Living Happily Ever After


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The Ideal

“The ideal man bears the accidents of life with dignity and grace, making the best of circumstances.” (Aristotle)
I have a few heroes. Let me tell you about one. The ideal woman. My ideal.
She is actually a Ponzi scheme victim–a victim of the Ponzi scheme my former husband perpetrated. (One extremely difficult aspect of marriage to a criminal perpetrating a Ponzi scheme unbeknownst to you or anyone else, especially when he appears to have preyed on family, friends and strangers alike, is that some of those you knew well, and loved, are victims of his crimes. I knew a few of Shawn Merriman’s victims in that way. Especially this one.)
She is a beautiful woman. In fact, her physical beauty was the first thing I noticed about her. But from the moment I met her, she was so gracious, dignified, kind and everything else…she instantly became one of my heroes. The type of woman I hoped some day to be. And then, due to a Ponzi scheme, our relationship ended.
Five years later, just last month in fact, we ran into one another. I was at work–so busy, and working in a crowd of people, I would never have seen her or known she was there. She could have easily walked past me without a word and I wouldn’t have known. But instead, and unexpectedly, I felt an arm go around my shoulders and give me a quick hug.  She kissed my cheek, quickly said something like, “You look so good! You are doing so well! I’m so proud of you!” and she was off in the crowd again before I could process what had just taken place.
Talk about dignity and grace and class. Not only making the best of circumstances but GOING OUT OF HER WAY to not just be kind, but LOVING, to the ex-wife of the man who stole her material wealth!
She remains my hero. Today (and many other days) I think of her example and I celebrate her.
“How important it is for us to recognize and celebrate our heroes and she-roes!” (Maya Angelou)

My Signature

Note: In honor of this month of love, I felt a few love-related posts are in order…

“A man’s kiss is his signature.” (Mae West)

I was raised in a physically demonstrative family—that is to say I grew up in a family of kissers. My parents kissed me before I went to bed each night; my grandparents, aunts and uncles always welcomed me with a kiss; my great aunt, Aunt Ireta, a tiny woman infamous for puckering up her brightly painted lips to greet me never failed to warm my heart with her hello kisses.

With kisses playing such a role in shaping what I’ve become, it comes as no surprise that they led to second marriage moment #30.

One night my new husband, my boys and I were driving in the car. Somehow the subject turned to kissing and of course, my sons just had to make comments about me and how I kiss “everyone.” (In my defense, I’m not the lone kisser in the world. I think it was Jimi Hendrix who said, “Excuse me while I kiss the sky.” I’ve never done THAT! Lol.)

And then suddenly, an epiphany dawned in the minds and faces of my sons. They looked at each other, laughed and one of them gleefully taunted my husband: “HA HA! Now YOU have to be her victim!”

My husband just smiled, looked at my son and replied, “That’s ok. I don’t mind!”

I’m glad he feels that way. Because, “A kiss is a rosy dot over the ‘i’ of loving.” (Cyrano de Bergerac—my favorite play, by the way.)

And because of how I was raised which contributed to making me who and how I am, I don’t see my thoughts on the subject or my propensity to administer kisses changing any time soon.

I believe there is power in them, for sure. They can make you something. After all, “A kiss from my mother made me a painter,” said Benjamin West.

And remember to give them the focus they require. “Any man who can drive safely while kissing a pretty girl is simply not giving the kiss the attention it deserves.” (Albert Einstein)

Smart man.

Six Degrees

I had an experience last week that reminded me of a unique “phenomenon.” Six degrees of separation. Ever heard of it?

“Six degrees of separation” (also known as the “Human Web”) refers to the idea that everyone is at most six steps away from any other person on Earth, so that a chain of ‘a friend of a friend’ statements can be made to connect any two people in six steps or fewer.” (Wikipedia)

I’d heard of this “phenomenon” prior to entering my unexpected life, but it has proven true over and over again as I’ve lived it.

Several months ago, a co-worker of mine was curious about a bachelor I was dating, input the bachelor’s name into Facebook, and up popped a mutual friend my co-worker and the bachelor had! What is that? Two degrees of separation. My co-worker joked, “Should I ‘friend’ the man you’re dating? Wouldn’t THAT be funny?”

Then I met my birth mother only to discover her best friend and college roommate was a friend of mine in Colorado! One degree of separation.

Then last week at my company’s summer party, the COO’s wife introduced herself to me and told me we have a mutual friend. She said her cousin, one of her closest friends, is a friend of mine from Colorado. (And although she was kind enough not to mention it, her cousin is also a victim of my former spouse.)

I hadn’t heard from my friend since the tragic revelations last year, so I was surprised when the COO’s wife told me she had a message for me from her. Suddenly I couldn’t breathe; I didn’t dare breathe. I felt sick. I thought, “Is this how the rest of my life will be? No matter where I go, no matter how much time passes, no matter how much I rebuild my life, am I never going to be free from the tentacles of my former spouse and the crimes he committed?”

I wondered how I was going to be able to endure it. For the rest of my life. I braced myself for the “message.” I’ve received enough of those to worry it wasn’t going to be a positive experience for me. Then I wondered if I was about to be suddenly thrust onto a path that was the beginning of the end to losing my job. (A little paranoid on my part. O.k., a lot paranoid. But such are the scars of blissfully living your life until the day you find out it has all been a lie, that you are left with nothing and are alone to provide for and raise your children.)

Shame on me for thinking that.

Instead, the message was, “She wants you to know she loves you, she LOVES you, she loves you…” and she hugged me.

I honestly don’t know what the rest of the message was, because as soon as I heard that first part, I couldn’t hear anything else. Tears were streaming down my cheeks. I was overwhelmed, again, at the kindness and goodness of people. And I was chatting with the cousin and friend of one of them.

It’s in the most unexpected places and manifests itself in the most unexpected moments, but it’s there. And I’m so grateful that it is. Another person betrayed by my former husband and yet, instead of reacting with hatred and venom, she has chosen another course. Maybe a harder path in some ways (it seems like the natural inclination might be that it’s easier to give in to anger and hatred and retaliate “an eye for an eye” rather than respond with forgiveness) but such goodness is a better way to live, for sure.

She may have lost her money, but she didn’t lose what matters most; what is truly of value. Ponzi scheme or not, poor economy notwithstanding, “Goodness is the only investment that never fails.” (Henry David Thoreau)

There may be “six degrees of separation” (or less!) to any other person on earth. But I believe there is even less than that to get to the heart of the goodness of others. And that inspires me.

“It is not what they profess but what they practice that makes them good.” (Greek Proverb)

So there I sat, tears streaming down my cheeks at a company party at a park in the summertime in Utah. Struck, not for the first time, by the impact our choices have on others. Touched by the effect one woman’s choice had on me. And awed by the strength, courage and example of one who practices what she has professed to be.

It made a difference in my life. At my company picnic. I never expected that.

A Phone Call

She thought it would be a fun joke for us to call our mutual friend together.

In some ways it would have been, but due to the Ponzi scheme perpetrated by my former spouse, I was scared to call. Although he hadn’t been a victim, my friend’s husband was one person my ex-husband had specifically mentioned to me as being unfriendly toward him after his crimes were revealed. I wasn’t sure how a phone call from Andrea Merriman would be received. But I didn’t want to get into all of that my first meeting with my birth mother!

So I made the call. I figured if the husband hung up on me, THEN would be the time to explain. And wouldn’t you know it? Just my luck. The husband answered the phone when I called.

He isn’t a mean man, just gruff, and I am sure a phone call from me was the last thing he imagined for himself that night. He asked me my name a couple of times. When he finally realized it was Andrea Merriman, he said simply, “What do you want?” I asked if I could speak to his wife.

She got on the phone and asked me if everything was all right. We hadn’t communicated for awhile. I told her I didn’t need anything, I was just calling to let her know I’d met an old friend of hers and gave the phone to my birth mother.

They had QUITE a chat. Old friends catching up on their lives in the most unexpected of ways!

The rest of the evening consisted of things you’d expect when reuniting with the mother who gave you life. I showed her pictures of my childhood and life, she showed me pictures of her children. I met one of her five children (and I really liked him.) She told me everything she could remember about my birth father, I told her about my children and divorce and new life; we enjoyed a very comfortable visit.

But at the top of my list of interesting things about our first meeting was the fact that my Colorado friend, a friend of mine since approximately 1994, had not only known my birth mother but had been her best friend and college roommate!

Have I ever said it’s a SMALL world? Because I really believe it is!