Living Happily Ever After


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NOT Some Kind of Soft Drink

“I can remember a reporter asking me for a quote, and I didn’t know what a quote was. I thought it was some kind of soft drink.” (Joe DiMaggio)

Something happened in my unexpected life I’ve been holding back on. I almost spilled the beans last month the day I blogged that something exciting was happening the next day. (In fact, Bachelor #5′s mom read that post and called him to ask if he was getting married the next day! Sorry, no. It actually had nothing to do with that.)

But I guess today is the day to share.

Last month, a reporter from NBC’s Channel 9 in Denver, CO, Cheryl Preheim, contacted me via email. She had found my blog, read it and wanted to talk to me. My first inclination was a resounding “No Way.” But, in true Andrea Merriman style, I read on anyway. And then I re-read the whole email. And then read it again.

Cheryl told me she was interested in my story from the perspective of my children and helping them through our challenge. She told me about her family, her children and her philosophy of life and motherhood. (Mothers know the way to other mother’s hearts, don’t they?) She said all the right things; and for some reason, I believed her. I was wary but warming to the idea of talking to her.

I turned to my trusty co-workers for advice. They are sharp, smart good men who haven’t led me astray in the 15 months I’ve known them. The comment I remember most came from our Emmy-winning film guy who said, “You’ve worked with media, you know reporters are never your friend.” So I googled Cheryl Preheim to find out what I could. I thought about it. And then I responded to her email.

We talked on the phone, emailed, got to know one another and…I liked her. I trusted her. (Can you believe after all of the lies and deception by someone so close to me I still trust people? But I do.) I had a good feeling about her and what she wanted to do. So we made a plan to meet.

She and a very nice cameraman named Ken flew to Utah and spent a day with my children and me. They were kind, generous and respectful of our family. They were easy to talk to. They became our friends. We were nothing showy or impressive, but they sat around our kitchen table and ate dinner with us anyway–and filmed my 5-year-old eating hot dogs and chips. I begged Ken not to show the unhealthy meal I was serving my young son, so he graciously zoomed in on the carrots my son WASN’T eating! We opened our home, our lives and our hearts to Cheryl and Ken and in the end, were so sorry to see them go.

After they left, I gathered my children together and asked them what they thought and how they felt. They said, “It was fun. They were nice.” It was a positive experience for them.

I was struck by it for different reasons.

The interview brought everything full circle for me. I’ve thought about my experiences, I’ve written about them, but I’ve never verbalized any of it on record. It was also eye opening to see how far we all have come. I observed my children objectively, and I realized they seem completely normal. Healed. The smiles and the laughter are real. (As are the bad manners, unfortunately!) I feel like it was the final chapter to this portion of the unexpected life that was thrust upon us last year.

Afterward, all I could think was, “It was unexpectedly fun and positive, a good experience for me and my children. And I REALLY like Cheryl Preheim. She is a good woman. A genuine person. A caring human being out to make a positive contribution to the world. A friend.” (Not to mention the fact she’s a talented reporter and a great writer.) Regardless of the outcome of putting myself out there, I stand by that.

And now I’m looking forward to seeing what she has done with my story.

Tonight. On NBC’s Channel 9. In Denver, CO.

I just wish I’d had time to have my hair done. Lose 20 pounds. Or maybe get a little Botox.

“I wish my name was Brian because maybe sometimes people would misspell my name and call me Brain. That’s like a free compliment and you don’t even gotta be smart to notice it.” (Mitch Hedberg)

A Perspective on Things I Never Thought I’d Learn

“There is not an issue that a woman cannot bring a perspective to.” (Eddie Bernice Johnson)

Speaking of perspective, here’s more of mine: Life teaches you lessons you don’t anticipate; you learn things you never, in your wildest dreams, imagine you will learn.

I’ve been exposed to things in my unexpected life I never expected–like crime, divorce, and prison. I’ve learned things I NEVER imagined knowing anything about! Like aspects of the justice system, jail and prison.

After my then-husband revealed his criminal activity to me on March 18, 2009, and told me he anticipated being incarcerated for 5-7 years, I could not wrap my head around any part of it. I’d never stolen so much as a grape from a grocery store without paying for it, and my husband had stolen millions of dollars and was heading to prison? I was shocked and in shock. I didn’t know everything it entailed or what was coming to any of us. I’d never known anyone in prison, anyone with a relative in prison and had never been involved in breaking the law beyond an occasional speeding ticket while driving. My only education about any of it came courtesy of Hollywood, and based on everything I’d ever seen about prisons in t.v. shows and movies, they seemed like the ultimate horror. And then the man I was married to told me he was heading to one.

What do you do when you find out your husband of 20 years is heading to prison? If you’re me, you worry and wonder. Then you google “jail” and “prison”, read and research and try to learn anything you can. That’s what I did anyway.

I tried to find out anything I could about prison and what to expect his living conditions, life, and incarceration experience would be. I didn’t have a lot of luck, as a law abiding citizen I didn’t even know where to look, but I did learn some new things. The little bit I found was just a tiny taste of what was to come. Despite everything he had done, and all his selfish choices had thrust upon his victims, me and my children, I was scared. For him. And that’s really all I knew of the prison experience until that day in late August 2009, when my former spouse went before a magistrate and was charged with a crime, pled “not guilty” to the charge and was taken into custody.

Besides his sentencing day last month, March 18, 2009, and July 13, 2009, that day was one of the worst for me.

I was at work all day in Utah, trying to get a lot done and keep busy with projects so I wouldn’t worry or wonder about what was happening in Denver, CO. I didn’t know what to expect, or how I would know what happened in court that day, since no one considered me a victim and I was no longer married to the criminal. I knew of no one who was going to get me word of what transpired, so I checked online media sources every hour or two throughout the day, anticipating something would be mentioned at some point. Yet as much as I had waited for it all morning, and expected it, I was still shocked when I entered the words “Shawn Merriman Ponzi” and up popped stories about the events of that day.

I sat there, at the computer monitor, frozen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was real. (I still couldn’t believe it.) I really wasn’t going to wake up any time soon and discover I’d simply been experiencing the most real-feeling nightmare of my life. It truly was more than a bad dream. It was the worst of the unexpected life. The day I had anticipated for months had finally arrived and the wheels of justice were turning. I couldn’t believe a man I’d loved and lived with, and had chosen to be the father of my children, was actually going to prison. But somehow I kept it together; finished my work day; drove home to my children, and no one was the wiser about what had happened in my life that day.

Everything about that event made me sick to my stomach–the “last phone call” Shawn made to talk to someone, me, that morning before he headed to the courthouse and embarked on the rest of his journey and the additional consequences resulting from his crimes; reading an email he sent that a friend was driving him to the courthouse as he was “a bit distracted and didn’t want to drive himself;” seeing video of him walking through the glass revolving doors of the courthouse heading to his hearing; reading of a courtroom packed with victims and how “more than 20 of his alleged victims stood up and applauded…Most were smiling.” (Miles Moffat,, 8/20/2009)

I don’t know how I’d feel if someone took MY most important possession, any one of my children from me, so I don’t judge the actions of those in attendance that day as right or wrong. I simply offer my perspective that it made me sick to see others exult in the demise of another, regardless of what that person had done. I hoped within my heart that regardless of what the future held for me, I would always choose to be strong enough to refrain from exulting in the downfall of another.

It also bothered me to read about myself in the stories about Shawn Merriman. Despite the fact I repeatedly asked everyone involved not to mention me or my children, they always did. That day, the magistrate referenced my children and I in a confidential, pre-hearing document, so it became part of the record, and was reported. And of course the reports were never accurate. That day it was, “his wife and children have moved to Utah…” There was no “wife.” We were divorced! (You might have to be the innocent ex-wife of a criminal to understand my perspective–absolute distaste for anything attempting to link me to the man, the crimes he committed or the media coverage about any of it.)

It was a welcome relief to actually laugh at one thing I read: the part about how Shawn Merriman was considered a flight risk so he had been taken into custody at the courthouse. That wasn’t quite accurate either, but it did make for more drama in the reporting! The reality is that Shawn Merriman did not have a passport–that, and his guns, were taken from him immediately upon turning himself in to the authorities. He had no money. He had no vehicle. No family. Only a handful of friends. And nowhere to go. He wasn’t going anywhere but prison, and he certainly wasn’t a flight risk! In fact, as I understood it, it had been Shawn who requested he be taken into custody as he wanted to get the clock ticking on the time he had to serve.

Well, he got what he wanted. He was taken into custody. That day, the clock began ticking. And for the first time since 1989, I had no idea where Shawn Merriman was, or if he was even safe. He seemed to just drop off the face of the planet into the deep, dark recesses of the criminal justice system and a jail somewhere. I didn’t know where he had gone; I didn’t know where he had been taken. There was no way to contact him. I was afraid for him, not for the first time, since beginning my unexpected life.

His incarceration had begun.

“That hunger of the flesh, that longing for ease, that terror of incarceration, that insistence on tribal honour being obeyed: all of that exists, and it exists everywhere.” (Ben Kingsley)

That Is Why You Must Sing

“I think I could sing and shear a few sheep at the same time.” (Robert Plant)

Not too long ago my youngest was eating his breakfast cereal. He spilled some milk on his chair, announced what he had done, “Mommy! I spilled milk on my chair!” And without missing a beat, changed the words to a popular rap song and sang about it: “Milk on the chair! Milk on the chair! Lookin’ like a FOOL with your milk on the chair!”

It was so unexpected. It made me laugh. And it made me realize there’s no sense crying over spilled milk…when you can sing about it.

I couldn’t help but think it’s a great choice for the unexpected life as well.

In life, you can choose to laugh or cry, as I’ve written about before, but also to sing!

“Music-what a powerful instrument, what a mighty weapon!” (Maria von Trapp)

Add that to your arsenal for dealing with the unexpected life.

“You must understand the whole of life, not just one little part of it. That is why you must read, that is why you must look at the skies, that is why you must sing, and dance, and write poems, and suffer, and understand, for all that is life.” (Jiddu Krishnamurti)

I Didn’t

“Now the choice has finally been made, you’ve put the story on the front page and produced the sort of collection of special reports that usually accompanies a major news event, not the announcement of the casting of one tired old film role.” (James Bond)

It was my 4th marriage proposal since becoming single.

It’s the first one I seriously considered.

And unlike Carrie Underwood, who said, “It’s nice to know you have support. Last night I got a marriage proposal. I just laughed,” I didn’t laugh.

I didn’t even throw up.

I cried.

And then I said yes.

I was getting married. To Bachelor #5.

I’d searched high (and low, as documented by some of the men I dated!) for him. And in the end, there were 31 men but there was only one winner. Bachelor #5. Mr. Awesome. The one I said, “Yes,” to; my “yes” man.

“I only have ‘yes’ men around me. Who needs ‘no’ men?” (Mae West)

By the way, his name is Mike. But since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want anyone to know his name, and for the sake of his anonymity and to honor the stealth in which he won my heart by simply being himself while making me think he was never even remotely interested in me, and because I don’t think we can really call him a “bachelor” anymore, shall we call him…Agent M?

I think James Bond, or Albert Broccoli, would approve. And besides, you should see Agent M in a tuxedo.

Taken By Surprise

“A sudden bold and unexpected question doth many times surprise a man and lay him open.” (Francis Bacon)

Have you ever been taken by surprise?

I have a few times in my life. Most recently, the night Bachelor #5 asked if he even had a chance with me; the first few times he told me he’d marry me tomorrow if I were willing; the night he mentioned “September;” and… one other time.

I had a date with Bachelor #5. That night, as I was getting ready, I was surprised to find I had unexpected help. My daughter (and her friend) were very interested in what I was going to wear and how I was going to look for my date that night.

The girls were digging through every piece of clothing that comprised my limited wardrobe, trying to find just the right thing for me to wear. Their concern was palpable; as if I’d made a habit of dressing like a circus performer and they wanted to save me from my habitual fashion disasters for a night.

“Laugh, clown, laugh. This is what I tell myself whenever I dress up like Bozo.” (Jack Handy)

Although I never would have chosen divorce and my single status but for the circumstances that led to it, I have to admit, a fun memory from my unexpected life was getting ready for my first date with the assistance of my sister and my daughter; and getting ready for many other dates with the assistance of my daughter, who was always on hand and always prepared with outfit suggestions and wardrobe ideas to help her mother look her best. It was like being a teenager again. Those nights before parties, dances, or evenings out, when friends would come over to help me get ready for a special occasion, or we’d get ready together. It felt a little like that, having my sister and my daughter help me.

But that night was the first time in awhile my daughter had been so concerned about what I was going to wear and look like on a date; however, she had a friend over and I figured it was a teenage girl thing–a novelty for the friend because her parents are married, she hasn’t had to watch her mother date men she didn’t know; and I figured they were bored, and thus more than willing to impart of their fashion expertise in an attempt to liven up a quiet Saturday night.

“If you are single there is always one thing you should take out with you on a Saturday night… your friends.” (Sarah Jessica Parker)

And fashion advice from a beautiful and stylish teenage daughter!

Never Underestimate A Second Date

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you, you know I love you still. Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to I will.” (The Beatles)

Believe it or not, despite a declaration like that, things continued as they had before. (One benefit of dating a queen of denial, I guess!) However, we went from seeing each other once a week, to seeing each other 2-3 times each week, depending on our schedules. Each time he took me home, Bachelor #5 said, “I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing. But no pressure, I can wait as long as it takes you to decide.”

I still wasn’t sure he got it, that he really realized what he was saying or that I understood what he was saying! I wasn’t even thinking along those lines, so I took him at his word and didn’t allow myself to feel any pressure. But one night, when I joked that he moved really fast to say something like that within a week of deciding he was interested in me and taking things to a new level, he disagreed. He said it hadn’t been “fast” at all. When I asked him how he could possibly think that, he told me he had known how he felt and what he wanted for a long time. “How long?” I asked. He replied, “Our second date.”

Our SECOND date?

And the entire time we’d dated, I’d believed he was simply trying to mentor and befriend a newly-divorced single mom! I’d never even thought he was interested in me! I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how he’d pulled that off. He said, “I’ve told you all along I have more self-control than you can imagine. Besides, what would you have done if I had told you how I felt and what I thought?”

I replied, “Run the other way!”

He nodded his head in agreement and said, “Exactly!”

It turned out to be true after all: men always have a plan. (Gee, who told me that? My brilliant Psychology degree male co-worker…and I had laughed at him, the perceptive and wise man who shared that vital bit of information with me!)

But this time, I was too shocked to laugh.

I’d also learned a very important life lesson, unexpected or otherwise: never underestimate men! You see, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” (Will Rogers)

However they get it, they get it…and I’d been the last one to know.


“Sickness comes on horseback, but goes away on foot” (Proverb)

Shortly after the date in which I took a new look at Bachelor #5, I got sick. Bronchitis and a sinus infection.

I took my first sick day from work. My co-workers said they knew I was sick and must REALLY have been sick because I told them I was sick, too sick to even work from home! The “bachelor pool” I was dating at the time all knew I was sick. I didn’t hear from any of them. Except Bachelor #5.

Bachelor #5 texted me (right on his usual schedule) to check on me, asked me how I was doing, and I texted back that I was sick. He offered to come and pick up my youngest kids and tend them so I could rest (he hadn’t even met them yet) or do anything else I needed. (I thought that was EXTREMELY nice and thoughtful, by the way.) He also asked me out for Valentine’s Day weekend when he hoped I’d be feeling better.

I returned to work and provided the usual update of my life to my co-workers. (Poor guys! It was like, “As Andrea’s World Turns” for far too long!) I reported Bachelor #5′s thoughtfulness in the midst of my sickness. One said, “Andrea, you need to take another look at this guy! He is incredible.”

Another said, “Andrea, he likes you!”

But I knew better. Bachelor #5 and I had different ideas about some things. He had older children and was at a different stage of life than I was. He was too old for me. And I knew he wasn’t interested in me romantically. I laughed at my co-worker’s suggestions.

“A good laugh and a long sleep are the best cures in the doctor’s book.” (Irish Proverb)

A Seriously Small World

“Aw, man, it’s a small world!” (“Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back,” 2001)

We talked. We laughed. We shared experiences from our lives. It was uncanny how much we had in common. Seriously, a LOT in common. Even some of the same friends!

As an adult I’d made an older friend in Colorado. She had adopted her children and once we got on the subject of adoption; I told her I had been adopted too. She asked me what I knew of my birth mother and I told her everything except my birth mother’s name. Turns out, my friend had gone to the same university in Utah as my birth mother and had been on the same dance team! She wanted to know the name, she was just sure she’d know her.

I was afraid of that, too. Which is why I didn’t feel I could tell anyone the name. (I learned to be a lot more circumspect after that. I was learning how seriously small the world is.) So instead, my friend told me her maiden name and told me to go home and look at the pictures I was in possession of and see if she was in them.

She was.

I didn’t get back with her, hoping my friend would forget all about it, but she followed up with me. I admitted she was in the pictures with my birth mother and told her she probably had known my birth mother. She racked her brain trying to figure out who my birth mother could be. For years. But she never mentioned any names and I never volunteered any information.

In the meantime, we continued to visit together about once a month, and even went out to lunch for my birthday for several years.

The first time I met my birth mother in person, at some point in the evening I said, “Oh! I think I might know someone you know!” I mentioned my friend and our association over several years, revealed the woman’s first name but was struggling to remember her maiden name, when my birth mother named it for me.

She said, “Not only do I know her, she was my best friend all through college. We were roommates. I was the matron of honor at her wedding!”

How is THAT for a small world? A seriously small world!

“It’s a small world. No kidding.” (“Just Friends,” 2005)

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)

Of Corpses, Fish and Flowers

“That corpse you planted last year in your garden, Has it begun to sprout? Will it bloom this year?” (T.S. Eliot)

I love “old-fashioned” flowers, like hollyhocks and peonies, but peonies are my favorite. Someone once told me peonies can live to be up to 90 years old. I don’t know if that is true, but it has made me love them even more.
I can’t imagine what they’ve seen and what they’ve survived to live that long.

Kind of like each of us as we live our unexpected lives.

My Colorado yard had LOTS of hollyhocks and peonies.

When I moved to Utah to begin a new chapter in my unexpected life, I left before my belongings. My former spouse, unemployed and waiting to be formally charged for the Ponzi scheme he perpetrated and the crimes he committed, moved my things to Utah for me after I was already working. Knowing how much I loved my peonies and that I had no money with which to buy new plants in Utah, the man I had divorced uprooted 2-3 peony plants from my Colorado yard and hauled them to Utah in buckets, hoping they could be transplanted in my new yard upon their arrival.

In the midst of working full time, tending my children in the evening, and trying to unpack and move in to our Utah home, one of the peony plants from Colorado died before I could plant them. I looked at it, dead, withered and lifeless in an orange Home Depot bucket, and realized I had a lot more in common with peonies than I’d thought. I felt like that plant looked and wondered if I was headed for the same fate. It felt like pieces of my heart were already there. But seeing the dead plant motivated me to plant the two remaining peony plants.

They looked dead, but I figured if that were the case, I couldn’t damage them further. I planted them in the middle of the July 2009 heat and went on living my life, not sure if they were alive enough to take root or if they’d survive the winter snow. I should have known better, though. I probably should have been more worried about whether or not they could survive my children!

Sometime during the winter, my four year old came to me one day, proudly holding an entire peony plant that he had uprooted. “Look Mom! Look what I found trying to grow in our yard! Look how strong I am! I ripped this whole bush out of the ground all by myself!”

My eyes were huge as I looked at the accomplishment dangling from his little hands–my peony plant, roots and all.

The loss of a plant, considering all I had lost, seemed like such a little thing. And it sounds petty, but in a year of disappointments I couldn’t help but add the peony plant to the list. But at the same time I acknowledged there were a lot bigger losses and issues in life, and in my world, than the loss of one pink peony plant. I had experienced too many to count in 2009 and as usual, knew I could choose to laugh or cry about things, so I shook my head at the absurdity of uprooting a plant from its home, hauling it several hundred miles in a bucket in the summer heat, transplanting it when it was mostly dead and with winter coming…and a small child finally doing it in.

I laughed.

It wasn’t THAT big a loss, but it’s still true: “Through humor, you can soften some of the worst blows that life delivers. And once you find laughter, no matter how painful your situation might be, you can survive it.” (Bill Cosby)

It reminded me of our attempt at having a fish for a pet several years earlier. The fish was new to our family when we left on a vacation to Africa for one month. And wouldn’t you know it, I forgot to arrange for anyone to feed it while we were gone! I realized my mistake partway through the trip and prepared myself for a dead fish when we returned home. To my shock, the fish was alive and swimming in its bowl when we returned to Colorado! I fed it, changed its water, and secretly admired the little fish’s survival instinct. The next evening however, as I did the dinner dishes, I realized the fish was missing. Apparently, our cleaning lady had come, hadn’t realized anything was swimming in the fish bowl, dumped the contents down the drain and washed the bowl!

In the case of the peony plant, all I could do was compliment my son on his brute strength, give his “huge” arm muscles a squeeze of admiration, and help him heft the remnants of my peony plant into the big garbage can outside. Another peony dead. Sometimes the best laid plans die or don’t work out due to circumstances beyond our control.

One peony plant was left, but who knew if it was even alive, or if it could survive the rest of the winter?

I was walking in my yard recently and saw it. The peony plant was still in the ground, thankfully. It was finally green. And to my surprise, there were blossoms getting ready to bloom! Who ever would have thought? And after all of this time, one year since it was first uprooted, has passed?

“Where flowers bloom so does hope.” (Lady Bird Johnson)

It looks like I’m going to have peonies after all. With my hope. In my unexpected life.