Living Happily Ever After


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Don’t Tell Women Your Secrets

“Am I now supposed to go on Oprah and cry and tell you my deepest, darkest secrets because you want to know?” (Kevin Spacey)

In a word? Yes. Especially if you’re a 5th grade boy.

My middle son just completed the 5th grade today. He learned a lot this year, academically as well as socially, including some important life lessons. For instance, I’ll never forget the day he came home and said, with complete disgust, “Mom! NEVER tell women your secrets!”

I was somewhat offended. I mean, I know I’m very open with what I share on this blog, but I would never betray a trust of confidence placed in me, whether it be from a stranger, a friend, a family member or even an enemy (although I hope I don’t have any of those!) I never have and I never will. My children, of all people, should know that.

And then it hit me. This is my boy with a lot of personality and dazzling blue eyes. He has had girls chasing him (one even paid him coins every time he’d go to her house to play!) since kindergarten. I hoped I wasn’t right in my suspicion, but I had a sinking feeling he’d been a little too honest about something regarding the opposite sex.

“Uh, oh!” I said. “You didn’t tell a girl which girl you like, did you?” Everyone knows not to do that, don’t they?

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Just a guess, but now you know: NEVER do that,” I replied. “I’m sorry, I thought you knew that.”

“But mom, SHE asked me for the information,” he explained. “She PROMISED me she wouldn’t tell anyone, and then she went RIGHT to the girl and told her!”

“And?” I asked.

“And now the girls who like ME are mad!” he said. “NEVER tell women your secrets!” A very poignant lesson. And he stormed off to take his frustration out on the trampoline. He did some wicked flips that day.

“Dolphins. They think they’re so cute. ‘Oh, look at me, I’m a flippy little dolphin, let me flip for you.’” (Chum, “Finding Nemo”)

Just don’t tell a girl who you’ve flipped for…if you’re an 11-year-old boy!

A very important life lesson to learn.

Wake Up Fresh And Continue

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

And then it was the day before my wedding.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I couldn’t sleep.

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

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

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

Very, Very Lucky?

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced events in your life that have made you cry.  So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good, long session of weeping can often make you feel better, even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.” (Lemony Snicket)

Isn’t that so…me?

I get what I’ve been waiting for, FINALLY; I don’t believe it. I don’t know what to do; so I hang up the phone and…cry?

I had no idea I’d respond that way. But I did. I sat at my desk and tears rolled down my cheeks. I guess it was a mix of emotions: Joy. Gratitude. That I’d received a miracle. And maybe it was a bit of a stress release. I’ve done that before.

When I was a girl I was TERRIFIED of shots. I was so afraid of shots I used every excuse in the book to avoid the doctor and once went 5 years without a doctor visit, between the ages of 6 to 11. (They were fabulous years for me, by the way.) And then I stepped on a rusty nail at my grandpa’s farm and had to get a tetanus shot. I went to the doctor in the tiny town of Ephraim, Utah, got a shot (which I did NOT even feel, it was over before I even knew it had begun), the nurse gathered her supplies and left the room…and THEN I cried! (Weird, I know.) Yet I did it again the day I got my letter.

The only thing I wasn’t crying about was that it was also the final end to everything related to Shawn Merriman, our love, our marriage, our life together and our family. (Not that I hadn’t shed tears over that, I had–many. But at some point, I chose to only look forward so I didn’t see the moment I received my letter as an end, but a beginning.)

My next thought was to share the news with a friend. My CEO was in town from San Diego that afternoon, in a big meeting, in the conference room. But some things are so important, they must even trump The Board. (Just kidding. I didn’t even stop to think I could be fired. I was so excited I wasn’t thinking clearly.) I walked to the outside of the door and sent him a text: “Boss, turn around. My papers came!”

From behind, I saw him pick up his phone, rotate his chair around, he saw me standing there beaming in the hall and gave me a giant smile and BIG thumbs up! I told a few other co-workers, returned to my desk, finished my work (it was hard to concentrate on it, I might add!) and began the drive home, calling friends as I drove.

It was an exciting time, yet didn’t seem quite real. When I saw #5, all we could do was keep looking at each other, saying, “Can you believe it? Can you believe we’re getting married?”

Several hours later, just as it was finally starting to seem real, #5 stood up to leave, hugged me, beamed down at me and asked, “Are you SO excited to become Mrs. Ramsey?”

And then everything came to a screeching halt for me.

“Ladies and gentlemen, please remain in your seats until Captain Crash and the crew have brought the aircraft to a screeching halt up against the gate. And, once the tire smoke has cleared and the warning bells are silenced, we’ll open the door and you can pick your way through the wreckage to the terminal.”

“Open, Sesame!”

“I turn on my computer. I wait patiently as it connects. I go online. My breath catches in my chest until I hear 3 little words, ‘You’ve got mail.’ I hear nothing, not a sound on the streets of New York. Just the beat of my own heart. I have mail…from you.” (“You’ve Got Mail”)

I had mail? I didn’t quite believe it, so, true to form, I denied it. (The Queen of Denial was back!)

“I DO NOT have mail.”

“Yes, you do,” said #5. “I am holding a letter from The First Presidency of The Church, addressed to you, in my hand.”

“Did you open it? What does it say?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t open it, it’s addressed to you!” he replied.

“Open it,” I requested.

“No,” he responded. “Because I haven’t been to my house, yet, to see if I have letter too.”

“Open it,” I requested. (Again.)

“No,” he answered. “What if it’s a letter telling you NOT to marry me?”

“OPEN IT,” I commanded.

So he did. There was a brief pause while he opened the envelope, removed the letter and silently read it. ”It’s the letter we’ve been waiting for,” he reported.

I didn’t know what to say. I still couldn’t believe it, so I denied it again and then asked him if he was teasing me. He finally put my oldest on the phone. ”Mom, it’s the letter. It’s to you from The First Presidency,” he said, and he began to read it to me over the phone.

I was at work. My children and #5 were gathered together at my home, reading my letter. They all sounded happy and excited. It was noisy in the background.

As for me? I’d waited so long, by the time I finally got my letter of authorization to marry in a temple, I’m not sure what I thought or felt in that moment. Relief. Excitement. Yet a sense of “this can’t be real” mingled with the other thoughts and emotions. I hung up the phone, my mind racing with thoughts of people I needed to call about my letter finally coming.

But instead, I hung up the phone and…unexpectedly…cried.

I wasn’t planning to do that.

“A woman can laugh and cry in three seconds and it’s not weird…” (Rob Schneider)

Our Break Up

“Eyes that do not cry, do not see.” (Swedish Proverb)

I’d come to the realization of how I truly felt too late. I think maybe I’d found #5 so quickly, so “easily”, and had healed so thoroughly and completely during our engagement, that maybe a small part of me began to take the miracle of #5 a little bit for granted.


Could even a tiny part of me also have begun to think I might be doing him a little bit of a favor by marrying him? (Ludicrous, I know! I mean, look at me! Look at my life! WHO would want to take my unexpected life on? Probably no one BUT #5, yet when there was an issue to be resolved I seemed to ask myself, “Wait. Is this really what I want? Is this going to be good for me, for my children? Should I really do this?”)

In fact, one time I’d told #5 that’s what engagements are for–to try the relationship out, see if it works for us, see if it’s what we want, knowing we don’t have to follow through with it and can back out if it’s not right or not working for us. He, however, was appalled at that rationale. He said that is NOT what engagements are, in his eyes. That he would never have proposed to me had he not been fully committed to me and marrying me. To #5, engagements were very similar to marriage (except for the living together aspect.)

Very different philosophies. But we’d hung in there together, for a long time, until THAT night. The night he dumped me.

And then suddenly, dinner and dessert were over, everyone left, and it was just us standing alone in the kitchen again. I braced myself for his departure. I thought, “Ok, here is where he actually does leave. I guess we’ll figure the details of the break-up out later. I just don’t want to be home when he gets his stuff.”

But instead of turning and leaving, he said something very unexpected. He looked at me and asked, “Would you like to go to your room and talk?”

That’s when I REALLY knew it was over. He never set foot in the upstairs of my house, especially my bedroom (to set a good example for our kids.) But in that moment, that night, he went there willingly.  To talk about our break up.

I walked up the stairs to my room so nervous I could hardly breathe.

I dreaded the conversation.

We walked into my room, he shut and locked the door behind him, and turned around to face me.

“Next time I see you, remind me not to talk to you.” (Groucho Marx)


“Do it, dump it or change it.” (Jim Janz)

I couldn’t believe it!

It was SO unexpected.

After all of the time we’d been engaged, after all we had resolved or overcome–even a flat tire in the desert, after everything and despite his complete commitment to us that had never wavered, unexpectedly…one Sunday night, Bachelor #5 broke up with ME.

There’s a part of me that thinks it was for the best. I mean, “Giving up doesn’t always mean you are weak; sometimes it means that you are strong enough to let go.” (Author Unknown)

There was a tiny part of me that was glad some of the frustration had ended. I hoped I could be like Phyllis Diller who said, “My recipe for dealing with…frustration: set the kitchen timer for 20 minutes, cry, rant, rave, and at the sound of the bell, simmer down and go about business as usual.”

Besides, I was tired of knowing that every couple we knew who got engaged the same day we did had already married; every couple we knew who got engaged after we did had already married; and that even couples we knew who met each other after we got engaged were already married. Sometimes I felt that, “If  I hear about one more couple who marries before I do, I’ll scream.”

Well, #5 took care of that. He dumped me. And I wasn’t feeling the urge to scream. I was devastated.

WHAT was he thinking?

“I’ve always been a fella who put most of my eggs in one basket and then take a dump in the basket, but I really don’t know.” (Robert Downey Jr.)


“This sentimental comedy…is said to have had a great success in its own country. So do fringed lamp shades.” (Richard Eder)

I determined not be sentimental about the sale of my violin. I didn’t really even let myself think about it. I just loaded my violin in the car and headed to Salt Lake City. The problem was that I had time to think as I drove to Mr. Prier’s store. And although I didn’t do it on purpose, my mind was flooded with memories of my parents, everything they had taught me and had done for me, competitions and concerts I had played with my violin, solos I’d had and even some funny memories–like how in the early stages of learning the violin, our family cat would attack me when I practiced.

As I drove, I started feeling pretty sentimental about the whole thing. Every few miles, I’d wonder if I should turn around and head home with my violin. But I kept driving. Too soon, I arrived at Peter Paul Prier. I parked my car and headed in.

The little shop stands exactly as it must have in the 1980s (and probably, earlier) when my parents walked through those same doors. Instead of a bell jingling your arrival as stores used to in the “olden days” of my childhood, Peter Paul Prier has a mechanism that strums the strings of a violin hung over the door when you open it. The walls have wood paneling. Art, depicting violins and European scenes, hangs on the walls. An adjoining room is lined with shelves of beautiful violins for sale.

Mr. Prier was on the phone, so I had time to look around the little store and soak up its atmosphere, which wasn’t good for me. It made me want to cry. I walked to the counter and saw the same receipt I had from my purchase–he still uses the exact same graphic and receipt paper! (I loved that.) I had plenty of time to sit and think about my parents being in the very same store, making a purchase–and there I was returning it for money almost 30 years later. I’m sure my parents had no idea how much their purchase would help me at a later date just as I’d never imagined the day would come that I’d return their gift.

The longer I sat there, the harder it got. I hoped Mr. Prier would soon appear so I could sell him my violin and get out of there before I started to cry. Finally, he came. He walked out, eyes twinkling, a slight German accent to his English and asked how he could help me. I showed him my violin and told him I’d like to sell it. He inspected it, told me a little bit about it, showed me special things about my violin and I gave him the original receipt. He asked why I wanted to sell it.

I didn’t expect him to ask me that. I didn’t have a smooth answer prepared so I told him the truth: I was divorced, a single mother of four children, and I needed the money. He looked at me with surprise, and said something like, “What? A nice woman like you? That is too bad.” For some reason, I explained that I am a nice woman; my divorce was the result of crimes committed by the man I was married to, that he is incarcerated, that I lost everything of value in a government seizure but I’d been allowed to keep my violin because my parents had purchased it in 1982, long before my marriage or my former spouse’s crimes. (I don’t know why I did that. I know better than to share my story!)

He nodded his head, told me what he would give me for my violin, I agreed to the amount, and he went to his office to write the check. While he was gone, I struggled to reconcile myself to what I was doing. Just when I thought I had moved on and healed from everything, apparently there was another undiscovered chapter to close. I was affected by it. I tried not to be. I fought back the tears. I just hoped I could get out of there before they began to roll.

Mr. Prier returned, came from behind the counter, gave me the check out and promised me it would clear when I cashed it. I held the check, but he didn’t let go right away. He offered some very kind words to me, along with the money, and that was when I did start to cry. So there I stood like a total idiot, crying, as Peter Paul Prier said I was a nice woman, he hoped his check helped me, he wished the best for me and my children, that things would get better with time–he knew there were good things in store for me. (I tell you, only in Utah are people like this! It’s amazing to me that I’ve had more than one encounter with businessmen who offer encouragement and kind words in the course of their business transactions!) He was such a handsome, kind, soft-spoken, older gentleman with sparkling eyes I couldn’t help but believe him. His kindness, compassion, empathy and my hope that he was right touched me and made me cry…all the way to my car.

And then the weirdest thing happened. As I got to my car, there sat a giant white dog that looked eerily similar to our dog Joe, our Yellow Lab who passed away last summer, barking and wagging his tail. Joe had such a deep, distinctive “Woof,” I could not believe a dog that looked, but especially sounded so much like Joe, was standing in a parking lot in the middle of downtown Salt Lake City, UT, at a time I was struggling and needed some cheering! Although for an instant it added to the brief wallowing I couldn’t help but let myself indulge in for a few moments, and made me miss my dog on top of missing my violin, my parents, my past and for a moment, every other thing I had lost, it actually cheered me up– the strangeness of things in my unexpected life!

“Expect the best. Prepare for the worst. Capitalize on what comes.”  (Zig Ziglar)

Thanks to my unexpected life, I’m doing that.

Slogans For The Unexpected Life

During the holidays, #5 and I played a game with some of our children. In one round, we had to name campaign slogans. As I listened to the slogans, I was struck by what a great motto for The Unexpected Life each campaign could be.

Be All That You Can Be.

Just Do It.


You’ve Come A Long Way, Baby. (Shared by #5.)

As soon as he said that, it got me thinking about my life and my little family. I was overwhelmed and amazed by how far we’ve come in one year. Just since last Christmas. What a difference 365 days makes!

Last Christmas, 2009, was the first Christmas of our unexpected life. I was trying so hard to heal, to help my children make it through their unexpected challenge, trying to adjust to working full-time, and to hold on physically, emotionally, financially and in every other way, for all of us, back then. So I put on a brave face, tried to keep a few traditions and took my children to see Santa Claus one Saturday morning.

Santa chatted with each of my children but caught me completely off-guard when he had me sit by him, looked me in the eye, and asked, “What do you want for Christmas, Mom?”

I panicked. Did he know who I was? Did he know I was single? Did he know what a loser I had turned out to be, starting over in life, in every possible way, at 42? It had been years since Santa had asked me something like that! I wasn’t prepared with an answer. But for some reason, maybe because I felt so alone and literally was alone for the first time in my life, I took his query seriously. My mind raced with thoughts of everything I needed—courage; confidence; optimism; hope; anonymity; a life; emotional comfort; laughter; bravery; endurance; happiness; real smiles; joy, peace; and of course, money (those were the days when I couldn’t seem to get a break, I lived in shock and fallout from the trauma 24/7)—and because I’d been trained to only ask Santa Claus for one thing, without censoring my response I replied, “Peace. I would love to have peace.”

I don’t think Santa was expecting that. Yet he must have sensed the desperation I felt inside to share something like that with a total stranger, though the stranger be Santa’s helper, because he looked me in the eye, gave me a compassionate, soft smile, took my hand in his large, white gloved hand, and calmly and quietly told me to hold on, peace would come. He sat there for just a second, looking into my eyes, smiling and then patted my knee, offered me a See’s Candy lollipop and sent me on my way.

I walked away from my encounter with S. Claus uplifted. It was another one of those “Only in Utah” moments for me. (As in, only in Utah…would a shopping mall Santa Claus take time for you, despite a long line of believers and children, to give you a spiritual message!) I left his little village filled with hope, not just for the holiday but for my life. I believed Santa was right; someday it, peace, would come to me again. I was counting on that. I just had to hold on.

But that Christmas Eve, when the house was dark and quiet and I was up all alone late at night making my few small Christmas preparations for my children, the reality of my unexpected life hit me. Again. In that moment I was a little overwhelmed by my continued struggle to embrace a new life that was mine, but that I didn’t believe I had done anything to deserve and I still wasn’t sure I wanted! I’d do a little Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry for a few minutes. Then I’d pull myself together, go down by the Christmas tree, do a little more Christmas, then go up to my room, alone, and cry. It was the pattern of a newly divorced, single mother, getting through her first Christmas. Alone.

After the holidays, #5 checked in with me to see how my “first Christmas” went. I can’t believe I told him the truth—that it was good overall, but that I’d had some unexpected sad moments too. He empathized, gave me some words of encouragement, asked me out for another date and the rest is…recorded in this blog.

However, Christmas 2010 was a completely different scene.

I took my kids to see Santa again, but this year he didn’t even ask me what I wanted. Maybe he could tell I have every important thing I need, especially peace. And Christmas Eve, although the house was dark and quiet, I wasn’t alone. I had #5 helping me with Christmas preparations. On Christmas Day, we had all eight of our children together. As I sat by #5, watching all of the kids talk, laugh, joke and enjoy being together, I felt such contentment and joy. It felt like family. It is our family. Everything is right in my world again. Different than what I had expected, as usual, but right.

I couldn’t help but think that had I only known last year what was in store for me this year, it would have been a heck of a lot easier to get through last year! Had I only known last year, what this year would be like, I wouldn’t have felt alone or felt sad at all. But that is just one more beauty and character-building aspect of life: the not knowing; and choosing to carry on anyway.

Striving to be all that you can be.

Just doing it.

Learning to thrive in whatever situation you find yourself in.

And acknowledging, occasionally, just how far you’ve come.

What you do with your unexpected life is your slogan.

“Nothing in this world can take the place of persistence. Talent will not; nothing is more common than unsuccessful people with talent. Genius will not; unrewarded genius is almost a proverb. Education will not; the world is full of educated derelicts. Persistence and determination alone are omnipotent. The slogan ‘press on’ has solved and always will solve the problems of the human race.” (Calvin Coolidge)

O Christmas Tree

“Never worry about the size of your Christmas tree.  In the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” (Larry Wilde, The Merry Book of Christmas)

Christmas. It’s in the air. Especially in Utah where there are radio stations that begin playing all Christmas music, all of the time…in October!

It causes me to reflect on Christmases past—and Christmas now.

I remember my first Christmas as a married woman, arriving home from work in the early darkness of a winter evening. As I drove up the street, approaching my little starter home, I could see lights BLAZING from a neighbor’s home (glowing in the fashion of the Griswold’s lit up home in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” movie.) I laughed to myself, “Oh-ho! Now THERE is someone who loves Christmas! I’ve never seen so many lights, in person, on one house! I wonder who the Christmas fan is?”

And imagine my surprise, as I got closer to the spectacle, to see it was my house. Apparently, the fan was me.

Those were also the days of giant, towering, beautiful and majestic Christmas trees.

Enter the unexpected life.

Last year, Christmas was a bit of a struggle. Christmas 2009 was our first, on the heels of a lot of life change. It was lonely and worrisome. I’d never done Christmas lights before. I’d never set up a Christmas tree by myself before. I’d never had to earn my own money for Christmas gifts before. And despite the fact I felt quite healed from much of what had transpired earlier that year, I had to leave the celebration a few times and go up into my bedroom, alone, to cry.

But somehow we got through it.

My children and I had never set up a fake Christmas tree by ourselves before, but eventually we figured it out. (Ok, the honest truth is my daughter did!) My oldest son did our Christmas lights. (I drove home from work to discover all of our bushes illuminated. A special Christmas memory for my first Christmas as a single mother!) And an uncle, a family friend and a small bonus from work helped with the Christmas gifts.We held on to what traditions we could, let a few go and did some things in new and different ways.

Very similar to what you do when an unexpected life hits, actually. Cry, some. (If you’re like me.) Hold on to what you can, let a few things go, do some things in new and different ways and somehow, you get through it. You figure it out. And through it all, you get by with a little help from friends.

A year has passed. I like to (naively) believe we’ve gone through our “firsts” of everything although I’m learning that healing and life, including the unexpected one, is a process. Just when you think you’re healed or have learned what you needed to learn, occasionally something happens that shows you you’re not totally through the process. There’s a little bit left to heal. A little bit more to be conquered. Always more to learn. But with each passing day, and each challenge you rise above, you’re wiser, stronger, better, more capable and always able to see a new tender mercy or count an additional blessing.

And you can look back and see how you’ve grown. How far you’ve come.

For instance, this year, December 2010, yesterday, my children got our Christmas tree. While I was at work, they loaded in the car, drove to Home Depot, looked through all of the trees, chose the one they liked best, paid for it, hauled it home and I arrived home to a Christmas tree on our front porch! (In fact, the only thing they “forgot” to do was take a photo to document the experience.)

Today’s holiday adventure at the Merriman home will include hauling a real tree into the house and learning to master a Christmas tree stand. And if it’s like everything else, every other adventure we’ve encountered since entering our unexpected life, I’m pretty sure we’ll figure it out.

“An adventure may be worn as a muddy spot or it may be worn as a proud insignia. It is the woman wearing it who makes it the one thing or the other.” (Norma Shearer)

The unexpected life.

Life is SOME Book

“Ideally a book would have no order to it, and the reader would have to discover his own.” (Mark Twain)

I began college as an English major. Somewhere along the way, I realized I just wasn’t deep enough (make that insightful enough) to compete with my peers; and at the same time, I realized they were ruining literature for me.

Here are just a few examples.

One class required we recite a poem. I opened a book, picked one that began “Tiger, tiger, burning bright, in the forest of the night…” (You’ve probably heard of it, it’s a pretty famous one.) I was prepared to recite it, but I confess it sounded comparable to how an elementary school student might have done it.

I knew I was in trouble when a young woman in my class stood to recite her poem, and began, “I’ll be doing such-and-such poem in a Meryl Streep, ‘Out of Africa’ accent because…” She went on to explain her deep rationale, but I completely missed her poem because I was so blown away by the fact she had even THOUGHT to do an accent! And that she COULD do an accent! And that she was up there DOING an accent, and didn’t appear to be mortified at all!

Other times we read poems and other literature as a class and discussed them. The things my peers inferred from what appeared to me to be an ordinary story about an ordinary event made me realize English wasn’t for me. Where were they getting their deep thoughts and all of that meaning? I had spent my life getting lost in stories, and simply enjoying the escape into whatever book’s reality I was reading at the time, NOT looking beyond what was right in front of my face for…meaning. Their “meaning” began to ruin it for me.

I found myself beginning to dislike the classics because of the analyses that took place in my college English courses. I started to dread reading (something I’ve always loved to do–I never dreaded reading, reading assignments or writing research papers. I had always enjoyed everything associated with reading and writing.) So I knew it was time to make a change.

I got out. I changed majors.

I tried interior design for a semester because I liked decorating things. Little did I know how much artistic talent was required for a career in that, and unfortunately, I had zero practical art background and no  skill. (I drew like a preschooler, and still do.) THAT was a tough semester, with a very benevolent end, when my professors basically gifted me with “C”s–as long as I promised to change majors!

About the only thing I did somewhat decently as an English major was write. As often as not, my papers would be returned to me with lots of red markings and notes by my professors encouraging me to submit the piece to a magazine or newspaper for publication. I finally took an aptitude test. It recommended public relations. I’d never heard of such a thing, but I was told strong writing was necessary for that career, so I signed on. And I never looked back. I had found my thing.

It was very unexpected.

One of the most valuable things I gleaned from my PR education was the counsel, “Don’t be afraid of getting fired.” Fired? I’d never been fired, but I knew enough to dread it and consider it a failure. Instead, my professor taught us getting fired can be the best thing that ever happens to you. In fact, he encouraged us at some point to “fire ourselves” if no one else ever did. He said it was good for every career, and every person, to make a big change at least once in their life. He said oftentimes, the situation you end up with after being fired (voluntarily or involuntarily) is often better than your previous one.

I never forgot that. And I’ve been amazed how well it correlates to the unexpected life. Especially mine.

I was living life, loving being a wife and mother, serving others in my own small ways and trying to contribute to the world…and then one day the bottom fell out of my world. Shawn Merriman revealed the lies and crimes he had been perpetuating for 15 years, he went to prison, and I was left alone to provide for and raise our children; forced to re-enter the workforce. I got fired from my life. And had to find, or create, a new one.

Like networking in the business world that leads to job placement, I didn’t find my new life on my own. I was blessed with tender mercies, miracles and a friends (old and new) who stood by me, encouraged me and helped me begin again.

And now, on this side of it, just 18 months later, I wonder if my unexpected life isn’t one of the best things to ever happen to me? Not because it’s easy, it’s not. Not because it has been fun, it hasn’t always been–especially in the beginning. But because of all that I have learned, the many ways I have grown and the good things that have come to me and my children because of it.

An unexpected life is an abrupt plot twist filled with antagonists that threaten to overwhelm. Sometimes it seems its chapters goes on far too long. Yet if you keep pressing forward through the drama, you’ll make it through some difficult chapters, and the NEW story directions that come unexpectedly into your life can amaze and overwhelm you, this time, in a good way. I believe you can actually end up with a story (and a life) better than it would have otherwise been.

Life is SOME book.

You just can’t put it down.

And like the few special books that have touched me deeply, enough to make tears roll down my cheeks as I read them, I think I’ll cry when it’s over.

“Grow old along with me! The best is yet to be, the last of life, for which the first was made. Our times are in his hand who saith, ‘A whole I planned, youth shows but half; Trust God: See all, nor be afraid!’” (Robert Browning)

The Unexpected Life.