Living Happily Ever After


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Glimpse…From The Couch

“Have you ever gotten the feeling that you aren’t completely embarrassed yet, but you glimpse tomorrow’s embarrassment?” (Tom Cruise) 

I remember Tom’s couch jumping and the criticism he endured because of it. I just never imagined I’d feel like he had to have felt at some point in my life–publicly humiliated. And then my unexpected life hit.

Not only was I shocked at what was revealed, not only was I scrambling to preserve what I could from the ashes of destruction and create some semblance of a life for me and my children to carry on with, but I was absolutely mortified. I was appalled at the dishonesty and CRIMES that had been perpetrated; I was embarrassed to not only know a criminal but to be married to him; and I was humiliated at having to endure everything so publicly, played out on a national stage.

It was a struggle to reconcile that all of those events were my life.

I couldn’t help but recall the little girl I once was–the little girl who who loved her dolls and looked forward to the day they would become “real” and I would experience motherhood; the little girl who immersed herself in fairy tales for hours on end and had such dreams of a real one in the future for her and everyone else.

I certainly never envisioned the story I got handed. It wasn’t my plan. My plan was for me, and everyone else, to grow up and live happily ever after.

The bottom line? I didn’t want the life that became mine unexpectedly.

And then I thought of my childhood friends: friends with addictions that destroyed their families and their lives; friends who watched their toddlers suffer and eventually die from physical impairments; friends whose parents committed suicide, died of cancer, or were killed in accidents; friends who divorced; friends who never married; friends who wanted children but couldn’t have them; friends betrayed by spouses; friends who died of cancer; friends diagnosed with M.S. and other diseases they live with and endure the effects of on a daily basis; friends who battle health issues and pain all day every day; friends who struggle with employment; friends who lost their homes; friends who suffered financial reverses; the list is endless.

The challenges varied, but almost every childhood friend I knew had been blessed with an unexpected life.

I couldn’t help but wonder what we would all have thought, as children, if we’d been given a glimpse of what was to come. Honestly? I wondered if I would have run at the thought of 2009. I guess it’s a blessing that certain things are unexpected. And that’s when I remembered, not for the first time, a key to living and enduring life and it’s challenges. You have to expect that unexpected things happen. In every life. To every one. So you have to carry on. Every day.

“Not a day passes over the earth, but men and women of no note do great deeds, speak great words and suffer noble sorrows.” (Charles Reade)

Shocking, devastating, heart breaking, hard, unexpected, even embarrassing things. Expected, exhilarating, happy, joyous and wonderful things. But always unexpected. Sometimes they lead to an uncontrollable desire to jump on a couch. Other times, it’s all you can do to get up off the couch and drag yourself forward to face the day.

But the important thing is that you live it and never lose your glimpse of the possibilities contained in tomorrow…if you can just make it through today.

A helpful tip to getting through the day? Don’t forget to utilize your couch if you need to. Regroup on the couch. Then get up off the couch, jump on your couch, sit close to someone you love on your couch (where is Agent M when you need him?), or rearrange your couch. Couches can be helpful in the unexpected life.

“I got up one morning and couldn’t find my socks, so I called Information. She said, “Hello, Information.” I said, “I can’t find my socks.” She said, “They’re behind the couch. And they were!” (Stephen Wright)


“A woman hath nine lives like a cat.” (Proverb)

Someone joked with me that I’ve lived many lives. As soon as I thought about it, I realized they were right:

I lived my childhood life, prior to 1986, when my dad died unexpectedly in a plane crash.

I lived my young adult years, another life, as the daughter of a widowed, single mother.

I got engaged, married, and lived my adult life as the wife of Shawn Merriman, married without children.

I also lived my life as the wife of Shawn Merriman, married with children; a stay-at-home mother.

It seemed like another lifetime, but was really only four months, when I lived a life as the legal wife of Shawn Merriman; filing divorce paperwork and waiting as the request to dissolve my marriage was finalized, wrapping up the details of my old life, and trying to prepare for my new and unexpected one as a result of the crimes and Ponzi scheme my husband, unbeknownst to me, had perpetrated.

I lived another life as a divorced, single mother of four children, working full-time.

And then I got engaged to Bachelor #5. He suggested we marry in September. It seemed so sudden.

I wrote a list of everything I needed to accomplish before a wedding. There were 32 items on my list. Nearly three months later I looked at my list. I had completed just two of 32 tasks (neither of which was a dress to wear when I married or any other wedding detail) and the September deadline was looming. Add to that some delays we couldn’t negotiate and work around, and Bachelor #5 and I realized September wasn’t going to be a month we heard wedding bells pealing in our behalf.

Lets just say marrying in your 40s, blending eight children and two families, combining two adult lives, and everything else that is part of a remarriage is slightly more complicated (and takes a lot more time) than getting married when you’re young, carefree…and in your 20s!

The good news? As Bachelor #5 pointed out, “There won’t be ANYTHING we don’t know about each other by the time we finally marry. There won’t be ANY surprises!” (I love that he was looking for the good in the situation, by the way.) But he was right.

We’ve had some interesting engagement adventures for sure. Stay tuned. You see, September has come and gone. And although I hate to ruin the story I must confess: I’m not married yet. My engagement to Bachelor #5 seems to be lasting its own lifetime! Add it, as another life, to my list. Seven lives so far and I’m only 43 years old.

At this point, I’m hoping women actually have MORE than the nine lives cats are reputed to enjoy.

Because thanks to my unexpected life, I think I’m going to need them.

Aren’t we all?

I Didn’t

“Now the choice has finally been made, you’ve put the story on the front page and produced the sort of collection of special reports that usually accompanies a major news event, not the announcement of the casting of one tired old film role.” (James Bond)

It was my 4th marriage proposal since becoming single.

It’s the first one I seriously considered.

And unlike Carrie Underwood, who said, “It’s nice to know you have support. Last night I got a marriage proposal. I just laughed,” I didn’t laugh.

I didn’t even throw up.

I cried.

And then I said yes.

I was getting married. To Bachelor #5.

I’d searched high (and low, as documented by some of the men I dated!) for him. And in the end, there were 31 men but there was only one winner. Bachelor #5. Mr. Awesome. The one I said, “Yes,” to; my “yes” man.

“I only have ‘yes’ men around me. Who needs ‘no’ men?” (Mae West)

By the way, his name is Mike. But since I’m pretty sure he doesn’t want anyone to know his name, and for the sake of his anonymity and to honor the stealth in which he won my heart by simply being himself while making me think he was never even remotely interested in me, and because I don’t think we can really call him a “bachelor” anymore, shall we call him…Agent M?

I think James Bond, or Albert Broccoli, would approve. And besides, you should see Agent M in a tuxedo.

How Do You Get Past…The Past?

But I still couldn’t think about love and marriage. I couldn’t begin to process what I thought I might feel, so I just continued to observe.

It was the “laid back” approach I so excel at (the ability to ignore), although, “Too laid back is to be laid out” at times! Here’s what I saw:

Bachelor #5 offered to tend my younger sons so my daughter and I could do something special. When I returned late at night to pick the boys up, Bachelor #5 greeted me calmly at the door with a smile. He had laundry going, he had baked cookies, my middle son was running around playing and was as happy as he could be and my youngest had contentedly fallen asleep. When he woke up the next morning, my youngest son wanted only one thing: Bachelor #5.

Bachelor #5 had all 8 children (he has four, I have four) and their guests to his home for dinner so they could meet. He prepared the entire meal himself, for 14, while tending his granddaughter, my two youngest children and keeping an eye on his youngest son and his friends. I couldn’t believe it when I walked in the door for dinner; the kids were happily playing, he had everything under control, the meal was ready, and he was calm.

The question for me was, could Bachelor #5 REALLY be everything he seemed to be?

I consulted a trusted friend who always had a wise perspective and had given solid counsel many times in the past. She had some great thoughts and advice.

I consulted my sister. She said (more than once), “Andrea, you need to open your eyes and LOOK at this man. He is everything you need. He is everything you’ve ever wanted and you won’t let yourself see it. Marry him or not, but you HAVE to give him credit for being who HE is.” She told me to quit punishing him for the behavior of my former spouse.

She explained, “I think you are afraid, and I don’t blame you. I’ve been so worried about you, afraid you’d never dare love or trust anyone ever again after all you’ve been through. I’m so relieved that you seem to be open to attempting that. But you can’t hold what your first husband did against this man. I think you thought your first husband was so many things, and then he turned out to be none of them, so you won’t even let yourself see what THIS man actually IS.”

I struggled with that, yet I knew my sister was right. I tried to give Bachelor #5 credit for all he appeared to be, but it was not easy.

I didn’t really trust my opinion. Every person I introduced him to received the same plea from me, “Tell me honestly what you think. I HAVE to be missing something. Don’t tell me what you think I want to hear, tell me what terrible thing–fault, flaw, lie, problem–am I not seeing?” (You see, I had missed lies and flaws of epic proportions in my first husband and was terrified to be so blind, and not see such important things that would lead to making that same mistake, again.)

But how do you get past something like that? How do you get past…the past?

Never Underestimate A Second Date

“Who knows how long I’ve loved you, you know I love you still. Will I wait a lonely lifetime? If you want me to I will.” (The Beatles)

Believe it or not, despite a declaration like that, things continued as they had before. (One benefit of dating a queen of denial, I guess!) However, we went from seeing each other once a week, to seeing each other 2-3 times each week, depending on our schedules. Each time he took me home, Bachelor #5 said, “I would marry you tomorrow if you were willing. But no pressure, I can wait as long as it takes you to decide.”

I still wasn’t sure he got it, that he really realized what he was saying or that I understood what he was saying! I wasn’t even thinking along those lines, so I took him at his word and didn’t allow myself to feel any pressure. But one night, when I joked that he moved really fast to say something like that within a week of deciding he was interested in me and taking things to a new level, he disagreed. He said it hadn’t been “fast” at all. When I asked him how he could possibly think that, he told me he had known how he felt and what he wanted for a long time. “How long?” I asked. He replied, “Our second date.”

Our SECOND date?

And the entire time we’d dated, I’d believed he was simply trying to mentor and befriend a newly-divorced single mom! I’d never even thought he was interested in me! I couldn’t believe it. I asked him how he’d pulled that off. He said, “I’ve told you all along I have more self-control than you can imagine. Besides, what would you have done if I had told you how I felt and what I thought?”

I replied, “Run the other way!”

He nodded his head in agreement and said, “Exactly!”

It turned out to be true after all: men always have a plan. (Gee, who told me that? My brilliant Psychology degree male co-worker…and I had laughed at him, the perceptive and wise man who shared that vital bit of information with me!)

But this time, I was too shocked to laugh.

I’d also learned a very important life lesson, unexpected or otherwise: never underestimate men! You see, “There are three kinds of men. The one that learns by reading. The few who learn by observation. The rest of them have to pee on the electric fence for themselves.” (Will Rogers)

However they get it, they get it…and I’d been the last one to know.

With Change Comes…Shrek

“Change is inevitable – except from a vending machine.” (Robert C. Gallagher)

Change is inevitable. The new level changed things, like disrupted Bachelor #5′s “schedule.” I saw him just three days later, instead of the usual week between dates. We went for a drive and then to a park to talk. In the middle of our conversation, he looked at me and asked, “By the way, when is your birthday?”

I replied, “August 25th.”

He didn’t respond the way I expected him to. Instead, his eyes got big and he said, “NO WAY! Did you google me or something?”

Did I google him? No! And I hadn’t even thought to. When I asked why he’d asked me such a thing, he replied, “August 25th is my birthday too!” I had known we had a lot in common. I just had no idea how much–even the same birthday! (Although mine was several years later, in case anyone hasn’t been paying attention. Lol.)

Our conversation continued. During the course of the evening, we covered a gamut of topics, including some shallow (I admit it) concerns I expressed. Bachelor #5 responded optimistically to every one of them.

I told him I thought he was too old for me. His response? “Don’t worry about it. You’ll be amazed at how 38 years old I can look with Botox and by covering the gray in my hair.”

I’d been told it is very characteristic for men to date “down” a decade when they’re single, especially after a divorce, and in my experience, that was true much of the time. Men in their 30s, dated women in their 20s. Men in their 40s, dated women in their 30s and so forth. I replied, “Well, if you look 38 years old, then you might want to date someone who is 38 years old–or even younger. You probably ought to consider that.” Bachelor #5 shook his head no and said, “I’ve found the age I want.”

So I brought up height. I told him I thought he was too short for me–that I had some really high heels I loved and wouldn’t be able to wear around him. He said, “How tall are you? I’m taller than you. Wear whatever shoes you want; I’ll be Tom Cruise, you can be Katie Holmes!” And he laughed.

I mentioned some other “issues” as well, but he had an upbeat answer for every one of them. He even told me he appreciated knowing exactly how I felt and exactly what I thought; he said he found it refreshing! (Not many men can say THAT.)

The final “issue” of the evening concerned his piano playing. We had different ideas about it. He thought it was a positive thing; I wasn’t so sure. Piano had always been my thing, I’d never shared it with any man. When I told him that, he looked at me in shock. In his experience, women enjoyed men who could play the piano (and sing), and there I was telling him it was a strike against him! He probably shook his head and thought, “I just can’t win with this woman.” But instead he said, “Never mind then! YOU can have the piano, I won’t play the piano any more. I’ll play the guitar!”

He played the guitar too?

I never knew that.

And in that moment it became clear to me. I was not just dating a grandpa, I was not spending time with simply a reformed Santa (thanks to his shave), and I was not just chatting with a very nice, patient, good man–I was dealing with Shrek! This man had layers. Every single time I was with him, I learned something new about him. And every time I did, it was something I liked. Quite a different experience from the dark and destructive revelations of 2009 that led to my divorce and unexpected life, when everything new thing I discovered was even worse than the revelation before it.

I was dating Shrek! I never expected that.

“Ogres are like onions…Onions have layers. Ogres have layers…You get it?” (“Shrek”)

I was beginning to.

Keep It Real

“Look at us, said the violets blooming at her feet, all last winter we slept in the seeming death but at the right time God awakened us, and here we are to comfort you.” (Edward Payson Rod)

When Bachelor #5 picked me up for our date that night I thanked him for the beautiful flowers. I loved them. My daughter loved them too, she loved them so much that she removed her favorites from the big arrangement and created her own smaller version that she put in her room!

As I was still on antibiotics and cough medicine, it was quite a romantic night. Every time I stepped into the cold air of a February winter night in Utah, my cough would hit. Bachelor #5 was very kind about it, although he carefully kept his distance! But at the end of the night, when he took me home, he gave me a warning.

He told me he was just waiting for my antibiotics to kick in, and when they did, he was taking things to a new level.

I did not expect that.

I was used to the way things were, I was comfortable with the way things were and I was also a little bit worried. I didn’t know how I felt about changing anything. I was healing. My children were doing very well. And part of me felt like it was too soon for any more changes (my divorce had been final just seven months!) I can’t remember how I responded, or if I did my usual ignoring of what I wasn’t sure I wanted to hear. Then I went into my house and made it as far as the kitchen sink before I…threw up.

Literally. That conversation really affected me and I wasn’t sure why.

“…keep me completely grounded, sane and throw up on my shoes…just so I know to keep it real.” (Reese Witherspoon)

Hot Date

“I don’t understand why Cupid was chosen to represent Valentine’s Day. When I think about romance, the last thing on my mind is a short, chubby toddler coming at me with a weapon.” (Author Unknown)

Valentine’s Day weekend. I was back at work, but still on antibiotics and cough medicine. Before I left work that Friday before the holiday, a co-worker asked, “So, do you have a hot date for this weekend?”

I said, “No.”

My co-worker looked shocked. “What do you mean you don’t have a date?”

I replied, “I didn’t say I didn’t have a date. I have a date with Bachelor #5.”

He raised his eyebrows at me and in his best Psychology degree voice said, “What is up with that, by the way? You’ve been dating him a long time.”

I told him nothing was up. Bachelor #5 was just a nice, older man who didn’t “like” me, but dated me; so it wasn’t a “hot” date.

My co-worker (a man) disagreed. “Andrea, he’s a man and men don’t do that! They don’t date women they don’t like and they don’t date women they don’t like for months! Everything this man does for you demonstrates he likes you, actually more than likes you, in my opinion.”

I challenged him on that. I presented my case very well. I listed all of the reasons and ways I knew Bachelor #5 wasn’t interested in me. I drove home, older and wiser than my co-worker. I knew better than he did how the men I dated thought and felt. I pulled up to my house and stopped. In surprise.

Sitting on my porch was a beautiful flower arrangement. (And a box of chocolates.) For me. From Bachelor #5.

Just when I thought I had it all figured out.

Isn’t life like that? Especially the unexpected one.

“Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” (Soren Kierkegaard)

Then It Was Gone

“Women have a wonderful instinct about things. They can discover everything except the obvious.” (Oscar Wilde)

I heard from Bachelor #5 again.

He emailed me, thanked me for going to dinner, told me I was a trooper for living through what I’d gone through and remaining positive and seeking to create a happy life… and then he continued with his busy life, the holidays, and travel.

He was organized, planned his life and was sort of on a “schedule.” He kept in touch via email about once a week. He texted me about once a week. He asked me out once a week, depending on his travel and schedule, and as busy as we both were, I’m amazed I was usually available the nights he asked me out. He took me to dinners, a dance class, musicals, plays–always fun and unique things, especially compared to most of the men I dated.

I met his friends and some of his children. He always had a story to tell about something, and was always very nice. He was also my divorce expert: he had been divorced three years longer than me and had lived through everything I was facing. He was very thoughtful to check in with me after my “firsts” (first Christmas, etc…) to see how things went.

But that’s as far as my analysis of Bachelor #5 went. I had pre-determined he was too old for me; I certainly didn’t think he “liked” me! He was just a nice, older bearded man that I assumed felt bad for me, a newly single mom.

Then one night he picked me up for a date. I looked over at him as he was backing out of the driveway talking to me and I was struck by how different he looked. I felt like I was looking at a stranger! I couldn’t figure out what was causing my confusion. I thought I knew him, but all of a sudden I felt like I didn’t.

And then it hit me. He had shaved, the beard was gone.

I was stunned by how young he looked and how nice looking I thought he was. It was like I had never seen him before. (And I probably hadn’t. With the gray beard, I had never really looked–had never let myself look.)

“And when I heard this thing, I rent my garment and my mantle, and plucked off the hair of my head and of my beard, and sat down astonied.” (The Bible)

Bachelor #17: The Importance of Voice and How You Use It

“Women don’t want to hear what you think. Women want to hear what they think – in a deeper voice.” (Bill Cosby)

Voice. The biggest thing I can say about Bachelor #17 was that he had a very unusual voice. And it wasn’t deep.

He was tan with spiky hair. When I first met him, I thought it was white-blonde, but on closer inspection I realized it was gray! (Such is dating in your 40s, versus dating in the 1980s! Sometimes I still can’t get used to the older men…)

He loved Michael Jackson, American Idol, was a good dancer, had an outgoing and fun personality, drank rootbeer by the gallon and was a successful businessman. But he paid the price for his success in the hours he worked. Although we went out places, he preferred “at home” dates so he could take phone calls and be accessible to his clients. And while he was a very nice man, I would say he could best be described as a “mama’s boy;” not very tough emotionally, used to being catered to and taken care of; prone to whining.

Although I didn’t love his devotion to his job and I tried to overlook the whining, things fell apart on the first family date–he brought his daughter and had me bring my two youngest sons. It was a later evening activity, my boys began the evening tired, and it went downhill from there! In fact, I spent most of the evening out in the foyer with my youngest who just wanted to go home and didn’t really care about the man providing the evening’s entertainment.

The family date wasn’t a huge success. My children felt nothing toward the man, and he didn’t want the challenge of a four-year-old. (He had married later in life, stayed married less than 10 years, and had one well-behaved, mature-for-her-age daughter. Need I explain further?)

The icing on the cake of the evening, however, was one distracting fact: his zipper was down all night long. It just added to everything about the evening that was a failure for me. (Those who know me best know what a problem THAT is for me!)

That night was our last date.

What I didn’t know was that I should have been thanking my boys for that.

A few days after that “kids included” date with a nearly 50-year-old man who forgot to zip his pants, I happened to be listening to the news (a very rare occurrence for me since becoming the subject of too many broadcasts back in 2009) and heard the radio station announce a local man was suing a health club because of harassment he received from other patrons of the club as he exercised. A commercial came on and I wondered what type of adult would be made fun of as he exercised, what type of person would perceive he was being made fun of while he exercised, and what type of person would sue over that.

I should have known.

The injured man came on air when the commercial ended and there was no mistaking that voice. That very unusual voice. The high voice of a man prone to whining. Bachelor #17!

I gave silent thanks to my boys for their behavior.

I need someone strong. I need someone who doesn’t care what people think. I need someone who can roll with the unexpected events in life, rise above the challenges and laugh in spite of it all. I need someone who doesn’t whine. And the last thing I want or need is to be involved with someone seeking negative publicity! I had enough of that in 2009! (Besides, it’s going to take someone with all of the above qualities to love me and accept the past I bring with me to any relationship–my baggage not of my creation.)

Goodbye Bachelor #17. I hope your court case works out for you–or at the very least, that you’re able to exercise, and live, in peace! That means no whining.

“It takes a genius to whine appealingly.” (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

I have yet to meet a genius.