Living Happily Ever After


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Love and…Kittens

“There would be no passion in this world if we never had to fight for what we love.” (Susie Switzer)

Before remarrying, my husband and I attended premarital counseling. I’ve documented some of the issues and challenges the premarital counselor warned us remarriage would present and that the counselor was right! But how grateful I am to be married to a man who, with each and every challenge each and every time, grabs my hand, looks into my eyes, tells me he’s “in it for the long haul,” quickly and humbly seeks to find a solution we both can live with, and then always adds how much easier our life and marriage is than other remarriages he knows and how much better everything is than he expected! (You’ve got to love his optimism among every other wonderful thing about him.)

So although he says we’ve never had a fight and that he has never (yet—haha!) been truly mad at me, we have had a few “differences of opinion” (that’s what my husband calls them) during the course of our dating, engagement and marriage. Second marriage moment #30? The realization that life, and marriage, is full of challenges to overcome—but there is always a way around or through each one. You’ve just got to be willing to take that first step toward conquering it and don’t stop until you’ve beat it.

And just as there seems to be no shortage of things to conquer in life AND marriage, ”No matter how much cats fight, there always seem to be plenty of kittens.” (Abraham Lincoln) Never give up.


“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.

No Refunds, No Exchanges, No Returns

“The good Lord gave me a brain that works so fast that in one moment I can worry as much as it would take others a whole year to achieve.” (Unknown)

As I drove to get a marriage license, I didn’t plan to think. But there I was, in the car, driving down the highway…it’s kind of where most of my thinking has taken place since entering my unexpected life. I just can’t seem to help myself. And wouldn’t you know it? I had some unexpected thoughts. They came, unbidden, to my mind.

First I thought, “This is kind of weird. I am driving to the very office I drove to the last time I married.” Try as I might, as focused as I attempt to be on the future and moving forward, I couldn’t help but reflect on the past experience and everything I remember about it. I remembered what I was wearing that day. I recalled how relieved I was I didn’t have to get poked with any needles (Utah doesn’t require blood tests; one of my roommates, who got married in California, said she had to get a blood test to get a marriage license and in the 1980s, that didn’t thrill me–I still had an aversion to needles back then!) I remembered how hot it was (I married in August the last time.) I recalled how nervous I was about the whole  marriage thing back then. And I remembered that I’d thought I was way too young to get married (I completed my fourth year of college, turned 22 and got married the same month–my parents had married when they were 25; one set of grandparents had married when they were 25; and the other set of grandparents had gotten married when they were in their 30s. So I was a lot younger than my family members had been.)

And then as I drove, I looked at the snow covered mountains, remembered how cold it was outside, and thought, “Everything is different this time. Last time it was hot. This time it is cold. Last time I was nervous. This time I’m not. Last time I was so young, this time I’m not. I have so much life experience behind me now, too. This is a whole different experience. Let’s not think about the past, Andrea, let’s keep pressing forward.”

To save myself from my thoughts, I turned the radio on. I never listen to the radio. But I couldn’t believe what I heard.

First up? A commercial. For…DIVORCE INSURANCE! I didn’t even know there was such a thing, but there I was, heading to get a marriage license, listening to everything I never wanted to know about divorce insurance and how it can help you when wedlock goes awry. The commercial even touted that divorce insurance will pay all of your attorney fees AND the deposit on a new place to live when you’re newly single again!

What are the odds I’d hear a commercial for that on the way to doing what I was going to do? So despite my best efforts, I arrived at my destination, thanks to my thoughts and the commercials I heard, a little…unsettled. But least it didn’t show. Or so I thought.

However, you have to love #5. He took one look at me as I stepped out of my car to greet him and asked me if I was ok. It freaks me out how in tune he is with what I think and feel without me ever having to say a thing. I told him I was fine. He searched my eyes and asked again, “Are you sure?” I assured him I was fine (and attempted to keep breathing and not think about what I was doing) as we rode the elevator up to the third floor.

But instead, I thought, “Am I REALLY doing this? Is this really real? I sure hope I know what I’m doing. Why didn’t I worry about all of this before–the previous 9 months?” Suddenly, I was scared. I considered turning. And running. Yet then I’d look over at #5 and realize I couldn’t do that. I was looking at the only man who has ever made me throw up (and more than once!) I was looking at the only man I’d ever thought I couldn’t live without. And my children loved him, too.

We stepped out of the elevator and walked into the office to obtain a marriage license.

And there it was.

Staring me in the face.

A lovely sign, prominently displayed, and the first thing you see when you walk into the office: “No refunds. No exchanges. No warranties.”

That’s when I  knew I had to get out of there. Maybe the state of Utah finds their sign funny, or maybe it is simply a way to legally protect themselves from frivilous lawsuits, but I wasn’t laughing. I was getting more and more nervous, bordering on terrified, and struggling to breathe.

“I have the right to breathe; everything else is a bonus.” (Unknown)

Wedding License

“Only one marriage I regret. I remember after I got that marriage license I went across from the license bureau to a bar for a drink. The bartender said, ‘What will you have, sir?’ I said, ‘A glass of hemlock.’” (Ernest Hemingway)

The night we got our letters in the mail, #5 began planning our marriage in earnest.

“We’ve got to get a wedding license!” he reminded.

“We have five business days to get one. I’m fine if we just pop over and get it the day before we get married,” I calmly replied.

He looked at me like I was from another planet. (Sometimes, in planning ahead, compared to him, I probably am.) “I am NOT comfortable with that at ALL,” he emphasized. “There is absolutely no way we’re waiting to get something that important until the day before! What if something goes wrong? That is NOT the way I do things, I will never wait until the day before.” He shook his head at me.

I assured him nothing would happen, that we really could wait until the day before, but #5 wasn’t having any of my planning, or lack of it. We arranged for us to meet before work 2 business days later to get our wedding license. (And thankfully, #5 is a “planner.” Turns out, the office was closed the day I suggested we get our license. Had I been in charge, we would have been in trouble!)

I drove to the office on the appointed morning. While I rarely listen to the radio in the morning, for some reason, that day I did. And I couldn’t believe what I heard.

“He who laughs has not yet heard the bad news.” (Bertolt Brecht)

What’s More Life-Affirming Than…?

“Never ever discount the idea of marriage. Sure, someone might tell you that marriage is just a piece of paper. Well, so is money, and what’s more life-affirming than cold, hard cash?” (Dennis Miller)

Paperwork? Check.

Name change issue resolved? Check.

What else is there to do prior to remarriage?

I think, a lot! But I honestly don’t remember much about my final week as a single mom, divorced, sole parent of four children. It’s kind of a blur. I didn’t take any time off work so I continued to work full-time during the day, every day, and tried to take care of the extra details in the evenings–in addition to my children.

I had interviews with my pastor and a local church leader to obtain the special recommend needed to marry #5 in the Manti L.D.S. Temple. I’ll never forget one of those conversations: “Andrea Merriman, do you realize YOU are a MIRACLE?” My answer? “Yes, I realize that the outcome of the events in my life is CERTAINLY a miracle!” And we had a great discussion about all I have experienced, the healing that has taken place in my life, what has made my healing possible, and the amazing experiences and opportunities, including #5, with which I have been blessed as a result of my unexpected life.

I got a dress to wear when I married. My daughter helped me pick it. It was a fun memory, just the two of us shopping together at a white clothing store, but certainly one I NEVER expected to have–a teenage daughter helping me select a wedding dress!

My sisters, a sister-in-law, a cousin and a friend at work helped put together a wedding lunch for our family after the temple marriage and sealing.

That is about the extent of the planning I did. I was too busy clearing out half my closet for #5 and attending to details like that to do anything else. And #5 was very busy working full-time, wrapping up the details of his life as a single man, and moving his son into my home, not to mention arranging for a wedding license.

All in a matter of days.

“Look at a day when you are supremely satisfied at the end. It’s not a day when you lounge around doing nothing; it’s when you’ve had everything to do, and you’ve done it.” (Margaret Thatcher)

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.”


A Brief Wave of Nausea

“Bob Marley isn’t my name. I don’t even know my name yet.” (Bob Marley)

The screeching halt of shock. Then silence. A brief wave of nausea (but at least I didn’t throw up!) and then I was excited again. I guess that question just caught me off-guard for a moment and I couldn’t help but notice #5′s face change from his initial joy, manifest in a huge smile, to worry and concern (in the brief time it took me to work through my shock and nausea) then back to a smile as I looked up at him and answered his question with a resounding, “YES.”

And honestly, I mostly meant it.

I was simply having a moment of deer-caught-in-headlights. A lot of changes were coming. FAST. In less than one week. And suddenly, I didn’t feel quite as ready or prepared.

I wish I didn’t unintentionally worry about things like that, occasionally, but I’m realizing it’s what I’ve always done when big changes come.

The remedy? All I had to do was think back to the night #5 dumped me and remember how I felt and that I wondered how I was going to live with out him, and I was calm and peaceful about the whole thing again. (Once again, the hard things can be a great help to us in ways we don’t expect!)

“All changes, even the most longed for, have their melancholy; for what we leave behind us is a part of ourselves; we must die to one life before we can enter another.” (Anatole France)

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)

Wasn’t That A Movie?

“Life is the movie you see through your own eyes. It makes little difference what’s happening out there. It’s how you take it that counts.” (Denis Waitley)

And then, just a few hours later (after government officials called) I got another phone call. It, too, was unexpected.

It had begun as a typical Friday, except that morning #5 stopped by before I went to work and announced the papers we’d been waiting for were coming that day.

I laughed and replied, “No, they’re not.”

He smiled and said, “You just keep telling yourself that if it makes you feel better. But they ARE coming today. I know it.”

He said it was just a feeling he had, but I had to give him credit: he’d said all along that our papers were arriving a specific week. It was that week. I also had to give him credit for being firm in his belief. He had checked with me every day, “Did you pick up your mail? Did you get any mail today?” (Mail collection is a challenge for me. By the time I work all day and commute home, I’m so excited to see my children most of the time I forget mail is even delivered during the day! I typically remember to pick up my mail only a few days each week.)

Like a watched pot that never seems to boil, my mailbox had been unusually empty every single day that week. I know, because very uncharacteristically for me, I had checked it every single day: Monday. Tuesday. Wednesday. Thursday.

Later that day, that Friday, #5 called me at work. “What are you doing? Are you driving home?” he asked.

“No, I haven’t left yet. I’m still working,” I answered. I had a big project I was trying to finish before the weekend. I had stayed at the office later than usual. ”Why? What are you doing?” I asked.

“Oh, I’m just at the house,” he said. “I came by to check your mail.”

“And?” I asked.

“You’ve got mail!” he rejoiced.

Wasn’t that a movie?

“It sometimes feels like a strange movie, you know, it’s all so weird that sometimes I wonder if it is really happening.” (Eminem)

I know what he means.