Surviving Life's Surprises




No matter how much we try to plan our lives, life often has surprises for us. Some are happy surprises, some of them would never show up on anyone’s wish list. The trick is learning from each one so that when the next one comes along we have to tools necessary to deal with it.

As most of you know, over 15 years ago, I had lunch at a little B&B in Monches, Wisconsin. I fell in love with the place. I had no idea at the time that my life would include living in, and renovating the 172 year old homestead. Even the good surprises come with down sides. Living in a old house has meant, sharing my living room with chipmunks, my porch with bats, and my basement with mice. It’s meant having long dead animals drop out from ceilings as we tear them apart. It’s meant having a sink hole open up in the middle of the sun room. It’s been a lot of cuts, bruises, tendinitis, sore muscles, and an endless horizon of work.

Despite all of that, I wouldn’t have wanted to give it up. Unfortunately, it seems I’ll have to. I don’t need to get into all the details, but it has to do with the building company my husband runs, his business partner, and the stock market.

The upside? Financially, we’re secure. We’ll get back the money we put into the house immediately, which gives us a decent down payment on another home. We may, in the end, get additional money for the labor we put into it, but it’s not something we will count on. Since we still don’t hold the mortgage on the home (it was being held by the building company until a good portion of the work was completed) we don’t even have to worry about selling it. We just take our money, and walk away. The rest of the work will be completed by contractors, and the property will be sold, the proceeds going back to the company. We also can take our time to find something that suits us. Until the Mill House is complete and ready to sell, we can stay here.

And, while I’m still tired and sore from all the work, I must admit, it’s a bit of a relief to set the hammer down, and look for a home that doesn’t have an unending to-do list. Thanks to the projects I’ve done for this home, I’ve learned I can do a lot more than I thought I could. I can make any house be our home. Don’t like the cabinets? No problem, just give me an ice pick and a hammer! There’s a hole in the wall? I can patch it in no time! There’s a sinkhole in the floor … never mind … no more sink holes!

Someday, when the wound isn’t quite so tender, we’ll look back on this as an adventure, and hopefully we’ll come away with some new friends we can keep, even if we aren’t neighbors anymore.

Besides, frankly, things have been worse. We’ve lost a home before. That too, was a dream home that we worked endlessly for a year to complete. That time, we lost the house along with my husband’s business; our livelihood. We had children, still in school, that we had to support and no idea how we were going to do that. We had no savings, not a penny to put towards another home. We had no clue as to how we were going to survive, but we knew we would survive because that loss came on the heels of an even greater loss, the loss of our youngest son. If there is anything that can put life’s ups and downs into perspective, burying a child is a sure bet. If we could survive that, we could and can survive anything.

So while we’re still heartbroken at this loss, this time the only thing we lose is the dream of this particular house. Additionally, as much as we love this house, it was taking other things away from us: the freedom and funds to travel, the time to just relax and play, my time to write. There are other dreams we can fulfill and other adventures to discover.

As the old saying goes, it’s better to have loved than not loved at all. I have no regrets. I’m glad I’ve spent the better part of a year doing something I’ve always wanted to do, rehab a historic home. Even though I’d have liked to stay a little longer, okay – a lot longer, I’m glad that I’m now a part of this grand home’s history.

Life’s never been boring for our family, we’ve been through a lot, some say more than most. Life’s taught us an important lesson that we haven’t forgotten. It’s taught us that no matter what road blocks we meet, there’s always an alternate route. It may not be the road we planned on taking, but then maybe we’ll discover something we wouldn’t have had we stuck to the map.

So yes, we’ll shed a few tears, and then a few more, but then we’ll brush ourselves off and move on. We’ll be okay. I know we can do it, because we’ve done it before. Surviving this surprise, is no surprise at all.