Living Happily Ever After


Blog Articles

Don’t Think…Do

I called a Colorado friend to report my husband’s insane suggestion. Instead of agreeing with me she said, “I think that’s a great idea! Are you coming?”

I should have known to call someone else–this friend had suggested I visit several times since I moved. We hung up, I shook my head, and thought the matter was closed.

But my thoughts wouldn’t let it be.

The hate mail and nasty emails have dwindled. It has been several months since I’ve received anything from anyone in that regard. The used Subaru I’d driven away from Colorado in is no more (what can I say, it was old and very used.) One of the two dogs I’d driven away from Colorado with had died. Two of the four children I’d brought to Utah with me are now “grown up” and “gone”–one is living in Spain, the other has moved out and is in college. I’m working at a different job, for a different organization, than the one that brought me here. I’m remarried to someone else. It has been long enough that the events of 2009 almost don’t even feel like they happened to me, but to someone else.

Why not?

Isn’t it ABOUT time?

So I told my husband I’d go. And before I knew it, he’d booked airplane tickets.

I tried not to think about it.

“Don’t think. Thinking is the enemy…You simply must do things.” (Ray Bradbury)


Don’t Sit Home

My recent job change has reminded me of one key to success in living an unexpected life: don’t sit home and think about it! Do what you have to do. Carry on.

A few weeks ago, the night before my first day at my new job, my daughter asked, “Mom, are you afraid?”

Her question surprised me. No, I wasn’t afraid–I hadn’t even thought to be! (Quite a different experience than the last time I began a new job: 2009. And it made me realize, yet again, how far I (and my children) have come.) The last time I began a new job, I had been thrust into the middle of a giant nightmare of which probably every fear I’d ever had (rational or irrational), or that had been a part of a nightmare as I slept, or that was the worst-case-scenario from fictional Hollywood movies, were my sudden reality. (If I’m going to be honest about that time…I was afraid of practically everything! Including, even, my own name. Every time I said my name, Andrea Merriman, I  feared someone would recognize it and judge me just based on that.)

But I’ve never believed fear is permission to quit or give up, however tempting that may be. (And thankfully I had four children to provide for, to keep alive, which helped me rise above the temptation to hide!) Fear just adds to the challenge of carrying on and of living. But you still have to do it.

So I faced my fears every day. I got out of bed and went to work, no matter how difficult; and many days, it was incredibly difficult–a sick pit in my stomach every Sunday night knowing another work week lay ahead; an inability to sleep at night worrying about the coming work week and wondering how I was going to get through it; crying all the way in to work; managing to get through the work day and then crying all the way home from work; and walking in the door to begin another “full day” of work as a single mother during the evening hours, catching up on everything I’d missed during the day while at work, helping with dinner, dishes, homework, laundry, housework, reading to a child and a few attempts at new family memories as well. I confess there were nights my 3 year old didn’t go to bed until 11 p.m. and I would later fall into bed, exhausted, at 1 a.m. or later to arise a few hours later, at 6 a.m. to begin it all over again!

But I guess the point is…that we did it. We got up, we faced our fears, and eventually we triumphed over them. And at some point, the sick stomach went away, eventually I was able to sleep at night, at some point I was able to get my youngest in bed at a decent hour, and I not only did my job, but had professional success which resulted in a new opportunity. Most of all, however, I somehow “forgot” to be afraid.

“If you want to conquer fear, don’t sit home and think about it. Get out and get busy.” (Dale Carnegie)

It worked for me.

New Job

“At one point I took on a new job, and I just didn’t have time to do anything but work.” (Sharon Olds)

Yes, that’s what happened to me, too. But I’ve been at my NEW JOB for 6 weeks now, I’ve settled in and…I’m back.

Change! In the form of…a new job! At Brigham Young University!

It’s really true: “The harder I work, the luckier I get.” (Samuel Goldwyn)


Keep Going

“Growth is never by mere chance; it is the result of forces working together.” (James Cash Penney)

Not too long ago I had the opportunity to experience G-forces, courtesy of the summer training bobsled at Park City, Utah Olympians use to prepare for the winter Olympic games. I’m a pretty cautious person: there is a reason I’ve never had stitches or broken a bone (other than my nose in an unfortunate accident courtesy of my ex-husband, another friend and a lack of intelligence on my part many years ago.) Alpine slides, not Olympic training bobsleds, are the only degree of risk I’m comfortable with but the bobsled opportunity was free (offered at a work party), my husband and sons really wanted to do it and they needed an extra rider and then my company’s new COO joined us so I was pretty much trapped into participating!

As I climbed in the sled I thought, “What am I doing?”

As the driver oriented us, told us what to do and explained the forces we would experience I really wondered why I was in that bobsled—sons, husband or COO not withstanding.

And then as we were tearing down the track during THE MOST MISERABLE 60 seconds of my life, the G-forces wreaking havoc on my body and my psyche all I could think was, “I’m in my mid-forties, I’ve had four children, I hope and pray I don’t have an accident!” (ANY type of accident, take that any way you desire, they’d all be accurate.)

I got through it only by hanging on for dear life, trying my best to breathe deeply and in a relaxed manner while gritting my teeth, closing my eyes and counting to 30. (I figured I could survive 30 seconds of anything, which in this case I did—but barely!) And holding on, enduring, until the boblsed came to an eventual stop. THE LONGEST 60 seconds of my life.

Long story short, I survived. And I realize, now, that I did it by doing what we must do to get through anything life hands us: hang on for dear life, remember to breathe (sometimes that’s all you can do), grit your teeth when necessary to power through, and know that at some point, “this too, shall pass.”

And it always does.

“If you’re going through hell, keep going.” (Winston Churchill)

Hang in there!

A Miracle

“Don’t rush me, sonny. You rush a miracle man, you get rotten miracles.” (The Princess Bride)

My husband came home from work the other day to report a new study he’d heard about: marriages where both partners share the duties of housework have a 50% chance of ending in divorce, isn’t that interesting?

Actually, it got me a little riled.

“Wait a minute,” I replied. “If 50% of all marriages supposedly end in divorce, and if 50% of remarriages are supposed to end in divorce, and if differences related to children, money, satisfaction, expectations, life stress and everything else supposedly cause 50% of marriages to end in divorce, and if helping each other around the house is now supposed to cause divorce…how is ANYONE supposed to stay married these days? Much less, how will WE stay married? We have every single statistic stacked against us and more—”

“Because we’re a miracle!” my husband exclaimed.

“But—” I began.

“We’re a miracle, and we always will be! We’re a miracle!” he exclaimed again, laughed, and ended all other conversation with a very shall we say…convincing…kiss.

“That married couples can live together day after day is a miracle that the Vatican has overlooked.” (Bill Cosby)

I’m grateful for the “miracle” that is mine and for the “miracle” of many other happy, committed marriages and families in the world. I’m a fan—I believe in marriage and family and what a blessing both have been, and are, in my life.

We need more miracles.

And if you don’t have your miracle yet, hang in there. Don’t give up. I’m rooting for you. After all, you can’t rush a miracle.

Life Happens

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

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

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

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

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

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

Make the most of your moments.

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

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


If a Tree Dies

Sometimes, I confess, I’m struck by how different my new life (aka. the unexpected one) is from my old one. The losses have been substantial in every category. But, three years into it, so are the gains. I’ve seen over and over again that in any loss, despite your losses, you’re still left with SOMETHING; and you can use whatever you’re left with to rebuild.

Yes, old dreams die. Yet I’ve learned for myself it is possible to resurrect new dreams from the ashes of the old. So if the rug of your proverbial life has been ripped out from under you, unroll a new one in its place. Carry on. Look for the good. And eventually, you’ll find it. It’s never too late to begin again, to rise, to live.

“If a tree dies, plant another in its place.” (Carolas Linnaeus) And with enough faith, hope, hard work and endurance it will take root.

There Certainly Are Times…

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

True. But it worked.

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

The glory of motherhood.

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

Speaking of Patience…

“Knowing trees, I understand the meaning of patience. Knowing grass, I can appreciate persistence.” (Hal Borland)

Riddle of the day: What isn’t grass, but is not quite a tree? A bush. In my world, a peony bush—to be exact.

I wrote about my peony bush several posts ago; the bush I authorized my husband to remove for its failure to bloom (because life is too short to waste time not blooming!) Later I heard from a blog reader that I may have been too hasty, a little too impatient, with my slow-to-bloom bush as peony plants can apparently take 3-4 growing seasons after transplanting to bloom again. Oops. I guess I have more to learn about patience, huh? And a realization I’d come to, too little too late, to be of worth to my garden.

However the other day I was in the corner of the Utah garden where my peony bush had failed to thrive…and there it was! Bigger than ever, with flower blossoms looking ready to burst open at any time. (I’m not sure what plant my husband removed, but clearly it wasn’t the peony bush!) It goes to show, again, that, ”A little more persistence, a little more effort, and what seemed hopeless failure may turn to glorious success.” (Elbert Hubbard)

Pink and fluffy. Beautiful to behold. Lasting.

So if you haven’t achieved your happily ever after yet, don’t abandon your quest. Hang in there, work to bloom a little longer and it will happen. I know it. My peony bush, and my own unexpected life, are proof.

Another Adventure

“You have to believe in yourself, otherwise you can’t do it. If you don’t believe in yourself, how do expect anyone else to? Because ultimately, you’re the one who has to do it.” (Donny Osmond)

Apparently, I had to do it—although I did it more without thinking than with any real belief behind the attempt. Here’s how it all went down.

As I’ve mentioned before, I have the good fortune to work with Donny Osmond on behalf of my company (he’s our spokesperson, I’m in public relations.) Donny is the consummate professional, not to mention uber-talented, a fabulous singer and entertainer with nearly five decades of show business behind him, and he is a NICE man and a family man to boot. I learn so much from him!

On my recent business trip, Donny flew in for the day to speak to and perform for my company. While waiting to go on stage, we chatted and caught up a little bit on what had taken place at our event prior to his arrival. I told him I’d seen an amazing talent the night before—a man who played a guitar and harmonica as  he sang a song while riding a unicycle on a running treadmill (don’t ask! I don’t know how he did it, much less came up with the idea of doing it!) Donny was intrigued.

“What song was it?” he asked.

My mind went blank.

I couldn’t think of the song title or the words. I stumbled around trying to describe the song, but all I could remember was the tune. Without thinking, I started singing/humming it. And as I’m a few measures into it, humming away, I (finally) had the presence of mind to think, “WHAT in the world are you doing? You are singing a solo for Donny Osmond! Why would you do that? How are you going to get out of this one?” but I was already doing it and didn’t know what else to do…so I kept going until I’d finished the song!

“Oh, THAT song!” Donny said, politely, when I was through. “I know that song. That must have been something to see.”

Uh-huh. Much more to see than what I’d just put him through. One more thing off my bucket list before it even made it on: sing a solo for Donny Osmond. Check!

Another unexpected adventure. And this one was totally my fault.

“I was asked to act when I couldn’t act. I was asked to sing ‘Funny Face’ when I couldn’t sing, and dance with Fred Astaire when I couldn’t dance – and do all kinds of things I wasn’t prepared for. Then I tried like mad to cope with it.” (Audrey Hepburn)

Still trying to cope.