remember thinking as I heard those words was, “That is the perfect assignment for him!” I was filled with joy and such a sense of how right Spain was for my son; I was excited for him. And thankfully, I was instantly calm and back to my normal self again.

I hugged my son in celebration. But as soon as I grabbed him, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all that led to that moment—including all of the hard stuff he endured, all that he has risen above, everything our family as been through, how different our life is now compared to what Id always expected our family would be when my son received his mission call, and unexpectedly…the tears began to flow. I hugged him, I cried, and with a house full of people I didn’t dare let go because everyone would know what I was doing and what a crazy mother my son has!

My poor son.

My good son.

I’m sure our hug lasted much longer than he probably wanted it to but he was gracious enough to allow me time to attempt to pull myself together and relish the moment with my almost-grown son…before peeling me off him. Then we had ice cream with the crowd. My son returned to his BYU dorm. And we’re all about Madrid, Spain and the Canary Islands now. Even my kindergartener requests, “Lets watch the movie about Spain again, Mom!”

Just think. In two years, my son is going to return home a man, not to mention sounding like…Antonio Banderas!


A Hero

Sometimes I think the world is in need of heroes—people who inspire us to be better because they are; people who tenaciously endure and overcome overwhelming obstacles and by their example, help us endure our own; people who are shining examples of the goodness and potential for excellence we each have. And then other times, so many times, I see or meet or read about a hero and realize how many good, inspiring people are already out there in the world, quietly living their lives but in the process, doing and accomplishing heroic things.

I have my own personal heroes, of course, and up until today, had been a hero once. That momentous occasion came courtesy of my oldest son. He had been assigned to write an essay about his hero, and for the first time in his life (or mine) had chosen to write about someone other than hockey legend Joe Sakic—me! As a mother, it was one of THOSE moments. Where you get a glimpse of the impact you’ve had in the life of someone you love most in the world. I filed it away in my memories of motherhood and figured I’d had my day in the sun, so the saying goes.

And then it happened a second time, recently. This time, courtesy of my middle son. He was working on a scouting merit badge and was required to interview someone and write an introduction about that person and he chose me. He borrowed my computer to write it, and I stumbled on to it tonight. He began by saying I was one of his heroes. (Can you feel that? His mother’s heart melting?)

“‘A hero is a person who is admired for courage or noble qualities.’ ( Tonight I’m proud to introduce to you one of my heroes, my mom. Not only is she a great mom and a working mom, she has gone through so much in her life that she has even been on the news—and not just because she works with famous people, like Donny Osmond, sometimes!

My talented mom is the manager of communications at her company. She graduated from Brigham Young University and is a talented writer; she writes about the products her company sells and about the famous people who use them; she writes for herself—she has written in a journal since she was 12 years old; and her personal blog has had hundreds of thousands of views.

My mom is a very inspiring speaker too. She has spoken to small groups, church groups, women’s groups, adult groups, university groups, and even groups of 4,000 or more! When she speaks, she shares uplifting messages about life, making a difference in the world for good and about overcoming obstacles to find and create your own happily ever after. When she talks about her life, she speaks with such enthusiasm and is so happy, it doesn’t seem like everything hard she talks about could have ever happened to her.

Here she is…my mom.”

It was fun for me to get a glimpse into my son’s thoughts. I’m grateful for another motherhood moment, a glimpse into the positive impact I’m blessed to be able to have in a life of another of those I love most in the world. I’m grateful for all those who are and have been heroes to me, too. (I’ve even named my children after some of my heroes.) And while I’m at it, I thought I’d share some of my favorite thoughts about heroes:

“A hero is an ordinary individual who finds the strength to persevere and endure in spite of overwhelming obstacles.” (Christopher Reeve)

“A hero is one who knows how to hang on one minute longer.” (Novalis)

“Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times when the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.” (Bob Riley)

“The hero is one who kindles a great light in the world, who sets up blazing torches in the dark streets of life for men to see by.” (Felix Adler)

When I think about heroes or living a heroic life, it seems daunting, not to mention that it would be the life of another to do something huge and great. But we each can do the above things. We each are, and can be, a hero to another. Life almost requires it. So be a hero. Persevere through and overcome your difficult obstacles, hang on a little longer, choose to let the hard times you face reveal the hero within you that you will be a light for the world, lighting the darkness for others to see by.