Living Happily Ever After


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What Do You Do?

So what do you do when you’ve been tossed out of the safety and security of the airplane seat you’ve occupied, its seatbelt securely holding you in place through any and all unexpected turbulence for 20 years, and into the open air…without a parachute?

I hope I never find out, literally, because I’m pretty sure I’d die.  March 18, 2009, showed me I could use some work on quick reflex skills!  I’d like to think I’d at least REACH for a non-existent rip cord.  Fight against the eminent landing.  SOMETHING.  But that isn’t how I responded that day.  (Hence my decision to NEVER sky dive for real.)

I sat there, like a deer caught in headlights, for a minute or two.  Stunned. My brain ceased to function, my intelligence went out the window, I couldn’t even think.  I couldn’t comprehend.  I didn’t understand.


That was all the intelligence I could muster in a moment like that.

So He repeated what He had just said.  And I was almost equally unintelligent the second time through.

“Is this a joke?  You are kidding me.  This is a joke. I know it is.  It isn’t funny, I don’t get the punchline, but there is NO WAY you’re telling me the truth.  This is NOT real.  Am I being punked?”

Where was Asthon Kutcher?

But He wasn’t kidding.  It was not a joke.  It was a disaster of proportions I couldn’t comprehend.  I still can’t.

Then my mind kicked in and my questions began.

“How can this be?  What am I going to do?  No job? No money?  You’re going to PRISON?  How will I raise our kids?  How will I keep them alive?  How am I going to pay for our food and utility bills? How will I pay our car insurance? What am I going to do?”  (That fear I’d always had of being responsible to keep someone else alive, the responsibility of providing for someone else, returned. I was terrified for the physical survival of my children.)

He told me I still didn’t get it.  There were no cars to drive anymore.  There wasn’t a house to live in.  And the man I’d turned to for almost 20 years, to solve problems and answer questions, didn’t have any answers anymore.

I knew I was headed, with my four kids, to live in a cardboard box on the street. Literally.

I was too stunned to understand a lot, in that moment, but suddenly I had a thought come to mind.

“Is that all?”

Nope. There was more.  He said He was sorry, then started SOBBING like I’d never seen Him cry before.  And that was when it hit me.  This was not a joke.  This was real.

And all I could do was continue to be what I’d always tried to be:  polite, kind, and calm.  I actually apologized to him!  (What can I say?  You never react the way you anticipate in moments like that.  Of course, I’d never anticipated any moments like that!)

“I’m sorry, so sorry to leave you here like this, but I have to go.  I have to get out of here.”

I got up from the table, got in my car, and drove away.

I didn’t know where I was headed, I just knew I had to get away from Him.  But there was nowhere I could drive that would take me away from the disaster.  I made it less than 1/3 of a mile before the shock and reality hit and the tears began like a flood.  And the shaking.  The shaking set in so immediately I doubted my ability to control a steering wheel.  I quickly pulled over so I didn’t add to the disaster by hurting myself or someone else.

There I was, alone, unable to drive, TERRIFIED, with not a clue what to do.  My panic was absolute, but indescribable.  My every thought was for my children:  how was I going to feed them?  How was I going to keep them alive?  WHAT was I going to do?

I picked up my cell phone and called my sister.  Something wasn’t right with my fingers.  I couldn’t get them to work.  I couldn’t get them to dial the numbers on the phone correctly.  Either that or she wasn’t home.  I then tried my friend from college who had become like a sister to me over the years–we traveled together, spent holidays together, etc… It was a miracle.  She was home.

I could hardly speak, but she finally understood what I was saying although she couldn’t comprehend it either.  I remember asking, “What should I do?  What do I do?  Should I go to the bank and try to get ANY money so I can keep my kids alive?”  My survival instinct had set in at that point, I guess.

“Yes, go to the bank and try to get some money,” she advised.

I didn’t know if I could, but I had to try.

I drove to the bank.

When we married, we’d brought our own checking accounts to our marriage and had never changed that.  We’d never had a joint checking account.  (Looking back, I’ve been told this might not have been normal.  But I hadn’t been married before.  I didn’t know what was normal.  I had married a man capable of a lot more than anyone had ever realized.)  I’d never had access to any of “his” accounts or money.  I never needed it–I charged everything to a credit card, which he told me he paid off monthly, and that was how our household operated.  Things that couldn’t be charged (like the house cleaner and school fees for our children), I paid for out of my small checking account that he replenished with small amounts of cash as needed because I was a stay-at-home mom.  Unfortunately, I always waited until I was almost out of money to tell him I needed money.  So my cash resource was small.

I got a little cash, but not all of it, so I could buy groceries for my children. It was all I had to begin a new life with.  And then, not knowing what else to do, I returned “home.”

But it didn’t feel like my home any more.

No Parachute

Last night, as I picked my 10 year old up from swim team practice, I was stunned to hear sniffling coming from the backseat as I drove down State Street.  I looked in my rear-view mirror and thought I saw him crying.  When I asked if he was ok, he told me yes but life is just hard sometimes.  ”Tomorrow it will be one year, mom.  Last year at this time I was making an art project of a ship.  Do you remember how well it turned out?  And that night  is when I found out about everything.” How can a little boy who was only in third grade remember so much about one particular day?  Probably for the same reason we all seem to.  It was the day our family ended.  And I hope soon and someday he gets what I’ve been trying to teach him, and demonstrate to him, for the past 365 days:  this latest “project” is going to turn out well, too.

When I woke up this morning, my hand brushed something as I shut off my alarm.  It was a note from my two teenagers:  ”Here’s a little something to brighten your day.  We know it has been hard, but we all love you!  We are so proud of you for rising to the challenge and living what you have taught us!” I think March 18 is on everyone’s minds.  (And I promise, I don’t walk around talking about it with my kids.  Hmm…I wonder if they have discovered this blog?:)

Anyway, life didn’t turn out QUITE as I expected it to.  Here’s why.

Last March 18 I dropped my three-year-old off at preschool.  I had a plan for the 2-3 hours he was going to be gone.  And then my spouse called me on my cell phone.  ”What are you doing this morning?” he asked.

I told him my plan and he told me he had hoped to spend time with me.  I invited him to join me doing what I had planned.  He told me he didn’t have that much time.  I asked him how much time he needed, he told me (it was the same amount of time it would have taken to do my activity, and when I pointed that out he told me he wasn’t going to do that activity with me.)  So like the flexible, kind wife that supported all of his dreams that I’d always tried to be, I turned the car around and headed home to spend time with him.  I had no idea I was turning around so he could destroy all of my dreams.

Before I reached home, he called my cell phone again and asked me to meet him in the motor home.  He loved that thing.  (I hated it, had never wanted it, but had supported him in that dream as well.) Looking back, it was probably a bit odd for him to request I meet him there.  But then again, I had no idea what was about to go down.


I walked in and he was talking on the phone to someone.  (Not unusual.  He had spent his days and nights calling clients and putting business deals together our entire marriage.) I sat at the table, waited for him to finish his phone call, and happened to glance to the left where I saw a yellow legal pad with names written on it:  Market Street Advisors, C.G.Boerner, Majestic Mountain Construction and Impressions Everlasting.  The only thing I knew about anything on that list was that they were my spouse’s business ventures.  I didn’t have anything to do with them.  I figured he’d been doodling or making one of the endless lists he was famous for writing down on yellow legal pads.  I was wrong.

He hung up the phone, sat across the table from me, folded his hands together on the tabletop and paused.  I looked at the legal pad, slid it across the table to him, and asked, “What’s this?”

He replied, “That’s what I wanted to talk to you about.”  In a voice as calm and unemotional as I’d ever witnessed.  Nothing about his performance tipped me off as to what was about to happen.

Turns out, that yellow legal pad was a list, but only the beginning, of the lies I didn’t know he had been telling me and everyone else…for over 16 years.

It’s still not quite real.  The fall out is, of course.  But everything else STILL doesn’t seem real. And without warning, I found out everything I thought was real, actually wasn’t.

“My company, Market Street Advisors, is a sham.”

One simple sentence, and the complicated web of choices, actions and decisions of ONE person, the man I’d known since 1988 but apparently hadn’t known at all, shattered my world.

March 18, 2009.

But I didn’t get it.  Yet.

I know it showed in my face.  I didn’t have a clue what he was telling me.  My first thought (always a party or holiday thought at that stage of my life!) was, “Is this an early April Fool’s joke?  Doesn’t he remember yesterday was St. Patrick’s Day? Boy, does he have his dates wrong!  What kind of joke is he trying to play?” All I could do was look at him with a puzzled expression on my face.

Suddenly,  in spite of my education and my knowledge of English and vocabulary, I didn’t understand the word “sham.”

He explained, “My company isn’t real.  It’s a sham, and has been from the very beginning. I’ve been running a ponzi scheme for the past 16 years.”

I didn’t know what a ponzi scheme was.

I’d heard mention of  a ponzi scheme on the news, I’d heard the name Bernie Madoff, I knew he had done something illegal, I knew a lot of people were mad at him and what he had done, but I didn’t understand what it was he, or my spouse, had done.

I got the condensed version.  What I was told left me in complete and utter shock.  But it didn’t stop there.

My spouse told me he had hired an attorney (that was the day he got dressed up and “went to meet a prospective client” downtown, came home, had dinner with the family, had family home evening with the family, and had family scripture study and family prayer with the family.)  He told me he had already turned himself in to the government authorities and to our church leaders (that was the night he missed dinner to meet with a church leader and then came home and watched American Idol with us, as usual.)  He told me  he would be going to prison and getting excommunicated from our church.  He also told me everything had been seized (I didn’t know what that meant but was too shocked to ask–he was still talking.) He told me I would be left alone to raise our children.  And he told me I needed to hire an attorney right away but he’d maxed out all of our credit cards paying for his.

I was shocked.  I was stunned.   I was confused.  I was scared.  I was devastated.  And at the same time, I didn’t know what I thought or felt.

All I knew was that I had been thrown out of an airplane…without a parachute.

What was I going to do?

Divorced–And $1 More!

July 13, 2009, was a day I never expected to live.  Here’s what happened.

I got up in the morning, got ready (I remember I wore a skirt), drove to a courthouse in Arapahoe County, Colorado, with my then-spouse, chatting and making small talk as we drove. And then we got divorced.  An alien experience in the great expectations I’d always had for my life.

Getting divorced itself, in my opinion, was not like it’s depicted in the movies.  I expected a huge, empty court room, with just a judge, myself, and my spouse, but that isn’t what I got.  I got a tiny courtroom (seems like it was the size of a large master bedroom), 8-10 strangers observing my proceeding and hearing my private business, and a magistrate signing the paperwork.  And where were the attorneys that were always present in divorce?  Oh. That’s right.  I didn’t have a dime and neither did my former spouse.  We couldn’t afford attorneys.  (I had paid a family lawyer for unbundled services and basically wrote my divorce myself, with her help, input from my friend Holly, and the aid of life experience from what I’d observed my divorcing friends go through.  All 2 of my friends who’d divorced.  Obviously, my experience with divorce was pretty limited!)

I had the opportunity to hear the private business of the parties who went before my turn came.  If I could have been ANYWHERE else, I would have been.  But since I had to be there, I tried to not hear what was going on.  I tried not to think.

When my turn came, I stepped to the table and spoke into the microphone.  While I had done everything required, my former spouse had not taken care of details he was supposed to have and the magistrate did not look kindly upon him.  I was granted everything I asked for…and $1 more!

You see, due to the choices of my former spouse, there was no way I would get any financial support of any kind.  I wouldn’t even have asked for any, but legally he has to pay something, so the court assigned him minimum wage (even though he was not employed and didn’t anticipate that he would be for quite some time) and stipulated he should pay me $563 each month to support our four children.  (HA!  Not that he’d be able to pay me, but my health insurance is $400/month!  My daycare and preschool is close to $600/month!  My car insurance, for a teenage driver, is $300! $563 doesn’t even cover our food! But whatever makes everyone else feel better about the situation…I’ve know I’ve gotten shafted financially, and every other possible way, but who’s complaining:)

Back to the divorce proceeding.  The magistrate noted I had been a stay-at-home mom and homemaker for almost our entire 20 year marriage and asked if I was requesting maintenance from my former spouse.  When I wasn’t, she added $1 to the amount of child support for MY maintenance, signed the papers, and I was divorced.  As quickly as that.

Divorced and $1 more!

We walked to the car, got in, and drove “home.” I don’t know about him, but I was trying not to think about what had just happened and the reasons for it.  I had other events to get through that day.

When we arrived home, we hauled my suitcases out and loaded them in my new (to me) 2005 Subaru Outback station wagon.  We loaded our two dogs (Joe, a 100 pound yellow lab and Ella, a 25 pound cocker spaniel) into their crates and into the Subaru.  I put my two youngest children, my 9 year old and my 3 year old in the car, ignored the staring neighbors, and drove off without a backward glance.

I wish I could say I drove off into the sunset.  But that isn’t what happened.  That isn’t where I was headed.  Call me the Queen of Denial, but at that moment, I couldn’t look back on any part of my previous life or I’d never be able to move forward.  I drove out of my Colorado neighborhood for the last time, heading to Utah, acting like I was going on a quick roadtrip–NOT starting an entirely new life in a new state as a single mother who works full time, the sole emotional/physical/financial support of 4 children!

I didn’t take one last walk through the home that had been mine for 16 years.  I didn’t walk my yard, look at my flowers, or “say goodbye” to any part of my home, property or old life.  I knew I would never be able to move on if I allowed myself to look back, even one little moment or at one tiny little thing.

Because I had never felt more inadequate for any task in my life.  I knew I had an emotional marathon ahead of me of unimagineable proportions.  Had I really been trained for it?  Was I really prepared?  It certainly wasn’t an exercise I’d ever planned on or expected.  I hoped I was up to the race of my life.  My childrens’ futures, and mine, hung in the balance.