Living Happily Ever After


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The Ideal

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.” (Aristotle)
I have a few heroes. Let me tell you about one. The ideal woman. My ideal.
She is actually a Ponzi scheme victim–a victim of the Ponzi scheme my former husband perpetrated. (One extremely difficult aspect of marriage to a criminal perpetrating a Ponzi scheme unbeknownst to you or anyone else, especially when he appears to have preyed on family, friends and strangers alike, is that some of those you knew well, and loved, are victims of his crimes. I knew a few of Shawn Merriman’s victims in that way. Especially this one.)
She is a beautiful woman. In fact, her physical beauty was the first thing I noticed about her. But from the moment I met her, she was so gracious, dignified, kind and everything else…she instantly became one of my heroes. The type of woman I hoped some day to be. And then, due to a Ponzi scheme, our relationship ended.
Five years later, just last month in fact, we ran into one another. I was at work–so busy, and working in a crowd of people, I would never have seen her or known she was there. She could have easily walked past me without a word and I wouldn’t have known. But instead, and unexpectedly, I felt an arm go around my shoulders and give me a quick hug.  She kissed my cheek, quickly said something like, “You look so good! You are doing so well! I’m so proud of you!” and she was off in the crowd again before I could process what had just taken place.
Talk about dignity and grace and class. Not only making the best of circumstances but GOING OUT OF HER WAY to not just be kind, but LOVING, to the ex-wife of the man who stole her material wealth!
She remains my hero. Today (and many other days) I think of her example and I celebrate her.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” (Maya Angelou)

The Speech Continued: ‘R’ is for Rejuvenate

R: Rejuvenate Daily

Get the daily inspiration you need to carry on and keep going.

For me, that means prayer and scripture study. Meditation. Do what YOU need to do to rejuvenate yourself every day.

Don’t forget an important source of rejuvenation: friends and family. Rely on friends and family to remind you that you CAN do it. I’m grateful for the many friends who told I could do it. I could survive. I could rebuild and carry on and someday would be happy again.

They were right.

“True friends stab you in the front.” (Oscar Wilde)

And I’m grateful to friends who had the courage to do that, too.

Sitting (or Standing, as the Case May Be!) Happy

“But I learned that there’s a certain character that can be built from embarrassing yourself endlessly. If you can sit happy with embarrassment, there’s not much else that can really get to ya.” (Christian Bale)

What happened next is kind of…perfect; completely fitting for a first return to the state I’d left four years ago in total shock, grief, fear (even though I tried my best not to fear) and yes, complete humiliation.

First stop after DIA was to a restaurant for dinner.

As we drove, I was surprised to feel so calm and normal. I must have expected to feel the last feelings I’d had in Colorado (shock, grief, devastation, horror) or even worse, at this stage of life, to feel homesick for the city, state and life I’d loved so much (knowing that chapter of my life has closed and a permanent return to Colorado will never be a possibility) or worst of all, to feel like I didn’t belong there any more. I mean, Colorado had been my home since 1974. I was terrified to feel out of place there because if I didn’t feel I belonged in my home state, where would I EVER belong?

We had a nice dinner and at the end of dinner, I stood up to leave and instantly felt a freezing cold blast across my…nether-regions, looked down to determine why I suddenly felt so cold, only to see my maxi skirt puddled on the floor!

There I stood in a restaurant, on a Friday night, wearing–from the waist down– only my underclothing! I quickly bent down, pulled my skirt on again, and exited the restaurant!

Believe it or not, I could not stop laughing.

Leave it to my unexpected life to come full circle in the most unexpected of ways: depart in embarrassment, humiliation and mortification and  the VERY FIRST THING that happens to me upon my return most would consider embarrassing. (Except, I realized, me. As I’ve said before, it’s pretty difficult to be too embarrassed about anything given the “embarrassment”–revelation of crime, loss of everything, demise of family, divorce, and all of it played out on a very public stage– I’ve lived through! Haha)

Consider me filled with character. And sitting happy with it all. In my unexpected life.

Who EVER could have imagined that?

Not even optimistic, filled-with-hope, determined-to-create-and-live-a-happily-ever-after, little old me!

A Miracle

“Don’t rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” (The Princess Bride)

My husband came home from work the other day to report a new study he’d heard about: marriages where both partners share the duties of housework have a 50% chance of ending in divorce, isn’t that interesting?

Actually, it got me a little riled.

“Wait a minute,” I replied. “If 50% of all marriages supposedly end in divorce, and if 50% of remarriages are supposed to end in divorce, and if differences related to children, money, satisfaction, expectations, life stress and everything else supposedly cause 50% of marriages to end in divorce, and if helping each other around the house is now supposed to cause divorce…how is ANYONE supposed to stay married these days? Much less, how will WE stay married? We have every single statistic stacked against us and more—”

“Because we’re a miracle!” my husband exclaimed.

“But—” I began.

“We’re a miracle, and we always will be! We’re a miracle!” he exclaimed again, laughed, and ended all other conversation with a very shall we say…convincing…kiss.

“That married couples can live together day after day is a miracle that the Vatican has overlooked.” (Bill Cosby)

I’m grateful for the “miracle” that is mine and for the “miracle” of many other happy, committed marriages and families in the world. I’m a fan—I believe in marriage and family and what a blessing both have been, and are, in my life.

We need more miracles.

And if you don’t have your miracle yet, hang in there. Don’t give up. I’m rooting for you. After all, you can’t rush a miracle.

House Rules

“If you develop rules, never have more than ten.” (Donald Rumsfeld)

I’ve been asked to share my house rules. By request, here they are.

1. Family first. This means family first, friends second and family takes priority. We love each other and will seek to spend time with each other to make happy memories and strengthen our bonds for the future.

2. Participate in family meals, unless at work, school or church activity, because studies show families that eat regular meals together have more successful children. Please keep all food and drink, except water, confined to the kitchen area.

3. Be respectful of one another, communicate without yelling or profanity, strive to be cheerful, kind and pleasant. No slamming of doors, borrowing without asking, stealing–and please clean up after yourself (leave no trace!) Remove shoes upon entering our home.

4. Honor curfew because “after midnight you’re on the devil’s time.”  (That’s what my parents always told me, and my grandparents taught them.) No sleepovers, instead you may participate in “late nights.”

5. Attend church on Sunday, mid-week church activities, participate in church recognition programs.

6. Music, movies and video games are to be family appropriate. No “R” ratings. No internet use without a “buddy” when parents aren’t home.

7. No alcohol, cigarettes, drugs or their usage in the home or out of the home. Family members will submit to drug testing at the parents’ discretion.

8. Practice the life skills that ensure self-reliance: 1. emotional health (family members will go to counseling at the parents’ discretion); 2. financial health (don’t go into debt, eat at home as much as possible, pay 10% tithing, children save 50% of their earnings for college, parents will provide opportunities to develop talents as financially able, no allowance given–everyone is required to help with tasks around the house as it takes every family member to keep our family functioning and our home running smoothly); 3. physical health (eat at home as much as possible–not only is it cheaper, it’s healthier, go to bed at the appropriate time for your age established by parents, stay active); 4. get an education (your job is to focus on your education and learn all you can and do what you need to do to earn good grades); 5. work (everyone of age to work will have a job).

Clearly, “There are some good rules and there are some lousy rules.” (Harold Pinter)

But that’s life at our house.

And here’s the philosophy behind the rules:

Parenting is no popularity contest. As a parent, it’s my job to do everything I can to help my children be successful living our family rules which in turn will prepare them to be successful adults and enjoy happy and successful lives.

My efforts are based on my belief that basic needs (love, food and shelter) are a child’s right and I’m happy to provide them. But I believe everything else is a privilege and must be earned as children prove themselves through their obedience and performance (i.e.. their obedience to our family rules, academic performance, a good attitude, self-control, good behavior and good choices that show they are trustworthy, successful at enjoying their current level of freedom and privileges and are ready to attempt to be successful at the next level.)

Wrong choices, disobedience and setbacks based on behavior and poor choices result in consequences. I hate letting children experience consequences! As a person, I think it’s miserable to have to refrain from helping my children out of their troubles and as a parent, it’s painful to watch, but because I love them I have to allow them to learn from their mistakes. I think it’s the only way to help them learn to be successful. (And I’d much rather have them “fail” while they’re young, than continue to fail as adults because they didn’t learn what they needed to. I’d much rather have them get an “F” in elementary school for not doing their work, than have them lose a job as an adult because they weren’t doing their work.)

My parenting is somewhat based on love and logic. (My thanks to Jim Fay and Foster Kline, proponents of “Love and Logic.”) There are rules and expectations and there are consequences, consequences that will bring happiness and privileges when children make the right choices and other consequences should they choose disobedience.

My children have some input as to their consequences. For example, if they don’t clean their room possible consequences (some brainstormed/chosen by me, some chosen by them) include: temporarily losing their bedroom door until the room is tidy again, me coming in with a trash bag and collecting all of the mess into the sack and then they have to earn things back item by item by doing small extra jobs for me, me helping them clean their room and in return working extra time for me for the same amount of time I spent helping them do their job, or being “grounded” to their room until the work is done. I try to have the consequence connect to the choice. The key is to provide consequences both of us can live with and to providing more than one option/consequence so they have a choice. I also always try to have one of the consequences be a ridiculous option that makes them laugh, if I can.

And because I think there is far too little of people taking credit for their choices in life (it seems like everyone always wants to blame someone else), I’ve always made it a priority to teach personal responsibility as well. I want my kids to own their mistakes and not seek to blame others for their misfortune. When my oldest was little and experienced a time out he began to accuse, “YOU are doing this to me! YOU are making me have a time out!” so I quickly learned to teach him the role he played in it. I’ve even been known to ask them, “Who brought this upon you? Who actually is doing this to you?” just so they realize it was their choice that landed them their consequence.

And the whole “it’s not fair” thing doesn’t fly at our house, and never has. When my older children were little and shared that with me, I was quick to agree: “You’re so right! Life isn’t fair! We already know that, don’t we? If life were fair, I’d have a dad!” (I’m such a terrible mother to dash that childhood dream that life is fair. Sadly, that’s one thing my children have known at an early age although I had to laugh one day when a young child in my home uttered that and another young child, not much older, agreed, “Yes, life isn’t fair! If it were, mom would still have her dad.” I guess I taught that one a little too well, huh?)

But the great thing about all this? It’s all up to my children! I show them the way and help establish expectations and consequences with them, but they get to choose the type of life they live; they get to choose to be successful or not— and they quickly see that it’s much more pleasant to buckle down, get their work done, meet their responsibilities and enjoy freedom and privileges instead of choosing painful consequences and loss of privileges that result in childhood misery and woe! (I know, I know, my children aren’t going to have any stories of having to walk to school through two miles of snow but they WILL have stories about having me as their mother, I’m sure! And if those don’t suffice in showing they were sufficiently traumatized by the misfortune of their life in the parenting department, they can always play the losing-everything-to-a-Ponzi-scheme card! Lol. Just kidding. Hopefully they will always seek to be forward looking and choose to see how they’ve been blessed by the hard stuff to become even better than they would otherwise have been rather than dwell on any misery that came their way.)

But there you have it: what I do and why I do it. Aren’t you glad you don’t have to live at my house?

Oh. I should add that I try to do all of the above with humor, lots of laughter and hugs and love, without yelling (I am NOT a fan of losing control to the point of yelling or getting physical in a negative way) as well as dancing with my children whenever possible!

“Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music.” (Angela Monet)


“I replaced the headlights in my car with strobe lights, so it looks like I’m the only one moving.” (Stephen Wright)

I realized the other day that I’ve moved children in and out of the same bedroom three times in the same year. No wonder it feels like I’m the only one moving, or moving a lot, these days!

First, it was my middle son. Who got moved out so my husband’s son could move in with us. I know the move was hard on my son, especially after losing and moving from the only home and bedroom he’d ever known for almost 10 years, to a new home and bedroom in a new state, and then less than two years later being moved out of his bedroom once again. Compared to how some children would react in his situation, I admire my son for his good attitude and his willingness to sacrifice for someone else and for the good of the family. My husband hoped that a new dad in the house, a dad who would focus on the needs of “the one” (in this case, my son) would compensate for the necessary move. I think that has more than been the case. My son is better and happier than ever, although occasionally he wistfully reminisces about how much he liked that room! And his younger brother, my youngest, is already begging to be the next child to live in that room. It’s a popular room, I guess.

Then we moved my stepson in. The new occupant of the bedroom, almost 13 years old at the time but looking and acting a lot older than that in many ways, went from basically being an only child (his siblings hadn’t lived with him for several years) in a quiet bachelor pad with his dad, this son pretty much the center of his father’s universe, to one of now five children in a busy, loud home that, compared to the way he was raised, was an entirely different world and culture (I’ve said it before, and it’s true: different mothers=different family cultures, different values, different rules, different everything in our case). Poor kid. He lasted six months and went to live with his mother who had moved a few blocks away from us. (But that is another blog post in itself that will never be written! Lol. Lets just say while it is convenient for the child, I’m a woman who prefers boundaries and would never have chosen, had I had any input in the matter, to move that close to a former spouse or to have an ex-wife move that close to me. Just another of those remarriage “moments” my husband and I shake our heads and laugh about!)

The room was in limbo for a few months and then, lo and behold, my husband’s daughter was struggling where she was and needed a place to live. That bedroom of rotating occupants was available and just the thing. I gathered the last of the stepson’s personal items, moved them out, and got the room ready for his sister to move in. But that isn’t all I did.

I had learned a few things in that first year of marriage, remarriage, “blending” families, stepchildren, etc… Things were going to be different this time around. Before another child moved in, there was going to be an agreement made between the parents. ALL of the parents. And it was going to include, for the first time, the mother of the home the child would be living in. The stepmother. (Boo! Hiss!) Little wicked, little evil, little mean and nasty old me.

“Her evil stepmother is trying to get her married off to the Prince of West Muffin Land. Cinder is very unhappy, but according to the tale, her Fairy Godmother arrives to save the day.” (Ed Balthazar)

Stay tuned.

Second Marriage Moment #28: An Epiphany

“When you take it personally, you eat it up, and now it becomes your garbage.” (Ken Lauher)

I became a mother in 1993. I’ve done a lot of parenting (and correcting of inappropriate behavior) 24 hours a day, seven days a week, year in and year out. I’ve also done a lot of celebrating, cheerleading, taxi driving, cooking, cleaning, laundry, tutoring, teaching, friendshipping and dancing (as in, dance parties in the kitchen)—all part of the territory! Motherhood has been my greatest joy; being a mother has been the finest thing I’ve ever done.

Enter divorce. Followed by a second marriage. To a man with four children. Totally uncharted territory for me the day I became…a stepmother. Sort of. I noticed the older adult children introduced me to everyone as their “dad’s wife,” and I realized the adult children don’t see me as their parent in any form. (For the record, I’m o.k. with that. I’d probably feel the same way in their shoes.) So we like each other and get along for now, and I’m hopeful that as most great relationships are founded in friendship, with time, many relationships grow to feel like “family” and maybe that’s what will happen with us.

However the youngest child moved into my home and we began the blending process. (Life in the blender, as one friend, also divorced and remarried, told me they call it at their house!) There have been steps forward and steps backward, complicated by completely opposite family cultures.

In an effort to better understand my stepson, I found myself constantly evaluating what had to be the logic and reasoning behind his choices and behavior. It was all so different from anything I’d experienced, as a parent, before; I was always attemtping to “walk in his shoes,” which resulted in me taking some of his behavior personally.

As soon as I realized that, I was appalled! I’d never taken my other children’s behavior and choices, or any other child’s behavior and choices, personally. WHY would I ever think to do that with a stepchild?

I wouldn’t. It was my step-parenting epiphany.

Second marriage moment #28: don’t take the choices or behavior of stepchildren personally. I don’t think it’s ever about you, it’s about the situation. So just let it go, every time, and love them anyway.

Pretty good advice for life, too.

Second Marriage Moment #27

Second Marriage Moment #27 actually occurred before I married my husband. One night he called to tell me his son and his son’s friends were coming to my house to hang out. He told me the expectations he had shared with his son—and I made the mistaken assumption that he told me the rules he’d established so I could follow through and enforce them!


The son and his friends did things my fiance/husband had specifically forbidden and I called the son on it right away, as soon as I saw it transpire. In my culture, you see a wrong committed and you correct it then and there. It doesn’t matter who’s around. There’s no yelling or anger, you stop the behavior, re-establish expectations, and carry on.

Also in my culture: parents back each other up. If they disagree on parenting or anything else, they back each other up to the kids and resolve their differences privately. No big deal.

Except for one little thing which made it a BIG DEAL.

In my fiance/husband’s family, experience and culture, you take care of things later. After the friends are gone. All correction is done privately and to do anything else equals humiliation of the highest degree. (And the whole parents backing each other up thing? That never happened either.)

Oops. Second marriage moment #27 was a disaster.

Turns out, my fiance/husband had modified the rules after he’d told me what he expected, so his son hadn’t actually been disobedient; I just didn’t know that. In support of his father’s parenting, I called the son on his behavior immediately, and while his friends were in the vicinity—so I disciplined him AND humiliated him, according to his culture, in one moment, at the same time!

Way to go, Andrea!

Sometimes even I outdo myself.

But we got through it.

We talked it out as parents. I apologized to my stepson. And to his credit, he didn’t hold a grudge. In fact, this far past it…I can shake my head and laugh at the senseless disaster of it all. I mean, ” The next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it,” (Frank Clark) right?

I learned a lot from second marriage moment #27 and to laugh at it, continues the tradition of laughing at everything we can, instead of choosing to be overwhelmed by it, or get mad, at it all.

“I realize humor isn’t for everyone. It’s only for people who want to have fun, enjoy life and feel alive.” (“Real Life Quotes” blog, December 24, 2010, by Kevin Rayner)

Keep laughing.

Second Marriage Moment #25: The Counselor Was Right

“Gratitude is an art of painting an adversity into a lovely picture.” (Kak Sri)

I’ve always been the kind of person that appreciates cheerfulness, a positive attitude, a spirit of gratitude, a sense of humor and kindness and courtesy toward others. It’s pretty much how I’ve always tried to approached everything, every blessing and every challenge, in my life. And true to form, it’s how I entered into remarriage.

I thought that if we all tried to be cheerful, if we all had positive attitudes, if we all counted our blessings instead of our misfortunes, if we all laughed at ourselves and some of the crazy blended-family situations we now found ourselves in, if we were just polite to one another, everything would (at least) be tolerable. It’s how I raised my children; it’s the home life I’ve always espoused; and it has worked well for us: the good times have been really, really good; and the challenges, even the practically unbearable ones in the wake of a Ponzi scheme revelation, the venom we endured, the divorce and complete life change which resulted from the situation brought upon us by a former family member, were more bearable because of it.

Unfortunately, the remarriage counselor had a different view. He actually told us to expect issues—and he told us what they would be! I was NOT a fan of all the counselor told us to expect. And, I recognize (now) I was extremely naive to think all of the above could eliminate from our lives what every other remarriage situation brings to all family members. I learned, firsthand, the professional expert, the remarriage counselor, did indeed know what he was talking about. Every single issue he told us to prepare for came to pass in the course of our engagement, our marriage, or in the months afterward!

Looking back, I guess it was easier to know what to expect (even though I’d forgotten to expect it by the time it happened). I recommend premarital counseling to everyone. On those occasions when an issue would arise, we were prepared for it to some degree. My husband would look at me and say, “No problem, we were told this would happen, we’ll make it work.” And he always did, we always did, reminding ourselves, “This, too, shall pass.” And it always does.

One thing the remarriage counselor failed to mention, however, was the impact mothers have on their children; especially the impact of different mothers raising their children! Remarriage, and my husband, have taught me, “Different mothers equals entirely different cultures!” I believe you can attribute most blended family issues to that.

As a result, while there have been some great moments, there have been some challenges. I even dared wonder, about three weeks into our marriage (and on one or two other occasions), “WHAT have I done? Can I really endure the issues that come with this territory?” But what marriage doesn’t make you wonder that at some point, even a first marriage? And as my husband always points out, “At least the issues are never with each other or between us.” True, and that’s something to be grateful for.

Another thing I’m grateful for is that despite eight months of marriage, he is still holding on to the whole “soulmate thing” with all of his heart. And the longer I’m married to him, the more I think he’s right. How awesome it is to have found mine, so unexpectedly, thanks, once again, to…the unexpected life.

Oh, the counselor was right about something else, too: It CAN be done. It IS worth it. And, to quote him, “You two are going to be just fine!” Second marriage moment #25.

“Keep your eyes open to your mercies. The man who forgets to be thankful has fallen asleep in life.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

What blessings has YOUR unexpected life brought you?

Time…And Life

“How long a minute is depends on which side of the bathroom door you’re on.” (Zall’s 2nd Law)

Minutes, and time in general, are funny things. Especially how they fly when you’re having fun. Or something like that. Lets just say lately I’ve lost track of it. Have I been so busy living life, I haven’t had time to write, or blog, about it—at all?


And although I knew it had been awhile, I didn’t realize it has been almost two months! MUCH has transpired. Evidenced by the fact that since I last wrote, I’ve had second marriage moments and “life” moments galore—not to mention WordPress reconfigured everything in my absence and I couldn’t figure out how to access my own blog! It took me awhile to get back here.

But I’m back.

Finally ready to write.

And I’m about to spill it.