Living Happily Ever After


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Step 6: Look for miracles and tender mercies in your life, they will be there, and be grateful for them.

“David Bednar said, “…Tender mercies are the very personal and individualized blessings, strength, protection, assurances, guidance, loving kindnesses, consolation, [and] support…which we receive.”

I received many tender mercies at a time when I seemed to have not much else.

For example, and as I’ve mentioned before, when people asked if I needed anything, I told them we were fine. And we were “fine.” We lived as scant an existence as possible and although we had food to eat, it was very basic food—NO extras of “fun” food. And then one day, a friend showed up with an entire carload of “fun” food from Costco: Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, Oreos, chips, doughnuts, fruit snacks, crackers, juice, fresh fruit, all the fun “extras” when you’re eating and living as inexpensively as possible. My children were overjoyed! It was like Christmas to them (and they still talk about that delivery to this day.)

But the tender mercies didn’t end with Colorado.

I moved to Utah and began a new life feeling very much a failure. I didn’t think things could get any worse until they did—when I made the fateful error of heading to the grocery store on a Saturday night. I didn’t have anything else to do, I didn’t know anyone, I had to feed my kids, there was a big sale at a neighborhood grocery store, so off I went. I was convinced I was the only “loser” who grocery shopped on a Saturday night!

Every shopping cart that night appeared to be pushed by a happy, in love, couple with plenty of money to pay for their purchases. I had none of that anymore and had never felt so alone or worthless. When my shopping was done and just when I thought I couldn’t feel any lower, a car drove by me in the parking lot and the driver ridiculed my purchases through his open window. Those thoughtless words uttered by one man devastated me!

In the dark, tears welling in my eyes and feeling SO ALONE and appalled that apparently I couldn’t even purchase food for my children without being persecuted and wondering how I was going to endure the next 40-50 years of my new life, I unlocked by mar, turned to unload my cart, and was stunned to see a man standing there in the darkness. He had come from out of nowhere and without a word, grabbed the purchases from my cart and unloaded them into the back of my car.

When he was done, he paused for a moment, looked into my eyes, and smiled at me—a smile of compassion, and although it was dark, I noticed that his eyes were light blue, his skin was tan, his teeth were white and his hair was dark but slightly graying. And then without a word, he got into an older, dark-colored Suburban I suddenly noticed was parked next to me, and drove away.

I got in my car, completely changed, thanks to that anonymous man, whoever he was, and his kind service to me. For a brief moment I hadn’t been alone, a man had been kind to me (which I really needed at that stage of my life!) and for a moment I felt like everything was going to be ok.

I don’t believe anyone makes it through this life without problems and challenges and sometimes, tragedies and misfortunes. However, if we reach deep enough and look hard enough, we will see the miracles and tender mercies that are ours and will be able to feel and recognize just how much we have been given.

“It’s not what you look at that matters, it’s what you see.” (Henry David Thoreau)

The Most Glorious Task

“To be doing good deeds is man’s most glorious task.” (Sophocles)

Perhaps I’ve been inspired by all of the Facebook posts about things people are grateful for this month, or maybe it’s because Thanksgiving is this week, but whatever the inspiration…I’m thinking about good deeds lately. Especially the importance of doing some for others. A few that have touched my life. And my gratitude for the doers of them.

One that stands out in my mind took place in 2009. My children and I had lost our world, we didn’t have much in the way of money or material goods, so we were living off of our “food storage” (the food we’d collected in our pantry over time) as much as we could. For almost four months, we utilized what we had and supplemented it with minimal grocery shopping or the goodwill of friends who’d call and ask, “I’m running to the grocery store, is there anything you need?”

Most of the time, I told people we were fine, living off our food storage as much as we could and that we had food to eat. All of which was true. We didn’t starve. But, out of necessity, we stuck to the basics and did without the “fun extras” (like fresh fruit) or “fun food,” food that is generally processed and/or costs more.

And then one day a friend pulled into my driveway with her car—the passenger seat, the back seat and the trunk— filled with “fun food” from Costco! All the things kids love but don’t get when their family is living off of their food storage. Mickey Mouse-shaped chicken nuggets, fruit snacks, chips, crackers, cookies, juice, fresh fruit, etc…was hauled from the car, piled on our kitchen counter, and enjoyed thoroughly by my family—especially our three-year-old and his hungry older brothers.

I’ll never forget that. A bright spot in an otherwise very challenging time. When I think of good deeds, I always think of that experience and the time we were the beneficiary of someone’s most glorious task.


A Perfect Love

“Love seems the swiftest but it is the slowest of all growths.  No man or woman really knows what perfect love is until they have been married a quarter of a century.” (Mark Twain)

On the way to the event, Donny chatted about a special “20/20″ piece he and his wife, Debbie, had filmed. Its focus was the longevity of their marriage (it aired prior to Valentine’s Day 2012.) He talked about some of the questions they’d been asked, as well as his answers. The comment I remember most was regarding divorce. Donny said something like, “They asked me about divorce and when I told them divorce was not an option, never had been and never would be, they were blown away—absolutely couldn’t believe it!”

Not only talented and a gentleman, but a loving and committed husband and family man, too. No wonder he’s had five decades in the entertainment business and a marriage that has lasted over 34 years. (That, and that he married a wonderful woman and he’s very smart about how he does things. For example, at the autograph signing there was a giant glass bowl of Hershey’s kisses beside him. When I first saw it I thought it was the strangest thing: stacks of photos to autograph (I got that part) and a giant glass bowl of kisses. “Hmmm, interesting” I mused. “Donny must really like chocolate and wanted to make sure he’d have enough in case he gets a craving this afternoon.” (Celebrities can always make their requests, I assumed Donny requested the chocolate to eat.) Until lo and behold, the female fans approached! It was amazing to see women of all ages, breathless, screaming and loving Donny—seeking an autograph, a picture with, or a kiss from Donny. And with every kiss request…Donny grabbed some Hershey’s kisses, put them in their hands with a smile, and obliged! BRILLIANT.)

Yes, there I sat in the limo listening to Donny’s commitment to his marriage and his values regarding marriage, having been divorced myself! Oops.

Some wonder how you achieve that: a marriage that endures. Yes, it does require more than Hershey’s kisses but I love everything about the thought that is behind that effort. And while I’ve been divorced once myself (and although I’m not a fan of divorce, I do believe there are circumstances in which it is the right, even only, choice sometimes) I also appreciate the staying power commitment gives a marriage.

It’s amazing how being committed to your spouse, your marriage, your family and because of your commitment, having a willingness to work together, to resolve issues, to nurture your love and to keep it alive, to put the other person first, to serve one another, to strive to help each other to become better, to forgive, to be united, to support one another, to choose to see the good and stick with the marriage through everything, regardless of anything…really does help you stick with it.

And nothing is more sublime than a great marriage. I believe that. And I’ll see that even more, I believe, in 25 (make that 24!) more years.

Perfect love.

My Signature

Note: In honor of this month of love, I felt a few love-related posts are in order…

“A man’s kiss is his signature.” (Mae West)

I was raised in a physically demonstrative family—that is to say I grew up in a family of kissers. My parents kissed me before I went to bed each night; my grandparents, aunts and uncles always welcomed me with a kiss; my great aunt, Aunt Ireta, a tiny woman infamous for puckering up her brightly painted lips to greet me never failed to warm my heart with her hello kisses.

With kisses playing such a role in shaping what I’ve become, it comes as no surprise that they led to second marriage moment #30.

One night my new husband, my boys and I were driving in the car. Somehow the subject turned to kissing and of course, my sons just had to make comments about me and how I kiss “everyone.” (In my defense, I’m not the lone kisser in the world. I think it was Jimi Hendrix who said, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” I’ve never done THAT! Lol.)

And then suddenly, an epiphany dawned in the minds and faces of my sons. They looked at each other, laughed and one of them gleefully taunted my husband: “HA HA! Now YOU have to be her victim!”

My husband just smiled, looked at my son and replied, “That’s ok. I don’t mind!”

I’m glad he feels that way. Because, “A kiss is a rosy dot over the ‘i’ of loving.” (Cyrano de Bergerac—my favorite play, by the way.)

And because of how I was raised which contributed to making me who and how I am, I don’t see my thoughts on the subject or my propensity to administer kisses changing any time soon.

I believe there is power in them, for sure. They can make you something. After all, “A kiss from my mother made me a painter,” said Benjamin West.

And remember to give them the focus they require. “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” (Albert Einstein)

Smart man.

A Good Kick In The Pants And A Season Of Growth

“Each man should frame life so that at some future hour, fact and his dreaming meet.” (Victor Hugo)

Lest anyone think all that has been happening in the unexpected life of our family are boys making less than ideal choices—like ditching kindergarten and scheduling a playground fight with a  school bully via Facebook—we’ve witnessed a few dreams become reality, too!

Several months ago, we saw my oldest achieve a lifelong (since he was 5 years old) dream: to play hockey at the college level. I confess, the first time I saw my son skate onto the ice while the fans roared their support, I think I was probably the only person there with tears rolling down her cheeks! I couldn’t help it. Everyone else may have seen a tall, handsome, athletic man on ice skates, skating like the wind, fighting for the puck and working for a goal…but all I could see was a little preschooler so passionate about skating he never took off the blue Playskool skates he strapped to every pair of shoes he owned; the kindergartener who begged me to let him play hockey; the little boy who hounded his mother all day for what seemed like every day of the year to let him play hockey, until 5th grade, when I finally relented and enrolled him at Big Bear; and the enthusiastic boy who came off the ice after his first game so thrilled with everything about the sport he uttered words I never expected to hear come out of my ultra-competitive son’s mouth: “Mom! Hockey is SO FUN, it doesn’t matter if you win or lose, you’re just so thrilled to play the game!”

He never quit. He seemed to eat, breathe and sleep ice hockey from that moment forward. He was out practicing his shots or skating before school. He played against anyone he could get to put skates on. And long after the sun set, I’d hear him outside whacking the puck with an energy that never left him. His enthusiasm finally led us to install outdoor lighting so he could practice longer each night. And the day he played his first college ice hockey game was quite a moment. For him and for me.

It was a season of growth…for both of us. Last weekend, I watched my son play his last home game of his inaugural college ice hockey season. I was a lot more relaxed, there weren’t any tears, but I was still full of admiration for my son and all that he accomplished in making his college ice hockey dream come true.

It just took one dreamer. ”Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” (Harriet Tubman)

That, and a kick in the pants. Remember: ”Dreams will get you nowhere, a good kick in the pants will take you a long way.” (Baltasar Gracian)

True, for all of us. No matter the dream, no matter the unexpected opportunities you’re blessed with, you can go as far as you need to; as far as you dream to. Supplemented, of course, by the occasional, well-administered kick in the pants.

You Have To Give A Woman…

“I am my own experiment. I am my own work of art.” (Madonna)

Apparently, I am too.

Lets just say there has been a lot of “experimenting” (as in a lot of new, unexpected experiences) since 2009. All seeming to take place during karaoke on a cruise ship lately, for some reason. Here’s how the worst one happened:

I remember the karaoke hostess asking if anyone could sing Madonna. I looked around, I was the youngest woman there (and the only blonde) and no one was standing up, so for some reason, I did. I sang my first solo. “Material Girl.” (It must be that it was Madonna. Madonna and Abba are my weakness, haha! A carryover from my 1980s upbringing, I guess.) After I sang I was handed a packet and a MP3 player to practice for a special performance—no wonder no one volunteered!

I worried to my husband, “I can’t sing Madonna to a bunch of people in the karaoke lounge.” He assured me I wouldn’t have to. I would be singing Madonna at the cruise’s final show, on the big stage with the red velvet curtains!

“I can’t do that!” I exclaimed.

“Too late,” he replied. He advised me to memorize the lyrics and practice the song. He told me that up on stage before thousands of people, I’d be nervous and forget everything; that’s why I needed to practice, so my mouth would have “memory” and be able to sing the right words when I didn’t have a clue what I was doing because I was terrified.

Reassuring, to say the least.

“At least you’ll get to sing with a live band, that’s really fun,” he encouraged. “Most people go their whole lives without that opportunity.”

Somehow, I think I would have survived my entire life without the experience, however, you know what they say: ”Opportunity knocks for every man, but you have to give a woman a ring.” (Mae West)

The Power Of A T-Shirt

“It’s great to just disappear, grab a suitcase, switch the answering machine on and just go somewhere else.” (Dido Armstrong)

We made the most of our cruise, our time alone together and even our packing.

Prior to our departure, as we were packing for the trip I saw my husband add his BYU t-shirt to the pile of things he was planning to cruise with. I thought it was odd (in my prior cruise experience, we had packed evening wear, tuxedos, jewelry and business casual clothing to wear during the day; t-shirts had been for exercising—but I had a sneaking suspicion in this new life that wasn’t what they were going along for!) but I didn’t say anything. Finally, I couldn’t help myself.

“A BYU t-shirt, huh?” I commented. “Don’t we want to dress nicer than that?”

“I always make sure I take a BYU shirt on cruises,” my husband replied. “You’d be amazed at the people you meet and the conversations you have because you’re wearing one.”

I didn’t really believe that, but one thing remarriage to a man who is now 50 has taught me: he has his own mind, his own way of doing things and it has all worked very well for him for the almost five decades prior to meeting me so what can I say? Absolutely nothing. He is a tidy, helpful, very sufficient man who knows how to cook, clean and do laundry better than I do and he always looks nice…so I decided to trust him on that one. We didn’t discuss his packing choice any further.

A few days later, on the cruise, he put on his BYU t-shirt. I looked at him but was determined to not say anything—or request a shirt with a collar. He winked at me and acknowledged his wardrobe choice for the day by reminding me, “You never know who you’ll meet because you’re wearing a BYU shirt!” and we headed out to tour the city of Boston.

Believe it or not, before we got to the heart of the city of Boston, my oldest called me from college to share a Ponzi scheme-related experience he’d had with relatives of a victim (Yes, 2 1/2 years later we still confront those types of things several times each year) and I confess, as much as I try to rise above all that garbage, I hung up the phone feeling a little low.

I tried not to let it show, but I’m a terrible actress. My husband asked, “Are you ok?”

I stalwartly replied, “Absolutely.”

My husband added, “Are you sure? Because if I’d just received a call like that, I think I’d be a little bit upset. Do you want to talk about it?”

“No,” I replied. “I’m fine.”

So we continued on in search of The Freedom Trail, Paul Revere’s house, Harvard campus and various other destinations we had planned. However that day, they were filming a movie in Boston. Many streets, like most of the streets on our tourist map, were blocked off. So we wound our way around different streets, side streets and made all kinds of detours.

And then unexpectedly, I heard it.


I paused. Had I just heard my name?

And then I heard it again: “ANDREA MERRIMAN!”

And before I knew it, one of my favorite people in the world and one of my closest Colorado friends (my friend who’d been with me through my nightmare in every possible way—she even helped me write my divorce) was running toward me. Before I could even say anything, the first words out of her mouth were, “Thank goodness your husband is wearing a BYU shirt, or I’d NEVER have noticed you!”

What are the odds that one of your favorite people and closest friends from Colorado moves to NYC for one year after you have moved to Utah and you both end up in the city of Boston, on the same day, at the same time, winding your way through the same off-the-beaten-path streets due to the filming of a movie and you run into each other…thanks to a BYU t-shirt?

Another beauty of the unexpected life.

(And by the way, although I didn’t tell her anything of my crazy Ponzi morning, that chance encounter with my good friend was exactly what I needed to shake it off and have one of the best days of my cruise! The entire day, and everything I got to see, and getting to share it all with my husband turned out to equal one day of absolute perfection.)

All because of a BYU t-shirt.

The power of a BYU t-shirt.

“Clothes make the man. Naked people have little or no influence on society.” (Mark Twain)

“Idiot” To Awesome…In 18 Years!

“Any man can make mistakes, but only an idiot persists in his error.” (Marcus Tullius Cicero)

I’ve seen it over and over again in my life: when you live with someone, some adjusting and compromising is required for a happy home life. This is true for roommates, newlyweds, brothers and sisters, families and especially, blended families.

If you’re smart, you learn this natural law early and skip some of the strife failing to humble yourself and compromise with those you live with (and love) brings.

However, some accept change more willingly than others. Some adapt to the living arrangements more easily than others. Some seem more willing to compromise than others. And then there are a select few that seem to think if they resist long enough, if they refuse to compromise, said change (ie. life) will not be required!

Boy, wouldn’t that be nice? Like a cocktail party, to be served life on a platter prior to living it? To be able to say, “No thanks, I’ll not have some of that!” or “No thank you, I’ve had enough” or “I don’t want that change, so I don’t have to accept it!” or “I’m full. No more for me!”

Instead, we are blessed with life and change and unexpected lives and situations. Like everything else, though, I believe living together peacefully is a choice. It simply requires patience to wait (and endure) until others in the household choose to accept, adapt, adjust, compromise and settle in.

One day my oldest and I were chatting. He, as the oldest child in our household, has been very helpful and patient in helping younger children settle in to the new family situation. That day he commented on the struggle he observed one child having with some aspects of the blended household. I agreed with his observations and told him I had noticed the same thing but didn’t see any solution other than to continue to cheerfully and patiently endure the transition.

My son laughed and said, “Mom, sometimes I just want to make it easier for them and say, ‘Dude, give it up. You’re never going to win this one.’”

I asked, “What do you mean, ‘win’?”

He explained, “You know, get away with things that are wrong, inappropriate, disrespectful or against the house rules. It’s never going to happen.”

I clarified, “Oh? How do you know?”

He exclaimed, “Because you raised me! Mom, you’re one of THE strongest people I know. It’s a battle that can’t be won. I know, because I tried to ‘break you’ for 18 years and you never once ‘cracked’!”

I wasn’t sure how to take that, but before I could respond he added, “And I’m so glad and grateful you didn’t—because look how awesome I turned out!”

“Awesome: extremely impressive; inspiring great admiration; extremely good; excellent.” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary)

Yes, he is. And it only took…18 years. (Just kidding! Children are born “awesome,” they simply increase in “awesomeness” over the years. And if I haven’t said it lately, I’m grateful to be a mother:)

P.P.S. To The News

“You know, I have guys that are almost stalkers… it is very strange. I had this one guy that e-mailed me off my site, and thought we were boyfriend and girlfriend. He then came to my house in London, I do not know how he found it.” (Caprice Bourret)

After the KSL news story last week, I also heard from a man I’d only danced with at a singles dance one night–never dated. He contacted me to tell me he saw my story on t.v., reminded me we’d danced at a singles dance and detailed our conversation.

Before I could respond, he contacted me again, told me he saw my story on t.v., reminded me we’d danced at a singles dance, detailed our conversation and said he never shared personal information like I had…until he’d gotten older.

Hmmm. I wasn’t sure what to say to that. Was he telling me I am old? (I guess I can’t argue with that. After all, my middle son already informed me last year that I “shattered his childhood illusion of having a young mother” when he found out I’m not in my thirties–I’m turning 44 this summer.)

But before I could respond, he contacted me again, told me he saw my story on t.v., said he never shared personal information until he’d gotten older, reminded me we’d danced at a singles dance, detailed our conversation and said the next time he saw me I was with a man and walked by without saying anything. If I remember right, he also contacted me one more time to say he “guessed” I was married now.

Every message had been sent so rapidly (like every half hour), I hadn’t had time to respond to them. However, I knew what to say to that last comment: Yes, I am remarried, SO happy and consider myself so blessed to have found #5!

But what I didn’t reveal is that there is a high probability the man-who-for-a-minute-there-almost-gave-the-appearance-of-a-sort-of-stalker might see me at a single’s dance again–if he’s looking. You see, since our marriage, #5 and I actually have been to one, one night when we were in the mood to dance but didn’t want to go to a rowdy club…and we’ll probably do so again sometime!

I mean, “We’re fools whether we dance or not, so we might as well dance.” (Japanese proverb) 


Do You Think It Might Be The Wedding Ring?

“By persistently remaining single, a man converts himself into a permanent public temptation.” (Oscar Wilde)I’m thinking it might be an attractive combination. Single man, fit, hair long enough to make him look like a liberal college professor…and the women are beginning to like it! The other day #5 came home to tell me how nice women have been to him, especially lately, and that he thinks it might be the longer hair.

I asked, “Do you think it might be the wedding ring?”

He explained, “No, it was starting to happen a little before that, I think it must be the hair!”

Thank goodness he is married again, I guess, so he won’t be SUCH a temptation. He’s off the market, as am I. I have exited the single phase of life. For the second time. I can’t say I’m sorry to see it go. It was devastating to become single after 20 years of marriage and to re-enter the singles scene in my 40s, following an unexpected divorce and the trauma of a VERY unexpected life; the single life sure took some getting used to. In fact, I couldn’t imagine ever getting used to it. But I did.

In the beginning, I remember feeling so humiliated. I seriously thought everyone could tell, just by looking at me, what a loser (ie. single, a.k.a. divorced) woman I was. I was sure everyone thought I had terrible judgement, lacked intelligence, was impossible to live with or did any myriad of negative things that made someone not want to be with me and that caused my divorce.

Divorce was so contrary to anything I’d ever imagined for myself, I could hardly imagine, truly, ever being satisfied with myself and my status, but eventually I was. I wasn’t humiliated. I didn’t feel like a loser. I was just me. Andrea Merriman. Divorced single mother of four. I wasn’t embarrassed by the word “divorce” or to say it. It was my unexpected new “normal.”

Then I remarried.

And believe it or not, THAT has taken some getting used to. Again! For #5 and for me.

I’m calling them…second marriage moments. And the first one hit on the drive home from the honeymoon. Lets just say MOST of them have made me laugh:)

“Second marriage is the triumph of hope over experience.”