Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Not Conducive to Romance

A final thing I realized after seeing the June 20, 2012 segment of “American Greed” is that watching a television show about your former life and the crimes of your former husband is not conducive to…romance with your new one!

My husband and I watched the show together. I don’t know what he was thinking or feeling during the whole thing, but a part of me felt sicker and sicker inside with every commercial break. It was a strange experience to “relive” portions of the Ponzi scheme nightmare and it was surprising to learn new things about my former husband, truths about aspects of our previous life, things I’d always believed based on what he’d told me—only to find out from a television show that I’d been lied to about something else! (Even before the Ponzi scheme started.)

My husband was unusually quiet throughout the whole program and when it was over, without a word, turned out the light, rolled over on his side, and was silent. I was stunned! I felt pretty sick inside myself, but I was surprised at my husband’s unfriendliness toward ME. The show hadn’t been about me; I hadn’t done anything wrong.

“Are you going to sleep right now?” I asked through the darkness.

“Yes,” my husband answered.

“Without even saying goodnight?” I questioned.

He replied, “Watching a TV show about your wife, her former husband, their life together—seeing the family pictures, vacations and everything else, isn’t exactly conducive to romance.”

I couldn’t argue with that.

I felt pretty sick myself.

So I willed myself to stop thinking—about the show I’d just seen, about the actions of the man I’d been married to, about the response of the man I am currently married to and about men in general (lets just say I wasn’t thrilled with any man, in general, that night! haha) But in the morning, I had a new and better perspective on the whole thing:

“A woman has got to love a bad man once…in her life, to be thankful for a good one.” (Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings)

Color me thankful.

And remind me to be more careful of the TV shows we watch together in the future.


“You can’t talk of the dangers of snake poisoning and not mention snakes.” (C. Everett Koop)

I learned something else from the MSNBC episode of “American Greed” that featured the crimes of Shawn Merriman: there is danger associated with crime. Real danger. I see that now, thanks to the show that aired June 20, 2012. But back then, living the nightmare, I scoffed at the very thought of it.

From the moment my former husband revealed his crimes to me and to his victims (those who thought they were “investing” with him) authorities checked with me often regarding my safety and the safety of my children. They encouraged me to find some place else to go, to exist in (I can’t use the word “live” because we really weren’t “living” in those terrible months we were simply trying to survive them) in the months it took to investigate my former husband’s crimes, to build a federal case against him, to seize our assets and worldly possessions deemed of value and to accomplish every other task associated with the revelation of a Ponzi scheme. Besides, I didn’t have anywhere to go anyway. My parents were dead, I had children in school and I had no money. Where was I going to go?

So the authorities looked out for me. They called me frequently to ask, “How are you doing? Do you feel safe? Has anyone threatened you?” and other similar questions.

I always answered their questions by insisting that I was safe, that while my neighbors weren’t treating me or my children kindly (or even civilly) and were angry (rightfully so) about their losses, they were had always been good people and would never harm us physically…Yes, they broke into our house when they thought no one was home and inadvertently terrorized my teenage daughter who actually was there and heard them walking around, talking, looking in cupboards, trying to get any information about us they could including opening boxes I had packed to move and doing who knows what else—as my daughter hid in a dark corner of the room and prayed they would leave before they found her during their invasion of our property and privacy. And yes, three years later my youngest child is STILL afraid— of the dark, to brush his teeth alone, to be alone in a room without the light and white noise on or  to go anywhere without a light on because he’s terrified “bad people might be in our house.” But I never believed I needed to fear for our safety.

I was wrong.

Almost, but thankfully not, dead wrong. Which I only recently discovered while watching ”American Greed” and learned of at least one close call we avoided because a hostile victim came to his senses in time to prevent an additional tragedy. Lets just stay a loaded gun was apparently involved and leave it at that, shall we?

Moral of the story: I guess there are lots of them, but certainly one of them now includes the lesson that not only does crime NOT pay, but it brings with it danger, too. Dangers you can’t see. I now know I should have been less stubborn and more trusting of the authorities and their concerns (experts who were fearful for a very good reason.)

And thankfully, we’re safe—despite a very bad idea one angry man was able to repress and my prideful, stubborn streak that refused to run when I had nowhere to go.


“Family” of Strangers

In the moments following my former husband’s 2009 revelations,  as I wrote about long ago, he instantly became a stranger. I felt like I didn’t know him—and never had.

The June 20, 2012 “American Greed” episode revealed another stranger I guess I’d never really known: my former mother-in-law.   Sadly, it became apparent that she had never really known, or gotten me and what I’m about, either.

I discovered that when posted online with the “American Greed” episode teaser was a letter she had written to the judge at the time of her son’s sentencing, a letter I’d never seen or read—the letter that said something to the effect that she believed I’d been in cahoots with her son and helped him hide the money he stole so we could enjoy ourselves when he got out of prison!

Not! In fact, not even. By the time she’d written that letter to the judge urging him to make her son pay for his crimes and as part of it attempted to erroneously throw ME under the bus along with her Ponzi scheme-committing offspring, I’d already divorced her son and had moved to another state.

Sometimes the unexpected life isn’t just strange…it’s stranger than fiction. All you can do is shake your head and laugh—that’s what I’m doing.

“It’s no wonder that truth is stranger than fiction. Fiction has to make sense.” (Mark Twain)



On the Heels of Healing…Vindication

“Truth is generally the best vindication against slander.” (Abraham Lincoln)

When the infamous events of 2009 unfolded, there were many aspects of them that were indescribably difficult for me, personally. Some I have written about, some I have never addressed, but all of them I let go. Because I don’t see how you can triumph over adversity, or move beyond a challenge, or most importantly HEAL, if you’re still hanging on to the hurt. So, regardless of the difficulty, I made a conscious decision to let it all go.

Here’s one example.

One of the hardest consequences of my former husband’s crimes were the attacks on my personal integrity. Out of the entire nightmare that was one part of it that gave me great grief. (I know, to each his own! But having been taught to live a life of integrity and to value honesty above most everything else, it was a tough emotional blow to know a heavy shadow of suspicion lay over me in the eyes of many due to the actions of the man I was married to.) What I wanted more than anything (other than to wake up and discover my life wasn’t real, that it was only a nightmare) was vindication. I wanted someone in a position of authority to publicly defend me, to acknowledge my innocence, and to make an irrefutable statement to the world: “Andrea Merriman is innocent. She didn’t know about the crimes and she wasn’t involved in any crimes.” But that doesn’t happen in cases like the one I was thrust into against my will. I learned that firsthand in 2009.

So I let it go. T0 heal, required that I let all of that go.

I made the conscious decision to know I knew the truth: that I was, am and always have been an honest person. I decided to not care what other people might suspect or erroneously believe about me. I chose to carry on and to continue to live my life the only way I knew how—with integrity. I abandoned all hope of vindication, or of anyone defending me or my integrity, publicly. I healed.

Imagine my surprise, then, on June 20, 2012 when the episode of “American Greed” featuring the crimes of Shawn Merriman played on televisions across the nation and a federal agent said something like, “There is absolutely no evidence that Andrea Merriman knew what was going on or that she was involved in it.”

I NEVER expected that!

In fact, when my friend called to tell me about it (as I can’t afford television, satellite or cable I couldn’t watch it, real time, myself) I couldn’t believe it. She said, “It’s nothing we didn’t know, but did you ever imagine you’d hear it on national television?” Nope. I can’t say it enough—I honestly never expected that. But I also couldn’t be more grateful to the good man, and federal agent, who publicly stated the truth.

The unexpected life just keeps getting more unexpected!

And sometimes, as a part of the glorious highs and extremely devastating lows that are a part of each person’s journey, you eventually get exactly what you’ve wished for. It may not come to you when you want it, it may not come when you think you “have” to have it (after all, I had to move forward and heal without mine.) But now I see that it was better that way.

It was better for me to heal without it. I think I became stronger because of it.

“At the time, when you’re being dissected and judged it’s pretty brutal, but in hindsight it’s great and – it sounds cliched – you do come out the other side better and stronger.” (Kate Bosworth)

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)


Life Happens

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.” (John Lennon)

Remarrying mid-life is an interesting experience in so many ways and on so many levels, not the least of which is constantly feeling like I’m trying to catch up, or make up, a few decades—getting to know my husband’s family, his history and everything else. That, combined with raising children, working full time, household duties, hobbies and life in general, keeps us pretty busy!

Recently, as part of the getting to know one another’s history, I found myself at a little cemetery in Snowflake, Arizona, seeing grave sites of Ramsey family members (including my father-in-law) I’ve heard many stories about but have never met. While there, I was particularly struck by the dates engraved on the stone monuments to row after row of lives lived.

Reminded, again, of the importance of making the most of the life you’ve been blessed with—whether you chose it or not. And that while to every life there is a beginning date and at some point there will be an end, what truly matters is all of the time in between: what you choose to do with it, what you make of  it, the positive impact in the world (even if it’s only in your little corner of the world) you have, the memories, the friendships and the happiness and joy you cultivate throughout it all.

Standing there in the green of a quiet and peaceful resting place I thought about the hopes, dreams and aspirations we’re all working toward; and how we each have our share of those that don’t work out for one reason or another: death, divorce, sickness, war, Ponzi schemes, accidents, betrayals, employment disappointments, natural disasters, way too many “man made disasters” and everything else no one plans to experience or wants to experience…but it comes to each of us any way.

Life “happens.” It’s what you do with it that counts.

Make the most of your moments.

Revise your plans, if necessary, due to the things that develop in your personal story.

And then choose to live happily, ever after, in YOUR unexpected life.


Ad-libbing to the Max: The Unexpected Life

“If life is just a stage, then we are all running around ad-libbing, with absolutely no clue what the plot is. Maybe that’s why we don’t know whether it’s a comedy or tragedy.” Bill Watterson

Three years ago, I lost the life I’d known and loved for most of my adult life and was thrust into a life I never expected.

The life I live today is different in every respect from the one I lost. Sometimes, this far into it all, it feels like the previous life, the fallout and the consequences my children and I have endured as a result of the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by my former husband happened to someone else—in someone else’s life. Sometimes, it hardly feels real anymore. And then, sometimes, things happen that remind me all of it was all too real!

As if the life I now live isn’t proof enough, occasionally I find myself on television. Tonight, it will be national television. “American Greed” on MSNBC, to be specific; an episode featuring my ex-husband dubbed by others as “The Mormon Madoff.” While some of the interview based on our experiences focused on the tragic aspects of the unexpected revelations of Shawn Merriman, I did my best to find a few comedic moments as well (to laugh is sometimes the only way to get through tragedy of unexpected proportions). And of course, living and enduring through all of it, has required I “ad-lib to the max.”

What do you do when your life ends in one moment and you find out everything is gone? What do you do when you discover your husband of 20 years, the man you have known and loved most of your adult life, has been living a double life and deceiving you, your children and the rest of the world? What do you do when you find yourself the sole parent and support of four children? What do you do when government agents enter your home and seize everything of value that you once thought was yours? What do you do when…?

You pick yourself up and carry on. You teach your children not just how to survive tragedy, but to triumph. (A life skill they’ll need throughout their lives.) You look for the good in what you’re left with and smile (although it takes some time before the smiles become real again.) And you rebuild, out of the ashes, something even better than you had before.

The Unexpected Life.

And while I have no idea of the content of tonight’s show, that’s what I hope shines through in my life and in the words of this blog. Because every life, no matter what happens, is worth living. That’s just one more thing my unexpected life has taught me.

There Certainly Are Times…

“The days of our lives, for all of us, are numbered. We know that. And yes, there are certainly times when we aren’t able to muster as much strength and patience as we would like. It’s called being human.” (Elizabeth Edwards)

In case my inability to recognize I was married to a criminal living a double life for nearly two decades or my inept efforts at gardening haven’t been enough proof of this shortcoming of mine, that of “being human,” I offer the following recent example.

My carpool driver was out of town. My college age son had a doctor’s appointment. My high school daughter had a track meet. My middle son had a scouting activity. And that meant I had a kindergartener getting released from school at 3:30 p.m. with no one to pick him up or supervise him. I’d just left my family for 5 full days for work, so I left work early to pick up my son as no one else could looked forward to spending an extra, early hour with him as a result. I was so excited for the quality mother and son time! I planned to take him to a park and enjoy the sunny spring day and yet, despite my good intentions, when I left my job early that one afternoon to pick up my son, I worried that my boss was bothered that I had done so. (He’s a good man, family oriented; he didn’t say anything, he didn’t act a certain way, it may have just been working mother guilt–where you feel like you’re shorting your family or your employer, but never that everything is in balance! Any other working moms ever feel that way? Anyway, I felt like my boss wasn’t happy I was leaving an hour early.)

But I left anyway, deciding corporate wrath couldn’t hold a candle to a lone and unsupervised kindergartener wandering the city streets alone, trying to find his way home all by himself. (Who knows WHAT could happen in a scenario like that, huh?) But my son wasn’t waiting for me after school like he should have been.

“Dumb, forgetful me! I must have the date wrong, carpool has probably already come and gone,” I thought, so I drove home and arrived to find…an empty house. I raced back to the school, worrying that my son would now be the last kindergartener waiting for his now late mother but…my son wasn’t waiting. I went into the school office, expecting to find my son waiting there while the secretary called for a ride home for him but…he wasn’t there either. I also checked the school grounds, his classroom, the bathrooms but…my son was nowhere to be found.

I blamed myself: “He must have tried walking home  and in my panic to make sure I picked him up on time, I must not have seen him on the sidewalks. I probably drove right by him! What a terrible mother I am to not see my son,” so I dashed back to my car, drove the route from school to home again, expecting to see my son along the way…and saw nothing. Not one child. That worried me, too. NO children walking anywhere?

I debated contacting the police as I drove back and forth from school to home and back again a few times, but never did find my son. I called my older children, neighbors, anyone I could think of to see if perhaps someone had given my son a ride that day but…no one had seen him. Crazy thoughts, worries, really began to kick in. Visuals of a kidnapped child haunted me, not to mention visuals of Andrea Merriman, appearing on national t.v. AGAIN—this time for not being able to keep track of a six-year old!

“What a loser the entire world will now believe I am!” I thought. “As if marrying a man who lived a double life and perpetuated a Ponzi scheme wasn’t enough, to now lost my child! If they thought I was dumb before, imagine what the world will think NOW!” I surmised. (Some unexpected revelations, like those revealed to me in 2009, leave their scars. You can see that I don’t have a totally normal first reaction to every life or parenting experience anymore. I mean, who ever thinks, when their child isn’t waiting to be picked up at school, that there is a tie-in to a Ponzi scheme? I confess, I try to control my reactions but I can’t seem to control the thoughts and worries that initially flood my mind at unexpected times.)

I made one last phone call home before calling the police and was informed my kindergartener had just arrived. I drove home, after searching for him for almost 2 hours, worried, but grateful he was safe; unsettled by the unhappy feeling I felt my employer had toward my early departure; and indescribably disappointed that the fun together time I’d planned with my son had been taken, instead, by the child hunt. I’d left work early, risked employer wrath and lost my son anyway…all for nothing!

When I asked my son how he’d gotten home and he lied. Instead he told me his carpool had driven him home. The truth? He’d walked home (wrong choice #1) but had stopped to play at a friend’s house (wrong choice #2) and apparently finally had the good sense to finally he was going to be in big trouble and thought a lie would save him—WRONG! (In fact, it was wrong choice #3, BIG WRONG CHOICE, to tell a lie!)

I lost it; grounded my son and sent him to his room to think about the wrong choices he had made. Followed by these immediate thoughts: I’m a terrible mother, I’m raising a juvenile delinquent, I’m not a capable enough woman to work full-time AND be a good mother, my youngest child is out of control, my children are being ruined by the choices their father made that left me with NO choices—the list, at that point, went on and on.) I saw no way out but to quit my job and devote my full attention to raising my family. Of course, with no money and no child support, that would necessitate going on welfare (something I never, ever expected I would be forced to do!)

I went to my room, lay down on my bed and indulged in some serious tears of defeat. Surprisingly, my oldest son walked into my room, smiled, shook his head and said, “Mom, in my entire life, I don’t think I’ve ever seen you that mad. What are you going to do?” I answered, “Quit my job, go on welfare,” and began to detail everything that choice would result in. He advised, “I wouldn’t be so hasty, Mom,” and gave me the biggest and best parenting pep talk (including scripture quotes and other readings; he told me what a great person; what a wonderful mother I am; and he told me to hang in there as he offered his best 19-year-old wisdom and talked me down from the ledge of parenting despair and impatience I felt at my life situation.

When he was done I said, “Whoever would have imagined YOU would be giving ME a parenting pep talk?”  He smiled, laughed and said, “Mom, I’ve been doing that my entire life—just from the other side!”

True. But it worked.

Later, my husband arrived home from work, joined us on the bed and added his opinion of my parenting talents and I’m pleased to report I’ve mustered additional strength and patience and…am still employed. Still hanging in there. Still a mom. (Grateful to be one, as always, by the way, not to mention grateful for the brief glimpse of one son, mostly raised, who has turned out to be so good, wise and amazing in every way, it gives me hope that the others will become like him and follow in his footsteps IF I, their mother, keep at it.

The glory of motherhood.

“With what price we pay for the glory of motherhood.” (Isadora Duncan)

Even If It’s In Flames

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

No. Not in my garden. Here’s why.

Three years ago, when I lost my life (and pretty much everything else) in the aftermath of a Ponzi scheme, I moved to Utah. Along with my four children, I brought three peony plants from my Colorado yard I had uprooted and hauled several hundred miles in orange Home Depot buckets to transplant in our new yard. I’ve written about them before: one didn’t survive the journey, one made the journey and survived the first winter only to be uprooted by my youngest in his “chop down the new fruit trees and many other thriving plants with a plastic sword” phase, and the third, and final peony, bit the dust last week.

Not totally of its own volition, I confess. I just realized we’re entering the fourth growing season in our new life and while that peony has turned green every year, it has never bloomed. So last week I finally let my husband dig it up and remove it. We’re going to try something else in its place. Why?

Because life is too short to waste time NOT blooming.

I believe life isn’t meant to simply be “endured.”  I believe, instead, that life is a garden and we’ve all been given a patch of ground to do with it, to make of our life, what we will. Admittedly, all ground is NOT created equal. Some of us have a pretty easy, carefree row to till. Some have sandy soil; some are blessed with a rainforest (which has its own challenges); some have been planted in very difficult, rocky soil. And a few of us may not even be in any soil at all–but instead, like I found myself a few years ago, thrust into a pile of the absolute worst manure I’d never imagined! But regardless of the garden, or life, you’ve been transplanted to, you’ve got to bloom. Blossom. Achieve your dreams. Burst forth into something great. Let the soil of your experiences help you grow into something better than you’d have otherwise been. No matter what happens to you.

“I advise you to say your dream is possible and then overcome all inconveniences, ignore all the hassles and take a running leap through the hoop, even if it is in flames.” (Les Brown)

Bad Day

“Less is more.” (Ludwig Mies van der Rohe)

My youngest is in kindergarten; six years old going on 26 (he thinks, and always has, I assume because of his older siblings.) Needless to say, with his siblings all quite a bit older than him , he knows the latest dance moves of high school and college students as well as the words to the most current, hip music but as such, he has never been that into toys; mostly he just tears all of them out of his closet into a mess on the floor and then leaves to go play outside!

Working mother that I am, I confess, most of the time it ALL stays there for several days as I risk breaking my neck each night, carefully stepping over the disaster zone to tuck him in bed, until the weekend when I muster the energy to help him clean it all up again! Not too long ago, the mess was particularly horrendous and my son decided he wanted to sack it all up and give it away to charity rather than clean it all up again. So we did.

We cleaned the toys out, put his room back in order and I had him haul the sacks out to the car to be delivered to his charity of choice. He returned from the task, crying. I asked him what was wrong. He replied, “I’m having the worst day! I’m really struggling! I don’t have any toys left!”

We had a little pep talk. I showed him that I actually had, in all of my motherly wisdom, saved a few things I knew he might want to play with in the future (despite his insistence, at the time, that he wanted every single toy gone so he wouldn’t have to ever clean his room again!) and the sacks remained in the car.

I believe that while his initial adjustment may be difficult (like me adjusting to my unexpected life) he’ll get used to it. He’ll see very quickly that less really IS more: more of what’s important; more, in that it’s all you need. Less gives you more hours in your day. Less destresses. Less frees you to appreciate the simple things and to actually have time for them. I recommend it.

I believe that “less” actually is “more” so strongly that if you don’t anticipate discovering your spouse has been leading a double life, is heading to prison and that the U.S. Marshalls are going to help you “clean out” and “declutter” your life of “things” in the very near future, I highly recommend you do it on your own— although perhaps not to the extent my life was “decluttered”! (lol)

See for yourself what I’m talking about.

“A lot of people tend to chew up the scenery. I’m a firm believer in less is more, especially on the big screen.” (Mark Wahlberg)

Especially in the unexpected life.