Living Happily Ever After


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“I knew what my job was; it was to go out and meet the people and love them.” (Princess Diana)

I finished my Madonna representation and was anxious to change out of the costume and hide. But I had one more hurdle to clear. The cast had to go to the ship’s main lobby, greet family, friends, “fans,” and pose for a group photo.

I wanted to do all of the above almost as much as I’d wanted to sing a solo of “Like A Virgin” in front of hundreds of people and wear the costume I’d been provided with—but I did it anyway, comforting myself that at least I wouldn’t know anyone and hopefully, that what happened on a Carnival cruise ship stayed on a Carnival cruise ship!

After the group photo, a man approached. Turns out, he’d been an old friend of my husband’s parents and their family in Winslow, Arizona, and hadn’t seen my husband in approximately 30 years! Their reunion was joyful. As I watched and listened to the conversation, I realized the man had also been a leader in the L.D.S. church when my husband was called on his mission to Japan—and there I stood dressed like Madonna! I took that as my cue to leave, and quick!

I turned to make my escape just as my husband said, “And let me introduce you to my wife!” I wanted to die, but instead, got to make a new acquaintance while wearing a black bustier. Not exactly what I’d expected. I sort of felt like a deer caught in headlights. But it got much, much worse when my new acquaintance revealed he now lives in the Denver-metro area. My husband replied, “Oh! My wife is from Denver!” The man turned to me and asked, “Really? What was your name?”

Have you ever seen television shows where everything comes to a screeching halt and all of the characters “freeze?” That’s how I feel, still, when people ask the question, “What’s your name?” I know, instantly, they’re going to recognize my name and it’s 2009, to some degree, all over again. (To those who think I can’t fully escape my past, try as I might…sometimes it feels like you’re right!) I felt like I stood there, mouth open, as my mind raced to solve the problem of how to answer that question but before I could give a response that did not include the name “Merriman,” my husband introduced me: Andrea Merriman. (He is such a nonjudgmental, kind man, but as much as he thinks he understands what I lived through as the wife of a Ponzi schemer clueless about her husband’s crimes until their 2009 revelation, I just don’t think he gets it; and it’s moments like that that reinforce that suspicion in me.)

It was the man’s turn to look like a deer caught in headlights. I’d known he would. I’d just been hoping to avoid it. A part of me wanted to die, inside. The good news, is that those moments are becoming fewer and further between. The bad news is that they still happen. The conversation resumed and I tried to remove myself from it as unobtrusively as possible.

I’d outdone myself that evening: inappropriate clothing, inappropriate lyrics, a forgettable solo in front of hundreds of strangers…courtesy of Andrea Merriman!

“When a relationship dies, do we ever really give up the ghost or are we forever haunted by the spirits of relationships past?” (Sarah Jessica Parker as Carrie Bradshaw, “Sex In The City”)


(Karaoke) Rock Star

“Alas for those that never sing, But die with all their music in them!” (Oliver Wendell Holmes)

Thanks to my first cruise with my new husband, that’s not going to be a problem.

We ventured into the karaoke lounge another time and believe it or not, I attempted karaoke again. Still not sure what I was thinking…especially because I ended up on stage again. No solo, just “Summer Lovin’” from “Grease;” a duet with my husband! At some point in my childhood, I confess, I think I dreamed of being Sandy and having a Danny. Who says dreams can’t come true? Little did I realize it would take the unexpected life and a new husband to literally, make them reality. Lol.

However, the highlight of that evening came when a large group of Japanese tourists joined us in the lounge. And my husband surprised the crowd by singing “Feelings” in Japanese. (He majored in Japanese in college, and lived and worked in Japan for several years; he’s pretty fluent. Fluent enough, even, to sing!) You should have seen the women scream, clap, rise up from their chairs and dance around! One lovely woman even did a “fan dance” as he sang—I guess making sure he didn’t get too overheated from his performance or all of the swooning, I’m not sure which!

Karaoke rock star. Is there such a thing? If there is, I’m pretty sure I’m married to him.

“I won’t be a rock star. I will be a legend.” (Freddie Mercury)

The Power Of A T-Shirt

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I stalwartly replied, “Absolutely.”

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

“No,” I replied. “I’m fine.”

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

And then unexpectedly, I heard it.


I paused. Had I just heard my name?

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

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

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

Another beauty of the unexpected life.

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

All because of a BYU t-shirt.

The power of a BYU t-shirt.

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

Did I Say Strange?

“Let your mind start a journey through a strange new world. Leave all thoughts of the world you knew before. Let your soul take you where you long to be…Close your eyes let your spirit start to soar, and you’ll live as you’ve never lived before.” (Eric Fromme)

Before I go any further I have to reiterate, again, that remarriage is a journey through a strange new world.

It’s unsettling, after living four or more decades of your life and doing things a certain way for specific reasons…to change it all up and do everything differently. But it’s also exciting, not to mention occasionally entertaining. You certainly have new experiences you never expected to have; you learn new things; and I like to think (or hope) that all of it will help keep me young!

Now back to the birthday cruise for my husband.

We both had prior cruising experience prior to our first one together. My husband had been on several cruises and I’d been on 10 myself (I had been married for 20 years to a man who did everything to excess; now that I know what was REALLY going on all those years, I see that he certainly lived up to Ponzi scheme criminal stereotype/reputation for “living the high life.” Bummer that I, like everyone else, simply thought he was just very successful and good at his job!)

We brought to our 2011 marriage our own (different) travel habits and expectations. But since this cruise was with in celebration of my husband’s 50th birthday and we were  traveling with his family and friends,  I told him not to worry about me; we were doing it his way—and while I don’t think we did the whole trip “his way,” (my husband is too considerate for that) I pretty much went along with everything my husband suggested (like karaoke) and had a lot of new adventures (like karaoke) that were part of his previous experience but had never been a part of mine.

It was a very different cruise than any I’d ever been on before, but it was also a LOT of fun!

“Old and young, we are all on our last cruise.” (Robert Louis Stevenson)

Make the most of it.

One Unexpected Adventure…Revealed

“When I was a child I had a crush on Abraham Lincoln. Why I would choose to reveal this, I know not.” (Julia Roberts)

Revelation time.

I’ve had a few crushes in my day.

Not only that, I have something in common with Janet Jackson who revealed, “My first crush was Barry Manilow. He performed on TV and I taped it. When no one was around I’d kiss the screen.” Let me clarify: I have the crush part, NOT the kissing the screen part, in common with Janet.

When I was a child I also had a crushes on Mike Smith (a little boy in 1st grade–but the crush soured, sadly, when Mike gave me a heart-shaped box of chocolates for Valentine’s Day that was too big to fit in my desk and my classmates teased me about it!); Tim Horn (a boy in my 2nd grade class); The Lettermen; Shaun Cassidy; Kurt Russell; the buck-toothed boy from Disney’s original “Escape To Witch Mountain;” Stewart Peterson; and Donny Osmond.

I remember several nights as a child, arguing with my cousin, Athena, about our Donny Osmond crushes and who “got him.” Athena never failed to insist, “I get Donny because I’m older than you and closer to his age, you can have Jimmy—because you’re younger.” But I didn’t want Jimmy Osmond, I had a crush on Donny!

I even watched “The Donny & Marie Show” each week and I knew every song on their “Deep Purple” album by heart! And then Donny filmed “Goin’ Coconuts,” he married, and I grew up—and experienced many other crushes, but those are another blog post. (It did strike me as ironic, and funny, however, that as I drove off “just married” in 1989—my first marriage—Donny Osmond’s “Soldier of Love” was playing on the radio! A fitting conclusion to my childhood.)

I was married for 20 years, and happily so. I was a mother of four children, absolutely fulfilled in devoting my life and my efforts to my husband, children, home and church and community service. And then, in one moment, on one day, it all ended. Oh, the bleak and black absolute despair I felt! Indescribable. Within a few months I found myself divorced, single, working full-time and living in Utah attempting to create a new life for myself and my children as I raised my four kids alone. I carried on, but a big part of my shattered heart was sure I’d had my turn. That every good thing that was ever going to come to me was in the past.

And then, unexpectedly, I fell in love and got married again. Now I have a crush on my husband.

Even more unexpected: the day I found myself driving through the roads of Utah County in my trusty Subaru Outback station wagon to have lunch with…Donny Osmond!

All I can say is that if anyone had told me when my life fell apart in 2009 that lunch with Donny Osmond was in my future as part of my unexpected life, I’d NEVER have believed it! But it’s true.

“Ask not what you can do for your country. Ask what’s for lunch.” (Orson Welles)

Don’t Block Your Dream

“You block your dream when you allow your fear to grow bigger than your faith.” (Mary Manin Morrissey)

I’ve been living my unexpected life for 2 1/2 years now. It has caused some serious reflection on occasion. Looking back, I can’t believe all that was thrust upon me in one single, incomprehensible, dark moment. I’m astounded at all that I lost, not to mention the fact that I emotionally survived the terrible shock all of that loss and devastation. What stunning, terrible, dark days those were. I wouldn’t wish them on anyone.

But somehow, I kept going. And now that I’m through it, I think I dare ask myself again: “HOW did I do it? How did I keep going? How did I survive it all?”

My answer? Faith. And dreams.

Somehow I had the faith to dream and to believe that if I did my part, if I did all I could to work hard and to make those dreams come true, they would. Somehow I had the faith to cling to the dream of a happily ever after and to trust God—to never doubt that He knows me and has a plan for me (I just wasn’t always sure what His plan was!)—and to know that with Him, my children and I could be healed of our losses and devastation, we could dream new dreams and  look forward with faith, and endure, until the time that our dreams came to fruition. Until we got our happily ever after.

I think Fox Mulder said it best: “Dreams are answers to questions we haven’t yet figured out how to ask.” (The X Files)

My unexpected life provided me with the opportunity to dream new dreams I didn’t know I’d ever have; to ask questions I never thought I’d ask or have to ask; and there was a LOT to figure out! But it also provided an incredible opportunity for learning and personal growth. (That continues, by the way, as I stumble and bumble my way through my new adventures!)

But I’m so glad that I’ve learned them. I’m glad I didn’t quit (even though a few times I wanted to!) And all I can say is, to everyone and anyone in the midst of their unexpected life and its attendant trauma: don’t quit. Don’t give up. Keep the faith. And keep working toward that happily ever after you’ve always dreamed of and know is out there somewhere, some place…because it is.

I know it. And I have proof of it; I AM proof of it.

I lost my old life at 41 years old. In fact, I lost pretty much everything. I divorced, I returned to the workforce, I moved to Utah, and began again—entirely from scratch and in an entirely different way and life—yet here I sit. In my cute, comfortable little house in Utah. Happy and fulfilled in ways I didn’t even know were possible; my husband outside hanging Christmas lights with my boys; and I’m spending time with my wonderful new mother-in-law and anticipating the arrival of new, extended family to share Thanksgiving with, yes, I’m proof.

“You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” (C.S. Lewis)

And make sure you do just that. Because it leads to some indescribable joys, moments of blissful happiness, and some other new but very unexpected adventures. I’ve had a few more. And as usual, I can’t believe some of them myself!

Changing Directions

“One might as well try to ride two horses moving in different directions, as to try to maintain in equal force two opposing or contradictory sets of desires.” (Robert Collier)

Two contradictory sets of desires. I daresay that is probably what leads to most, if not all, divorce. I see it in the aftermath of the final divorce, as well. Regardless of the desires of either party, there are moments that it feels like trying to ride two horses moving in different directions. Sure, both parties may say they want the same thing (the well-being of the children they had together) but the approaches to achieving that are usually vastly different.

When I met my husband, his youngest child lived with him. “But I know, at some point, he will choose to live with his mom again,” he explained, and added how sad he would be when that day came; he loved the daily interactions with his son that came with living under the same roof.

His son continued to live with him as the parent’s lives transitioned: his mom remarried and divorced; his dad fell in love, remarried and they moved in with my family; his mom married again and divorced again; and shortly after our marriage, moved just down the road from us. (Lets just say I NEVER expected that!)

The changes were hard for my stepson—going from an “only child”/center of his dad’s universe to one of five children living in the same house; a new family culture and a completely different set of house rules; moving to a new school and leaving old friends; knowing his mother was alone; and, I’m not going to lie, I’m sure his dad’s new wife was a challenge for him, too! We straddled those opposite horses for six months, all parties probably felt they compromised as much as they could but in the end, none of it was enough.

Another horse, another option, another direction, was on the track and my stepson chose to ride it.

Second marriage moment #29: my husband’s son moved back in with his mother.

My husband had known it would happen even before he met me, and he’d seen the signs of it coming for a few months, so when it finally happened I was grateful he could say, “I’m at peace with my son’s decision.”

And in my objective, somewhat outside opinion, my stepson appears at peace with it too.

“A peace is of the nature of a conquest; for then both parties nobly are subdued, and neither party loser.” (William Shakespeare)

As for me?

“I happen to dig being able to use whatever mystique I have to further the idea of peace.” (Garrett Morris)

Second Marriage Moment #27

Second Marriage Moment #27 actually occurred before I married my husband. One night he called to tell me his son and his son’s friends were coming to my house to hang out. He told me the expectations he had shared with his son—and I made the mistaken assumption that he told me the rules he’d established so I could follow through and enforce them!


The son and his friends did things my fiance/husband had specifically forbidden and I called the son on it right away, as soon as I saw it transpire. In my culture, you see a wrong committed and you correct it then and there. It doesn’t matter who’s around. There’s no yelling or anger, you stop the behavior, re-establish expectations, and carry on.

Also in my culture: parents back each other up. If they disagree on parenting or anything else, they back each other up to the kids and resolve their differences privately. No big deal.

Except for one little thing which made it a BIG DEAL.

In my fiance/husband’s family, experience and culture, you take care of things later. After the friends are gone. All correction is done privately and to do anything else equals humiliation of the highest degree. (And the whole parents backing each other up thing? That never happened either.)

Oops. Second marriage moment #27 was a disaster.

Turns out, my fiance/husband had modified the rules after he’d told me what he expected, so his son hadn’t actually been disobedient; I just didn’t know that. In support of his father’s parenting, I called the son on his behavior immediately, and while his friends were in the vicinity—so I disciplined him AND humiliated him, according to his culture, in one moment, at the same time!

Way to go, Andrea!

Sometimes even I outdo myself.

But we got through it.

We talked it out as parents. I apologized to my stepson. And to his credit, he didn’t hold a grudge. In fact, this far past it…I can shake my head and laugh at the senseless disaster of it all. I mean, ” The next best thing to solving a problem is finding some humor in it,” (Frank Clark) right?

I learned a lot from second marriage moment #27 and to laugh at it, continues the tradition of laughing at everything we can, instead of choosing to be overwhelmed by it, or get mad, at it all.

“I realize humor isn’t for everyone. It’s only for people who want to have fun, enjoy life and feel alive.” (“Real Life Quotes” blog, December 24, 2010, by Kevin Rayner)

Keep laughing.

Second Wife

“His second wife was a wicked, plotting woman, and a cruel stepmother…” (Shakespeare)

That’s what every woman dreams of being, isn’t it–wicked, plotting, cruel and a stepmother to boot? Truthfully, I can’t comprehend anyone desiring to become wicked, plotting or cruel, but for an increasing number of women, however, the ‘stepmother’ part does become reality.

I entered into my step-parenting adventure with previous experience (20 years as a wife, 18 years as a mother) under my belt. I’m not saying I thought the experience would be a piece of cake, but I also wasn’t expecting a huge challenge despite all I’d been told and the counseling I had received. I guess I felt confident in my parenting style and abilities; I like people and can communicate with others; and I strive to live with optimism and gratitude…so how hard could it be?

Sometimes a little like trifle.

Sometimes more like pineapple upside down cake.

Or even sometimes like the time I baked and decorated a cake, laboring into the wee hours of the night to make it perfect, and slipped as I was putting it on high on a shelf and splattered the WHOLE THING down the front of the fridge and onto the floor!

But you learn. You apologize. You begin again. You carry on. And thank goodness kids are so forgiving! My dad always told me, “Everything your mother and I have done we have done out of love for you. But we’ve never been parents before, so we’re bound to make mistakes. Please forgive us.”

Ditto for step-parenting. Not only have you never done it before, if you’re like me, you never imagined you’d ever be doing it at all!

It makes for some adventures.

“One man alone can be pretty dumb sometimes, but for real bona fide stupidity, there ain’t nothin’ can beat teamwork.” (Edward Abbey)

#26: The Learning Curve Extends

“Well, I screwed it up real good, didn’t I?” (Richard M. Nixon)

Statistics don’t favor second marriages. I never understood that–until I entered into one myself.  I learned a lot about what I assume must be the basis for such statistical pessimism.

I had never stopped to think about the fact that in remarriage, not only are you dealing with every usual marriage adjustment and challenge (like blending two lives, personalities, hobbies, interests, cultures, goals, expectations, finances, careers, challenges and everything else that goes along with marriage), but you are also dealing with two different previous families and their histories and experiences, two very different family cultures, all of the children of those families PLUS… former spouses.


Hard to comprehend what all of that means until it’s yours; until it happens to you. Lets just say that despite the marital bliss of your remarriage, it is a lot to deal with and occasionally can seem like more than you ever bargained for!

So what do you do?

Well, like every other aspect of the unexpected life, you deal with it. Laugh about some of it, work toward a happy ending, never give up, and of course, look on the bright side at every opportunity.

My husband is great at that. I remember the night we were discussing (and trying to laugh about) some things and he pointed out an unexpected bright spot: “Actually, we’re pretty lucky compared to other couples. We only have to deal with one former spouse. Can you imagine if we had to deal with two, and at the same time, in addition to everything else?” (I confess I never saw that one coming! While I am grateful prisons protect us from people who have chosen to break the laws of society, in 2009, I never imagined ANY “bright spot” to incarceration. But apparently, there is one! LOL.)

Second marriage moment #26. (I had to shake my head and laugh at that one.)

“Being here feels like I’m out of prison. This is the right place, the right time, the right team.” (Shaquille O’Neal)