|Sandhill Cranes nesting at the mill pond at Steinthal|
As I type this entry, it is currently sunny and 14 degrees outside with only a few more days left until April. For me, the month of March has been a tough one for many reasons. While winter is hanging on for longer than desired with 2 inches of snow falling late last week (seemingly forever…at least in my mind) adding length to the claustrophobic feelings I typically face during this time of the year, I must admit that there is a certain peace and tranquility of the winter season that I often times don’t have the ability to enjoy during much of the remaining seasons.
I will be the first to say that I DO love the warmer seasons here at Steinthal (especially Spring and Autumn) and am reminded of John Steinbeck’s words in Travels with Charley: “What good is the warmth of summer, without the cold of winter to give it sweetness.” If these words hold any truth, I must believe that this summer will be sweeter than sweet and after the roller coaster of the last 5 years, I sense that I may be finally due a very sweet summer.
Five years ago, I was faced with the unbearable situation of an unfaithful spouse and an unwanted, but ultimate divorce. They had actually planned their wedding 8 weeks after they met while his wife was dying of cancer. Ever since then, I have been dealing with the emotional, legal and financial ramifications of the choices made by others. In fact, I was facing another frivolous contempt of court charge with a scheduled court appearance yesterday that was miraculously dropped the preceding day. This has now happened 5 times (at least) since the final divorce date in which I have been charged with contempt, faced a court hearing and then the hearing would be cancelled a few days or even a few hours day before its scheduled time. Understandably, despite the affair begining during the summer of 2009, I feel as though I am never able to remove myself from these issues that never would have occurred had the right choices been made in the past.
One of my goals was to try my best to provide a stable living environment for my children during this whole ordeal and that is why I chose to stay at Steinthal and do my best to make this property a more than comfortable home for the children. I opened the guest home as a vacation rental in order to help pay the bills and I have been proactive with the installation of solar panels in order to zero out my grid-based electricity consumption. However, my annual financial obligations to my ex-spouse and her now fiancé have now reached six figures despite her successful part-time professional career. Why bother working full-time when you can get money for free? Since I also was forced to give up my entire retirement in order to save this home for our children, I am now in a situation where I seriously need to step back, reign in my current financial obligations and start planning for a retirement future that at times I wish would be sooner than later. The only way this could work for me is to sell my property that I have cared for and love and start to seriously downsize and ultimately simplify my life. My bitterness in this situation is hard to control at times especially since the circumstances seem to endlessly drag on, but slowly I am able to internalize those negative parts of my life (a very long process) while attempting to focus on all the positives that I hope to realize in my future (like the sweet summer coming up)!
Since listing my family home for sale, I have received phone calls from HGTV and SpikeTV producers wanting to feature my situation and this property on national television in one of the many ever popular reality shows. Spike TV would even pay me to do this! While I am airing some dirty laundry in this blog right now, the thought of going on national television and laying it all out for everyone to enjoy is certainly not something I could ever see myself doing and besides I fear that if I did, I could be brought back into a potential court hearing for slander or to raise my support obligations even more due to the additional income generated from the TV show producers. Until this all happened, I have been a fairly private individual and I look forward to a future life where personal issues are truly personal. So no reality TV shows will be filmed at Steinthal and the property is currently listed on Zillow looking for a very special buyer that will certainly love everything this place has to offer.
One last asset that I ultimately received (along with the associated bank loan and monthly equalization payments to my ex) is our family boat, Take Five (aptly named for my five children and also because of my personal fondness of Dave Brubeck). She is a beautiful old Jack Hargrave designed classic 1985 56-foot Hatteras Flybridge Motoryacht that was purchased in August of 2002. While it remained in storage for several years while I focused on putting my family’s lives back together, I finally decided to launch it and enjoy it with the kids and friends. It has been a great respite for me over the last couple of years as I have recently kept it in several locations within Door County. However, three weeks ago, when faced with the most recent increases in support, I decided to move the boat to Sheboygan, WI. where it will be very close to my place of work and also offer an easy “get-away” location for my children. No more driving two hours or more to get to the boat in Door County especially when my kids are now older and have their own summer jobs as well as working with a local nearby community theater. It will essentially become a summer home for the family and myself.
Over the years, I have done my best maintaining and upgrading this boat (another process that truly NEVER ENDS) and this year has been no different. New canvas is being installed, new varnish on the worn hand rails and bow pulpit and old cracked, non functioning windows are being replaced. The swim platform has been replaced as well due to an unfortunate accident that occurred at the marina in my absence during last years launch in Sturgeon Bay and because of this, the entire transom of the boat has been overhauled to like-new condition. Luckily that cost was completely covered by the marina’s insurance policy and it actually worked out in my favor in providing me with many unexpected improvements. Assuming my family property sells, I am honestly contemplating the possibility of becoming a sort of live-aboard on my boat during the summer. While boating is not all peace and relaxation as there are always things that need maintaining, repair or upgrading, I think that that it just might fit the bill in many ways. Less expensive in many aspects, it also will allow me the luxury of being just minutes away from my busy job. I will even be able to take call directly from the boat now that we will have excellent broadband internet! Also, the teenager kids will enjoy living in the “city” and enjoying some of the nearby amenities that Sheboygan (aka Shevegas) has to offer. Dad will too!
I was recently inspired by a single mom and her 5 kids’ story that is currently being journaled on her own blog entitled “The Crazy Chronicles: 5 Kids and Boat“. Her story is that she decided to sell the family home, purchase a boat (in her case a similar 1987 63′ Hatteras) and become full-time live-a-boards, including through the winter! In the process, she documents all the trials and tribulations that any owner of a boat her size faces and documents the transformation that her newly purchased boat has undergone. One of her latests posts shows how she managed to live aboard and endure the now infamous 2015 Boston blizzard.
As I face the eventual loss of a place to call home, I am honestly looking forward to the transformation onto my new boat home especially during the Midwest boating season between April 15 and October 15 that we enjoy here on Lake Michigan. I am also preparing for a new chapter in my life without the home I believed at one time to be the place where family would always return and I would always live.