Living Happily Ever After


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No Parachute

Last night, as I picked my 10 year old up from swim team practice, I was stunned to hear sniffling coming from the backseat as I drove down State Street.  I looked in my rear-view mirror and thought I saw him crying.  When I asked if he was ok, he told me yes but life is just hard sometimes.  ”Tomorrow it will be one year, mom.  Last year at this time I was making an art project of a ship.  Do you remember how well it turned out?  And that night  is when I found out about everything.” How can a little boy who was only in third grade remember so much about one particular day?  Probably for the same reason we all seem to.  It was the day our family ended.  And I hope soon and someday he gets what I’ve been trying to teach him, and demonstrate to him, for the past 365 days:  this latest “project” is going to turn out well, too.

When I woke up this morning, my hand brushed something as I shut off my alarm.  It was a note from my two teenagers:  ”Here’s a little something to brighten your day.  We know it has been hard, but we all love you!  We are so proud of you for rising to the challenge and living what you have taught us!” I think March 18 is on everyone’s minds.  (And I promise, I don’t walk around talking about it with my kids.  Hmm…I wonder if they have discovered this blog?:)

Anyway, life didn’t turn out QUITE as I expected it to.  Here’s why.

Last March 18 I dropped my three-year-old off at preschool.  I had a plan for the 2-3 hours he was going to be gone.  And then my spouse called me on my cell phone.  ”What are you doing this morning?” he asked.

I told him my plan and he told me he had hoped to spend time with me.  I invited him to join me doing what I had planned.  He told me he didn’t have that much time.  I asked him how much time he needed, he told me (it was the same amount of time it would have taken to do my activity, and when I pointed that out he told me he wasn’t going to do that activity with me.)  So like the flexible, kind wife that supported all of his dreams that I’d always tried to be, I turned the car around and headed home to spend time with him.  I had no idea I was turning around so he could destroy all of my dreams.

Before I reached home, he called my cell phone again and asked me to meet him in the motor home.  He loved that thing.  (I hated it, had never wanted it, but had supported him in that dream as well.) Looking back, it was probably a bit odd for him to request I meet him there.  But then again, I had no idea what was about to go down.


I walked in and he was talking on the phone to someone.  (Not unusual.  He had spent his days and nights calling clients and putting business deals together our entire marriage.) I sat at the table, waited for him to finish his phone call, and happened to glance to the left where I saw a yellow legal pad with names written on it:  Market Street Advisors, C.G.Boerner, Majestic Mountain Construction and Impressions Everlasting.  The only thing I knew about anything on that list was that they were my spouse’s business ventures.  I didn’t have anything to do with them.  I figured he’d been doodling or making one of the endless lists he was famous for writing down on yellow legal pads.  I was wrong.

He hung up the phone, sat across the table from me, folded his hands together on the tabletop and paused.  I looked at the legal pad, slid it across the table to him, and asked, “What’s this?”

He replied, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”  In a voice as calm and unemotional as I’d ever witnessed.  Nothing about his performance tipped me off as to what was about to happen.

Turns out, that yellow legal pad was a list, but only the beginning, of the lies I didn’t know he had been telling me and everyone else…for over 16 years.

It’s still not quite real.  The fall out is, of course.  But everything else STILL doesn’t seem real. And without warning, I found out everything I thought was real, actually wasn’t.

“My company, Market Street Advisors, is a sham.”

One simple sentence, and the complicated web of choices, actions and decisions of ONE person, the man I’d known since 1988 but apparently hadn’t known at all, shattered my world.

March 18, 2009.

But I didn’t get it.  Yet.

I know it showed in my face.  I didn’t have a clue what he was telling me.  My first thought (always a party or holiday thought at that stage of my life!) was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke?  Doesn’t he remember yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day? Boy, does he have his dates wrong!  What kind of joke is he trying to play?” All I could do was look at him with a puzzled expression on my face.

Suddenly,  in spite of my education and my knowledge of English and vocabulary, I didn’t understand the word “sham.”

He explained, “My company isn’t real.  It’s a sham, and has been from the very beginning. I’ve been running a ponzi scheme for the past 16 years.”

I didn’t know what a ponzi scheme was.

I’d heard mention of  a ponzi scheme on the news, I’d heard the name Bernie Madoff, I knew he had done something illegal, I knew a lot of people were mad at him and what he had done, but I didn’t understand what it was he, or my spouse, had done.

I got the condensed version.  What I was told left me in complete and utter shock.  But it didn’t stop there.

My spouse told me he had hired an attorney (that was the day he got dressed up and “went to meet a prospective client” downtown, came home, had dinner with the family, had family home evening with the family, and had family scripture study and family prayer with the family.)  He told me he had already turned himself in to the government authorities and to our church leaders (that was the night he missed dinner to meet with a church leader and then came home and watched American Idol with us, as usual.)  He told me  he would be going to prison and getting excommunicated from our church.  He also told me everything had been seized (I didn’t know what that meant but was too shocked to ask–he was still talking.) He told me I would be left alone to raise our children.  And he told me I needed to hire an attorney right away but he’d maxed out all of our credit cards paying for his.

I was shocked.  I was stunned.   I was confused.  I was scared.  I was devastated.  And at the same time, I didn’t know what I thought or felt.

All I knew was that I had been thrown out of an airplane…without a parachute.

What was I going to do?

The Last Day of My Old Life

March 17, 2010.  Today.

Today I can’t help but remember the last day of my old life.  March 17, 2009.  What a difference one year, even ONE DAY, makes.

Last year at this time my biggest concern was making sure everyone wore green!  I remember sending my middle son off to school, at his insistence, in a glittery green leprechaun-looking top hat, shamrock sunglasses, green beads, a green shirt, and sparkly green boxers over his clothes; shaking my head at his appearance as he climbed the steps of the school bus.  I remember making sure my three-year-old wore a green “cowboy” shirt to his riding lesson.  I made sure I served green food at dinner.  Oh, and I took pictures.  Unknowingly, I documented much of the last day of my family’s life.

However, we didn’t eat dinner as a family that night; it was just the kids and I.  Unusual, now that I think about it.  My spouse had a meeting with a church leader, at the church leader’s request (he told me), during dinnertime. When he got home from his meeting, it was a low key family night the rest of the evening.  Everything was normal.  We even watched American Idol, family-style, that night–as usual.  We all went to bed and slept.

It was the last night I slept.

I wonder, now, how one member of our family lived that day like everything was normal, posed for a photo, and watched tv with us like nothing unusual was about to happen?  Like he wasn’t about to deal our family the biggest destructive blow anyone had ever not imagined?  And how he dealt us a hand of cards he had stacked and shuffled without ever informing us of the game he was playing.

I’d never been much of a card player.  But thank goodness my mom was.  She wasn’t around March 17, 2009, but she had taught me to play any hand I was dealt.  She had prepared me.

A terrible hand was looming, and I didn’t even know it.  I think life has, perhaps, the best “poker face” of all.  According to Voltaire, “Each player must accept the cards life deals him or her; but once they are in hand, he or she alone must decide how to play the cards in order to win the game.”  It was up to me to play the game and win.

Get ready for March 18, Andrea.

The game of your life, for your life and the lives of your children, is about to begin.

Almost One Year

I had one hour to spare last night, and I wanted to think about something other than the date looming in my future this week:  March 18.  So I sat down to play the piano.

I started taking piano lessons when I began 2nd grade. I have played the piano in front of crowds, large and small.  I got piano scholarship offers to universities and colleges.  I’ve accompanied soloists, choirs, performing groups, bands, and played at weddings, funerals, dances, school and community functions.  I taught piano to 32 students each week.   So to anyone who knows me, this might not seem unusual.  But the thing is, it is.

What few people, if any, may NOT know is that it has been almost one year since I sat down and REALLY played the piano. For me.  Because I wanted to.  I haven’t played, for me,  since March 18, 2009.  That’s the day I quit.

Maybe it was intentional, maybe it wasn’t.  Maybe I was just overwhelmed with the challenges and changes brought on by my unexpected life. Whatever the reason, I quit.  And somehow, as March 18 approaches, I realize healing has taken place.

Enough healing, anyway, that I have turned to the piano again.  Enough healing that I can begin to tell my story about the day everything ended.

March 18.

Can’t Think About The Drive Anymore!

I am SO SICK of the drive to Utah!  I’m TIRED of thinking about all I thought as I drove from Colorado to Utah, newly divorced and single, to begin my new life.  I need a break!

Instead, here is a conversation from last night.  Ironically, it took place in the car, too.  (I promise there is more to me than that!)

“Mom, do you know what this week is?” my daughter asked.

My mind raced as I tried to figure out what I might be forgetting among end-of-term deadlines, ballet, track, tap dance, track meets, cub scouts, preschool, piano lessons, auto repairs, house cleaning and laundry, home repairs, possible birthdays or parties, daycare, church assignments, church activities, swim team practice, pets and my own work projects and deadlines.  But before I could respond, she answered her own question.

“MARCH 18.”

Those two words are all that needed to be said for me to realize that we have carried on and created a new and happy life for ourselves, but there is something underneath it all we haven’t forgotten.

MARCH 18, 2009.  To most people, it’s the day after St. Patrick’s Day.  To me, it’s the day our life ended.

And finally, one year after it happened, I’ll be ready to talk about it.  To share the details of what I discovered.  And about how my world, as I knew it then, ended.

March 18, 2010, is also going to be quite a day in my life as well.  I can tell.

And THEN I Cried

Driving from Colorado to Utah in my Subaru, I tried not to think.  But since I was also trying not to cry, really, the only thing I could do WAS think.  I thought about a variety of things, as I’ve already detailed, interspersed with pep talks to myself:  ”You CAN do this, Andrea. Just keep driving.”

I didn’t cry because I felt I had to be strong for my kids.  Of course I’d let them see me cry in all of this.  The grief and trauma we’d lived through had been so intense, all of us had cried.  All of us had cried a lot. We had cried together.  We had cried alone. At that point, in 2009, trust me:  the Merriman family cornered the market on tears (and tissues) and I knew that.

I guess one reason I felt like I couldn’t cry was because I had to be strong for my kids–because I remembered what I had needed when the family I grew up in lost our dad.  I was devastated, overwhelmed, scared, and a host of other feelings and emotions.  And after the initial grief, what I wanted and needed at that time was for my mom to be strong for me.  I needed to feel confident in her, in our future and that our family would survive in spite of our challenge.  And she was.  She was strong in the face of her tears.  She was stronger and more courageous than I ever imagined she was capable of being.  And she helped us not only survive, but thrive.  I felt my children deserved that same thing from me.

I also didn’t cry as I drove because I was afraid if I gave in and started, I might never be able to stop.

I sort of felt like I was holding back the walls of the Red Sea in Cecil B. Demille’s epic movie, “The Ten Commandments.”  Remember the scene? Where the Lord is miraculously holding back gigantic walls of water of the Red Sea as the Children of Israel crossed to the other side?  That was me.  Trying to hold back the walls as I drove.

Miraculously, I had done it for the first four hours of the drive.

But in the movie, at some point, the walls came crashing down.  And that is what exactly happened to me.

Of course, unexpectedly!

Halfway through the drive I looked in my rear view mirror and realized both boys were asleep.  At the same time I hit my former hometown of Grand Jct., Colorado, and without any warning to my psyche thoughts of the girl I had once been; my optimism for life, the future and eternity; my hopes, dreams and expectations; my childhood memories and everything else came flooding into my mind.  And the walls came crashing down.


I cried for that little girl, all she had dreamed of, and for what she had ended up with instead.

I cried for my children, for all they had dreamed of and for all they had had, and for what they had ended up with instead.

I cried for my parents–that they weren’t here anymore and I was all alone, without even them to rely on.  I cried, wondering what they would think of me now and the mess I was in, if they only knew.

I cried because I was alone.

I cried because I was so afraid, even though I desperately tried not to be.  (I just couldn’t help myself on that one.)

I cried for all that was ahead of me in the immediate future, the next year, and the next 5-10-and 50 years of life.  My TOTALLY unexpected life.

And I don’t know how, but I kept driving.

I Am SO NOT AFRAID…of Driving!

I’ve had a few fears in my life, but driving isn’t one of them.

Even as a kid, riding a tricycle on the sidewalk in my dress (remember the 1960s and early 1970s?  LOTS of dresses!  Every day!  Those were the good old days, when people truly dressed for success.  In fact, I have pictures of family picnics in the mountains where the women are all in dresses and the men are in shirts and ties!  But I digress…)

Riding my tricycle, I liked to pretend the sidewalk was the road and that my trike was really a car.  My shiny, sexy (aren’t vehicles always described with that word?) purple trike with the metallic streamers coming out the end of the handle bars…I loved it!  And of course, I LOVED every amusement park ride that offered a mini car to drive.  I sacrificed riding roller coasters for those!  So while some people have a fear of driving, I’m not one of them.

Thank goodness for that, I thought, as I drove from Colorado to Utah to begin my new life post-divorce and post the rest of the trauma I had survived the almost four months previously.  But I couldn’t help myself.  While I drove, with lots of time to think, I thought of things I have been afraid of.

Spiders and Bugs; Snakes and Mice. I didn’t think Denver even had mosquitoes.  And then I moved to a home in the “country.”  Back in 1993, people used to joke I’d moved to Kansas; it was THAT far out there.  I missed the sidewalks and community parks and swimming pools of a planned neighborhood. And then I discovered my new home was also replete with everything I feared.  Giant spiders I thought only grew in rainforests were crawling on my porch.  I found bugs I’d never even seen in museums crawling INSIDE my house!  There were snakes of many varieties outside the house–and one VERY HOT SUMMER, I found two GIANT snakes actually INSIDE the house.  Not to mention the little black things I found that I eventually learned were mouse droppings…when I found mice.  I HATED all of that.

I hired exterminators and pest controllers.  I threatened to move to a hotel until they were completely eradicated from my life.  (You should have seen the exterminators’ reactions (yes, I went through countless different exterminators and pest control companies in an effort to have someone remove this fear from my life) to my hatred of pests, “Lady, you live IN THE COUNTRY!”  They must have thought I was a lunatic, an idiot, or both.

I did everything I could to remove these unpleasant things from my life, but none of them ever completely went away.  It seemed like I faced one of those above-mentioned fears every day, in one form or another, and after 16 years, I realized that although I didn’t like them, I wasn’t afraid of them anymore.  It’s true:  ”Each time we face our fear, we gain strength, courage and confidence in the doing.”  It was a good lesson for me to learn.  I was going to need it.

The dark. Even as a little girl, I was afraid of the dark.  Afraid to be alone in the basement even, especially if it was dark.  I was afraid of thunder and lightening in the dark (so afraid that my thoughtful dad got so he’d come and check on me, in the middle of the night, during every storm–even when I was a teenager!) As a woman, I didn’t sleep a wink when my spouse traveled and I was home alone.  And as a mother, the bedtime routine on nights alone was quite a production:  I’d haul all of my children into my bedroom, push a big piece of furniture in front of the door, and STILL lay awake afraid all night while my babies and kids slumbered peacefully!  The confession of a coward, I know.  But, somehow, over time, the fear went away.  I realized a year or two before I got divorced I wasn’t afraid at night anymore.  I don’t know if it was because my spouse traveled so much I got used to being alone at night or if it’s because I simply gave in to the exhaustion and finally slept; or if it’s because my oldest son got old enough I felt I had some protection; or if I just finally “grew up,” but whatever the case, I’m not afraid of the dark anymore.  And that’s good.  Because I’ve had some darkness.  And I’m all alone in it.

Which brings me to my next fear:  Being alone. LOVE this one.  (NOT!)  I was always a social person. Had lots of friends.  Had lots of dates.  Never thought I’d end up alone, much less at just 41 years old.  But I’ve learned to deal with it.  And in many ways, it isn’t as scary or as bad as I’d always imagined it would be. Either that, or I’m getting used to it. (I didn’t want to get used to it, darn it!  I liked being married and wanted to get married again!  Oh well.  At least I’m open-minded about a possibility that includes me being alone for the rest of my life now.)  Good for me for conquering this fear.

Being responsible for a child. Ironic, I know, that a mother of four children would be afraid of this.  But in college, as I saw new parents strapping a baby on their back and going to class, it FREAKED ME OUT.  The thought of having to feed a child when I was a poor college student kept me single until I was ready to graduate!  I was always so afraid of the thought of being financially responsible for keeping someone else alive–I worried I wasn’t up to that.  I was fine when it was just me, but the thought of anyone else relying on me for support terrified me.  Lucky for me, I eventually matured and was married to a good provider before I had children.  I wasn’t so afraid of this anymore because the providing was on his shoulders AND I had a partner in the parenting endeavor.  I wasn’t doing it alone.

Enter March 18, 2009.  I found out not only was I going to be alone, I was going to be SOLELY responsible for FOUR CHILDREN.  Responsible financially, emotionally, physically, in every way responsible.  I WAS TERRIFIED! But I didn’t have the luxury or time to sit around and think about how afraid I was.  (THAT part came as I drove to Utah.)  I thought I had just six weeks to get everything resolved as it related to being alone and being solely responsible for four children.  I had a SERIOUS deadline.

Like the children’s “bear hunt” rhyme, I was going on the hunt of my life and I couldn’t go over it, under it, or around it.  I had to go straight through it.  I had to, as Ralph Waldo Emerson said, “Do what you are afraid to do.”  (No offense to anyone named Ralph or Waldo, but I’ve always found it ironic that someone named Ralph AND Waldo had such great things to say and in such a brilliant way! lol)

And as I did that, I stretched and grew. Again.  Every day.  Just a little bit more.  Until now I can say I agree with Ralph Waldo Emerson on another thing:  ”He who is not everyday conquering some fear has not learned the secret of life.”

But as I drove to Utah from Colorado on July 13, 2009, I hadn’t learned this yet. I had eight hours to think and I thought about how afraid I was of my life.  And how afraid I was of what was ahead of me…for the rest of my life.

Too Much Time To Think

“Eight hours is too much time to think and my thoughts are definitely too hard to think!” That was another thought I had as the miles rolled by under the Subaru, driving from Colorado to Utah to begin a new life–thanks to divorce and other things.

My mind was doing a 19-years-in-review recap as I drove, and given the new perspective I had on those years (thanks to the revelations my former spouse made to me on March 18, 2009), every memory was tainted.  Even after the almost four months I’d had to think, to question, and to attempt to process, I was still coming up with new and more questions.  I was grateful, then, that I’d had almost four months to try to understand everything (as difficult as those four months had been.)

In fact, and believe it or not, almost one year later, the questions are still coming.  Someone recently asked me something I’d never thought of before.  I don’t know the answer to it.  I have to wonder: is that what the rest of my life is going to be? Another 50 years of random memories surfacing, causing questions that I will never know the answer to?  An interaction with someone that results in a question that somehow, in all the thinking I’ve done, I have never thought of?  And even if I could ask the question and get an answer…how do I really trust that the answer is the truth?

The answer to that is just one reason I got divorced.

As my sister said to me, when we chatted about things we’ve experienced in life that we never anticipated, “You are THE LAST person I EVER would have thought would get divorced!”  I totally agreed with her.  I am the last person I ever expected it to happen to too.  But in life, unexpected things happen.

As I drove, I wondered how everything was going to work out.

My greatest concern was, and is, for my children.  I wondered HOW they were ever going to rise above the life they were completely innocent of in every way?  I mean, my children and I are completely innocent of any wrongdoing–THAT, I know.  But they had landed in a situation they hadn’t chosen in any way, shape or form.  They hadn’t even gotten to choose their dad!  I had done that for them.

Everything I have done in all of this has been in an effort to do what I think is right (the way I’ve always tried to live my life) and to do what I think is best for my children.  Those two principles have guided my every action and reaction.  There are many who disagree with my choices, with some of the things I’ve done–or not done.  I’ve lost some friends over it.  I’ve been misjudged on some of it.  But pardon me for putting my kids first, even at my own expense, and for having the courage to do what I felt was right!  How dare anyone expect me to do anything else?

My thoughts turned, again, to my children and the evening of March 18, 2009.  When I had gathered my family together for the last time, as a united family, and let my children hear, from the mouth of the destroyer, the destruction he, the head of our family and home, had brought upon all of us.

I remembered how he sat alone in a chair, across the room from the rest of us, and told our children what he had done and what he anticipated the consequences would be.  They were as shocked as I had been when I’d been told earlier that day. It took a moment or two for them to comprehend what he was saying and they looked to me, with shock and horror on their faces, questioning with their eyes what they had just heard.  They looked to me for confirmation.

How do you shatter your children’s lives?  How do you destroy their hopes and dreams?  How do you ruin their world?  How do you do ANY of that?

How do you answer even a question about that? All I could do was sit there, with tears streaming down my face, my heart more shattered and broken than I knew a heart could be and still keep beating.  And I guess that was answer enough.

One of the children got up, crossed the room, and hugged their dad as they cried.  The other children spontaneously joined them and they all huddled, hugged and cried together.  We used to end our family prayers each day with a “group hug.”  But like everything else, those days were over.

I sat alone on the couch and watched the whole thing.

Then the destroyer got up, walked out the door, and left our family alone.

I was alone with my children.

Questions I Pondered as I Drove

Question: Have you ever been foolish enough to wonder if it’s possible to have your heart ripped out of your chest and survive?  Have your spouse of almost 20 years tell you what mine told me, on March 18, 2009, and you’ll know.

The short answer?  Yes.

The long answer?  Keep reading this blog.

Another question: How had everything I’d lived through from March 2009-July 2009 not (physically) killed me?  How had I not at least had a heart attack?

Followed immediately by another query:  How can it be possible to have the rug ripped out from under you, lose your entire life, get thrown off a cliff, survive the fall but land in the biggest giant mess of carnage and sewage imagineable, be hated by many who knew you and many who didn’t for simply surviving the fall and continuing to exist and still survive? (To maintain the integrity of this blog and my life, I should clarify much of the above is simply descriptive language.  I didn’t actually get thrown off a cliff, but it sure felt like it!  However, losing the “rug” underneath the existence of my life and the “filth” of crime, media coverage and publicity, hatred and vilification, being unrighteously judged by others, and everything else…I completely stand by!:)

Question:  Andrea, how do you get up every morning?  How do you get out of bed every day?  I know you don’t sleep anymore, I know you haven’t slept since March 17, 2009…but how do you get out of bed and face what is now your life? (This question I didn’t just come up with on my own.  Many people, good friends, had been asking me that one for a few months.)

There are two answers to all of the above questions, really.  Two reasons why I didn’t lay down and die or wander off into the sunset somewhere like, I admit, I was tempted, on occasion, to do.  Two reasons I didn’t quit or give up.  Two reasons why I got out of bed each morning to face another day in the life I certainly never chose and would never have forced on anyone else (even someone who hated me.) Two reasons I chose to live my unexpected life.  (Because I firmly believe “to live” is a choice.  I’m talking about truly living, not just existing, but carrying on and “blooming” wherever you’re planted.)

One answer is my children.  I survive for them.  Everything I do, I do for them.  To teach them how to live a good life, the right kind of life we all should be living–no matter what happens to us.  To give them a shot at having a future.  To help them achieve their potential and continue to achieve their dreams.  I mean, after all, your dreams shouldn’t change or die just because your life does.

The second answer is because of how I was raised and what I had been taught, especially by the example of the strong women in my family who had gone before me.  Truly, it was they who taught me to carry on NO MATTER WHAT by not just what they said, but by what they did.

I couldn’t believe it.  Another bolt of lightening.  (And thankfully, again, no unfortunate Harry Potter-esque facial scar!:)

I realized, as I drove my Subaru from Colorado to Utah, that I had the misfortune to be  the THIRD generation of Colorado women in my family who had disaster strike, got handed an unexpected life they wouldn’t wish on ANYONE, and left Colorado for Utah to begin again!

How had I never realized that before?

What kind of heritage had I been handed?

And I realized, also in that moment (but not for the first time):  a DARN good one!

I actually WAS prepared as much as anyone could have been.  I had been taught, by those who had gone before me, what to do and how to do it with grace and dignity.  I had been raised by incredible women who practiced what they preached, who carried on in the face of adversity.  I was going to do what they had done.  Because they had done it, too.

THAT is why I knew it was possible to have your heart ripped out of your chest and survive.  THAT is how I knew you could crawl out of the deepest hole of the best sewage life has to offer.  And THAT is why it never occurred to me to do anything but get out of bed each and every morning and carry on.

That is why I kept driving to Utah.

Divorced–And $1 More!

July 13, 2009, was a day I never expected to live.  Here’s what happened.

I got up in the morning, got ready (I remember I wore a skirt), drove to a courthouse in Arapahoe County, Colorado, with my then-spouse, chatting and making small talk as we drove. And then we got divorced.  An alien experience in the great expectations I’d always had for my life.

Getting divorced itself, in my opinion, was not like it’s depicted in the movies.  I expected a huge, empty court room, with just a judge, myself, and my spouse, but that isn’t what I got.  I got a tiny courtroom (seems like it was the size of a large master bedroom), 8-10 strangers observing my proceeding and hearing my private business, and a magistrate signing the paperwork.  And where were the attorneys that were always present in divorce?  Oh. That’s right.  I didn’t have a dime and neither did my former spouse.  We couldn’t afford attorneys.  (I had paid a family lawyer for unbundled services and basically wrote my divorce myself, with her help, input from my friend Holly, and the aid of life experience from what I’d observed my divorcing friends go through.  All 2 of my friends who’d divorced.  Obviously, my experience with divorce was pretty limited!)

I had the opportunity to hear the private business of the parties who went before my turn came.  If I could have been ANYWHERE else, I would have been.  But since I had to be there, I tried to not hear what was going on.  I tried not to think.

When my turn came, I stepped to the table and spoke into the microphone.  While I had done everything required, my former spouse had not taken care of details he was supposed to have and the magistrate did not look kindly upon him.  I was granted everything I asked for…and $1 more!

You see, due to the choices of my former spouse, there was no way I would get any financial support of any kind.  I wouldn’t even have asked for any, but legally he has to pay something, so the court assigned him minimum wage (even though he was not employed and didn’t anticipate that he would be for quite some time) and stipulated he should pay me $563 each month to support our four children.  (HA!  Not that he’d be able to pay me, but my health insurance is $400/month!  My daycare and preschool is close to $600/month!  My car insurance, for a teenage driver, is $300! $563 doesn’t even cover our food! But whatever makes everyone else feel better about the situation…I’ve know I’ve gotten shafted financially, and every other possible way, but who’s complaining:)

Back to the divorce proceeding.  The magistrate noted I had been a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for almost our entire 20 year marriage and asked if I was requesting maintenance from my former spouse.  When I wasn’t, she added $1 to the amount of child support for MY maintenance, signed the papers, and I was divorced.  As quickly as that.

Divorced and $1 more!

We walked to the car, got in, and drove “home.” I don’t know about him, but I was trying not to think about what had just happened and the reasons for it.  I had other events to get through that day.

When we arrived home, we hauled my suitcases out and loaded them in my new (to me) 2005 Subaru Outback station wagon.  We loaded our two dogs (Joe, a 100 pound yellow lab and Ella, a 25 pound cocker spaniel) into their crates and into the Subaru.  I put my two youngest children, my 9 year old and my 3 year old in the car, ignored the staring neighbors, and drove off without a backward glance.

I wish I could say I drove off into the sunset.  But that isn’t what happened.  That isn’t where I was headed.  Call me the Queen of Denial, but at that moment, I couldn’t look back on any part of my previous life or I’d never be able to move forward.  I drove out of my Colorado neighborhood for the last time, heading to Utah, acting like I was going on a quick roadtrip–NOT starting an entirely new life in a new state as a single mother who works full time, the sole emotional/physical/financial support of 4 children!

I didn’t take one last walk through the home that had been mine for 16 years.  I didn’t walk my yard, look at my flowers, or “say goodbye” to any part of my home, property or old life.  I knew I would never be able to move on if I allowed myself to look back, even one little moment or at one tiny little thing.

Because I had never felt more inadequate for any task in my life.  I knew I had an emotional marathon ahead of me of unimagineable proportions.  Had I really been trained for it?  Was I really prepared?  It certainly wasn’t an exercise I’d ever planned on or expected.  I hoped I was up to the race of my life.  My childrens’ futures, and mine, hung in the balance.