Living Happily Ever After


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“Unhappily Blessed” And Its Bright Side

“Clap an extinguisher upon your irony if you are unhappily blessed with a vein of it.” (Charles Lamb)

Ironic that on the same day it arrived, something else arrived too.

An unexpected phone call.

From the government.

Related to you-know-what.

Can you believe it? Two years later and I’m still dealing with it.

At first I panicked. I couldn’t help it. I thought, “Oh no! I am, always have been and continue to be a law abiding citizen. What could they possibly want now? Has something else come to light that I never knew about?” and then I couldn’t help but wonder, ”Will I ever be free of Shawn Merriman and his Ponzi scheme? Is this how the rest of my life is going to be–something popping up when I least expect it? It has been 23 months since that fateful day of unwelcome revelations and I’m STILL dealing with the stuff that caused my divorce?”

Turns out, all they wanted was for me to sign some papers. It was inconvenient in that it disrupted my new life to a small degree–in addition to getting the papers notarized and returned (going to the bank and the post office are two things I’ve ALWAYS been terrible about procrastinating) and I had a LOT going on that particular week–but thankfully, that is all it was.

I chose to look on the bright side: at least it was just paperwork, and at least I don’t have to deal with it all day, every day, like I did in 2009.

Monty Python was right: “Always look on the bright side of life.”

So was Samuel Johnson: ”The habit of looking on the bright side of every event is worth more than a thousand pounds a year.”

When It Rains, It Pours

“However long the night the dawn will break.” (African Proverb)

Sometimes in life, especially the unexpected one, it seems like you just can’t get a break. I remember in the revelations my former husband made in March 2009, every new fact that came to light each day was worse than the one before–and it seemed to happen all day, every day, for awhile.

When it rains it pours.

And when it does that, umbrella or no umbrella (I NEVER have an umbrella!) you just have to hang on. “When it rains on your parade, look up rather than down. Without the rain, there would be no rainbow.” (Gilbert K. Chesterton) Eventually things calm down, even in the most unexpected of lives. Even in the one I’ve lived.

As I progressed in my unexpected life, met #5 and continued to heal, life REALLY calmed down. Friends and family called to check on me, and I felt like, eventually, I didn’t have a lot to report; I didn’t need much, if any, help. I didn’t have a crisis I needed counsel about. My children were thriving. My job was going well. In fact, even coming up with entries (things I’d learned, things I’d experienced) for blog posts became difficult. I took it as a sign I was getting back to “normal,” as was my life.

And then not too long ago, it began to rain again. This time in earnest. But THIS time…for the good! (By this, I mean that everything that “rained” on me and my family recently was welcome and “easy” to accept and experience. I still believe the rain, even the “acid rain” of an unexpected life, can turn out to be for the good; it provides certain “nutrients” that help us grow and become so much more than we would otherwise have been. From mine, I’ve learned things I never would have learned any other way. I’ve grown in ways I didn’t necessarily want to, but I believe my growth has made me better. It’s just not always easy when you’re being showered upon with growth experiences!)

Here’s what poured out upon us recently, in less than a 2-week period:

My son got his acceptance to BYU.

The home #5 had listed for sale at the beginning of our engagement (which due to the housing slump in Utah had hardly been looked at by prospective buyers) got an offer.

The production company casting a role #5 had auditioned for and was growing his hair for contacted him and told him NOT to cut his hair, he was being considered for a speaking role (out of the almost 3,000 people that had auditioned in Utah, Europe, Africa, South America and Israel.) Even if he doesn’t end up with a part, it was exciting to be considered for a role out of so many actors who auditioned.

My middle son was selected to participate in his school district’s Science Fair, one of a few students chosen to represent his elementary school.

And so much more.

There really was only one thing missing.

And then, finally, it came too.

“So, do I think I’m missing something? I really don’t, and I think that comes with age.” (Jami Gertz)

Our Plan

“By all means marry; if you get a good wife, you’ll be happy; if you get a bad one, you’ll become a philosopher.” (Socrates)

Lets hope the engagement and marriage don’t turn #5 into a philosopher, huh? THAT would be unexpected!

When #5 and I got engaged, we never imagined we’d be engaged over 9 months. At about month 8, we came to a decision. We were discussing getting married when we received our authorization and I asked, “So when we get our papers, will we then wait another 2-3 months while we find a date that works for everyone–all of your relatives, mine, our friends and everyone else–and then plan a wedding?”

He replied, “NO. When we get our papers back, we’ll get married in days.”


“What if our papers come back on a Tuesday?” I asked.

“We’ll get married that Saturday,” he answered.

“What if our papers come back on a Wednesday?” I asked.

“We’ll get married that Saturday,” he answered.

“What about Thursday? What if our papers come back on a Thursday?” I asked.

“Hmm…Thursday…we could try for Saturday, but we may have to wait until Monday or Tuesday,” he said.

We didn’t have a wedding date. We didn’t know when it would be. And the above was the extent of our plan. But at least, after 8 months, we had a plan!

“Happy people plan actions, they don’t plan results.” (Dennis Wholey)


An Exception

“There is no useful rule without an exception.” (Thomas Fuller)

A few days later I got a call from my pastor.

He reported, “Andrea! I have good news! The First Presidency is going to accept the letter your former husband wrote and mailed to you as the letter you can attach to your paperwork. They said, ‘For her, we will make an exception.’”

But I laughed as I realized out of the millions of members of the L.D.S. church worldwide, it didn’t sound like I was unknown by certain people.  They knew exactly who I was.

Yes, I’m pretty sure they did–media coverage of my former husband’s crimes always referenced that he had served as a “Mormon bishop;” members of the media had nicknamed him the “Mormon Madoff.” The Church itself had to issue statements to the media regarding the situation and eventually, they’d had to refund all of the tithing Shawn Merriman had paid during the years he ran his Ponzi scheme. I was not completely anonymous.

In fact, that was one part of the whole Ponzi scheme/crime thing I felt so bad about–that my church had been referenced, at all, in the whole mess when they, like me and the rest of the victims, had never known what was really going on with Shawn Merriman or his company, “Market Street Advisors.”

However, I was very grateful for The First Presidency’s kindness and willingness to work with me to accommodate a difficult situation. My paperwork was completed and submitted.

“How glorious it is – and also how painful – to be an exception.” (Alfred de Musset)

Written In Pencil

“Friends will write me letters. They run out of room on the front of the letter. They write ‘over’ on the bottom of the letter–like I’m that much of a moron; like I need that there. Because if it wasn’t there, I’d get to the bottom of the page: ‘And so Kathy and I went shopping and we–’ That’s the craziest thing! I don’t know why she would just end it that way.” (Ellen Degeneres)

I asked my former husband for THE letter.

He asked me why I wanted it. I told him the truth: I wanted the peace of mind it would give me. Since neither of us knew what the future held, or where he was going, I told him I didn’t want to someday need it and not be able to find him or reach him.

He said, “Tell me, would you use that letter today if you could?”

“Yes,” I replied. “Absolutely.”

In reality, though, I couldn’t. You can’t apply for a cancellation until you have the opportunity to marry someone else. But I needed him to know I felt there was no chance for reconciliation.

So he wrote one.

It was in pencil (prison inmates aren’t allowed to have pens). Written in October 2009. Mailed from a Colorado jail.

When it arrived, I opened it, read it and put it away never thinking I’d need it. It was a very nice letter, though, and I appreciated his willingness to write it. Later, he called me, collect, to discuss it.

I saw how hard it must have been for him to write that letter because he told me some untrue ramifications of me using that letter. I knew they were the last efforts of a sinking ship to attempt to rescue itself, I guess, but I had had it. I had been lied to for too long by the man, too many times; we were divorced; he wasn’t my husband; I didn’t feel an obligation to “obey” him any longer and I wasn’t going to stand for one single additional lie. So I called him on it:”That’s not true, ” I said. “That is a lie. You’ve lied to me for the LAST time!”

He said, “You’re right. I’m sorry.”

And that was that.

I kept the letter in a drawer for the next 6 months. And then one day, unexpectedly, I needed it. I sat in my pastor’s office, handed the letter to him, and he told me he’d have to check to see if it could be used in conjunction with my application because it hadn’t been requested via certified mail, it had been sent directly to me and it had been written a few months earlier.

“I get mail; therefore I am.” (Scott Adams) 



“There must be millions of people all over the world who never get any love letters… I could be their leader.” (Charlie Brown)

Going from happily married for 20 years to what I discovered was traumatic. The idea of divorce, alone, was very traumatic to me, not to mention everything else. So to ease things for both of us in that moment on that day when everything was so shocking, new and unexpected (remember, my marriage never disintegrated over time, my reality simply shattered in a moment; I had yet to “fall out of love” with my husband) I said, “I see no other consequence to what you have done than divorce. The consequence of your choices IS divorce. It’s not something I’ve come to decide lightly. But that doesn’t mean when you get out of prison and I’m single that we couldn’t try to rebuild something–IF we decided we could love or trust each other again. But who knows? You may not even be interested in me at that point.”

I was married to a stranger who terrified me in the way finding out someone you have trusted and loved for two decades has been living not just a secret/double life, but a criminal life, and you NEVER HAD A CLUE. And when he didn’t think divorce was necessary…sometimes it just didn’t seem to me that he understood what he had done was as terrible and reprehensible as it was.

We divorced.

I moved to Utah.

He was taken into custody.

And our relationship transitioned from husband and wife, companionship, friendship and everything else we’d had to friendly former family members with the occasional strained relationship of what I assume is typical of divorced couples.

He wrote letters from jail. His letters expressed his sorrow for what he had done (that was appreciated) but they also contained expressions of love. To me.

I think he did that because he felt that way toward me, but also probably to build me up and to help me at such a hard time and when I was so shattered, so humiliated, felt so worthless and thought everyone could tell just by looking at me what a loser I was. But after our divorce, my move to Utah and my progression through the process of grieving and healing those expressions of love became a problem for me.

With each passing day and with each new realization I came to as I worked through the mess he had created and left for me, I felt increasingly uncomfortable with his expressions of love.

Some days they bothered me, as in irritated me.

Some days they hurt me, as in made me cry.

Some days I just didn’t want to hear them.

Some days they made me mad.

And around that same time, the fall of 2009, I realized I would never remarry him.

I’ve said it before: I believe in repentance and forgiveness. I just didn’t think I would ever be able to trust him completely, 100%, again–regardless of the changes he had made. And trust, to me, is a huge part of marriage. I didn’t want to wonder at any future date if my husband was telling me the truth; to wonder when he headed out the door to go to work, if that is really what he was doing and where he was going; or to live in fear of, heaven forbid, another Ponzi scheme or other such crime.

I was also afraid that regardless of the changes he made and the man he became, a part of me (if I stayed with him) would never quite feel he deserved me. And that isn’t right. If he changes and somehow through all he is enduring as a result of his choices finally becomes the man I always thought he was and that he always represented himself to be, he deserves to have a wife who completely loves, trusts, and feels he deserves her.

That will never be me. (I’m not a big enough person, I guess.) One day, while talking to a Colorado friend, I realized I would rather be alone the rest of my life than remarry Shawn Merriman. As soon as that came out of my mouth she stopped me and said, “Do you realize what you just said? That says a lot to me about how you feel to know that you would rather be alone the rest of your life than remarry Shawn.”

I guess it did.

It was an epiphany. I realized, truly, how I felt and what the future held for me: nothing.

I was going to be alone the rest of my life. Because I preferred that option to remarrying, someday, the man I had loved for 20 years. (Amazing what a Ponzi scheme, betrayals, and decades of lies can do, huh?)

I realized then and there that I had to put a stop to his confessions of love. I didn’t want to hear them. I didn’t want him to have any false hope, I felt that would be dishonest of me. So I told him how I felt, but he didn’t stop telling me what a wonderful wife I had always been, that he still loved me and always would, and that someday he was going to win me back.

I felt I had to put a stop to that, too. It made me feel uncomfortable. And I couldn’t let him believe one thing when I felt another. So to show him how completely serious I was, and how real my feelings were, I asked him to write a letter authorizing me to apply for a cancellation of our marriage/sealing that would allow me to remarry and be sealed to someone else in a L.D.S. temple.

I don’t think he expected that.

It Didn’t Go Over So Well

“Good fortune is what happens when opportunity meets with planning.” (Thomas Alva Edison)

Although I’d love to look brilliant, organized and like I’m a woman who has it all together–including a special letter she needed–it wasn’t intentional. I didn’t know I was going to get engaged to remarry just one year after my world collapsed or that I’d need a letter from my former spouse to apply for permission to marry in a L.D.S. temple! It came about more as a result of my former husband.

When he revealed his crimes in March 2009, everything changed. Especially for me. I didn’t just lose my entire world, life, marriage, family and everything as I knew it. In one moment I went from loving, trusting and respecting my husband of 20 years to looking at him through completely different eyes. I didn’t know who he was or what he was. He became a stranger in a moment. I wondered if he was sociopathic. He even looked different, physically, to me. It was as if I didn’t know him, and never had known him, at all. But ironically, at that time, possibly for the first time, I actually knew everything about him. Finally.

Yet he didn’t get that.

I remember shortly after he had revealed everything he had done. When we were alone, he told me it was ironic to him that all he wanted to do was be with me, be alone with me, be close to me, hold me–yet that was the one thing I didn’t want! Soon after that, he told me he didn’t think a divorce was necessary. I was dumbfounded.

I asked, “No divorce?”

“No divorce,” he replied.

“So you think it’s completely realistic to expect that you did what you did for as long as you did it, you say you’re sorry, I forgive you, and we can remain married?” I asked.

“Yes,” he replied.

“You think it’s realistic to expect that while you go to prison for who knows how long, that we remain married, I’m alone, I raise our children alone, I keep our children alive in your absence, you serve your time, you get out and then everything goes back to normal and goes on as before? And we’re married the whole time?” I clarifed.

“Yes,” he answered.

All I can say is that we sure didn’t see things the same way! I saw no other outcome or consequence to his crimes, lies and other betrayals, than divorce. Not to mention the fact that every attorney involved advised me to cut my ties to the criminal as fast as I possibly could, for my protection and for my children. Regardless of how I felt or what I may or may not have wanted to do, I didn’t have a choice. My former husband had made my choice for me and left me with no choice.


“When two people decide to get a divorce, it isn’t a sign that they ‘don’t understand’ one another, but a sign that they have, at last, begun to.” (Helen Rowland)

And although I didn’t know it at the time, some day, I’d need a letter.

The Packet

“Shake hands forever, cancel all our vows, And when we meet at any time again, Be it not seen in either of our brows, That we one jot of former love retain.” (Michael Drayton)

As I said, to obtain the necessary cancellation and clearance to remarry in a L.D.S. temple, a packet of paperwork must be completed and submitted to your local pastor.

As part of that packet, you must write a letter regarding your first marriage; when and where it took place, why your marriage ended, if there is any hope for reconciliation, and other personal information; your former spouse must write a letter–they’re free to share whatever they want to share, I think; your pastor must write a letter; and the pastor of the person you’re engaged to must write a letter. All of that is included with your application.

You must then be interviewed by your pastor.

You must then be interviewed by the local church leader who presides over your pastor’s congregation and several other L.D.S. congregations and pastors.

And then your packet is sent to Church Headquarters, in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Your fiance goes through the same application process on his end and his packet is also sent to Salt Lake City.

When both are received, the applications are reviewed. If information is missing, if more information is required, or if there are any other questions, the paperwork is returned for additional information. Sometimes a certain amount of time must pass before an application can be made. Sometimes it’s an issue of rounding everything up from everyone involved–it can take awhile! Factor in holidays, vacations, mail time, missed phone calls, wait time for appointments, and the rest of life…it takes a fair amount of time to complete the necessary paperwork, gather the required letters and obtain the authorization.

You never know how long it will take.

And as it is a very private matter, you don’t always know the reasons for the delays.

And you wait.

In my case, while you wait, you hear a lot of stories. And now here comes the gossip (feel free to skip it, every bit of the following is hearsay and could be completely inaccurate or untrue–having passed through who knows how many mouths and ears–but all shared with me by well-meaning people with the good intention of helping me know what to expect.) I call it “divorced L.D.S. gossip,” but here is just some of what I’ve heard the past 9 1/2 months: a church leader and his wife of 20 years STILL waiting for their authorization to be sealed in the temple; a worthy couple, both with regular temple recommends, waiting 2 years for their authorization to be sealed in the temple; a couple waiting four months for their authorization; and that the average wait for authorization is anywhere between 30 days and three months–it depends on each individual and situation, and to what degree additional information is needed.

I began the process, so did #5.

“What’s interesting about the process…is how often you don’t know what you’re doing.” (Alan Rickman)

“Yours Mine And Ours”

“I don’t answer the phone.  I get the feeling whenever I do that there will be someone on the other end.” (Fred Couples)

The phone call came at the end of the work day Monday afternoon. It was from the ice arena. Our sons, the boys we’d disagreed about and had broken our engagement off over just the night before, had gotten into a public brawl on the ice. Supposedly, his son bumped my son while they were skating and hitting pucks (that’s hockey.) But my son didn’t like that and hit his son. His son hit mine back for hitting him. And then my son took his hockey stick to his son, swung it like a baseball bat and hit his son across the back!

My oldest son witnessed it, ejected my middle son from the ice, and the offender was MAD. He called me, wanted me to pick him up from the ice rink so he wouldn’t have to wait there and watch the other boys having fun. Unfortunately, I work in another city so that wasn’t possible. (I also thought it wouldn’t hurt him to cool off, to sit and watch the other boys having fun on the ice, so I told him we’d talk about it when we got home.)

I hung up the phone and shook my head. WhoEVER would have thought I’d be the mother of a son who got in a brawl, in public? Certainly not me! (Yet here I am, delighting in all kinds of unexpected experiences I’m continually blessed with.)

Then I called #5 and left him a message. ”I don’t know if you’ve heard yet, but there was a physical altercation on the ice today. I’m calm, I’m not upset; I hope you are too. While I don’t know if you have other plans for this evening, I don’t think we can let this go any longer. We need to sit down and talk to the boys, together, tonight.”

It’s funny how life prepares you for…life. How certain things (people, places, events, experiences) can prepare you for other things–even when you don’t realize you’re going to need them. Like how we’d had our disagreement about our boys just the night before. At the time, I’d thought it was a terrible thing–to fight and then break up–yet in reality, it allowed us to work through our issue, separate the issue from us, get it together and present a united front to our children.

When #5 walked into my home that night, he looked at me with a smile and joked, “What would Mike and Carol Brady do?”

There was only one answer to that. I’d learned it from my wise Colorado friend when I mistakenly expected to make my remarriage/blended family situation like The Brady Bunch and it wasn’t working, and I’d thought I was disappointed–until she straightened me out. I shared it with #5.  I said, “PLEASE! It doesn’t matter what Mike and Carol would do. We aren’t the Brady Bunch, never will be, and I’m ok with that.” I added, “Mike was gay; Carol was depressed; Greg kissed his step-sister Marcia; Alice couldn’t get her love, Sam-the-meat-man to commit…I don’t want or need to be The Brady Bunch!”

And in that moment I realized, again, I really feel that way. What #5 and I have, with our children, is right for us. It’s actually very, very good. We need to help a couple of our children learn to appreciate each other a little more–however biological siblings sometimes need to work on that, too.

But it was a good opportunity to tell #5 what I DID want: ”If we’re going to be like anyone, I want to be ‘Yours Mine & Ours!’” I exclaimed.

He looked at me strangely, couldn’t figure that one out, I guess, because he asked, “‘Yours Mine & Ours?’ Why that? They had way more kids than we do and besides, I’m not in the armed forces.”

“Yes, I know!” I explained. “But Rene Russo is WAY hotter. If I’m going to be like anyone, let alone any stepmother, let it be her!”

We laughed, went in together and had a great talk with our sons. I have to say, I think that challenge made us better; stronger than ever. The challenges of life, the unexpected life itself, have a way of doing that, you know.

“Troubles are often the tools by which God fashions us for better things.” (Henry Ward Beecher)

He Said, She Said

“Bed is the poor man’s opera.” (Italian proverb)

We went to my room.

He sat on my bed.

I didn’t know what to do, so I walked to the other side of the room and sat on the far edge of the bed, well away from him and prepared myself for the worst. Unexpectedly, he scooted to the middle of the bed and reached for my hand. (I love that about him, by the way. Even though he had broken up with me, and in the middle of an intense discussion, he chose not to be cold or distant!)

“Andrea, I don’t know what to tell you. I really don’t know what to say,” he said.

I solved that for him. I said, “I do. I’ll tell you what you did and what you said: you dumped me. You dumped me before you even married me. I can’t believe it!”

He looked at me in surprise and said, “Dumped you? I did not!”

“Yes, you did, ” I replied. “You dumped me. You said you couldn’t do it anymore, that the timing was bad, you were going to leave…”

He corrected, “Yes, I said that but I was talking about THAT discussion. I meant that I couldn’t do that fight, right then, in that moment; that the timing for that discussion was bad–my family was arriving for dinner any moment.”

I stopped. Stunned. ”Wait. You didn’t dump me?” I asked.

“No, I didn’t dump you! I would never ‘dump’ you! I love you, our marriage is a very good thing, I KNOW it,” he replied.

There was only one thing to say to that.

“Then you mean to tell me I’ve been up here in my bathroom, throwing up, all night…for NOTHING?” I asked.

It was his turn to be stunned. ”Is THAT where you were and what you were doing all night?”

Long story short, we worked it out. After a minute or two of “apologizing” he stopped and said, “Wait a second. If you were throwing up all night, what am I doing making up with you?”

I assured him it was fine to continue making up with me, that I’d brushed my teeth after my reaction to our break up and that he’d never have known what I’d been up to if I hadn’t told him. He didn’t argue with me about that, only about one thing:

He says he never dumped me.

I say he did.

But thankfully, whatever the case, we got it together again–and just in time! Because the next afternoon, Monday afternoon, I got a phone call that would have ended things for sure.

“Expect a phone call before lunch from the teacher informing you that your child has been launching hot dogs by compressing them inside a small Thermos and then removing the lid quickly.” (Erma Bombeck)

Or something like that.