Living Happily Ever After


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The Magical Adventure Called Life

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

It was a lesson that would serve our family well.

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

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

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

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

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

Lemonade That’s Real

“We are living in a world today where lemonade is made from artificial flavors and furniture polish is made from real lemons.” (Alfred Newman)

When my ex-husband went to prison, I told him I hoped he used the time to learn what he needed to learn; to grow and change in the ways he needed to; and that I hoped he chose to make the best of the experience, whatever it might be. In other words, make lemonade. Even in prison.

I LOVE lemonade, but it’s also how I believe in living life. However, the fact it has to be easier said than done in prison is not lost on me. I knew what I was asking of him. So lest I have painted too rosy a portrait of prison, let me share some reality.

About his environment he wrote, “This is such a harsh place. There is nowhere to go for peace. Nowhere to be alone or even escape the constant barrage of foul language. Just for kicks one day I decided to count the number of cuss words I heard in a single hour–I stopped at 1200! It is a daily onslaught from which there is no escape. I think we have every kind of degenerate scum bag in this place. Every day I wake up refreshed, feeling clean, and by the end of the day I feel like I just can’t take the filth any more. A deputy summed it up this way: ‘I view my pay not as income, but as worker’s compensation, because every time I come through that door I feel millions of brain cells commit suicide.’ It’s the shallow end of the gene pool to be sure but there are a few gems in here, and I consider myself to be blessed with the friends I have here.”

Rather than dwell on the negative, I was happy to see he focused on his daily routine and tried to make the best of his situation. He kept busy exercising, playing games, tutoring men for the G.E.D., reading, writing, making friends and trying to make the most of his incarceration. Not bad lemonade, especially for prison.

“When life gives you lemons, you make lemonade. I have several stands around here.” (James Brady)

You can make lemonade wherever you are. All you need is lemons (abundant in the challenges and trials of life), water (which is everywhere) and a little sugar supplied by you–the way you choose to look at things and rise above them, the blessings you acknowledge and are grateful for, the positive things you focus on and the happiness you choose to create from your fruit regardless of where it comes from.

Make the best of what you have, regardless of how sour it is, and somewhere along the way the bitterness is overpowered by the sweet. It happens every time.


Find Something to Be Grateful For

“The thing I’m most thankful for right now is elastic waistbands.” (Author Unknown)

Thanksgiving is coming; the season of turkey and expandable clothing. I can’t miss the signs of its approach: A local grocery store gives coupons for discounts on turkeys every time you shop. My sister called to discuss our family Thanksgiving plans. It has all reminded me of last Thanksgiving–my first Thanksgiving as a single mother; and of course, the year all of my siblings were destined to spend the holiday with their in-laws.

A part of me wished I could magically skip over the holiday and not have to face it. The “firsts” are always tough. But the single working mother part of me looked forward to the opportunity to spend four days in a row with my children. Thankfully, a wonderful friend and her family, mother and siblings invited my little family to share the day with them. They really took us under their wing and made us feel a part of their family. It was comforting, and feeling as alone as we felt in some ways, it was wonderful to feel a part of a crowd.

It was a perfect holiday for us; we were able to experience Thanksgiving and feel gratitude for our blessings without being overwhelmed by our losses. In fact, my children said it was their best Thanksgiving ever.

One thing I loved was the opportunity after the meal for each individual to express one thing they were grateful for. I was particularly struck by how many husbands and wives chose to share their gratitude for each other publicly. It touched me and inspired me. It gave me hope that all of that might again be mine someday…if I endured and didn’t give up too soon on the singles scene.

It was also the time I learned yet another new fact about life on “the inside.”

Did you know prison inmates bless their meal at Thanksgiving?

Yes, it’s true, despite the fact Hollywood has been remiss in portraying it. I’ve been told there are two days of the year inmates offer a blessing on the the food as a group: Thanksgiving and Christmas. Last year, my ex-husband was asked to say the blessing on the food in his jail.

He wrote: “Today is Thanksgiving and 70 men asked me to bless the food. I asked one of the inmates why they chose me and he replied, ‘Because we see you reading the bible and your Book of Mormon and praying every day. We asked you because you are doing it, not just talking about it.’”

He blessed the food as asked and later that evening, offered a toast: “Thanksgiving is almost over. I made a hot cocoa and did a toast to our kids. I miss them more than you can possibly imagine.”

Last year reminded me that no matter you’ve lost, no matter where you are in your unexpected life and no matter where you reside, you can always (and should always) find something to be grateful for and express your gratitude for it.

“The hardest arithmetic to master is that which enables us to count our blessings.” (Eric Hoffer, “Reflections On The Human Condition”)

But it’s also the most rewarding.

In The Minority

“The test of courage comes when we are in the minority. The test of tolerance comes when we are in the majority.” (Ralph W. Sockman)

My ex-husband realized he was in the minority when he first arrived at the minimum security of the incarceration facility. He was part of a group of five inmates. The deputy asked, “How many of you have been here before?” He was shocked to see he was the ONLY ONE who didn’t raise his hand!

He couldn’t help but notice as a white man, without a tattoo, he was again in the minority at the facility.

As he got to know the personal situations of the men, he realized that having been married to one woman for 20 years and having four children with just one woman, also put him in the minority. Most of the men he met had children with several women. One man had eight children by seven women!

Another way he differed from the majority of the inmates he interacted with was in the language he used. He may have been the first inmate in history to attempt to express himself forcefully not with profanity, but with his own “strong” words: “darn it,” “shucks,” and “crap.” The other men in jail began to use those same words around him, saying them with a smile, and then laughing as they mocked his vernacular totally unexpected in the inside.

But it’s ok to be different. Even in the unexpected life. Even in prison.

The man in the minority didn’t completely “fit in” to the environment in which he lived. And the men in the majority excelled in tolerance for his “oddities.” Their friendship grew despite their differences. And as inmates arrived and departed for other facilities and other places, they were sad to see each other go.

“Happy trails to you, until we meet again.” (Dale Evans Rogers)

It can happen. Even in prison.

The First 24 Hours

“The beauty, the poetry of the fear in their eyes. I didn’t mind going to jail for, what, five, six hours? It was absolutely worth it.” (Johnny Depp)

Jail. According to Hollwood, criminals get to make a phone call. But I never got one that day from the only criminal I’ve ever known: my ex-husband. He told me later, “I didn’t call anyone with my call. I couldn’t remember your number. I just froze.”

He sent a letter to my children and educated us about his new life and summed it up by saying, “Well, I finished my first 24 hours in jail and…I don’t recommend it!”

He had spent seven hours on a concrete bench waiting to go to the Evaluation Mod, a medium security block/area: a 7 x 12 room with a combination sink and toilet and two mats–for two men. The men were released from the cell three hours each day and could use the time to watch t.v. or shower.

“Locks reset every hour, so it is very loud. The first time I heard it I thought someone shot a gun. It goes on all night, 24/7. They don’t shut the lights off, so you sleep in the light.”

He was later moved to a minimum security Mod: one big room with 64 beds on one side, a large common area with two 24″ t.v.s (but the men have to purchase headphones to listen to the t.v.) Also in the room were six round stainless steel tables with attached metal stools, with a chess/checker board etched into the top (but the men have to purchase the game pieces.) Breakfast was served at 5 a.m., lunch at 11 a.m. and dinner at 5 p.m. Breakfast consisted of a hard boiled egg, “mystery meat” and a biscuit. Lunch was a piece of pastrami, a chunk of “smelly black bread,” a cookie and orange jello. Dinner was chicken, mashed potatoes, gravy and mixed vegetables.

He spent a lot of time describing his new life for one reason. “I want to make sure you guys know what can happen if you mess up and don’t take care of it. I don’t get to make many choices. I get to choose to eat or not to eat and when to shower. Everything else is chosen for me. I am all alone. In a cage.”

I have a new perspective on prison: “Stone walls do not a prison make, nor iron bars a cage.”

I’ve seen for myself that life goes on, even on “the inside.” You simply have to choose to live it. Whatever you’re handed, wherever you are.

A Perspective on Things I Never Thought I’d Learn

“There is not an issue that a woman cannot bring a perspective to.” (Eddie Bernice Johnson)

Speaking of perspective, here’s more of mine: Life teaches you lessons you don’t anticipate; you learn things you never, in your wildest dreams, imagine you will learn.

I’ve been exposed to things in my unexpected life I never expected–like crime, divorce, and prison. I’ve learned things I NEVER imagined knowing anything about! Like aspects of the justice system, jail and prison.

After my then-husband revealed his criminal activity to me on March 18, 2009, and told me he anticipated being incarcerated for 5-7 years, I could not wrap my head around any part of it. I’d never stolen so much as a grape from a grocery store without paying for it, and my husband had stolen millions of dollars and was heading to prison? I was shocked and in shock. I didn’t know everything it entailed or what was coming to any of us. I’d never known anyone in prison, anyone with a relative in prison and had never been involved in breaking the law beyond an occasional speeding ticket while driving. My only education about any of it came courtesy of Hollywood, and based on everything I’d ever seen about prisons in t.v. shows and movies, they seemed like the ultimate horror. And then the man I was married to told me he was heading to one.

What do you do when you find out your husband of 20 years is heading to prison? If you’re me, you worry and wonder. Then you google “jail” and “prison”, read and research and try to learn anything you can. That’s what I did anyway.

I tried to find out anything I could about prison and what to expect his living conditions, life, and incarceration experience would be. I didn’t have a lot of luck, as a law abiding citizen I didn’t even know where to look, but I did learn some new things. The little bit I found was just a tiny taste of what was to come. Despite everything he had done, and all his selfish choices had thrust upon his victims, me and my children, I was scared. For him. And that’s really all I knew of the prison experience until that day in late August 2009, when my former spouse went before a magistrate and was charged with a crime, pled “not guilty” to the charge and was taken into custody.

Besides his sentencing day last month, March 18, 2009, and July 13, 2009, that day was one of the worst for me.

I was at work all day in Utah, trying to get a lot done and keep busy with projects so I wouldn’t worry or wonder about what was happening in Denver, CO. I didn’t know what to expect, or how I would know what happened in court that day, since no one considered me a victim and I was no longer married to the criminal. I knew of no one who was going to get me word of what transpired, so I checked online media sources every hour or two throughout the day, anticipating something would be mentioned at some point. Yet as much as I had waited for it all morning, and expected it, I was still shocked when I entered the words “Shawn Merriman Ponzi” and up popped stories about the events of that day.

I sat there, at the computer monitor, frozen. I couldn’t believe what I was seeing. It was real. (I still couldn’t believe it.) I really wasn’t going to wake up any time soon and discover I’d simply been experiencing the most real-feeling nightmare of my life. It truly was more than a bad dream. It was the worst of the unexpected life. The day I had anticipated for months had finally arrived and the wheels of justice were turning. I couldn’t believe a man I’d loved and lived with, and had chosen to be the father of my children, was actually going to prison. But somehow I kept it together; finished my work day; drove home to my children, and no one was the wiser about what had happened in my life that day.

Everything about that event made me sick to my stomach–the “last phone call” Shawn made to talk to someone, me, that morning before he headed to the courthouse and embarked on the rest of his journey and the additional consequences resulting from his crimes; reading an email he sent that a friend was driving him to the courthouse as he was “a bit distracted and didn’t want to drive himself;” seeing video of him walking through the glass revolving doors of the courthouse heading to his hearing; reading of a courtroom packed with victims and how “more than 20 of his alleged victims stood up and applauded…Most were smiling.” (Miles Moffat,, 8/20/2009)

I don’t know how I’d feel if someone took MY most important possession, any one of my children from me, so I don’t judge the actions of those in attendance that day as right or wrong. I simply offer my perspective that it made me sick to see others exult in the demise of another, regardless of what that person had done. I hoped within my heart that regardless of what the future held for me, I would always choose to be strong enough to refrain from exulting in the downfall of another.

It also bothered me to read about myself in the stories about Shawn Merriman. Despite the fact I repeatedly asked everyone involved not to mention me or my children, they always did. That day, the magistrate referenced my children and I in a confidential, pre-hearing document, so it became part of the record, and was reported. And of course the reports were never accurate. That day it was, “his wife and children have moved to Utah…” There was no “wife.” We were divorced! (You might have to be the innocent ex-wife of a criminal to understand my perspective–absolute distaste for anything attempting to link me to the man, the crimes he committed or the media coverage about any of it.)

It was a welcome relief to actually laugh at one thing I read: the part about how Shawn Merriman was considered a flight risk so he had been taken into custody at the courthouse. That wasn’t quite accurate either, but it did make for more drama in the reporting! The reality is that Shawn Merriman did not have a passport–that, and his guns, were taken from him immediately upon turning himself in to the authorities. He had no money. He had no vehicle. No family. Only a handful of friends. And nowhere to go. He wasn’t going anywhere but prison, and he certainly wasn’t a flight risk! In fact, as I understood it, it had been Shawn who requested he be taken into custody as he wanted to get the clock ticking on the time he had to serve.

Well, he got what he wanted. He was taken into custody. That day, the clock began ticking. And for the first time since 1989, I had no idea where Shawn Merriman was, or if he was even safe. He seemed to just drop off the face of the planet into the deep, dark recesses of the criminal justice system and a jail somewhere. I didn’t know where he had gone; I didn’t know where he had been taken. There was no way to contact him. I was afraid for him, not for the first time, since beginning my unexpected life.

His incarceration had begun.

“That hunger of the flesh, that longing for ease, that terror of incarceration, that insistence on tribal honour being obeyed: all of that exists, and it exists everywhere.” (Ben Kingsley)

It’s Time

It’s time. The two words Bachelor #5 (and many of the rest of you) have been waiting to hear. So today, I write them. But not about what you may think. (Sorry!)

The “chick flick” portion of my unexpected life has come to a screeching halt this day. I now put my story on hold because it IS time…for something else. It’s time for the sentencing of my former spouse.

September 14, 2010.

Just four days short of 18 months since the day my unexpected life began due to the revelation of His fraudulent business dealings, Ponzi scheme and crimes. On that day He revealed everything to me, March 18, 2009, and told me He had already turned himself in to the government and our church authorities and that He anticipated being charged for what He had done within 7-10 days, and taken into custody to begin serving a prison sentence less than 30 days from that day. But things never seem to happen how you plan or expect them to, especially in crime. Especially in life.

Instead, He was free to “come and go” (which drove the neighbor victims crazy, but what can I say? There is a lot to not understand about crime, other than it is wrong!) and take care of what He could, wrapping up the details of His former life for several months as He prepared for a new one: prison inmate.

In the meantime, the divorce I filed for became final and my children and I moved to Utah and began living our new life.

Late August 2009 He was taken into custody to await His sentencing and has been residing in Jefferson County Jail in Golden, CO, for over one year. And unexpectedly, it is suddenly, finally, here.

He doesn’t know the time of the sentencing hearing. He anticipates He will be awakened at 3 a.m. and taken to a holding cell by 3:15 a.m. to await transportation to His hearing. He will spend time in the holding cell with many other men who have broken the law, all confined in one little space, waiting to be shackled and transported to the courtrooms in which judges will decide how long the next phase of their lives, incarceration, will be.

I can’t imagine being in a place like that, surrounded by people who have done all manner of reprehensible things. I am actually terrified at the thought, so when He called me collect for one final conversation prior to the sentencing I asked Him, “What will you do while you wait in the holding cell? Do you keep your head down and try not to draw attention to yourself?” (It was my best guess, based on the Hollywood movies and t.v. shows I’ve seen.)

He said, “No, I’ll probably try to get some sleep.”

He offered one last apology regarding the choices He made and the things He did with His life which thrust my children and I into consequences and a life we did nothing to earn. It was one last opportunity for Him to express His sorrow and remorse for His choices and He reiterated to me, again, His desire and willingness to do anything He could to help me and to do what is best for our children, whatever I feel that may be. And as usual, I have no response to that. I honestly don’t know what is best.

I’m just Andrea from Colorado, who never bargained for any part of my unexpected life. I never imagined a situation like the one that has become mine. I simply seek inspiration at every turn, guidance to know what to do, and attempt to remain patient and take the high road at every opportunity, hoping and praying I’ll be blessed as to how to best help my children when they, and I, need it most.

Life truly brings unexpected experiences. I certainly never expected having a conversation like that with anyone. And I never expected my former husband, who always had to have just the right mattress and the perfect pillow, on the highest quality of sheets, in a perfectly dark, cool and quiet environment to even begin thinking about going to sleep for the 20 years I knew him…to sleep in a holding cell, surrounded by criminals, while awaiting transportation to His sentencing.

After the hearing, He will return to a holding cell, waiting to be shackled and transported back to the jail until He is transported to the facility in which He will serve the remainder of his sentence.

Meanwhile, my children will go to school in Utah this day and try to focus on their school work rather than worry or wonder about what is taking place in a courtroom in Denver, CO. And I will be at work, attempting to focus on my projects and deadlines, preparing myself to help my children accept and adjust to the outcome when I get home.

The media once reported the maximum sentence for His crimes was 20 years. I’ve heard people speculate He’ll receive a 10-12 year sentence. Others anticipate 5 years. So we wait for word of the duration of His sentence, although at this point, no one knows what it will be.

A few of my children keep asking, “How long will He serve?” (I can’t comprehend being a child and having to ask a question like that.) And what do I say–20 years, so that anything less will seem “short” and be a relief? Or do I minimize it and risk devastating them should the outcome be longer than my guess? And it’s all a total guess for my part,because I am not His wife nor am I considered by the government or anyone else to be a “victim,” so I receive no word of communication from anyone regarding any part of His case.)

All I can do is tell my children the truth. I honestly don’t know. I only know this: “If you get up one more time than you fall, you will make it through,” (Chinese Proverb) the unexpected events that comprise Life.

The BIG “Board Breaker” (And A Bright Spot)

There was a time in my life when the following board breaker would have been, possibly, the ultimate humiliation.

But it’s funny how your perspective changes when you discover the man you have loved, trusted and been married to for 20 years has been running a Ponzi scheme, stealing millions of dollars, is heading to prison, and shatters your world very publicly ending in a divorce publicized in local and national media. (Just what every young girl dreams of. Not!)

Given the fact I’ve lived through what I believe is one of the more tragic yet embarrassing experiences, at least in my world, I’m not sure I have it in me to be mortified any more. Thankfully I’m unable to be embarrassed, because I’m still single and the following board breaker illustrates what single women are up against.

Single men.

Sometimes rejection.

Possible humiliation. (If you haven’t already lived through an ultimate humiliation, that is.)

One night, I went to a single’s dance alone. I danced, met some new friends, and then headed out for a break. When I returned, a song from the 80s that I loved was playing. So I decided to take matters into my own hands.
I decided to ask someone to dance. I looked around, found a man near me, asked, “Would you like to dance?”

And he said, “No.”

I was shocked! I never expected THAT. My parents taught me to never say no, regardless of who the boy was or what I thought of him. And there I was, rejected! Just like that. I know I’m not the biggest catch, but clearly, that man was not raised by parents. Lol.

I’m sure the shock showed in my face because he tried to explain that he’d had his eye on someone all night and wanted to catch her as she came off the dance floor. But it didn’t really help me. I couldn’t prevent the following thoughts: “What bad manners! How rude! What a loser!” And finally, “Well, you can’t expect to appeal to every one… especially VERY ordinary single men!”

I decided those dances didn’t work for me. And then, like Mr. Board Breaker who wouldn’t give up although his audience is cringing at his failure, he’s swaying on his feet from beating himself over the head with a board time and time again to no avail, I tried another dance the following month! (I know–slow learner.)

I danced, met some new friends, took a break, and then an 80s song I loved came on as I returned to the room. I didn’t want to miss the song, so I decided to ask a man to dance. What are the odds of a man saying no when you ask him to dance? I’d already experienced my “once in a lifetime” rejection at the last dance, so what did I have to lose by asking a man to dance a second time?

Apparently, what little dignity I had left because I asked a much less ordinary man to dance and HE said no!

He had an excuse, too. He said he had injured his leg and couldn’t dance. (Then WHY had he gone to a dance?) But at least he was nice, friendly, talkative and shared some singles information with me for the next few songs we didn’t dance. He told me to friend him on Facebook and he’d introduce me to lots of single people and singles activities. I tried to believe his excuse was real, and I didn’t see him dance once the entire night, so maybe it was the truth. But it was still a rejection!

At a subsequent dance I saw the same man (Reject #2, lets call him), this time dancing, and thought, “Hmm! His leg must be better.” I didn’t give him the evil eye or anything, I didn’t even stare at him, but before I knew it, the song had ended and he made his way over to me and asked me to dance–three songs in a row. So maybe he rejected me for a legitimate reason? Or maybe he was just trying to make up for his initial bad manners! Lol.

Too bad I’m not a gambler. Sometimes I have incredible luck. I mean, what are the odds of asking a man to dance and getting rejected? And getting rejected two dances in a row? For that matter, what are the odds of marrying a man who does what my former spouse did?

Lucky me.

However, a bright spot in the single life, a bit of glue that helps me hold it all together and keeps me going in the social “game” of dating and the unexpected life that is now mine, are singles lunches. (And I owe them to the second man who rejected me. He told me he’d introduce me to some great single people and singles activities and he did.)

Singles lunches are the best thing I’ve done as a single woman. They’re the most fun I’ve had, too. It’s just a group of singles under 45 years old who get together once a week for lunch. A different restaurant every week. You pay for yourself. And right up front the group informs you: don’t come to fall in love; just come, eat lunch and make friends.

The lunches are no pressure. They don’t cut into my evenings or my time with my children. I’ve only met friends there. Kind friends who text or call me to check on me occasionally or to let me know of a great activity I shouldn’t miss. Those lunches are my oasis in the desert of my single life! (A little dramatic, I’m just trying to emphasize how great I think they are. Thanks, Adam, for inventing them and coordinating them. I have loved participating in them!)

A bright spot amid my share of board breakers!

And yet, the dating continues despite the board breakers.

I just can’t give up searching for that happy ending.

New Year’s Eve 2009

Earlier this month marked the one year anniversary of the day my new and unexpected single life officially, legally, began.

It has been quite a year!

All of the fireworks this month reminded me of the last fireworks I experienced–New Year’s Eve 2009. My first New Year’s Eve as a single woman.

I spent it with one of the bachelor’s I’ve already written about. And as optimistic as I like to think I am, I probably felt a little pessimistic that night too. “An optimist stays up until midnight to see the new year in. A pessimist stays up to make sure the old year leaves.” (Bill Vaughan) That was me that night.

“Drop the last year into the silent limbo of the past. Let it go, for it was imperfect, and thank God that it can go.” (Brooks Atkinson) That was exactly how I felt. That was exactly what I did.

My New Year’s Eve involved dinner, dancing…and fireworks. And as far as “firsts” go, it wasn’t too bad.

But at midnight, as the fireworks exploded and I stood watching them light up the Salt Lake City skyline, I felt something unexpected.

Each time a firework exploded into a colorful shower of sparks and light, I felt the “thunder” of it in my chest and saw a moment from 2009 flash before my eyes: I was sitting with Shawn Merriman at the table as he told me of his crimes, pending prison sentence, that I was left alone and with nothing to raise our four children and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was watching my children’s world shatter, seeing their shocked expressions, tears and grief, wondering how I would survive the moment I was present as my children’s hearts were broken and their childhood illusions were shattered and then, BOOM! That moment was gone. I was driving away from my entire life, the only life I’d ever known as an adult into a completely unknown life in Utah, wondering how my heart would ever heal and then, BOOM! That moment was gone.

The flashbacks continued for several minutes. Each explosion of light blasted away a hard experience from 2009; a piece of pain from the previous year. Pain I didn’t even know was mine, I’d become so accustomed to living with it.

Burdens I hadn’t even known I’d been carrying were lifted. I was stunned at how good it felt to see, hear and feel it all going away. It was healing.

So aside from the marriage proposal I got earlier that day (#2, if anyone’s counting!) that is what I remember most about New Year’s 2009. The fireworks. What they represented and how they felt to me.

Life was getting better every day and I knew that someday, every day would be a celebration again. That my children and I would continue on the path to happiness and joy in our new and unexpected life.

Just as the old moments had passed with each firework that exploded, new moments and memories were taking their place: my three-year-old taking off on his bike sans training wheels down our new Utah street, the family dance party my middle son was standing on a bench busting his best disco-karate moves and the bench shattered beneath him (he was ok, but we all got a huge laugh out of the whole adventure–and the first time I’ve ever lost a piece of furniture to a child’s antics), our first Christmas as a new family unit, our “group hugs,” the family drives, evenings in the canyon, and even our first family vacation.

“Everything is created from moment to moment, always new. Like fireworks, this universe is a celebration and you are the spectator contemplating the eternal Fourth of July of your absolute splendor.” (Francis Lucille)

You just have to keep living.

Bachelor #6: The Ghostbuster

“Computer dating is fine… if you’re a computer.” ~ Rita Mae Brown

I met Bachelor #6, a former semi-pro basketball player, online. He was friendly, funny and had led a very interesting and colorful life.

I was upfront about having four children. His response? “No problem, I love children. I have three daughters of my own and the last woman I was married to had six kids!”

The LAST woman he had married? I asked for clarification on that, he said he didn’t want to scare me off, but he admitted to having been married twice already.

My perspective of marriage and dating had changed a lot after being single and meeting other singles. What in my experience most of my adult life had not been that common (divorce), was now very common in my new world. And what was becoming almost the norm for most men I met, was having been married and divorced more than once. I tried to keep an open mind. After all, that is what I expected people to have about me.

Then I moved on to the big one. The part about me having a former spouse in prison. For many, that can be a deal breaker. (And I blame no one who finds that it is. Until I became the unaware and innocent spouse of a man who confessed to running a Ponzi scheme and was now imprisoned, I would have felt the same way, I’m sure!) It was best to get the bigger details of my life out into the open right away.

Bachelor #6 took the criminal behavior of my former spouse in stride. He told me most people would judge me about that, but not him. He felt only one perfect person had ever lived on the earth and only one person was qualified to judge others. Besides, he had relatives in prison!

Was he meant for me or what? Lol.

He was a GREAT storyteller and had a lot of good stories (mostly based on his life and his experiences.) He lived in his own place, but cooked dinner for his parents who lived in the same town every night. And..he believed in ghosts! He had lived with one and talked to it. A lot.

“An idea, like a ghost, must be spoken to a little before it will explain itself.” (Charles Dickens)

The relationship lasted four months. Before it ended, there was a marriage proposal. It would never have worked though. Although I loved his height and his sense of humor, we were very different and had very different experiences. In spite of my past (the former spouse in prison thing), I couldn’t quite come to terms with his. And besides, he was a bit too friendly with ghosts for my comfort!


On to the next one. Bachelor #7.