Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Don’t Sit Home

My recent job change has reminded me of one key to success in living an unexpected life: don’t sit home and think about it! Do what you have to do. Carry on.

A few weeks ago, the night before my first day at my new job, my daughter asked, “Mom, are you afraid?”

Her question surprised me. No, I wasn’t afraid–I hadn’t even thought to be! (Quite a different experience than the last time I began a new job: 2009. And it made me realize, yet again, how far I (and my children) have come.) The last time I began a new job, I had been thrust into the middle of a giant nightmare of which probably every fear I’d ever had (rational or irrational), or that had been a part of a nightmare as I slept, or that was the worst-case-scenario from fictional Hollywood movies, were my sudden reality. (If I’m going to be honest about that time…I was afraid of practically everything! Including, even, my own name. Every time I said my name, Andrea Merriman, I  feared someone would recognize it and judge me just based on that.)

But I’ve never believed fear is permission to quit or give up, however tempting that may be. (And thankfully I had four children to provide for, to keep alive, which helped me rise above the temptation to hide!) Fear just adds to the challenge of carrying on and of living. But you still have to do it.

So I faced my fears every day. I got out of bed and went to work, no matter how difficult; and many days, it was incredibly difficult–a sick pit in my stomach every Sunday night knowing another work week lay ahead; an inability to sleep at night worrying about the coming work week and wondering how I was going to get through it; crying all the way in to work; managing to get through the work day and then crying all the way home from work; and walking in the door to begin another “full day” of work as a single mother during the evening hours, catching up on everything I’d missed during the day while at work, helping with dinner, dishes, homework, laundry, housework, reading to a child and a few attempts at new family memories as well. I confess there were nights my 3 year old didn’t go to bed until 11 p.m. and I would later fall into bed, exhausted, at 1 a.m. or later to arise a few hours later, at 6 a.m. to begin it all over again!

But I guess the point is…that we did it. We got up, we faced our fears, and eventually we triumphed over them. And at some point, the sick stomach went away, eventually I was able to sleep at night, at some point I was able to get my youngest in bed at a decent hour, and I not only did my job, but had professional success which resulted in a new opportunity. Most of all, however, I somehow “forgot” to be afraid.

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy.” (Dale Carnegie)

It worked for me.

Don’t Leave Home Without Them

“She never quite leaves her children at home, even when she doesn’t take them along.” (Margaret Culken Banning)

When I got my job, I was a single mother. With an ex-husband in prison and my parents dead, it meant that when I wasn’t with my children, they were basically “orphans.” Thankfully, my company could not have been more understanding of that. I told them up front I couldn’t travel due to my situation and they hired me anyway, allowed me significant flexibility in my work schedule (they still do) and although many employees traveled on the company’s behalf every quarter, they never once asked me to, made me feel guilty because I didn’t travel or forced me to travel. (I work for an amazing company, by the way.)

After my marriage, they asked if I could travel to a quarterly event. My husband stayed home with the kids, I made the trip but as all mothers know, especially those who work full-time, you frequently have your children in mind. Nothing reminded me of that more than a recent business trip I made to Anaheim, Calif. for my company’s annual Global Convention.

I was gone five days. As I departed my husband commented, “Who would have imagined that, of the two of us, YOU would have the longest business trips!” True. I certainly never imagined I’d ever have a business trip much less longer ones than those of my husband.

And, wouldn’t you know, my business trip overlapped with a significant event—you guessed it—my daughter’s prom! (Talk about Proma Drama continued! If my daughter were writing this, I’m sure she’d clarify that she is also my “only” daughter. Yes, I’m a loser working mother! Out of town the weekend of my daughter’s Junior Prom!) I had no choice. But it didn’t stop my daughter from noting, “Do you realize you’ve been out of town for every single school dance I’ve had?” (Can you sense the working mother guilt oozing from me? Trust me, it is!)

But I did what I could. Despite everything I had going on at my event (including working from early morning to late at night each day with hardly time to eat) I did everything I could in advance of the big event: I helped her find the perfect dress, I paid for it, I arranged for jewelry to match her dress, I asked my sister-in-law to do my daughter’s hair (turns out, it was quite a party with my daughter and her cousin going to prom the same night resulting in an assembly line of hair and make-up artistry performed by nieces and my sister-in-law, a fun memory for all; everyone but me, that is, as I was out of town!)

I even remembered to ask my son for pictures of my daughter and her date, to text them to me so I could experience as much of the event as possible. So there I sat in my hotel room after midnight, knowing I had to wake up in five short hours, looking at pictures of my daughter heading to her prom. And I realized, again, and not for the first time, that truly, you never do quite leave your children at home, even when you don’t take them with you.

Meanwhile, it wasn’t prom, but I was having a few adventures of my own.

“My travels led me to where I am today. Sometimes these steps have felt painful, difficult, but led me to greater happiness and opportunities.” (Diana Ross)

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)


“…I’ve only had tragic haircuts and outfits.” (Kylie Minogue)

My daughter is mature, wise beyond her years, hard working, sensible, organized and many other things—none of them the typical light-minded, giggly, gaga-for-boys stereotypical of many teenage girls. Until prom season approached. She still wasn’t any of the above, but the drama factor of her life suddenly increased.

Suddenly, the boys began asking girls to prom and the girls began discussing who was going with whom, who hadn’t been asked yet and who was hoping they’d be asked to the dance. And then one day a tragedy occurred. My daughter reported it, “Oh, Mom! Today was so tragic!”

Apparently one boy had asked my daughter to prom just as another boy was going to ask her to prom and the girl who wanted to go to prom with the first boy was devastated. She walked around school, crying during all of her classes all day, because the boy she’d wanted to go to prom with had asked my daughter instead.  And not only did she walk around crying all day, she told everybody why!

Low drama moms like me might occasionally be inclined to roll their eyes at said drama. But not me. Not this time. I actually quite enjoyed it. Because I was remembering a time in my daughter’s life, just a few short years ago when she lived through unimaginable events at 13-14 years old including the loss of her entire life, family as she knew it and most material privileges (including a stay at home mom) that had always been a part of it all…and she used to roll her eyes at teenage girls that got worked up over boys, fashion, friends, other teenage girl topics of interest and all of the drama that went along with them because she knew there were much bigger challenges in life than showing up to school in the same shirt as someone else.

The fact that she experienced a “typical” teenage drama and considered it “tragic” was a sign, to me, of the healing that has taken place in her life. From the beginning, she has advocated forgiveness and “letting go” and I was grateful to be reminded, yet again, that she is living as she believes.

“The only work that will ultimately bring any good to any of us is the work of contributing to the healing of the world….The practice of forgiveness is our most important contribution to the healing of the world.” (Marianne Williamson)

Hand Squeeze

“The spaces between my fingers are right where yours fit perfectly.” (Owl City, Vanilla Twilight)
I remember my papa’s hands; the tan, weathered hands of a rancher. His hands held mine, steadied one side of the steering wheel to keep us on the road as he “let me drive” the dirt roads to the farm long before I was 16. His hands lifted hay bales, fed baby sheep bottles, lifted me onto his horse, Old Yeller, so I could have a ride, and scooped water from the trough for us to drink out of the old tin cup in the water shed. How I loved my Papa and his hands.
My nana’s hands made her famous chocolate cake, brownies, sausage, creamed beans, mashed potatoes and gravy and every other edible delight (she was known for her good cooking.) They taught me to embroider, they ironed the red velvet dress of the doll she bought for me and the other granddaughters to play with at her house, they played pat-a-cake with my babies and children, they knitted me a beautiful afghan. One of my most poignant memories of Nana and her hands is that of her standing by Papa’s casket, her hand on his folded hands, and never letting go of those hands she’d held for close to 60 years’s she greeted the town who had come to pay their respects and honor a good man who had lived an exemplary life.
I have similar feelings and memories about my dad’s hands and my mom’s hands, though gnarled and twisted my mom’s arthritic hands became in the year’s before her death. I can’t believe it has been almost 26 years since I’ve seen or felt my dad’s hands; almost six year’s since I’ve held my mom’s. How I love and miss those hands.


I remember noticing my husband’s hands the moment I met him.  (That should have been a clue to me that something was up—I’ve never been a “hands” person or noticed hands, I guess there was something different about him!) My husband’s hands are good and kind hands. Hands that feel so right when they hold mine. Hands that squeeze mine during songs, movies or conversations, every time, in just the “right” and most romantic, places. (I must be a joy to be romantically involved with. Not! I’m so clueless; all of the time, it seems. For the longest time in our relationship when he squeezed my hand I’d think it was a mistake; a twitch or a reflex, but never on purpose! However, I’ve finally gotten that it’s intentional Romantic, even.)

When I think about my husband’s hands, I remember my youngest walking up to him the first time he spent any time with him at all, and how he put his tiny hand right into my husband’s hand and didn’t let go the entire day. I think of my husband’s hands working to provide for our family; tirelessly serving all eight children (even the grown, adult ones and their children); doing dishes; unloading the dishwasher; sweeping the floor; helping with homework; playing ball with the kids; doing yard work (despite the fact he’d joyfully retired from it and bought a condo prior to our marriage); planting a garden with my younger children every year; cooking Japanese food for our family; cooking breakfast every morning before work; playing the piano; opening doors for me and so many other things. I think of his hands wearing a wedding ring (my dad didn’t wear a wedding ring, and I’ve never been married to a man who wore a wedding ring, so it’s a new thing for me—but I like it!) And I’ll never forget my husband’s hand, clasping mine, on the day we married.

I guess I’m a hand person after all.

“Miss Morstan and I stood together, and her hand was in mine. A wondrous subtle thing is love, for here were we two, who had never seen each other until that day, between whom no word or even look of affection had ever passed, and yet now in an hour of trouble our hands instinctively sought for each other. I have marveled at it since, but at the time it seemed the most natural thing that I would go out to her so, and, as she has often told me, there was in her also the instinct to turn to me for comfort and protection. So we stood hand in hand like two children, and there was peace in our hearts for all the dark things that surrounded us.” (Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, “Sherlock Holmes: The Complete Novels and Stories, Volume 1″)

Sounding Like Antonio Banderas

“I like going everywhere. And I love starting new things.” (Antonio Banderas)

I arrived home, fighting traffic all the way, having left work later than usual and during the drive discovering not only was a crowd arriving at my house in less than 2 hours (and it was a mess) but that my husband had invited all of his children for dinner to celebrate—I hadn’t even planned on cooking or eating dinner that night due to the new developments taking place in just over one hour. Lets just say I was suddenly a LITTLE stressed out!

Thankfully, my husband took care of dinner. I straightened the house, casting a few anxious stares in the direction of THE envelope on my bed (placed there for safekeeping, we have a busy kindergartener who gets into all kinds of things unexpectedly.) I couldn’t quit sneaking glances at the envelope that contained my son’s mission call. I wasn’t in the mood for anything but opening that envelope. But mostly I tried to figure out where the past almost 19 years have gone. It seems like I alternated between laying on my bed and crying in my bathroom. I NEVER expected to be doing that relative to a mission call!

But all I could see or think about was the moment my son had been born, the moment the doctor had placed him on my chest, the moment that he had looked into my eyes and stopped fussing as I caressed his fuzzy, blonde head, and smiled at him for the first time. I felt like all of my dreams had come true in that 1993 moment. I have absolutely loved being his mother. He is a great kid and I get such a kick out of him and enjoy him, a part of me (unexpectedly) suddenly didn’t want him to go on a mission! (Well, I wanted him to go, I guess. I just didn’t know how I’d bear his absence for two long years!) I just kept thinking, “Where did the years go? How did this moment arrive so fast?”

I heard activity downstairs. My son had arrived, the house was filled with company, the only person missing from the activity was the mother. My husband came up and announced, “You’ve got to at least come down and PRETEND to be a hostess, act happy and talk to a few people.” (I hadn’t even told him anything about how I was feeling and what I was thinking and feeling, but maybe he knew. Like I said, he “gets” me.) My only problem? I felt like someone was ripping that little 6 pound 3 ounce baby out of my arms 18 years too soon! But I went downstairs and attempted what my husband suggested.

And then my son picked up the envelope and opened it.

I remember thinking as he tore through the paper that within seconds, I’d know everything: I’d know where he was assigned, when he would be departing to fulfill that assignment and where he would be living, experiencing life (including rejection) and growing for the next two years. (By the way, I had NO idea what to expect. My son had been told to expect a United States assignment, so I was thinking New Jersey or somewhere on the east coast.) And then he read the words aloud that he had been called to serve in…the Spain Madrid mission of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints!

I certainly never expected his mission call to be to Spain! And despite my worries, the stress I’d felt and everything else, all I remember thinking as I heard those words was, “That is the perfect assignment for him!” I was filled with joy and such a sense of how right Spain was for my son; I was excited for him. And thankfully, I was instantly calm and back to my normal self again.

I hugged my son in celebration. But as soon as I grabbed him, I was suddenly overwhelmed by all that led to that moment—including all of the hard stuff he endured, all that he has risen above, everything our family as been through, how different our life is now compared to what Id always expected our family would be when my son received his mission call, and unexpectedly…the tears began to flow. I hugged him, I cried, and with a house full of people I didn’t dare let go because everyone would know what I was doing and what a crazy mother my son has!

My poor son.

My good son.

I’m sure our hug lasted much longer than he probably wanted it to but he was gracious enough to allow me time to attempt to pull myself together and relish the moment with my almost-grown son…before peeling me off him. Then we had ice cream with the crowd. My son returned to his BYU dorm. And we’re all about Madrid, Spain and the Canary Islands now. Even my kindergartener requests, “Lets watch the movie about Spain again, Mom!”

Just think. In two years, my son is going to return home a man, not to mention sounding like…Antonio Banderas!


On Facebook

“There is no terror in the bang, only in the anticipation of it.” (Alfred Hitchcock)

Finally the day came when we expected the anticipated letter in our mailbox. (Our bishop (pastor) had announced the mission call would be arriving that week, and we’d heard from everyone around us that mission calls generally arrive in the Provo/Orem area of Utah on Wednesdays.)

It was Wednesday.

Everyone was full of anticipation. Especially my oldest son for whom the call would be issued. I occasionally joke at his absentmindedness, but even HE was calling ME to check the status of the mailbox. I was stuck at work, so I couldn’t check myself. So I called home and had my youngest son checking every few minutes. That day, it was so odd,  but the mail NEVER came! I was becoming increasingly stressed by the unknown, and then to not have the mail delivered was indescribably frustrating. I drove home, somewhat frustrated, when I thought to call my son.

I found out the call had come, and that my son and a group of his friends would be at my home that evening for its opening. (I guess he’d had his sister checking the mail, too, and she’d gotten it and taken care of everything related to it. They just forgot to tell their mother or their younger brother. So there I am, calling occasionally from work, hounding my son about making another trip to the mailbox and thinking the mail hadn’t been delivered when it had been, only to be scooped up by another pair of excited hands!) My  son excitedly told me everyone who was coming that night for the opening of the envelope and when he mentioned even some of MY friends, I finally had to say it: “You mean even MY friends knew you got your call…but you forgot to tell your own mother?” My son defended his actions; to him, he’d done the most logical thing in the world.  ”What do you mean I didn’t tell you? I put it on Facebook!”

It’s times like that I see I’m a dinosaur in a new generation. Facebook—now why didn’t I think of that?

“We all have a dinosaur deep within us just trying to get out.” (Colin Mochrie)


“I married the first man I ever kissed.  When I tell this to my children they just about throw up.” (Barbara Bush)

I didn’t quite do what Barbara Bush did, but that doesn’t mean my kids aren’t feeling like hers did! Yes, with a newlywed mother, I’ve seen for myself how lovesick teenagers can be—make that how disgusted by aspects of love teens are bound to feel. And they don’t hold it in. They share it with me occasionally, even during this month of love (also the month of my first wedding anniversary.)

Case in point: The other day I was telling my son a story in an attempt to entertain him. Part of the story involved my imitation of some noises, unattractive sounds meant to make him laugh. I went out on a limb for the sake of entertainment and offered my finest attempt at said noises and was crushed when he failed to respond. As he was sitting in another room and I couldn’t see him, I called out, “Hey! Didn’t you hear that? You didn’t even react!”

“Oh, I heard you,” he replied. “I just thought you were kissing Mike again.”

Another child chimed in, “Watch out! Romance in the kitchen!”

My daughter just rolled her eyes and coincidentally, got up and left the room.

It was at that moment that I came to this realization: My poor children! If they haven’t been scarred by the trauma they endured when their dad confessed to running a Ponzi scheme and went to prison, I guess the behavior of their newlywed mother may be their undoing.

I’ll have to hope they learn this lesson: ”I found I could be happy and throw up at the same time.” (Pamela Anderson)


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.