Living Happily Ever After


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When You’re The One Who Has To Fix It

“The fellow that owns his own home is always just coming out of a hardware store.” (Frank McKinney Hubbard)

I’m pretty sure that’s how #5, my new husband, feels—especially since moving in with me and my four children! Gone are those carefree days he enjoyed as a single dad with one self-sufficient 12-year-old son, living quietly together in a townhome, retired from yardwork and a plethora of other things that now keep him busy! Like trips to Home Depot. Out of necessity. I’m pretty sure his new mantra is, “Well, I’m off to Home Depot!”

In the two months we’ve lived together, I’m embarrassed at the extra work I’ve caused #5. And I’m not just talking about the myriad of little things around a house that have needed to be taken care of—like the kitchen pantry door that broke and needed to be painted and replaced; the holes in the wall my youngest and his neighborhood friends made when trying to hang off shelves that used to be bolted to the wall; the hole in the wall caused by a child throwing open a door a little too fast with a little too much energy; toilets; clogged drains; doorknobs; garbage disposal issues; smoke detector batteries; and lots of burned out light bulbs that need to be replaced!

I’m talking about the day I stood and flushed the toilet at the exact moment a bottle of lotion fell off the shelf above it, STRAIGHT down the hole, at the exact moment the swirling water went with it. GONE! And then the toilet didn’t work anymore. (It had to be completely taken out of the bathroom and the lotion bottle practically surgically removed from its innards before replacing the toilet again.)

Or the day a decorative painted bowl, of its own free will, spontaneously fell off the shelf above the kitchen cupboards onto the Jenn Air stove top and shattered not just the bowl, but the entire stove top! (Not only was that one a lot of work for #5, but it was expensive, too! Oops.)

He has fixed it all without comment or complaint. He just smiles at me and goes to work to take care of it despite the fact he is NOT a home repairman. (I think he’d much rather be singing, playing the piano, acting, working out, dancing, or even reading instead.) In fact, he uses it so often, he has taken to keeping his toolbox at the ready beside his side of the bed!

And then one day, he broke something. Or at least, I thought he did. He looked at me with a stunned expression, and I started celebrating. “Yes! You finally broke something! I am SO glad! Think of everything I’ve broken and all of the extra work I’ve caused you, now I’m not the only one! I’m so relieved you broke something!” But no. I celebrated too soon. Turns out, #5 hadn’t broken anything after all.

But he remains a trooper and continues to fix, without complaint, all of the little things. He inherited a yard when he thought he’d never have to maintain a yard again. And, most importantly, he took on four additional children, including a four-year-old, when he had mostly raised his family. The impact he has made and everything he has helped “fix” around the house and in our lives astounds me.

Second marriage moment #9.

“There are a [heck] of a lot of jobs that are easier than live comedy. Like standing in the operating room when a guy’s heart stops, and you’re the one who has to fix it!” (Jon Stewart)

My Ellis Island

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

It was my own, personal Ellis Island.

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

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

Second marriage moment #6.

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


“Being a Brady comes with it’s pleasures and its baggage. I’m not one given to a lack of privacy and invasion.” (Christopher Knight)

I know I’ve said I don’t want or need to be like The Brady Bunch, but it’s nice to know I can look to them for inspiration. And to know they feel my pain. Lol.

Despite the commercials, signs and other things that left me feeling unsettled that day in the marriage license office, I didn’t run. Instead, I calmly accepted the clipboard #5 handed me and proceeded to fill out my part of the information. However, as I did that, I realized something. Again.

You lose something in divorce.

Some degree of privacy.

And it seems like it lasts the rest of your life, or at least as long as you have children. Really, the divorce decree only grants you partial freedom; because former spouses, by necessity, are in your business all too often. For example, when you go on vacation or leave town, legally, you have to inform the other parent of your plans and whereabouts. Not to mention the fact that you need to inform them when you have special plans so they don’t make their own special plans that conflict with yours. I confess, sometimes it bothers me. During our over 9-month engagement occasionally I’d think, “Just once, I’d like to make a plan and carry out that plan on my own, in privacy, without having to tell anyone else or involve anyone else in my private business.” I don’t have anything to hide, never have had, but sometimes I feel like “the exes” know our business ALMOST as quickly as we do!

And then not only did the get-married-quick scheme involve informing the former spouses of the plan so that we could have all of our children with us, there I am, applying for a license to marry #5, and even that couldn’t be just about us. The application required we list previous marriages and spouses and other similar information. Although I am not hostile to my ex-husband or #5′s ex-wife, I did have a flash of the thought, “For goodness sake! Can’t we even get a marriage license without having to bring up the previous spouses?”

Such is remarriage, I guess. I never knew to expect that. But we filled out the application and turned it in. One good thing about that flash of frustration, though. It cleared my mind of all fear and enabled me to answer the questions, check the paperwork for accuracy (the only mistake: the clerk listed my birthday for his birthday–or something like that! Since only our birth years are different, it can cause a little confusion in the paperwork occasionally.) We paid our $50 and walked out of the office with…a MARRIAGE LICENSE!

It was getting very real. And about to become totally real…in days.

“Everything you can imagine is real.” (Pablo Picasso)

And VERY exciting, if I do say so myself.

Name Change

“There was my name up in lights. I said, ‘Somebody’s made a mistake.’ But there it was, in lights. And I sat there and said, ‘Remember, you’re not a star.’ Yet there it was up in lights.” (Marilyn Monroe)

When I married the first time, it was the 1980s and I liked my name; I didn’t plan to change it. That turned out to be possibly the only “fight” I had with Shawn Merriman before I married him. I ended up changing my name. I became Andrea Merriman.

Twenty years of marriage and four children later, when I divorced, I kept the name Andrea Merriman. I laughed to think that as much as I hadn’t wanted to become “Merriman” when I married, it was the one thing I kept when I divorced! My decision to keep my name surprised Shawn Merriman, but I did it for my children: their dad was going to prison; their paternal grandparents hadn’t contacted them or their father through the whole Ponzi scheme nightmare (other than to send my two oldest birthday cards in which they didn’t mention our troubles or even offer a word of encouragement beyond what had been generically, pre-printed on the birthday card and then to send the judge sentencing their son a letter encouraging her to “give him the maximum, make him pay for what he did.”) I felt like my kids needed family; family that shared their name, at that difficult time. I didn’t want my children to feel they were alone; the only four Merrimans in the world. At least with me, their mother, there were five of us! The Five Musketeers, in our own way.

However, my children, initially, didn’t appreciate my decision. (Believe me when I say that back in 2009, I couldn’t seem to please anyone! It wasn’t just angry neighbors or victims that weren’t happy with my choices to put my children first! Even my own children didn’t always appreciate my reasoning or the decisions I made.) Several times they asked why I didn’t change my name to Christensen and why I didn’t change their names to that, too! It’s hard to describe or understand, but lets just say it was a difficult and humiliating time; we cringed every time the name Merriman was spoken, wondering who would realize we were related to Shawn Merriman if they heard it, what others might think of us, and how we would be judged, or treated, once the connection was made. In fact, my older children were pushing so hard for a name change I wrote it into my divorce: that I was free to change my children’s names, any time I wanted, without permission or consent from their father.

However, I refused to let my children make the decision to change their entire identity in the heat of a hard moment. They had lost their entire world as they knew it, and if they lost their name, their identity, in addition to everything else, they truly would have lost absolutely everything and I didn’t know what the ramifications of that might be in the future. So we held on to Merriman for the time being.

And then we healed. And then I got engaged. And we all continued to heal.

Shortly after our engagement, the first time #5 mentioned–assumed–I would change my name when we married I was surprised. I was almost 43 years old and had been who I am for a LONG time. Even through the trauma of my unexpected life. I had become ok with being Andrea Merriman again. I wasn’t ashamed or humiliated by the actions of another any more. I remarked, “Oh, I didn’t think I would change my name, I wasn’t planning on it.” From the look of surprise on #5′s face, I realized he had an expectation contrary to mine so I added, “Unless it’s important to you. Is it important to you? If it is, we can talk about it.”

He graciously said no, whatever I wanted to do was fine with him. I thought that settled it, except every few months of our engagement #5 would occasionally question, “So what about your name? Have you thought about what you’re going to do when we get married, if you’re changing your name or not?” My answer was always the same: no, I hadn’t thought about it. I actually thought our initial discussion had settled it, but after 2-3 such conversations I realized despite what he said, it was important to #5 that I change my name or he wouldn’t keep bringing it up. However, I appreciated the fact that he was very willing to accommodate my unwillingness to change my name. He didn’t pressure me, didn’t tell me he wanted me to change my name outright, he just “subtly” mentioned it occasionally!

Then one night we went to Costco. That evening sealed it for me.

We both had memberships that were expiring. Since we were marrying, we wanted only one account. I was digging through my purse looking for something while #5 took care of the membership. By the time he finished with the clerk, I’d found what I’d been looking for, he handed me my card without a word, and I put it away as we walked out. It was just an ordinary Costco card. But something about it caught my eye as I slipped it into my wallet. Could it have been the name “Andrea Ramsey” printed on it? I didn’t comment, but shook my head and laughed. The name change issue was resolved without another word. It CLEARLY was important to him. So I decided I needed to do it.

I just had to prepare my children.

At first I don’t think they were thrilled. I’d given them a very good P.R. pitch about Merriman and why I was keeping that name when I divorced. They even suggested I hyphenate: Merriman-Ramsey. But that is a mouthful, not to mention a lot to write, and it didn’t give me the same name as anyone–#5 or my children. When I explained I was doing it because I would be married to #5 and I sensed it was important to him, they didn’t say another word. (They have been incredibly supportive of every change that has come as a result of joining our lives together.) They only had one concern after that: did they have to change their names too?


From the relief in their eyes and on their faces I saw just how much they had healed in the two years since our unexpected life began. Their humiliation is gone! They are Merriman and want to remain that. I bet they don’t even remember the days they begged me to change their names. Their passion for their name showed me just how thoroughly and completely they are healing, and I am grateful.

So while I never ever expected my children would ever have a different name than mine, we’re learning it’s just one more unexpected aspect of…the unexpected life. So we’re rolling with it.

But just in case you’re considering a name change for YOUR children, for whatever reason, here’s a handy tip from Bill Cosby I thought I’d pass along: “Always end the name of your child with a vowel, so that when you yell, the name will carry.”


The Bright Side of My Divorce

“Always look on the bright side of life.” (Monty Python)

When I divorced, initially, I thought my situation was more difficult than a “typical” divorce because my former spouse is in prison. His incarcerated status left me completely alone to raise and support our children. There is no child support; no parenting time with the other parent; and while I wouldn’t wish the prison experience on anyone (although the choices my former spouse made certainly warrant prison time) as time has gone on, I’ve been able to look on the bright side. 

“The habit of looking on the bright side of every event is worth more than a thousand pounds a year.” (Samuel Johnson)

The bright side? Of being left alone, the sole source of support for four children, while the former spouse serves over 12 years in prison? Some might wonder, “What bright side?”

Here it is: I am completely alone to raise and support our children. There is no child support.

I have sole custody–medical custody, educational custody, social custody, religious custody, every type of custody I could think of when I wrote my divorce. And after observing many divorced couples have to co-parent their children, I’ve realized being left completely alone is much simpler and easier (in some ways, for me) than what some divorced couples experience.

I get to do what I feel is best for my children. I don’t have to get permission, approval or really even report to another parent. I don’t have to compromise. I don’t make plans and have them changed by the other parent. There is no other parent to get frustrated or mad at me. While some former spouses have to endure spending time with one another for the sake of their children, I don’t have to do that either. And now that we’re used to seeing “Unsensored Inmate Mail” stamped on the outside of envelopes that arrive occasionally in our mailbox, basically, I’m drama-free!

Yes, there is always a bright side–if you choose to find it.

The whole prison thing also meant #5 didn’t have to meet a former spouse face-to-face. Instead, he received a letter from Shawn Merriman, mailed from a Colorado jail, early in our engagement.

I don’t remember much of the letter other than that my former spouse tried to be kind and supportive in what he wrote–although how his attempts to do that came across in writing I still wonder about. It seemed a little “lecturing” to me as it told #5 he would be the one to do such-and-such with the Merriman children and it listed lots of things #5 would be doing with them. (It sort of read like Shawn Merriman was telling #5 all that he expected him to do as a step-parent.)

But #5 is not only a very nonjudgemental person and accepting of everyone, he is a good sport. He accepted the letter graciously…and we never really discussed it again. I don’t know what, if anything, he did with it. He just does his thing, in his own way, and my children are the better because of it. I credit the healing of my children to a great big miracle, to the passage of time and in large part, to #5.

“But when we have families, when we have children, this gives us a purpose for being, to protect our children, to avoid going to jail because if I’m in jail, who looks after my children, who’s there for my wife?” (Ernie Hudson)


Are You SURE?

“Madam your wife and I didn’t hit it off the only time I ever saw her. I won’t say she was silly, but I think one of us was silly, and it wasn’t me.” (Elizabeth Gaskell)

When you have children, meeting the other parent of your fiance’s children is part of the engagement leading to remarriage experience. It sort of snuck up on me. So although I don’t know what I was expecting that meeting to be like, it wasn’t what I expected at all.

We were at an event for #5′s oldest son. I didn’t know anyone, but #5 had been very good to introduce me to everyone. At some point he asked me how I was, if I was having fun and if I’d met everyone yet. I said, “I think so. But there’s an older woman here who looks a LOT like your oldest daughter that I haven’t met yet. Is she your ex-wife?”

He gazed in the direction I was looking and said, “Yes, that’s her. Come on, I’ll introduce you.”

We walked over to where she stood, #5 introduced us and then he got out of there! My conversation with his ex-wife was brief. She told me #5 is a really good person. She thanked me for being kind to her children. And then she said something about wanting me to know she would never do anything to cause a problem or come between us.

I appreciated her positive comments, but it was all a little surreal for me. I’d never expected to be divorced, much less getting remarried and having a conversation with someone’s ex-wife! And to have to discuss the drama ex-spouses can be (when I’m not a drama queen AT ALL) almost mortified me. I didn’t quite know what to say, so I agreed with her that #5 is a really good person; I told her how much I loved her children; and then said something like, “Oh, I’m sure you would never do anything–especially when there’s no reason to as I know I came around long AFTER your divorce–we don’t even need to talk about it, but thanks for saying that.”

Here is what I remember thinking:

“Am I REALLY having this conversation?” (The drama potential is SO NOT me.)

“She’s older than I imagined.” (I later found out she is older than #5; I don’t know why I didn’t expect that.)

“Wow. She is SHORT!” (I think the top of her head hit somewhere between my elbow and my shoulder. I don’t know why I didn’t expect that, either.)

“I really like her.”

Afterward, when we were driving home, #5 asked me for my thoughts about the day. I told him my feelings and then said, “But you’ll be amazed who, of everyone, I really liked.”

“Who?” he asked.

“Your ex-wife,” I replied.

And since I’ve always been a big believer in marriage and families, especially intact ones, I couldn’t help but add, “Are you SURE you shouldn’t see if you can put your original family back together? Your ex-wife seems nice. Your children could have their parents together again. Your ex-wife wouldn’t have to struggle… We could take a break while you see what you could work out. I would completely support you in that.”

I thought it was a very kind, generous offer on my part–I knew what I felt about #5 and what I would be giving up for him to do that, but I felt I had to suggest it, to do my part to see if there couldn’t be one less broken family in the world. Instead, #5 looked at me like I was completely looney. And in the interest of being concise and discreet,  I’ll sum his response with two words: “No, thanks.”

“Well, whaddya expect in an opera, a happy ending?” (Bugs Bunny, “What’s Opera, Doc?” 1957)

I sure do. Which is why on one other occasion during our engagement, I made the same offer to #5 again and asked, “Are you SURE you shouldn’t see if you can put your original family back together?”

To which he replied, “Andrea, you can decide you don’t love me. You can decide you won’t marry me. But no matter what, and even if it means I’m alone the rest of my life, the option you’re suggesting is not something that will ever happen.” And then, with a smile, he told me if I suggested such a thing again he might get really, really mad.

I may be slow, but I got it.

I decided I had done all I could do on that front, so I’d just enjoy the opportunity that was mine and continue to work toward my own happy ending.

“I’ve always felt that life is a novel, and part of it is written for you, and part of it is written by you. It’s up to you to write the ending, ultimately.” (Lynn Johnston)

Magnetic Force

“Magnetism, as you recall from physics class, is a powerful force that causes certain items to be attracted to refrigerators.” (Dave Barry)

Or, in the case of my engagement to #5, my children to him every time he stepped through the front door of our home. In honor of that (and because when I asked #5 to tell me what he will remember most about our engagement, without pause, he replied, “Magnetic Force”) this blog post is for him.

I’ve mentioned before that my children liked #5 from the moment they met him. Truth be told, they saw his potential before their mother did–each one made it a point to tell me how much they liked him (one even suggested I marry #5) the first time they met him. I appreciated their honesty in expressing what they thought and how they felt, but it also complicated things: while I would never marry someone my children didn’t like, I had to make sure I chose the man I chose for ME because my children were going to grow up someday and I’d be left with the man!

My children liked #5 so much that every time he came to our home they congregated in the living room, sat down, and visited with him. Especially my younger children, but even my teenagers. This is wonderful for getting to know one another, and it’s fabulous for the step-parent situation, it just makes very limited “alone time” even more limited! Yes, there is something to the magnetic force that draws the Merriman children to #5…and then they never leave!

Another engagement “highlight” is how we’ve had to handle it. Over time, all subtlety went out the window. It’s called “couch versus corner.” And now here comes the too-much-information part: we sit on the couch, hang out with the kids and then as #5′s departure nears I’m forced to announce, “You’re welcome to stay but we’re going to say goodbye now.”

You should see the room clear!

I never expected I’d EVER have to say or do something like that but as I’ve probably said before, “Life is, for most of us, a continuous process of getting used to things we hadn’t expected.”

Even, or especially, during a wedding engagement when there are eight children involved and the engagement lasts longer than you ever expected it would.

A List of Stuff

“I made this list of stuff that it’s time for me to try to do.” (Rick Moody)

When you’re in your forties with four children, and you get engaged to a man in his forties with four children, there is a lot to the “simple” act of getting married. In fact, it’s not so simple. When I got engaged in May 2010, I realized in the first few days of my engagement that there was no way I was going to accomplish all that I thought I needed to prior to my wedding without making a list of everything I needed to do and remember. So I did that. I made a list.

It included things like: take an engagement photo, choose a wedding announcement, plan a wedding dinner, purchase a wedding dress, plan a wedding, plan a honeymoon, go to Colorado so my friends can meet my fiance, introduce fiance to the Utah people that are important to me, participate in premarital counseling, know fiance one year prior to marriage  (November 2010), decide financial issues, decide parenting issues, make him a wedding gift, get family organized (ie. work chart, etc…), clean out middle son’s room, clean out youngest son’s room, move middle son out of his bedroom so fiance’s son can have his own bedroom, purchase wedding rings, find a car that holds 7 people, pre-nuptial agreement, set up new step-son’s bedroom, organize home office, organize family photos, clean out garage, clean out shed, fiance participate in Christmas show “Savior of the World” at the L.D.S. Conference Center, fiance participate in Sundance summer theater “Big River”, future mother-in-law needs surgery, fiance needs surgery, save up vacation time for a 2-3 day honeymoon, save money for a wedding dinner, fiance get his home ready to sell, fiance sell his house…You get the idea. Not one of the items on my list was inconsequential or small.

It was May 2010 and our plan was to marry in September 2010. (I know. I was already setting myself up for failure! If we married in September, I wouldn’t accomplish “know fiance one year prior to marriage.” But it was the date #5 suggested, and I was trying to be o.k. with it and work toward that.)

Interestingly, by September 2010, the date we had originally planned to marry, I had only accomplished 4 things on my list of 34 things. We rescheduled our date to January 2011, and by the time that date rolled around, I had accomplished just 17 of the 34 things. Remarriage was a lot more complicated, and required a lot more work, than I’d ever imagined! We set our sights on the end of January 2011, and by the time that date came, I’d lost the list!

“A list is only as strong as its weakest link.” (Donald Knuth)

I abandoned all hope of being organized and prepared prior to remarrying. As a single mother of four children, employed full-time, there wasn’t time for that anyway.

And then tonight guess what I found? The list. Out of curiosity, I read it. I realized I had accomplished 30 of 34 things on my list, and two of those I had changed my mind about: find a car that holds 7 people and arrange a pre-nuptial agreement. I had somehow gotten almost everything done on my list. And I’d done it without the aid of a paper list!

“Experience taught me a few things. One is to listen to your gut, no matter how good something sounds on paper. The second is that you’re generally better off sticking with what you know. And the third is that sometimes your best investments are the ones you don’t make.” (Donald Trump)

I Didn’t Sell My Soul

“I’d have a whole lot more money if I lied, but I wouldn’t enjoy spending it.” (Martina Navratilova)

I know what you mean, Martina. But not only would I not have enjoyed spending it, I wouldn’t have been able to live with myself either.

“One of my proudest moments is I didn’t sell my soul for the sake of popularity.” (George W. Bush) Or things. Or money.

I’ll always be glad it’s the way I’ve chosen to live. But it does mean shortage of money is a reality in my unexpected life. Not just that things are tight, but that like many people, I assume, especially single mothers or people in the throes of an unexpected life and in an economic downturn, I’m short. Every month. Some might say “My problem lies in reconciling my gross habits with my net income” (Errol Flynn) but in my case, it’s more a result of starting over in my 40s (not just at zero, but in the hole thanks to the financial morass created by my former spouse), with four children and no alimony or child support, on the heels of complete and total financial devastation!

So I’m always looking to economize. This quest has led to a few special memories, experiences I’ve listed in the Unexpected Life “Hall of Fame” of Andrea Merriman. Things I NEVER imagined I’d do, or that would be the reality of my life.

There’s quite a bit  I never expected.

I’m Not Superman

“Of course I’m scared. I’m not Superman.” (Jackie Chan)

We’re into superheroes at our house. I can’t escape them–just this morning I folded and put away a padded, muscular Batman shirt, and tripped over a Superman cape on my way to complete the task!

As the mother of three sons, I’ve learned my fair share about superheroes. And I confess, I like them for more than their muscular build. I admire superheroes for the way they rise to the challenge. They do the right thing, even when it’s hard. They’re willing to stand alone. They aren’t afraid of anything. And they come out on top.

I’ve been taught to rise to the challenge; I try to do the right thing; I’m definitely willing to stand alone. But I’ve been afraid of a lot; I’m no superhero. And nothing showed me that more than my unexpected life.

I wasn’t just scared, I was terrified. Each day I operated like John Johnson who said, ”Every day I run scared. That’s the only way I can stay ahead.” (John Johnson) Only I couldn’t seem to stay ahead of each scary new challenge that became mine on a daily basis, courtesy of each new revelation by my former spouse. Frankly, I’m surprised all of the shock and uncertainty didn’t induce a heart attack! (Oh yes, that’s right. That would have been impossible as my heart was already broken, crushed and numb.)

There were so many thing to fear back then, it seemed it didn’t take much to scare me. I was even wary of opening the front door! “I am scared easily, here is a list of my adrenaline-production: 1) small children, 2) policeman, 3) high places, 4) that my next movie will not be as good as the last one.” (Alfred Hitchcock) Only my adrenaline-producers were little things like crime, a Ponzi scheme, asset seizure, U.S. Marshals, inspectors, attorneys, media coverage, neighbors scrutinizing my every move and reporting each little tidbit they gleaned to government authorities, frozen bank accounts, financial ruin, potential bankruptcy, knowing there were victims who had been hurt by the action of the man I’d been married to, and the uncertainty of what actually would happen and when, to my former husband as well as to my family, to name a few.

I felt like such a failure to be so absolutely scared on all counts, on every front. I longed to be less fearful and more brave.

But the passage of time has helped me see something now what I didn’t realize then. It’s ok to be scared. And actually, I don’t think it matters one bit if you’re scared or brave. You can’t always help what you feel. (In fact, you need to let yourself feel what you feel so that you can work through it, get past it and heal.) What matters is that you carry on and face what needs to be faced. That’s true courage. That’s real bravery.

“Bravery is the capacity to perform properly even when scared half to death.” (Omar Bradley)

That’s also…the unexpected life.

So whatever you’re facing, whatever your challenge or fear, choose bravery.  Perform properly. Do the right thing despite all of your fears, and someday you’ll be able to look back and see how courageous you actually were.