Five years, and some change. Just over 60 months…or about 264 weeks…something like 1,852 days (including leap year). I can’t believe my “5 Year Anniversary” of living in northern Michigan escaped me last month. And usually I am one who pays close attention to such things.
March 21, 2014 was the day I first left my hometown of Plainwell to fulfill my dream of living “Up North.” A recent empty nester, I was anxious to begin the next chapter of my life in an area I’d grown to love.
I was fortunate enough to score a sweet rental off Craigslist that my friends affectionally dubbed “The Blog Cabin” just outside of Lake Ann, on the west side of Traverse City – just a short drive up to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. I settled into this giant 2500-square-foot, four bedroom, three bath log home with a barn on four acres. While it was way more than I needed on daily basis, I wanted a place where my kids, family and friends could come visit and there would be plenty of room for us all. This was where I learned to really live a solo existence, but where I also found some of my greatest friendships which remain to this day.
My days at “The Blog Cabin” were short lived as my landlord informed me about 10 months later that he intended to sell the house. Was I interested? No, thank you. While I loved living there, I wasn’t prepared to undertake a $200,000+ mortgage all by myself.
So, back to Craigslist I went in search of my second home…and I landed another beauty, this time on Round Lake just north of Petoskey on the way to Harbor Springs. Welcome to “The Write House.” I moved on March 28, 2015 (a year and a week after the first move). For more about this experience, I invite you to read my “Luck is a State of Mind” post from March 2015.
A bit smaller than the first house, this quaint lakefront house still had three bedrooms and three (and a half) bathrooms. It was more compact and to be honest, easier to manage in terms of keeping it tidy.
There were some great memories there as well…many hours spent working on the deck in the early spring sun, hosting friends for dinner parties and two Christmas seasons with the kids decorating the tree, making cookies and playing games that made us laugh until we cried.
There were some bad times too of course. Remember The Ornery Neighbor? Yeah, I’m still thinking of how to pull a TV sitcom out of that experience. I really should have copied all my Facebook commentary about the subject into a Word document in real time so I’d have the full storyline laid out for me. I suppose if I am really motivated, I can go retrieve it without too much difficulty. And, there are all those YouTube videos I posted online of the never-ending golf cart infringements through my yard!
I had just about two years in at “The Write House” before that landlord informed me that he wanted to sell. Again, I wasn’t interested in a nearly $300,000 mortgage, so back I went to my trusty Craigslist in search of my next home. Desperately wanting to stay in the Emmet / Charlevoix County area, I was ecstatic when I saw a house that had just been listed (like that very same day). It was in an area I was becoming increasingly familiar with: Walloon Lake.
I immediately called the number listed (which is something I rarely do…I prefer to text or email, as most of you know) and had a long and lovely conversation with Amy, who owned the house with her husband, Aaron. It was, in fact, his mother’s former home and they lived next door. We set a time for me to tour the house, and the minute I walked inside I was in LOVE. In fact, I posted the following (with pictures from the house) that day (May 28, 2017) after Amy asked me if I would rent their house (SHE asked ME):
I am excited to report that I have found my next home in the Walloon Lake area. It is affectionately called the “Storybook Cottage” which I find fitting for a writer.
Not only is the house loaded with charm (and a spiral staircase…like in a lighthouse) but it has the most beautiful lawn and gardens around it…where today I heard bees buzzing and saw trillium carpeting the woodland floor. I was inspired just being there. The landlord is lovely and I met a few neighbors already and they’re wonderful as well.
A new chapter will begin soon…
Time to start collecting boxes, purging closets and mentally placing furniture in my head!
Two days later, on my birthday ironically, I signed my lease. Seven weeks later, on July 17, I once again wrangled a bunch of friends and loaded up a U-Haul. Thankfully, with each move, the volume of my possessions decreased (despite what my moving crew may think). Within a matter of days, my OCD self had unpacked 95 percent of the boxes, built an 8-foot-long bookshelf out of lumber and cinder blocks and relaxed into my cozy wooded cottage. It probably helped that I was under a tight timeframe as I was scheduled to be out of town for four days starting July 20 and I really needed to be settled before I left.
That fall, I sat here on my couch in front of my fireplace, gazing out at the conservancy property that surrounds the house and really thought again about how lucky I was to be able to live in such beautiful places. How I was able to find places that really spoke to me, how thankful I was that I had friends who would open up their schedules to help, how my career was settled enough that I could afford to live where I really wanted to be (Promote Michigan is approaching its 15th anniversary in August…more about that soon).
Just days before Thanksgiving, before my kids came up and we spent the weekend getting our Christmas tree and decorating for the holidays, I shared my feelings in “Giving Thanks for Live in Northern Michigan”. It’s been a year and a half since then, but my feelings are still just as strong and hopefully my time here at Mi Storybook Cottage will outlive those of the last two houses put together.
In fact, I hope to have a few more years in this house before moving onto something bigger and better with the love of my life – a place that will be our forever dream home. For now, it is called the “Barn House” and ideally it is a restoration project with a small chunk of land, maybe a lake or creek (or both). It will have everything we’ve dreamed of having – a giant jacuzzi bathtub, a six-burner gas stove built into the kitchen island, a massive library addition for our growing collection of books and plenty of room for our children. The vision is rustic and industrial, with a hint of medieval undertones but with sweeping gardens outside to soften the feel. There will be a garage for me to park Deja Bleu and a man-cave barn for all his toys (past, present and future). The list goes on and on (and there is a Dropbox folder to prove it).
I think the most exciting thing about again envisioning a “bigger” future is having someone to share that dream with. Someone who understands the draw that “Up North” has, where time is spent driving around a lake instead of being stuck in interstate traffic. Where maybe winter does last a little longer, but the Lake Michigan summer sunsets are unparalleled. Where you can begin or end your day paddling on the lake, sit on a patio and sip wine made just miles away and where you can be up and over the Mackinac Bridge in about an hour’s time for a real northern experience. Where you don’t always need to “go on vacation” because you live in vacationland each and every day.
So, to the next five years…and the five after that…and the five after that…and the five after that, and so on. To simply forgetting to count the days, weeks, months and years because you’re finally living totally in the moment and you’re exactly where you’re supposed to be at the exact time you’re supposed to be there!