Living Happily Ever After


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Of Victory, Defeat…and Birthdays

“Time is everything; five minutes make the difference between victory and defeat.” (Horatio Nelson)

I celebrated my birthday yesterday. It was a WONDERFUL day, for many reasons and thanks to so many people. It was a happy day, all day, for me (and my husband, who shares my same birthday.) But then, unexpectedly, there came that moment.

That one moment when I couldn’t help but acknowledge the miracle of having such a wonderful 47th birthday…as I remembered how absolutely terrible turning 42 had been.

That lovely birthday that hit about a month after my extreme life losses and divorce in 2009, amid of a LOT of change, challenge, trauma and turmoil. I felt terrible, I looked awful, and I can’t describe the misery I experienced–feeling like a total failure in my 40s! (I don’t recommend it, haha.)

But I DO recommend hanging in there. Choosing to live anyway, despite your losses, burdens and adversities. Never give up. Get out of bed every day and accomplish something, even if it’s just getting out of bed!

Because time really is everything. And those ensuing minutes (or years, in my case) really do make the difference between defeat and victory. And victory feels so good and is literally, so SWEET.

“Victory is sweetest when you’ve known defeat.” (Malcolm S. Forbes)

Taste it.



The Small-Minded…And Me

“For people who have…had curve balls thrown at them, it is easier to digest change… in other people. Change only scares the small-minded. The small-minded and me.” (Casey Affleck)

I’ll never forget the time I (literally) had a curve ball thrown at me.

My husband had installed a pitching machine and batting cage in our backyard and a friend came over to test it out. Not knowing anything about said equipment, I actually got in the cage WITH HIM to watch him bat. What I also didn’t know was that my husband had cranked the pitch speed from 30 mph to 90 mph.

The machine released the first ball and my friend tipped it…straight into my nose! I’m happy to report it didn’t hurt nearly as much as it sounds like it would, but it was successful in breaking my nose.  My previously pretty decent nose was crooked and had a new bump. And then the debate began: do I fix my nose or not?

I mean, the damage to my septum was done. Straightening my nose wouldn’t fix that. And since I’m pretty much a coward when it comes to undergoing medical (and dental) procedures, I wasn’t sure I wanted to undergo a medical intervention for vanity’s sake–just to have a straight nose the rest of my life–until a friend said this: “We’re getting older. We can’t do anything about that, we can’t stop the wrinkles or gray hair, but a crooked nose is something you CAN do something about. You can fix it. So at least you won’t be looking in the mirror every day at a crooked nose AND wrinkles!” We had a good laugh over her rationale…but I did end up straightening my nose. And one year later, all aches, pain, and tenderness associated with that curve ball had gone.

And then 2009 hit. (Who knew there was a lesson for life in my broken nose?) When I got thrown a VERY UNEXPECTED curve ball as a result of my former husband’s lies, secrets and crimes, there was SO MUCH  I couldn’t fix or do anything about. But I did understand the importance of fixing what I COULD fix. So I got out of bed every single day (even though I sure didn’t want to!) I pasted a smile on my face (although I wasn’t very successful at looking happy, the grief and shock were a little too fresh and huge back then.) I faced every day, and the new and terrible challenges that came daily with a curve ball like that, and eventually, like my nose, things straightened out again and the pain went away.

Call me small-minded, I mean, it’s difficult to embrace change–especially when you don’t choose it or didn’t do anything to “deserve” it. It can be scary. But you can do it. I believe you can triumph over ANY challenge. Fix what you can. And choose a life of happiness and joy. Regardless of the crooked developments, and curve balls, that may temporarily derail your peace and joy.

And live.


And don’t fear.

The unexpected life.






Change Something

“For the past 33 years, I have looked in the mirror every morning and asked myself: ‘If today were the last day of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do today?’ And whenever the answer has been ‘No’ for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something.” (Steve Jobs)

While I’ve always found change a challenge, I have come to an epiphany (finally! after fighting most change that has left me with the desire to kick, scream and wish it all away):

Life is SO interesting because of the very thing that makes it interesting—the unexpected life.

So whether you’re in a “lull” and enjoying days of relative peace and comfort, or if you’re in the midst of a full blown storm of adversity, I’ve learned great growth comes from change. So I’m learning to embrace it a bit more in my own life and find myself the better for it.

Don’t be afraid of it.

Remember, great things come from it. (Just keep telling yourself that as you live and face the challenges of an unexpected life.)

And see what happens in your life as you do.

I’m about to.

Big change is coming to the former Andrea Merriman.

Stay tuned.

Make A Difference

(This post is excerpted from a speech I gave in Las Vegas, Nevada, October 26, 2012 at the Aria Convention Center at a LifeVantage corporate event.)

There have been, and are, many inspiring people in the world. One person from history who inspires me is Leonardo da Vinci, but not just because of of his art. Yes, he is famous for his art, like “The Mona Lisa,” but he was also a scientist and inventor who envisioned many ideas long before the technology existed to build them: solar power, the calculator, weapons of war, motorized vehicles, parachutes and flying machines. Pretty visionary for a man born in the 1400s!

He dreamed big, left the world a better place and said, “I have been impressed with the urgency of doing. Knowing is not enough…being willing is not enough, we must do.” That wasn’t just Leonardo da Vinci’s philosophy, however. I’m fortunate to work for a company that also believes in doing, and changing lives, not just through its products and business opportunity but through its charitable efforts as well. Like da Vinci, we feel the “urgency of doing” and we ARE doing!

For example, earlier this year LifeVantage and its distributor generously supported LifeVantage Legacy (the charitable program of the Company) which resulted in a donation of over $53,000 to Deworm the World and contributed to improving the health, education and quality of life for over 3.7 million children in Bihar, India. That is significant!

Nelson Mandela said, “What counts in life is not there mere fact that we have lived. It is what difference we have made to the lives of others that will determine the significance of the lives we lead.”

I recently met a “modern day” man who inspires me. He’s a graduate of Cambridge and Harvard University and a philanthropist—he credits his involvement in philanthropy to being “completely and utterly rubbish” at operating a remote control. One night, while attempting to turn off his television he accidentally turned to a program featuring a 2-year-old girl who suffered burns over 90% of her body in a house fire. (The only part of her not injured was the wet skin under her diaper.) He felt he had to do something to help the little girl.

So he arranged to swim the distance of the English Channel in a swimming pool with two friends, and ended up with 10,000 people in 75 countries swimming for the little girl! Which made him wonder, “What if I got one million people to swim for something global, medical and nonpolitical—like malaria?” And he ended up with 250,000 people, including Michael Phelps, swimming for malaria. The world’s largest swim for the world’s biggest killer of babies and children under five years old. His name is Rob Mather, he founded the Against Malaria Foundation and he is an inspiring example to me of the power of one.

There’s an African proverb that says, “If you think you’re too small to make a difference, you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito!” We’re never too small, or too insignificant, that we can’t make a difference in the life of someone else.

Never believe that a few caring people can’t change the world. For indeed, that’s all who ever have. (Margaret Mead, cultural anthropologist, 1902-1978)

I’m grateful to all those who have made my life, the lives of others and the world better through their small and simple acts as well as their heroic, global endeavors. And may we each strive to be like them in our own way and make a difference in the lives of others.

One Grand Sweet Song

“Life is one grand, sweet song, so start the music.” (Ronald Reagan)

Last month my husband took me to see Olivia Newton John in concert. Even if I hadn’t loved her music or aspired to be her during my childhood and teenage years (yes, I had the white dress from Xanadu and wore my hair like hers!) that concert was a trip down the memory lane of my childhood and life.

It was also there that something very unexpected happened—and I’m not talking about the Olivia enthusiast next to me who didn’t sit down once during the entire performance, who had what appeared to be choreographed danced routines he performed to every song and who didn’t miss an opportunity to call out “I love you, Olivia!” every time there was a pause or break in singing. (For the sake of my husband’s reputation and honor, I should probably clarify that although I love that he knows every word to every song, sang along with Olivia and I and enjoyed the evening as much as I did…I’m talking about the man on the OTHER side of me!)

While sitting on the grass and enjoying the concert, I was unexpectedly struck by the most powerful sense of complete and utter satisfaction and contentment; a feeling of  joy, gratitude, happiness and a love of life. Not just about life itself, but about the life I am living today.

Honestly, it surprised me.

Because I still have an occasional moment of trying not to compare the “then” with the “now.” Yes, a materially blessed life with a beautiful home, a house cleaner, a gardener, luxury cars, vacations and everything else that was mine in a former life was easier, in some ways, than the life I struggle to provide for myself and my children now. Yes, I lived one life I loved until 2009 at which time I began living a new and very different life in which I’ve found much unexpected happiness, joy and satisfaction. But it surprised me to be struck, unexpectedly, by such a powerful sensation that despite its many, many losses and the heartache and grief I’ve passed through, despite the challenges of the past and present and the extreme changes in every aspect of my life including lifestyle, I not only have incredible peace and joy but also total gratitude and contentment in and for my new one.

It made me realize that not only do you have to triumph over your challenges, you must embrace what has happened to you, accept it as a part of you and your life experience, own it (make it yours) and the triumph will be that much sweeter. It was an epiphany for me to realize that is what I had unintentionally done and that the happiness and joy that is yours, when you do that, is indescribable.

Really, it is. I highly recommend it to everyone living an unexpected life. Because when you get to that point, I believe you really ARE experiencing, living AND FINDING JOY in your unexpected life. You’re living your “happily ever after.”

“Freeing yourself was one thing; claiming ownership of that freed self was another.” (Toni Morrison)

Hard Work

Three years ago I lost my entire life and was, literally, forced to live a new one.

Some might think the crime associated with my old life was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS traumatic.) Others might think the financial loss I experienced was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS devastating.) Still others might view my divorce, or the loss of my home, or my move to another state as the most traumatic aspects of the hardship we experienced. (And they were ALL very difficult!) However for some reason, for me, one of the biggest and most traumatic changes of all of the changes from my old life to my new and unexpected one was…losing my opportunity to focus solely on my children as a stay-at-home mom when I had to return to the work force full-time so we could survive.

I’m sure it seems silly to most people—especially in today’s world of powerful, independent women who juggle work, family, children, home, continuing education, community service, church activity and service, exercise, shopping, fashion, and a loving marriage all the while achieving astounding success in the world of business—but I guess I’m still in awe of the women who do that. Women have worked outside the home for decades and there are certainly worse things in the world than working full-time (after all, it’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to provide food and shelter for my four children) but as a stay-at-home mom watching my full-time working mother friends do everything they did, I never felt I was “organized” enough to do it all and keep it all, especially myself, together; I counted my blessings I didn’t have to prove that! And now, as a full-time working mother I prove myself right, not to mention disorganized, every single day.

There is always something I fall short in.

That my housekeeping standards have slid is a total given. Not enough time to serve extensively in schools and the community like I once did is another sad fact. Forgetting important things, like a soccer game (when I’m the assistant coach AND in charge of the team snack) has become part of my history as well, as has a little impatience, on occasion, with my children or others, in addition to a lot of miracles—like the fact I drive thousands of miles every year for long commutes on highways at high speeds, during major highway construction in the state of Utah, and I haven’t been killed much less injured in any of the frequent collisions I pass. (One of my co-workers had his car totaled when he collided with a semi on the same commute, so I feel quite fortunate.)

Following are a few of the experiences, lessons and realizations that have come my way as result of my return to the work force full time. Indeed, “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.” (Horace)

And by the way, “The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” (Jane Sellman)

Dandelion Death

“It is not the strongest of the species that survives, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is the most adaptable to change.” (Charles Darwin)

While doing yard work and weeding a few weeks ago, my middle son surprised me with a bouquet of dandelions. I was thrilled, delighted and quickly rushed to put them in water to preserve them for as long as possible. For that day, they sat in a vase on my kitchen windowsill. Soft, puffy, cushions of yellow sunshine. The next day they were dead.

I confess, I was a little surprised. It has always seemed to me that dandelions, creeping into grass, springing up unbidden, are hardy plants. And although I’m not a weed, flower or gardening expert by any means (as evidenced by the many plants and flowers I’ve managed to kill), I think there’s a life lesson somewhere in their short life span.

From my perspective, dandelions have it pretty easy. They bloom into being uninvited and there they stay. Cheery, yellow, WEEDY; rain or shine. They don’t need water, they don’t need fertilizer and it seems like lawn mowers even have difficulty making an impact on them! It’s an easy life, as long as they remain in their expected and “natural” habitat—outside. But pluck a few, put them in a vase full of water, and they’re dead by nightfall (or at the very latest, the next morning.) I expected them to last at least as long as flowers do in a vase of water!

With such an easy existence, dandelions haven’t had to learn to be hardy, to adapt to change or to challenge. They don’t appear to have ever had to “hang on” when times get tough. They haven’t had to develop roots. Hand them an unexpected new life—indoors, in a vase of water—and they wither and die faster than anything I’ve seen.

Makes you grateful for the unexpected life, YOUR unexpected life of growth opportunities, doesn’t it? Because it’s through our trials that we become stronger. Our challenges strengthen us (if we let them) and by triumphing over them, we become stronger. Better. More than we would otherwise have been. Draught, hardship, the unexpected life…cause us to develop roots and to sink those roots deep to survive. The character-conditioning program called life, especially the unexpected one, makes us more than we ever could have become on our own. And in the end, we master not just surviving new circumstances or new challenges, but blooming wherever we’re planted.

We can find happiness and joy in whatever garden, or yard, or patch of dirt, or pile of manure we’ve had the good fortune (or misfortune!) to land in. Life is good regardless of where life transplants you to. Sink your roots into the soil of your unexpected life, look for the beauties of it, count your blessings and strive not just to survive but to bloom.

“I hope you will go out and let stories happen to you, and that you will work them, water them with your blood and tears and you laughter till they bloom, till you yourself burst into bloom.” (Clarissa Pinkola Estes)

Unexpected Date

When my husband’s daughter moved in, things changed. First on the list of changes was a business trip I had that my husband had planned to accompany me on. However, we ended up having to cancel his participation in it, feeling we couldn’t leave our children at home without a parent there since the living arrangement for everyone was so new.

I went alone to Las Vegas. My husband stayed home with the kids. Little did I know what would result: a date.

Sort of.

My first as a married woman…with a man who wasn’t my husband. And I even have the pictures to prove it!

Lets just say, “One picture is worth 1,000 denials.” (Ronald Reagan)

The Honest Answer I Didn’t Expect

“I don’t believe in dressing up reality. I don’t believe in using makeup to make things look smoother.” (Lou Reed)

My husband called me back less than 20 minutes later and the issue was resolved.

My husband and his daughter arrived in Utah the following evening and we moved her in to our home. When the settling in was complete, we sat down with her and went over the house and family rules, what we expected from her and what she could expect from us. (I printed them out and gave her a copy so there could be no misunderstanding.)

One week later, one night when she came to say goodnight before going to bed, I took the opportunity to ask her in more detail how things were going and how she was feeling about her new life.

“Ok, you’ve been here a week,” I said. “Tell me, how are you doing? How are things going? How are you feeling?”

I don’t know what I expected to hear, or what I expected her to say, but I wasn’t expecting to be so entertained by her reply: “I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be!” she answered.

I kept a straight face and waited until she left the room…to laugh! I’ll never forget that (honest) answer.

And really, isn’t that pretty much life?   It rarely ends up as bad as we think it’ll be. And if it’s really that bad or worse, it doesn’t stay that way forever—I learned that myself from personal experience. Eventually, with enough faith, work and endurance, you’re on to a different happily ever after—if that’s what you choose.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” (Denis Waitley)

A Good Kick In The Pants And A Season Of Growth

“Each man should frame life so that at some future hour, fact and his dreaming meet.” (Victor Hugo)

Lest anyone think all that has been happening in the unexpected life of our family are boys making less than ideal choices—like ditching kindergarten and scheduling a playground fight with a  school bully via Facebook—we’ve witnessed a few dreams become reality, too!

Several months ago, we saw my oldest achieve a lifelong (since he was 5 years old) dream: to play hockey at the college level. I confess, the first time I saw my son skate onto the ice while the fans roared their support, I think I was probably the only person there with tears rolling down her cheeks! I couldn’t help it. Everyone else may have seen a tall, handsome, athletic man on ice skates, skating like the wind, fighting for the puck and working for a goal…but all I could see was a little preschooler so passionate about skating he never took off the blue Playskool skates he strapped to every pair of shoes he owned; the kindergartener who begged me to let him play hockey; the little boy who hounded his mother all day for what seemed like every day of the year to let him play hockey, until 5th grade, when I finally relented and enrolled him at Big Bear; and the enthusiastic boy who came off the ice after his first game so thrilled with everything about the sport he uttered words I never expected to hear come out of my ultra-competitive son’s mouth: “Mom! Hockey is SO FUN, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you’re just so thrilled to play the game!”

He never quit. He seemed to eat, breathe and sleep ice hockey from that moment forward. He was out practicing his shots or skating before school. He played against anyone he could get to put skates on. And long after the sun set, I’d hear him outside whacking the puck with an energy that never left him. His enthusiasm finally led us to install outdoor lighting so he could practice longer each night. And the day he played his first college ice hockey game was quite a moment. For him and for me.

It was a season of growth…for both of us. Last weekend, I watched my son play his last home game of his inaugural college ice hockey season. I was a lot more relaxed, there weren’t any tears, but I was still full of admiration for my son and all that he accomplished in making his college ice hockey dream come true.

It just took one dreamer. ”Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” (Harriet Tubman)

That, and a kick in the pants. Remember: ”Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.” (Baltasar Gracian)

True, for all of us. No matter the dream, no matter the unexpected opportunities you’re blessed with, you can go as far as you need to; as far as you dream to. Supplemented, of course, by the occasional, well-administered kick in the pants.