Living Happily Ever After


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“Fed” By A Daughter

I’ve said it before: I absolutely did not feel any pressure. Bachelor #5 told me not to, so I didn’t. I simply wasn’t ready to think much about anything, especially something of THAT magnitude. However, I couldn’t help but notice some things.

Bachelor #5 took the time to chat with my kids every time he came to pick me up. They really liked him. Even my teenagers would stop what they were doing to talk to him and hang out with him and they didn’t do that with anyone! In those moments, I felt like our family was complete again. And then a thought would jolt me and I’d realize, “No, this is just a man I’m dating who is talking to my kids.” However, it sure felt like something else. But I pushed those thoughts out of my mind.

He went to Hawaii with his sons for one week. And I, the independent single mother of four who had weathered some pretty difficult storms of an unexpected life, felt a void like I can’t describe while he was gone. I attempted to occupy myself with other things (and other men) in his absence, but nothing helped. It was one of the longest weeks of my life. THAT was unexpected. But I didn’t let myself think about that, either.

Then he had my children and I over to his home for a “family night,” stories, games and dessert, one evening. He had separate activities for my younger children and my older teens, and spent one-on-one time with each. He was fun, a great host, and I smiled inside as I intentionally sat there and watched him do it all: keep a busy four-year-old occupied and happy, make a 10-year-old smile and feel important, delight a teenage girl and relate to her (I think he even sang a song for her), and make a teenage boy laugh and stay entertained… while at the same time managing to cook dessert for all of us as he composed a poem about toenail clippings and sausages using 8 words from 8 different foreign languages in minutes. (It was part of a game we were playing. I about fell off my chair when I saw that not only did he instantly and easily know as many words as he needed for the poem, he wrote an amazing and hilarious poem that made us all laugh.)

As I observed him doing all of the above that night, I couldn’t stop my thoughts. I even remember where I was sitting when they came. “Andrea, this feels like you are ‘home.’ It is more than comfortable. It doesn’t feel like you are with a man you’re dating, it feels the way marriage felt; like you are with your family and your family is whole and complete again. You like this man most when you’re alone with him, or when you’re in his home or your home, with the children.”

But I still didn’t get it. (Or let myself get it.) I thought I had to be imagining those feelings. They couldn’t be real, could they? But as I looked around at my children, smiling and laughing, no trace of devastation, sorrow or sadness in their eyes, I wasn’t so sure.

As we left to go home, walking toward the car, my daughter and I were alone and she looked at me and said, “You love him.”


Of course I didn’t!

I immediately launched into what had become my standard explanation and description, “No, he is just a nice older man…blah, blah, blah,” and she shook her head at me in total disbelief. Probably wondering, “Is my mom REALLY that dense?” She gave me a list of evidences and I denied them all, but she moved ahead and walked away, absolutely not believing me, or probably, how blind her mother was!

“Men can starve from a lack of self-realization as much as they can from a lack of bread.” (Richard Wright)

Thank goodness for a beautiful, capable, amazing, selfless, mature, wise and perceptive daughter who was possibly more self-aware of her mother than her mother was!

And as I followed her to the car I was stunned to realize, in that moment, that she might be right.

Full Circle

“I don’t have to look up my family tree, because I know that I’m the sap.” (Fred Allen)

I could have died. Did I really say that out loud?

Thankfully, she laughed, opened the door and invited me into her home. And then, like a total mother, she said, “Let me look at you!” and had me turn all the way around in a circle for inspection.

She was friendly, kind, loving, accepting and interesting to talk to. She was also very open with her thoughts and feelings. I quickly learned she was not about judging others or making judgements. She had counseled me not to judge her, and the sign at her door was a good reminder: “Please leave your judgments, and your shoes, at the door.”

I think it was an exciting moment for both of us.

I apologized for my tacky first words, but maintained that they were true. She laughed and said at her age, it was a huge compliment. She didn’t mind them one bit!

There were no tears, just smiles, until she expressed her gratitude for my parents and the way they had raised me. She told me she felt that although they weren’t here any more, they were still very aware of me, that they were supportive of our meeting and that she could be here for me now. THAT is what made me cry.

It was a tender moment.

I remembered every single birthday of my entire life, when my mom would look at me funny and start to cry. (It was almost a ritual.) I’d ask her why she was crying. And she’d say, “I’m just thinking of your biological mother. I wonder what she is thinking today? And I am just so grateful to her for bringing you into this world!” And there stood the woman who had brought me into the world expressing gratitude for my parents. It was as if some part of the adoption process had come full circle.

She hugged me.

And then we sat down to begin to get acquainted.

“Other things may change us, but we start and end with the family.” (Anthony Brandt)

Schmuck Of The Week

I read in the media one day that Shawn Merriman (my husband, at the time he was nominated for the dubious distinction) was the “Schmuck of The Week,” and in the forerunning for the “Schmuck of The Year.”

How does it feel to be married, or to have been married, to the “Schmuck of The Week”? It’s a little bit of a dark spot in the otherwise bright existence, overall, I like to think of as my unexpected life. But not as dark as some moments. Like another dark day of last August 2009, the day He was formally charged by the U.S. attorney’s office and taken into custody.

It was a necessary step in the administration of consequences of the crimes He committed by running a Ponzi scheme for 15 years and stealing approximately $20 million from multiple victims. (I’m not saying he didn’t deserve the consequences. I’m simply saying it was another sad, tragic day in what had become many since the revelations of the crimes He had committed.)

We were divorced, but He called me that morning (basically because He had no one else to call) to say goodbye. I felt as if he were saying goodbye before heading to the electric chair. We’d been living in limbo, to some degree, prior to that day and it had finally arrived. I knew it was coming. I just could NOT comprehend it had actually arrived.

I worked all day, tried to focus on my projects, and the minutes ticked by on the clock. It was a very long day.

Periodically (at lunch or on a break) I’d check the internet for media coverage–any word of what, if anything, had transpired a state away. Nothing. It was my secret vigil. No one knew that while I was working in Utah, my former spouse was heading to jail in Colorado. It was a challenge of epic proportions: to keep my mind on my work and the tasks at hand…while waiting for word and publicity of something so dark for our family.

And then late in the afternoon, although I had to have been expecting it because I’d been looking for it all day, suddenly…it was there. I had intentionally sought the information, yet I was stunned when it actually popped up on my computer screen! I’d been on pins and needles all day. I’d had a pit in my stomach for hours. For good reason.

The media reported the whole thing, including federal marshals “clasping handcuffs on the accused Ponzi schemer Shawn Merriman in federal court” and the courtroom of smiling victims errupting in cheers and applause. One victim commented, “That was us clapping hard.”

It sickened me.

I went in the bathroom and didn’t just cry. I think I threw up. I was filled with dread at what had transpired, and I was absolutely sickened at the behavior of some. What kind of people exult in the demise of another–regardless of what that person has done?

“How could man rejoice in victory and delight in the slaughter of men?” (Lao Tzu)

It caused some serious introspection on my part. I tried hard to think of anything anyone could do that would make me smile, clap and cheer at the demise of another. Thankfully, I couldn’t think of an instance. And I hope I never can. I think I will have lost some part of me, some degree of goodness or compassion or humanity (I don’t know what you call it), if I ever allow myself to exult in the tragedy and demise of another regardless of whether or not some may judge it to be deserved.

Another victim commented, “There won’t be justice.”

They’re probably right. I know I will never have “justice” in this life. And I’m ok with that. That isn’t why I believe I’m here; it isn’t what I am about. Even little kids know life isn’t fair, don’t they? If life were “fair” a lot of things would be different, including justice. But would we be better if it were? Would we learn what we need to know? Based on the behavior of those wronged by my former spouse, I have to wonder.

And in the midst of my musings, I had to commute home and prepare to face my children. I had to look in their eyes, and watch their expressions, I had to comfort them in their tears when they learned what had taken place that day.

Another strange state of existence that day was the fact that for the first time since 1989, I didn’t know where He was, how to reach Him, what He was enduring, how He was being treated, or how I could contact Him for the sake of our children.

Not a fun day. Slightly less fun than having once had marital ties to the “Schmuck of The Week!”

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There’s Nothing Like Love Songs

I used to watch a t.v. show where real-life people, singers, perform.  Maybe you’ve heard of it?  ”American Idol.”

The last time I regularly watched was in 2009.  That night, most songs were love songs, and by the time the episode was over, I was thoroughly depressed!

To know what I didn’t have, to know what I probably never had (and just hadn’t known it), to realize how ripped off I got in love, marriage, eternity, romance, partnership, trust, honesty, life, a whole and complete family, a father for my children (even in alimony and child support) was sadly overwhelming.

There’s nothing like love songs to make you realize what you don’t have!

I finally couldn’t let myself think about it, or I was afraid I might not carry on. So I tried to put those thoughts out of my mind, I quit watching “American Idol,” and it was a long time before I could hear a love song and not cry.

Kahlil Gibran said, “Life without love is like a tree without blossoms or fruit.”  He was right on.  Inside, I felt like a burned, blackened, twisted, dry, bent, lifeless, broken, dead tree!  (If you’ve ever seen a mountain scarred by a forest fire, that’s how I felt.) And thanks to “American Idol,” and love songs, I realized that.

So, if you are in love, or are fortunate enough to be loved by someone, take a moment today and acknowledge that blessing in your life.  Because life, with love, IS a tree blossoming with flowers and fruit, boughs bending toward earth, laden with goodness and beauty. Bounteous. Beautiful to behold. Fragrant. Nourishing. Satisfying. Satiating. Protective.

Even love songs recognize that.

And if you aren’t currently in love, or loved, don’t give up.  I haven’t.  I’ve seen new life, flowers, and green leaves grow out of the most inhospitable environments–cracks in rocks on cliffs, charred fields, even burned, dead, twisted and broken trees.  I’m counting on that.