Living Happily Ever After


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The Speech Concluded: ‘R’ is for Resilience

The original definition of resilience had to do with a material’s ability to resume its shape or position AFTER being bent, stretched and compressed: the ability to “bounce back.”

To help you bounce back, I recommend the following:

1. Reflect. Think about other challenges you’ve faced and how you successfully overcame them. Do those things.

2. Write about your feelings. Writing processes thoughts and feelings differently in the brain by putting words to them. Writing about something can change the way you view it. Interestingly, I heard about a 1994 study on job loss that found that participants who wrote about their loss 30 minutes each day for five consecutive days found work significantly faster than those who didn’t.

3. Find the lessons in your loss. Writing can help you do that, too. No matter how bad the circumstances ask, “What can I learn from this?” These lessons can help you avoid giving up despite setbacks, too.

4. Reinvent yourself. Sometimes, you have no other choice–you lose your entire life (like I did) and you’re forced to create a new one. If you aren’t forced to completely reinvent every aspect of a new life, learn a new skill, take up a new hobby, join a new group or meet some new people.

5. Move forward! The shortest way to the other side is through your challenge. Don’t be a pickle sucker. Get through your challenge and move on. And “suddenly” (no guarantee on how long it takes!) you’ll realize your smile is real–not something you’re faking for your children or the world. You’ll realize, with shock, you feel like your “old” self again. You’ll realize your new life is good, although not exactly the same, as the one you lost. And you’ll realize that you’re happy.

So…believe in wearing lipstick. Believe in pink.

Laugh, it’s the best calorie burner.

Be strong when everything seems to be going wrong.

Remember that happy girls are the prettiest ones.

Believe that tomorrow is another day. Believe in miracles.

And you’ll find yourself living your own personal one. Your “happily ever after.”

Learn the Lesson

“There is a lesson there about greed and it is a lesson I am willing to learn as well. Has it made me a distrustful person? I don’t think so. But we probably look a bit more carefully at our financial situation now.” (Kevin Bacon)

Also taking place on June 20, 2012 (the day my oldest left home, and the United States, not to return until approximately June 2014) was the airing of the MSNBC show, “American Greed.” It’s a show about greed and the destruction greed leaves in its wake. That particular day’s episode hit very close to home when it featured the crimes of my former husband.

I could write several blog posts on that particular episode and the things I learned from it (yes, three years later, I’m still learning new things!) but it also showed me how much I’ve healed and moved on from the whole thing. I realized I’d healed a lot when most of the show’s content felt like it hadn’t happened to me, but to another person living another life.

Little by little. Day by day. Month by month. Year by year. I’ve learned for myself that is how healing takes place.

But I also believe it’s a choice.

Like everything else in life, it’s a choice. You can choose to let it go, to heal from the trauma, drama and betrayals, to carry on despite the hard stuff and to seek to triumph over all of your challenges…or you can hang on to them, wallow in their misery, stagnate or let them ruin you and your potential to live a good and happy life. Ugh! I choose healing and progress any day over the alternative.

“What wound did ever heal but by degrees?” (William Shakespeare)


Hard Work

Three years ago I lost my entire life and was, literally, forced to live a new one.

Some might think the crime associated with my old life was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS traumatic.) Others might think the financial loss I experienced was the most traumatic aspect of the change. (And it WAS devastating.) Still others might view my divorce, or the loss of my home, or my move to another state as the most traumatic aspects of the hardship we experienced. (And they were ALL very difficult!) However for some reason, for me, one of the biggest and most traumatic changes of all of the changes from my old life to my new and unexpected one was…losing my opportunity to focus solely on my children as a stay-at-home mom when I had to return to the work force full-time so we could survive.

I’m sure it seems silly to most people—especially in today’s world of powerful, independent women who juggle work, family, children, home, continuing education, community service, church activity and service, exercise, shopping, fashion, and a loving marriage all the while achieving astounding success in the world of business—but I guess I’m still in awe of the women who do that. Women have worked outside the home for decades and there are certainly worse things in the world than working full-time (after all, it’s a blessing and a privilege to be able to provide food and shelter for my four children) but as a stay-at-home mom watching my full-time working mother friends do everything they did, I never felt I was “organized” enough to do it all and keep it all, especially myself, together; I counted my blessings I didn’t have to prove that! And now, as a full-time working mother I prove myself right, not to mention disorganized, every single day.

There is always something I fall short in.

That my housekeeping standards have slid is a total given. Not enough time to serve extensively in schools and the community like I once did is another sad fact. Forgetting important things, like a soccer game (when I’m the assistant coach AND in charge of the team snack) has become part of my history as well, as has a little impatience, on occasion, with my children or others, in addition to a lot of miracles—like the fact I drive thousands of miles every year for long commutes on highways at high speeds, during major highway construction in the state of Utah, and I haven’t been killed much less injured in any of the frequent collisions I pass. (One of my co-workers had his car totaled when he collided with a semi on the same commute, so I feel quite fortunate.)

Following are a few of the experiences, lessons and realizations that have come my way as result of my return to the work force full time. Indeed, “Life grants nothing to us mortals without hard work.” (Horace)

And by the way, “The phrase ‘working mother’ is redundant.” (Jane Sellman)

My First Audition—Almost

“Simon would not want to audition in front of Simon.” (Paula Abdul)

Have you ever looked at your life and wondered how you got there? That happened to me the other day. I call it, “The Audition.” Get ready.

I confess I never imagined “audition” and “Andrea” would be mentioned in the same sentence, much less in connection with my life, unexpected or otherwise. But sometimes in life, you get things you never expected! (Wise words, where have I read them before…Oh, yes, in the “About Me” section of this blog.)

One night my husband was talking to me about a theater opportunity he was going to audition for. He made the mistake of mentioning how much the job paid and without thinking (because I’m always trying to figure out ways to enhance my income–still short every month, three years later, darn it) I said, “Really? Maybe I should audition!”

Did I REALLY just say that?

It came out of my mouth on a whim, as a joke or a warped version of wishful thinking in the way you dream of being the recipient of a little extra money…but  before I knew it, my husband was off and running with the idea. He began planning: talked to me all about it, told me what to expect, said he’d help me work up a song to audition with, and when his married son dropped by, he started telling “everyone” (his children and my children and that always leads to information shared to many others:) what I was up to. Sort of a problem for me.

First, I hadn’t figured out how I was going to tell my kids that I was considering attempting something crazy. Second, I was still thinking I was in the “considering it” phase, not actually “planning to do it.” Third, believe it or not and contrary to what this blog may imply, I like to do things without having everyone know about it unless I choose to put it out there, like in this blog, and I always put it out there after the fact—after I’ve experienced it, processed it, mentally recovered from it and made sure enough time has passed I’m not imposing on anyone’s privacy. And fourth, in remarriage with children those opportunities for total privacy are few and far between. It feels like other parties always have to be notified of something we’re planning and thus, know my business almost as quickly as I do, so I relish the few things not connected to parenting/children that my husband and I can do without informing or involving anyone else…and then he told the kids right off the bat! (I know, I know, I’m hypersensitive where boundaries are concerned. I’m pretty sure it’s just an issue I have, but it has been a challenge because our two different families with two different cultures, which includes completely different ideas about boundaries, expectations and everything else, don’t always align. What’s normal to one family and the way they’ve always done it, doesn’t necessarily mesh with my expectations or isn’t how my family has always done it…you get the picture. Lets just say marriage, and especially remarriage, is a continual lesson in compromise, among many other things, is it not?)

Over the next few days, my husband continued to talk about the audition like it was a reality and I was really going to do it, left potential audition songs for me on the piano, and finally, the night before the audition, sat me down at the piano, had me sing a few songs, and selected one for me to master. Which led to an impromptu singing lesson because as he gave me vocal direction I could only look at him with a blank face. “Huh?” I frequently questioned. “What does that mean?” He’d demonstrate, we’d work on it and after quite a bit of time, he told me we were ready to leave it and he made a plan for us to go to the audition the next morning together.

As I stood in my living room, singing a solo in front of my husband and trying to sing in a more classical style (a huge challenge for me, lets just say I was Madonna on a cruise ship for a reason!), I had a hard time not laughing. I just kept thinking, “What in the heck am I doing? How did I get myself into this? This is NOT me. Didn’t I say I was never going to sing in public? I never would have imagined, on our first date, that someday my husband would be giving me a singing lesson…preparatory to an AUDITION!” Yet there I stood, preparing to do that very thing on the morrow.

And then wouldn’t you know it, after all of that time, work, effort and near humiliation I finally thought to check my calendar…and discovered I have a big work event scheduled the same weekend the show opens. Even if I were good enough (by some fluke) to make the show on the very first audition of my life, they’d never cast me if I were going to miss opening weekend performances!

I didn’t audition after all.

Saved by a scheduling conflict.

“A lot affects the outcome. It boils down to scheduling and the commitment of the network.” (David Ogden Stiers)

And that is the story of my first audition. Or the audition that actually didn’t happen. Whew—close call on that one!

Don’t Tell Women Your Secrets

“Am I now supposed to go on Oprah and cry and tell you my deepest, darkest secrets because you want to know?” (Kevin Spacey)

In a word? Yes. Especially if you’re a 5th grade boy.

My middle son just completed the 5th grade today. He learned a lot this year, academically as well as socially, including some important life lessons. For instance, I’ll never forget the day he came home and said, with complete disgust, “Mom! NEVER tell women your secrets!”

I was somewhat offended. I mean, I know I’m very open with what I share on this blog, but I would never betray a trust of confidence placed in me, whether it be from a stranger, a friend, a family member or even an enemy (although I hope I don’t have any of those!) I never have and I never will. My children, of all people, should know that.

And then it hit me. This is my boy with a lot of personality and dazzling blue eyes. He has had girls chasing him (one even paid him coins every time he’d go to her house to play!) since kindergarten. I hoped I wasn’t right in my suspicion, but I had a sinking feeling he’d been a little too honest about something regarding the opposite sex.

“Uh, oh!” I said. “You didn’t tell a girl which girl you like, did you?” Everyone knows not to do that, don’t they?

“How did you know?” he asked.

“Just a guess, but now you know: NEVER do that,” I replied. “I’m sorry, I thought you knew that.”

“But mom, SHE asked me for the information,” he explained. “She PROMISED me she wouldn’t tell anyone, and then she went RIGHT to the girl and told her!”

“And?” I asked.

“And now the girls who like ME are mad!” he said. “NEVER tell women your secrets!” A very poignant lesson. And he stormed off to take his frustration out on the trampoline. He did some wicked flips that day.

“Dolphins. They think they’re so cute. ‘Oh, look at me, I’m a flippy little dolphin, let me flip for you.’” (Chum, “Finding Nemo”)

Just don’t tell a girl who you’ve flipped for…if you’re an 11-year-old boy!

A very important life lesson to learn.


“One day, out of irritation, I said, you know all of those years with the Royal Shakespeare Company, all those years of playing kings and princes and speaking black verse, and bestriding the landscape of England was nothing but a preparation for sitting in the captain’s chair of the Enterprise.” (Patrick Stewart)

Jean Luc Pickard had it right.

Life doesn’t always turn out how you planned. And you’re not necessarily preparing for the future you envision. I’m not sure why we go through all we do…only to end up in some very unexpected places having experienced some unimaginable things.

But this I do know.

Our experiences teach us valuable lessons—IF we allow ourselves to learn. ”Experience: that most brutal of teachers. But you learn, my God, do you learn.” (C.S. Lewis)

Isn’t that the truth?

I also know this.

“You gain strength, courage, and confidence by every experience in which you really stop to look fear in the face. You are able to say to yourself, ‘I lived through this horror. I can take the next thing that comes along.’” (Eleanor Roosevelt)

We’re stronger because of what we’ve overcome. And if we got through something that difficult, we can get through anything—especially the next unexpected new opportunities we’re blessed with!

Late last summer I took my kids swimming at a friend’s pool one Saturday. Afterward, we enjoyed a barbecue. Then we innocently returned to our home after several hours of fun. We walked into the house and noticed a strange humming sound. I thought, “Darn! Someone left the television on when we left. I’ve asked my kids not to do that a thousand times!” and in a bit of frustration, went to the turn the t.v. off. Only it wasn’t on.

My oldest headed down to his bedroom right about that time, got to the basement and cried out. In a panic I raced down the stairs to see what was wrong, got to the bottom of the stairs, and unexpectedly stepped into a puddle of water at least 6 inches deep! The entire basement of our home was flooded! The “humming” sound I’d heard was the dying echo of ruined electronic equipment.

As I stood there, water sloshing against my calves looking at the utter ruin of the lowest level of my home’s interior and its contents, I belatedly thought, “Is it possible to get shocked standing in water with electronics humming and crackling as they float by?” And then thoughts of death-by-electricity fled my mind as I realized I needed to get the water to my home shut off. A pipe must have burst.

But wouldn’t you know, inept single woman that I am, I couldn’t find it? I looked high and low, everywhere I could think of, but I couldn’t locate it. I had my children down there hunting with me and it never turned up. I assigned my son to find a male neighbor who could tell us where the water shut-off valve might be located. He returned with an actual neighbor who helped us find it and shut it off. Then he suggested we look for the pipe that had burst–the source of the water.

Would you believe there wasn’t one? The entire basement was like a giant kiddie pool but there wasn’t a source of water! The ceilings were dry, the walls were dry, but strangely, in one room, there was water spray on everything below four feet in height. It was the craziest thing.

And I learned something about myself: unsolved mysteries (aka. house floods) make me think the darndest things! After hunting high and low with my neighbor for the source of the water, and never finding one, I’m ashamed to say one of my next thoughts was, “Oh my gosh! It has FINALLY happened! A Ponzi scheme victim must have located us, broke into our home, and unleashed their anger at the situation with a hose—by flooding our home!”

That was ridiculous. I put that thought out of my mind and unexpectedly it was replaced it with, “How in the world have we made an enemy like this already? Just one year living in Utah and we’ve offended someone so badly that they’d want to flood our home?”

That’s when I noticed it.

My son’s bedroom window was cracked and broken, pieces were missing. And then I noticed grass floating in the flood, mud and grass splattered everywhere inside my home, and mud and water floating in the window well.

My neighbor and I headed outside to find the source of the water. As luck would have it, the patio and everything outside near the broken window was completely dry. NO trace of water! Where were Fred, Daphne, Thelma, Shaggy, Scooby and The Mystery Machine when I needed them? There was a mystery to be solved.

Another neighbor saw us outside and came over to see if we had noticed the water outside my home. Due to the heat of the day, the outside water had dried up, so we hadn’t seen ANY water. (That was why the situation was so puzzling!) I told him, unfortunately,the water wasn’t just outside my home, the entire interior of the basement was flooded. But at least he solved the mystery for us.

It was entirely unexpected.

There are irrigation wheels in the corner of my backyard. While I was out, a farmer came to take his watering turn and failed to check that the appropriate gates were open when he diverted his irrigation water. He drove away…and my home flooded. I wasn’t home, the farmer wasn’t there, so I didn’t know anything untoward was taking place or needed to be stopped. The water ran and ran. Unchecked. Out of control.

A different neighbor happened to look outside and saw water flooding our cul-de-sac and the connecting streets so filled with water he assumed a water main had broken. Until he tried to locate the source of the “break” and saw a literal river of water running through my backyard, into my home, and into the streets all around it. Just a little house flooding, courtesy of a farmer who failed to check (as they are always supposed to) that the appropriate diversion gates are open. Just one little gate. I NEVER expected that!

I don’t think the farmer did either. As he told me later that night, “I’ve been doing this 30 years and I’ve never had a problem. I never thought to check that the south gate was open. It’s not your fault, it’s not my fault; these things happen. That’s what your homeowner’s insurance is for.” The farmer advised me to get my belongings out of my basement as fast as I could. I never expected that, either.

I stood there, alone, with my four children and thought, “How in the world am I supposed to clear my basement all by myself?” (I was tending a baby at the time, as well.) I was overwhelmed. But that is a great thing about Utah. (Get ready for another one of those, “Only in Utah” moments.) My son went to one neighbor and asked if he could help us move some furniture out of our basement as it had flooded, he came right over, took one look, made a phone call and within minutes, literally, there were 30-40 people from our neighborhood and church congregation hauling our belongings out of the flood and into our front yard. An impossible task was completed in a matter of an hour or so.

I helped, I hauled, and then I confess, I had a moment of meltdown. I escaped to the privacy of my bathroom, called a friend in Denver, CO, and lost it. For a moment there, I was afraid a house flood was going to be my undoing. Silly, I know, but after a year of shock, trauma, and attempted recovery, I was temporarily at my limit.

Thankfully, my friend “talked me down,” we laughed and I put the situation in perspective. Really, after EVERYTHING I had lived through, a house flood wasn’t that big of a deal.



And I knew it.

Sadly, compared to decades of lies, betrayal, crime, drama, divorce, vilification and everything else played out in the media and on a public stage, a flood really wasn’t that big of a deal. I had lived through worse. Much worse. So that’s what I said when people expressed their sympathy regarding the flood. “We’ve lived through worse. Not a big deal. It’s just stuff. It will be ok.”

I never expected the collapse of my family and the public downfall we endured would  be preparation for a flood; would help me keep it all in perspective. But it was. And it did. We’ve certainly survived worse.

In the unexpected life.

Yet still, “I doubt whether the world holds for any one a more soul-stirring surprise than the first adventure with ice-cream.” (Heywood Braun)

Or your first house flood.

The Magical Adventure Called Life

“Adventure: the pursuit of life.” (Daniel Roy Wiarda)

I still can’t imagine what life in prison is like. I imagine there is a lot of down time, time to think, and sometimes my children get letters filled with the musings of a lonely man with time on his hands for thinking deep thoughts. Most recently, it was regarding one of my ex-husband’s favorite memories. At the time, he was very angry with me because of it, so it was gratifying he has finally seen it for what it was. Here’s what happened.

Years ago my family went to Disneyworld. We paid an extra fee to stay in the park until midnight. However, that night it rained. A lot. For some reason, not many people wanted a wet adventure in the twilight hours. The park started emptying.

My former husband was one of those who wanted to give up on the magic. But I didn’t. I told him we could make memories in the rain as easily as fair weather, so I thought we should stay. We stayed, although my children’s dad was mad at me and my unwillingness to leave the park for a good part of the evening.

What a night! Water poured from the sky, and ran, like small rivers, down the streets of the Magic Kingdom. It was so wet, paint from the rides dyed my clothing and our shoes squished when we walked. Our hair was plastered to our heads making us look more like drowned rats than the Colorado residents we were. We even got stuck on one ride when it broke down, on our backs facing the ceiling, with rain and water pouring on us…for almost 40 minutes!

We had so many wild and unexpected adventures that, after an hour or two, even my ex-husband had to let go of his animosity and laugh at all of the crazy fun we were having. We rode ride after ride as often as we wanted without ever having to leave our seats, we laughed, we suffered (a little) and made the best memories–my children still talk about that night.

As we left when the park closed, we noticed even the Disney characters had given up and were nowhere to be seen. We were told there were less than 70 people in the entire Magic Kingdom that night! But we proved you can have fun, a magical adventure, in the dark, in the cold, despite suffering and even when you’re (mostly) alone.

It was a lesson that would serve our family well.

Because eventually, I ended up single after 20 years of a happy marriage. Rebuilding my life after such devastation and total loss–finding a job, moving to a new city alone, raising my children by myself, dealing with daycare and bills and auto repairs and toilets and garbage disposals, re-entering the singles scene and everything else I’ve gone through–is something akin to being trapped on my back, with a flood of water conspiring against me, for a seemingly endless amount of time. It, too, has been an adventure.

But that’s ok, because the unexpected life is replete with adventure. You just have to see the adventures for what they are, opportunities, and make the most of them.

And if we endure, if we’re the last man standing in the Magic Kingdom at midnight, I guarantee we’ll see our unexpected life for what it is: an adventure. We’ll see the good that came of it.

Like every Disney story, there WILL be a happily ever after. You just have to get through the rain, sometimes, to see it.

“Life is either a daring adventure or nothing.” (Helen Keller)

July 13, 2010: Life Lesson of The Unexpected Life

I’ve lived a few tough days in my life.

Here are just a few: September 26, 1986, the day the wreckage of my dad’s airplane was discovered and our wait to know his fate was over (as was his life); May 4, 2006, the day my mom suffered a massive stroke and doctors gave her less than 48 hours to live (she actually died a few hours later as I was rushing to Utah to see her one last time before she passed away); March 18, 2009, the day Shawn Merriman (my then-husband) informed me his business was a sham, that he had been running a Ponzi scheme since approximately 1994, that he had turned himself in to authorities, that he was headed to prison for a long time, that all of our assets were seized and I was left with nothing and left alone to raise our four children; and July 13, 2009, the day my divorce was final and I left Colorado for Utah to pick up the pieces and begin a new life.

Although there are a few other “miscellaneous” hard days I’ve endured, the above four days come to mind when I think of difficult days I’ve lived.

A few months ago I was struck by the realization of how much I’ve learned over the past year–things of a spiritual nature, things about myself and what I am capable of, things about people and humanity and life in general. So many things I have learned.

I realized I am grateful for every single thing I have learned. Even the hard stuff.

And I was shocked to realize I feel the lessons I’ve learned are worth the price I have paid.

I never imagined (especially during 2009) I would ever be able to say that or feel this way but I do. In fact, I would do it all over again. I would go through everything I’ve experienced again to learn what I have learned and to get where I am today. The lessons have been that valuable to me.

Mark Twain was right: “If you hold a cat by the tail you learn things you cannot learn any other way.” That’s true of life, too! Especially the unexpected life.

I believe that in life, when we’re holding that tail firmly in our grasp because there is nothing else we can do, and if we do our best to keep pressing forward through all of the noise, claws and pain, and if we can be humble and introspective and attempt to learn all we can and to better ourselves while enduring the challenges rather than question, “Why me? Why is this happening to me?” and, “If only,” we will come to the same realization Mark Twain did.

We will learn things we cannot learn any other way. We’ll be better for having learned them. And hopefully, we will be grateful for what we have learned and the growth we have achieved. I believe that is one purpose of the unexpected life.

And not that we’d want to, but “If we could sell our experiences for what they cost us, we’d all be millionaires!” (Abigail Van Buren) A fun way to look at the lessons (and their value to us) in an unexpected life.

Another lesson I’ve learned is this: “Today was a difficult day. Tomorrow will be better.” (Kevin Henkes, “Lilly’s Purple Plastic Purse”)

It really will.

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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