Living Happily Ever After


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The Speech Continued: ‘A’ is for Integrity

A: ALWAYS Integrity

I believe integrity will see you through anything. Be who you are, be true to yourself, be honest with yourself and others in whatever situation you may be.

Ironically, if I’d had to describe myself or the person my parents had taught me to be prior to 2009, it would have been that I was a person of integrity. Yet there I was, my entire life, family, past, future, reputation, destroyed by a man the complete opposite of that. And I’d never known that or seen that.

I never, in my life, thought integrity would be a challenge for me. However, I was shocked at some of the thoughts that came to me, to abandon my integrity, out of sheer desperation for my circumstances.

The day the U.S. Marshalls came to inventory my possessions for seizure was one of those days. While waiting for them to arrive, I actually had the thought to hide some of my jewelry. (Not that I’m a big fan of jewels. I saw my jewels simply as an asset that could be sold to help me feed my children in my desperate circumstances.) I was shocked at the thought! I was an honest person, I couldn’t believe that thought had even crossed my mind.

I dismissed it, briefly waged a silent battle within my own mind, and quickly came to the determination that I was not going to let someone else’s lack of integrity cause me to lose mine! I’d rather starve to death! (Which at the time I didn’t consider a remote possibility–I thought that’s where I was headed.) I’d also love to say that’s the only time I had that thought to be dishonest, but interestingly, I was presented with another opportunity to choose integrity regarding my jewelry within a few weeks of that initial challenge, and I had to decide, AGAIN, to choose to have integrity! Once again, I decided my integrity was worth more than anything to me.

I decided, as did the mother of Cornelius in ancient Greece, that my children were to be my jewels! My ONLY jewels. And I’m ok with that.


On the Heels of Healing…Vindication

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.” (Abraham Lincoln)

When the infamous events of 2009 unfolded, there were many aspects of them that were indescribably difficult for me, personally. Some I have written about, some I have never addressed, but all of them I let go. Because I don’t see how you can triumph over adversity, or move beyond a challenge, or most importantly HEAL, if you’re still hanging on to the hurt. So, regardless of the difficulty, I made a conscious decision to let it all go.

Here’s one example.

One of the hardest consequences of my former husband’s crimes were the attacks on my personal integrity. Out of the entire nightmare that was one part of it that gave me great grief. (I know, to each his own! But having been taught to live a life of integrity and to value honesty above most everything else, it was a tough emotional blow to know a heavy shadow of suspicion lay over me in the eyes of many due to the actions of the man I was married to.) What I wanted more than anything (other than to wake up and discover my life wasn’t real, that it was only a nightmare) was vindication. I wanted someone in a position of authority to publicly defend me, to acknowledge my innocence, and to make an irrefutable statement to the world: “Andrea Merriman is innocent. She didn’t know about the crimes and she wasn’t involved in any crimes.” But that doesn’t happen in cases like the one I was thrust into against my will. I learned that firsthand in 2009.

So I let it go. T0 heal, required that I let all of that go.

I made the conscious decision to know I knew the truth: that I was, am and always have been an honest person. I decided to not care what other people might suspect or erroneously believe about me. I chose to carry on and to continue to live my life the only way I knew how—with integrity. I abandoned all hope of vindication, or of anyone defending me or my integrity, publicly. I healed.

Imagine my surprise, then, on June 20, 2012 when the episode of “American Greed” featuring the crimes of Shawn Merriman played on televisions across the nation and a federal agent said something like, “There is absolutely no evidence that Andrea Merriman knew what was going on or that she was involved in it.”

I NEVER expected that!

In fact, when my friend called to tell me about it (as I can’t afford television, satellite or cable I couldn’t watch it, real time, myself) I couldn’t believe it. She said, “It’s nothing we didn’t know, but did you ever imagine you’d hear it on national television?” Nope. I can’t say it enough—I honestly never expected that. But I also couldn’t be more grateful to the good man, and federal agent, who publicly stated the truth.

The unexpected life just keeps getting more unexpected!

And sometimes, as a part of the glorious highs and extremely devastating lows that are a part of each person’s journey, you eventually get exactly what you’ve wished for. It may not come to you when you want it, it may not come when you think you “have” to have it (after all, I had to move forward and heal without mine.) But now I see that it was better that way.

It was better for me to heal without it. I think I became stronger because of it.

“At the time, when you’re being dissected and judged it’s pretty brutal, but in hindsight it’s great and – it sounds cliched – you do come out the other side better and stronger.” (Kate Bosworth)

A Move, A Proof

Two words describe the most recent developments at our house: Moving. Again. (Or should I more accurately describe it as U-Haul? Or you, haul? Sometimes I think I ought to go into business for myself.) Here’s the update.

We gave it a good run (two months.) However, in that time my husband’s daughter made some good choices (again)  and some seriously poor choices (again)…so she moved in with her mother. I’d assumed  we’d let her experience the consequences of her choices and try it again, but before I even knew there was a plan, the new plan was implemented and she’d made arrangements to live somewhere else. Had I had any say in the matter, had it been up to me, I would have insisted my husband’s daughter stay with us; I would have allowed her to experience the consequences of her choices and we would have given things another shot. But, I’m not in charge; I’m just my husband’s wife.

From my perspective, that’s one thing that makes divorce and the stepparent role so difficult: watching kids you like and care about make choice after choice that complicate their lives and put their futures at risk; you’re ready and willing as their friend to assist their parent in helping them learn self-control, honesty, personal responsibility, fiscal responsibility, family values and other important lessons you know they’re going to need to be successful adults—and not only are they not interested in those things, they have another option, another parent, another “culture,” an entirely different and opposite set of values and lifestyle they can turn to. On top of that, the additional challenge (and biggest concern from my perspective) is the effect the poor choices and lives the children of one family choose to lead can have on the children of the other family.

Honestly, sometimes that aspect of remarriage is almost overwhelming. But one unexpected part the situation has reminded me of again, however, is that everything has an upside. You just have to look for it and find it.

Here’s one. When I divorced and my children’s father went to prison to serve his 12 year sentence, I thought that was a hard and terrible thing for my children to experience. And it has been, to some degree, at least it started out that way, but it has also been a blessing too. For instance, my children don’t have to deal with two parents leading two different lives, fear of showing “loyalty” to one versus the other, the disruption in routine of moving between different parents and different rules, etc…It has also turned out to be good for me in an unexpected way—in my ability to parent my children as I see fit. While I believe my ex-husband would support my role, my philosophy and my efforts in raising our children were he near us, the “upside” or bright side to their father’s incarceration is that his absence guarantees it.

It gives my children no other option. I’m it. If they don’t like my rules, parenting philosophies or what I’m raising them to be, if they make a wrong choice, they still have to stay with me, experience the consequences of their choices and learn from their mistakes. There’s nowhere else for them to go. There’s no one they can run to, no one who will pity them or enable them to continue their wrong choices and inappropriate behaviors. And given the many divorce situations I’ve been exposed to since the demise of my original family, I now see that prison has actually been a blessing for my children and their growth and learning.

Who EVER would have thought? Certainly not me! When I think back to that dark day in 2009 when my world crumbled in one moment, one conversation, and I thought prison was the most incomprehensible thing in my world, I never saw it coming, I didn’t see an upside, if you will. But it is what it is: ”What seems to us as bitter trials are often blessings in disguise.” (Oscar Wilde)

It reminds me again that if you’ve got a challenge, even a very bitter one; if you’re enduring your worst nightmare, even something so terrible you never could have imagined it would ever be your nightmare; hang in there! And I know that in time (if you can’t already) you’ll see a bright side. You’ll be able to recognize something good that came out of it, even if it’s a very minuscule good thing.  Eventually you’ll see a blessing in even the worst situations. That’s the unexpected life. And I’ll say it again: I’m living proof.

“A proof is a proof. What kind of a proof? It’s a proof. A proof is a proof. And when you have a good proof, it’s because it’s proven.” (Jean Chretien)

The Honest Answer I Didn’t Expect

“I don’t believe in dressing up reality. I don’t believe in using makeup to make things look smoother.” (Lou Reed)

My husband called me back less than 20 minutes later and the issue was resolved.

My husband and his daughter arrived in Utah the following evening and we moved her in to our home. When the settling in was complete, we sat down with her and went over the house and family rules, what we expected from her and what she could expect from us. (I printed them out and gave her a copy so there could be no misunderstanding.)

One week later, one night when she came to say goodnight before going to bed, I took the opportunity to ask her in more detail how things were going and how she was feeling about her new life.

“Ok, you’ve been here a week,” I said. “Tell me, how are you doing? How are things going? How are you feeling?”

I don’t know what I expected to hear, or what I expected her to say, but I wasn’t expecting to be so entertained by her reply: “I’m not going to lie, it hasn’t been nearly as bad as I thought it would be!” she answered.

I kept a straight face and waited until she left the room…to laugh! I’ll never forget that (honest) answer.

And really, isn’t that pretty much life?   It rarely ends up as bad as we think it’ll be. And if it’s really that bad or worse, it doesn’t stay that way forever—I learned that myself from personal experience. Eventually, with enough faith, work and endurance, you’re on to a different happily ever after—if that’s what you choose.

“There are two primary choices in life: to accept conditions as they exist, or accept the responsibility for changing them.” (Denis Waitley)

The Real Truth

“Never go to bed mad.  Stay up and fight.” (Phyllis Diller, Phyllis Diller’s Housekeeping Hints, 1966)

In my mid-20s, I decided to learn to play the harp. I’d already learned to play the violin, piano and guitar during my childhood so I thought the harp would be a piece of cake. I had some extra time on my hands (it was before I became a mother) so I rented a harp, found a teacher and began lessons. Sadly, I only lasted one or two months before I returned the harp and abandoned my desire. I found two things difficult about that quest: 1) that my teacher treated me like a child, marching me to a trash can to deposit my chewing gum prior to the lessons, and 2) it was REALLY hard to be so inept at something as “old” as I was and to discipline myself to start at the beginning of learning something new. (Call me lazy.)

Enter remarriage. Sometimes it reminds me of harp lessons. It can be an adjustment to learn so many new things this “old!” (Mid-40s for me; my husband is 50.) I’m struck by this thought occasionally, particularly when I learn something new about marriage or relationships. I confess I went into marriage thinking I’d been happily married for 20 years, that I knew how to “do” marriage and was pretty decent at it. I must not have anticipated learning new things with my second marriage, I was just looking forward to marrying the man I loved and building a life with him.

Instead, I’ve been shocked at how much I have learned in one short year. I admit not every lesson has been welcome or easy, particularly my biggest one: that participants in strong relationships and happy marriages don’t always see eye to eye or have the same opinion…and that’s ok; it’s ok to agree to disagree on an issue; a difference of opinion doesn’t always mean it’s a fight; conflict (and the resolution of conflict) is acceptable, and even normal, in marriage; and several other realizations along those same lines. I can’t believe I was married for 20 years and never got that.

I saw my friends, family members and other people in healthy relationships and good marriages experience and resolve conflict over and over again. But for some reason, it never gave me pause to wonder why I wasn’t dealing with the same things. The man I was married to would occasionally remark, “Isn’t it great that we don’t have those problems like other couples?” and act like our marriage was better, our relationship was stronger, or that we were more compatible than other couples because of that.

But on this side of it, I see he was WRONG about that and many other things, including his choices to lie, steal, commit fraud and perpetrate a Ponzi scheme for 16 years. I see that his crimes and his lies affected not just his professional life and the lives of his investors, but like an octopus, its nasty and dangerous tentacles infiltrated and wrapped themselves around every aspect of his life, mine and our family, including my marriage as well. That was eye opening. And not very pleasant to discover.

And I never realized it until I remarried, an honest man this time.

During our first year of marriage, we worked through a few differences of opinion. If you asked my husband about them, that’s all that he’d say they were. But each time one arose, I panicked. A part of me felt it had to mean something bad to even experience a difference of opinion. I was so afraid to face conflict, I’d keep quiet and let it fester inside me until I couldn’t take it any more–or until my husband would ask me what was wrong–and then it would finally unleash. And always, not only did I fear conflict thinking it would be the beginning of the end of my new marriage and our relationship, it was always accompanied by that darn throwing up reaction I’ve experienced since beginning my unexpected life.

It shocked me to realize my first marriage didn’t have a lot of differences of opinion I’m sure, not because our marriage was better than any other marriage and not because we were more compatible than other couples, but because one of us wasn’t being honest. After all, how can you have any conflict when one partner is probably just saying what they think the other one wants to hear to keep peace in the marriage and the home? (He had to have done that, I don’t believe you can run a Ponzi scheme AND deal with conflict outside of that, a Ponzi scheme has to be way too much work on its own. Sadly, I now suspect many aspects of my then-marriage were perhaps not as “real” as normal marriages; were not as “perfect” as I thought.)

But I never saw that. I never knew it. I guess the Ponzi scheme wasn’t the only thing I missed during my first marriage.

It has been somewhat difficult to master second marriage moment #31. But I’d say it’s about time I learned it, wouldn’t you? My thanks to my honest, patient and loving husband who has helped me come to the realizations I have finally come to, about differences of opinion in marriage; and who helps me dare to trust a man and a husband time and again, in every way possible.

So here’s the real truth about marriage that everyone but me has probably always known and lived, my knowledge acquired courtesy of my remarriage: conflict IS ok. My husband tells me differences of opinion are healthy and I now believe him. It’s normal for two people, who have lived two different lives and come from two different worlds, to have a few different ideas about things. The issues aren’t that important, it’s the hanging in there and working through them together that is. After all, ”A happy marriage is the union of two good forgivers.” (Ruth Bell Graham)

That’s How We Learn

“I grew up with six brothers. That’s how I learned to dance – waiting for the bathroom.” (Bob Hope)

I can relate, although I learned to dance in the kitchen watching my parents cha-cha before breakfast and taking a spin when my mom needed to stir something.

But that is the grand adventure of life, isn’t it?

Learning the most unexpected lessons at the most unexpected times and from the most unexpected places.

I learned honesty as a child, but learned, again, how committed I was to it when government agents were coming to my home to seize everything of value and I knew the contents of my jewelry box. It would have been so easy to take something I could sell to feed, clothe or shelter my children and none would be the wiser. Except me. And that was the problem.

So I didn’t do it, although I’d be lying if I said the thought hadn’t crossed my mind. It absolutely did. When you’re left alone, financially devastated, and have four children to provide for, it’s amazing how desperate that situation can make you feel. However, I’ve never been one to sell my soul for “things” and even when the stakes were so high in my eyes, I learned I still wasn’t going to. I learned for myself I wasn’t going to break down and be dishonest after living a life of complete honesty just because my spouse had. I learned I’d rather starve or be forced to rely upon the charity of others than to choose to steal or sell my soul for any “thing.”

In that moment I also learned that as much as we know what is right, and regardless of how much a virtue (like honesty) we possess, we are never absolutely above temptation. At least, I’m imperfect enough not to be.

Life is an endless opportunity to prove ourselves and reprove ourselves and prove ourselves again, even when we think we have something mastered–we get to learn and prove ourselves in an entirely new, and unexpected, way!

Like dance. I graduated from high school and dancing in the kitchen to college, social dance class, and returning home for New Year’s Eve 1985 to cha-cha with my dad, one last time, but in public, at a dance. Later I added clogging, BYU Folk Dancers and Irish dance to the resume of my experience. And eventually, a dance class with Bachelor #5. He keeps inviting me to country/western dance, so that may be next on our list. But wherever our lesson, and our life lessons take us, this I know:

That’s how we learn. And we’re learning all the time. The tombstone will be our diploma, said Eartha Kitt.

“Be a student so long as you still have something to learn, and this will mean all your life.” (Henry L. Doherty)

Especially in the unexpected one.

Genuinely “Real”

Then it was time to meet my brother.

We went to dinner. Afterward, I had to know what my brother thought. He said, “He is certainly a good looking man! And he seems very genuine.”

In fact, every friend I introduced him to liked him and commented what a GENUINE person he was. After the lies and betrayal of my first spouse, I guess we were all struck by something REAL in Bachelor #5.

After being thrust into my unexpected life, and witnessing the trauma and destruction one man’s choice to hide things and NOT live a real and genuine life had inflicted on me, my children, and many others, I wonder if I was specifically drawn to the opposite of that, Bachelor #5…and I didn’t even know it until everyone pointed it out to me?

Whatever the reason, it’s something I’ve learned to appreciate even more while living my unexpected life: people who choose to be ‘real.’ Besides the fact it’s the way I prefer to live (I’m too outspoken to live otherwise), I find it courageous.

“It takes courage to grow up and become who you really are.” (e.e. cummings)

It really does.

Mr. Board Breaker

“Breaking is a martial arts skill that is used in competition, demonstration and testing. Breaking is an action where a martial artist uses a striking surface to break one or more objects using the skills honed in their art form. The striking surface is usually a hand or a foot, but may also be a fingertip, toe, head, elbow, knuckle or knee. The most common object is a piece of wood, though it is also common to break bricks or cinder blocks.” (Wikipedia)

Mr. Board Breaker.

He isn’t a bachelor. I didn’t date him; I never even met him. I saw him on a YouTube video, actually.

He said his was a motivational video–to show you can do anything if you set your mind to it. He stood in front of the camera, speaking positive and encouraging words about breaking a board over his head, and then offered a demonstration. He grabbed a board, smashed it over his head…and nothing happened. He repeated the effort. Again, nothing happened.

But he didn’t give up.

Time and again he smashed his skull with wood and couldn’t break the board. He swayed on his feet as he narrated his motivational speech (probably unsteady on his feet due to pain) but he didn’t give up trying to break a board over his head (probably due to brain damage!) He even switched to a different board and continued his attempts.

Time and again he failed, but Mr. Board Breaker just would not give up! I don’t know how many times he failed to break a board over his head, but it was enough that it eventually made me cringe with each additional attempt.
And then, eventually, he succeeded!

Mr. Board Breaker reminded me of being single!

I’ve had a few “board breakers” too. You know, things I’ve optimistically endeavored to do despite the lack of results I had hoped for.

Lets recap a few of mine.

I tried my church’s Sunday night meetings; we all know how well those worked for me. (They didn’t.) I never met a single friend there but had some weird experiences for sure. I tried the singles dances held at my church and other singles dances; we all know how well those worked for me, too. I had a few limited successes from those; but mostly it was a showcase of very interesting characters. Despite the fact these were board breakers for me, I maintain my gratitude that they exist. I am thankful there is some place for single people to go to socialize and meet other people.

I also tried the online thing as I’ve previously shared. I’ve read statistics that say 1 out of 5 to 1 out of 8 couples today met online. That’s encouraging, right? Personally, I tried a total of 3 different sites: 1 for 24 hours, 1 for one month, and 1 for less than a month.) How well that worked for me has yet to be decided.

And in the spirit of honesty and total disclosure, there’s a final board breaker I have to share. A board breaker of a divorced woman living in Utah seeking to successfully “break the board” of her single status and find that happily ever after ending she just can’t quit believing is out there for her.

I couldn’t believe this happened to me.

Cue: The sound of splintering wood…

Except For That One Time…

In my limited experience as the mother of four children, there have been various challenges to address and “work on” as I teach and train them to grow to become all that I dream for them. One of those challenges is teaching honesty.

It seems like it’s a lesson that cycles. When they’re very young, the lesson is about not taking things that don’t belong to you, and it usually includes a trip or two BACK to a store to return something they’ve put in their pocket without my knowledge. As they grow and get a little older, the lesson becomes about always telling the truth–not lying to avoid a consequence; for example, not saying their homework is done when it really isn’t so they can go out and play with friends.

I’m still working on this with one of my younger children. Yesterday was no exception. In fact, the attempts to utilize every teaching moment are still in place and are actually more vital than ever because I work full-time and my time with my children is limited by my work. (But again, I am not complaining. I am grateful to have a job.)

As we discussed the importance of honesty at all times, in all things, and in all places AGAIN, and set a goal to strive for that AGAIN, and then as my son walked away to play after we chatted, I couldn’t help but remember one particular moment in 2009. A moment I’d been tempted to lie. It had been a moment among all moments for me. A challenge to my personal integrity and honesty. And until today, I wasn’t sure if I had been a failure or a success.

Here’s what happened.

The day of my move from Colorado to Utah was approaching. It was late afternoon and I’d taken a break from packing to let my three-year-old play outside. He was riding his little bike at the top of our driveway and I kept an eye on him, sure that we were being watched by neighbors as we did so, but I was getting quite used to living in the glare of the spotlight…and the binoculars…and under the hostile gaze of those around me. I had learned to do my thing, to do what I thought was right for my children (and even smile, occasionally, to give the appearance that I was having fun doing it) and to ignore those who spent their time watching me do it!

Soon a neighbor wandered up the driveway, trying to look nonchalant but headed my direction. (This neighbor had not been a client of my spouse’s, but had been very vocal in the media and willing to be interviewed about the situation as she saw it. Her home was the scene of the neighborhood gathering the day the U.S. Marshalls seized the items from our property; her husband was the man who photographed the goings on at our home as he leaned over the fence to do it.) I couldn’t imagine what she wanted to talk to me about. I soon found out.

She wanted to know when I was moving, wanted to know the exact day. She wanted to know where I was moving to, the exact city. She wanted to know how I had a place to live. She wanted to know where I was working, the name of my company and where it was located. She wanted information and details. And although she hadn’t been willing to talk to me through the rest of the nightmare, or even offer a smile or a wave, she was willing to ask me everything she wanted to know.

I was caught off guard. By that point, I panicked whenever anyone approached me, especially a neighbor! I hadn’t expected anyone to talk to me. And I certainly didn’t expect anyone to press me for answers about my personal plans and business. But press she did. When I tried to politely respond in a vague manner, so as not to appear rude, she didn’t quit. She asked for direct details.

I felt like a deer caught in headlights. I hate that feeling, yet it feels like that was my position a lot during 2009! (I guess you could say 2009 was my hunting season. lol.)

I knew why she wanted the information. The victims were circulating a daily email, I’d heard about it from the government and some victims that had received it and didn’t want to be included on it. It basically was a communication of ANY bit of information, even private information about my life or marriage–including things I’d told friends in confidence–ANYTHING they could discover from anyone. And then they published it to, what seemed like to me, the world. (I guess you feel that way when things shared in confidence are not kept that way.)

But then again, what was a little more humiliation in what had become the ultimate humiliation–discovering your spouse had been running a ponzi scheme, had stolen millions of dollars from friends and neighbors and family and strangers, that your spouse was going to prison, that your spouse had told hundreds of lies everyday to you and everyone else, that your children would have a relative in prison…and that all the while, you NEVER HAD A CLUE?

If I hadn’t been so terrified of what would happen should all of that information about my move get out, I could have laughed about the insanity of a non-victim neighbor actually doing what she did. But there was some degree of risk to my situation. For example, the head investigators constantly checked with me to make sure I felt safe from my neighbors. They told me if there was ever a problem to call 911 immediately. They insisted it was necessary they come to my home and supervise my move to protect ME from my neighbors on moving day. Etc…

And if I hadn’t been raised to be polite and honest, the conversation would have gone differently, too. But instead of lying or saying something rude, which I was tempted to do, I didn’t dare do it. I tried to answer her questions, vaguely, and then when she pressed me and pressed me for more details, I honestly answered with the truth! I SO did not want to tell everyone what was going on with me and what my plans were. I didn’t feel it was their business and I wanted to safeguard that information for my actual, physical safety was well.

But I couldn’t do it. I couldn’t ignore her. I couldn’t lie. I couldn’t even tell her to mind her own business!

She walked away after she had discovered what she wanted to know and, I assume, share with everyone. And I went inside my house and threw up, literally, wondering if I had put the last nail in the coffin of our fate by honestly answering questions that were not anyone’s business but mine.

I wondered if I had just sold out my chance to rebuild a life somewhere else at the price of my unwillingness to be rude. I wondered if I had just sealed the fate of the physical safety of my children by refusing to lie.

“WHY couldn’t I be rude? WHY couldn’t I lie even once?” I thought. I was sick at my inability to do what I thought was wrong, at even the possible expense of my children. What kind of mother does that? I wondered.

I was so sick at what I had done, although I felt I had done the right thing, and then I finally had to force myself to let it go because I couldn’t change anything about what had happened. I decided to trust that something good would come of my choice to continue to do what was right in spite of the possible negative consequence to me and my children. I hoped we would be safe until we moved, but you don’t get to pick the consequences of your choices, good or bad. I just hoped it would be a consequence I could live with! Literally.

“We tell lies when we are afraid…afraid of what we don’t know, afraid of what others will think, afraid of what will be found out about us. But every time we tell a lie, the thing that we fear grows stronger.” (Tad WIlliams) Although I hadn’t lied, I had no reason to be afraid anymore. The truth was out, come what may. And aside from people entering my home late that night when my daughter was home alone and they thought we were gone, no danger to my children and I resulted from my truthful revelations that I know of.

The rudeness I was tempted to respond with, or a lie to protect my children, might have eased some temporary discomfort but I believe this with all of my heart based on that day’s experience: “A lie will easily get you out of a scrape, and yet, strangely and beautifully, rapture posesses you when you have taken the scrape and left out the lie.” (Charles Edward Montague, “Disenchantment”)

That’s the challenge isn’t it? Of life. Of anything.

I have always believed that.

In 2009, I continued to live that–at my peril. Because my parents taught me, “Honesty is the best policy,” and that as Shakespeare wrote, “No legacy is so rich as honesty.” I had always tried to live that way. And given my current financial situation, that may be the only legacy my children will have to inherit from me! lol

I’ve never doubted the wisdom of that…except for that one time in 2009.

But looking back, I am honestly grateful I didn’t cave in to rudeness or fear and act on my temptation to “lie” that day to save my children and I from an unknown flood of hatred and potential danger. I think it was the right decision: “Slander cannot destroy an honest man–when the flood recedes the rock is there.” (Chinese Proverb)

Example is the best teacher. And I’m trying to do all I can to teach my children what they’ll need to know to navigate the very uncertain waters of life, unexpectedly.

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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.