The forecast called for wet weather in Maryland. So I checked the national radar for some spots with clear skies and decent temps.

On Wednesday, I called the husband, who was in Milwaukee with a client, claiming to eat the third best brisket he’s ever had (after Lockhart’s in Dallas, and his own here in our backyard smoker that resembles a two-ton sawed off shotgun).

"Everything ok?" he asked. After all, I generally leave him alone on trips.
"Yeah, but it’s going to rain here all weekend…"
"That sucks. I’m supposed to be home tomorrow night around 9:30 pm. Is it a storm? Do you think my flight will get cancelled?"
"No, just rain. But it’s not going to rain in Traverse City. I was thinking…maybe we should pile in the truck and go to Michigan for a long weekend at the camp…"
"You want me to drive thirteen hours to Michigan after I’ve been traveling all week?"
"I could drive…"
"Can we discuss this when I get home? I’m with a client…"
"Nope. When you get home you should go right to sleep…because you’re driving us to Michigan the next morning…"
I began working with the elderly in 1993, as an undergrad at University of Maryland, College Park. There was an intergenerational wellness program on campus and after taking two classes through that program I was hooked on the aged.
If there is one thing that I have learned from twenty-four years in the field of aging, it is that rigid people age very poorly, and spontaneous, adventurous people age quite well.
I desperately hope to be one of those latter people. So when my husband resists change or spontaneity (about every five minutes or so), I gently prompt him to make minor adjustments to his current coordinates or old age will no doubt be miserable for us both.
A little "love-shove" from me to him might go like this… "I won’t leave you for being grouchy, but I will build a cottage across the street and move there"…or…"if you don’t smile more then you’re gonna end up at the old folks home while I’m paddling Lake Michigan with my girl dog, a wetsuit, and a diaper!".
Little did I know that could actually happen.
When he got home the next night I had everything packed up and by the front door. We were absolutely going to Michigan "on the fly" (or at least as "on the fly" as a family of six can get). I presented the opportunity as an exercise in which to condition him for old age (because he’s a little too crusty for 45). Fortunately, spontaneity can be learned by anyone at any age, through practice.
We got to the camp late Friday night but hadn’t quite prepared for the twilight temps. It was in the 20’s and the fire kept going out. Someone had the job of keeping the fire going, but that someone was too tired from driving to wake up and put logs on throughout the night. By daybreak, it was too cold to get out of the down sleeping bags, so we laid like pupa until it warmed up enough to shed our beds.
After I revived the fire and the kiddos began to stir, we began to plan our day. No specifics, just driving into our favorite town, finding some trout and eggs, then a beach with some good driftwood.
Following a stellar breakfast, we headed further north to that town we always gravitate towards. It may be the most beautiful place in the Midwest but is largely unknown because Michiganders don’t want foreigners (like folks from Sconsin) moving in and changing the place.
There are no weekly rentals allowed there, no hotels, and each new homebuild must have 5+ acres, so that overcrowding is never an issue. Mario Batali summers nearby, and the food and local breweries/distilleries consistently make an impression on my husband, a beer snob, who’s been brewing his own for nearly twenty years. We always have two on tap in the basement bar, and plenty of neighbors who eagerly await his latest concoction. Bacon Beer? Yes.
We were soon on the road we follow along the coast each and every time we visit Northern Michigan. Only this time, we slowed down after spying for a "For Sale" sign outside a tired farmhouse, tucked into a hill. It was a simple design from the late 1800’s, complete with a carriage house. But that farmhouse needed some love. It was experiencing a definitive decline…peeling paint, overgrown weeds, brush piles, and "stuff" in the yard.
As we slowed the truck down, the kiddos began to squeal in the backseat, "I can see the lake from here!"
Yep. Not only was this precious dilapidated farmhouse for sale on our favorite road, it was also right on Lake Michigan.
And that’s when my dear husband of sixteen years nearly stopped my 43-year-old beating heart.
"Should we take a look?" he asked with a tempered grin.
"What exactly would be the purpose of that?", I retorted. "You’d never let me get an old house. You hate old houses. You think they smell weird and go on and on about your alleged allergies…"
"We come up here every year anyway…and we already know and like the area…"
"Are you serious?"
"Yeah. I dunno. Let’s just call and ask what they want for it. It looks pretty rough but I know you could make it your own…design or whatever…."
My ever-static Joe was suggesting we drop everything and relocate (again) for this sad little house with unhindered waterviews for five miles. There were other reasons to move our brood, but we were never enticed enough to actually consider it until we saw that waterfront cottage from the roadside.
I called. Lo and behold, this humble slice of arctic paradise was little more than half the cost of our current Baltimore County home.
We couldn’t believe it. So we made an appointment for the next day and fell hard immediately. The thought of our kids running free, riding their bikes to the ice cream parlor, and swimming within an earshot greatly appealed to me.
When we moved to Baltimore seven years ago, we built our forever home. But Baltimore isn’t what it was then. We had annual passes to the Baltimore Aquarium, the Baltimore Zoo, and went to O’s and Raven’s games. Prior to the tragic death of Freddie Gray, we wouldn’t have thought that the murder rate or racial tension would have exceeded such toxic levels here. Charm City has sadly lost it’s charm for us.
In this deepest blue state, the place that my people have lived for three hundred years, my children are being taught that humans are ruining the earth and that Native Americans were friendly nations introduced to violence by European settlers. The science teachers champion Darwinian "survival of the fittest" theology and "Save the Black Rhinos!" in the same breath, which seems a little ironic to me. Yes, it’s a terrible thing when an animal is nearing extinction, but didn’t the "universe" will that to happen? Because, you know, God is either dead or never was in the first place.
This place is liberal. Even the firefighters on my husband’s hockey team voted for Hillary. And there is a LGBT club in the middle school, which seems a little mature a topic for kids who have barely graduated puberty. Teachers and students alike don rainbows in support of pre-teens with budding varied sexual identities.
Three moms I know here took their seventh-grade daughters to the women’s march this year so that they can rally against the proposed defunding of Planned Parenthood and all those young girls were privy to Ashley Judd’s, "I’m a NAAAASSSSTTTYYYY Woman" routine. Are these topics appropriate for young girls ears and do I want my daughters to mimic this behavior? I can’t imagine any of these moms bothered to explain what abortion is to their young daughters.
What was the straw that broke this camel’s back? My seventh grader called me a racist for thinking the ghetto culture that is so celebrated here in the U.S. is not at all African. This was after a lovely visit from an East African friend who is now a U.S. citizen, and registered Republican. My friend stated that African Americans aren’t anything like true Africans. Because she is black, her statement is not racist. But when I agreed as a white person that was racist, according to my daughter.
It’s been two weeks since that Michigan farmhouse drive-by, and we are eagerly awaiting an answer to our offer. For the same cost as our mortgage in Maryland, we will (hopefully) be fishing in our backyard and all four kids will be in a great conservative private school. I’m trading my East Coast for some normal.
I don’t need my kids to think just like me but I do want them to know that being a conservative is just as normal as being a liberal. The major difference? The role of government and whether we are first citizens of this nation or citizens of this world.
Apart from the prospect of a new life in a new place, I came away from that impromptu trip with something entirely unexpected–A little daydream of my husband and I paddling off into the sunset together, him with his dog, and me with mine.
*The photo above is of Lauren Conrad
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