Going Home

Home is the place where, when you have to go there, they have to take you in.” Robert Frost

The end of our unexpected vacation is here. Mike and I had some really great adventures over the last week. We hiked and walked a ton, rented kayaks, paddled the mangroves, saw alligators and crocodiles, sailed on a 100′ schooner, the America 2.0 and tried key lime pie in a variety of establishments and contemplated which was the best. Mike found a few alligators and ceocodiles (I wasn’t looking as hard as he was) and we took several pictures.

Going back home is always bittersweet. I love to travel. I’m maybe obsessed with travelling. I will gladly give up a few luxuries if I can take a trip somewhere new or a favorite place. However, I also love to be at home. I love to be near my children and grandchildren, my parents and brother and his family. I love the familiarity of home and the routine. For awhile. Until I get restless and need to GO.

I am happy in the woods, hiking. I’m happy camping. I’m happy in nature. I’m happy on my mt bike. I’m happy in my home. I’m happy making my house a home. I’m not a high maintenance kind of person. I’m not afraid to be alone or in the wild, alone. Give me some good walking shoes or boots and I’m generally happy. A book and a hammock, am I’m happy. Sometimes I just need to GO.

I think that home is an anchor. It is where I’m grounded and where I’m known. Where my people are. Where, despite my travels and desire for newness and adventure, I have security and peace. Home is where I can be me and they love me despite it.

As we prepare for our adventures away from home for 6 months at a time, I know that as exciting as this is, I will always be glad to have HOME and the ability to go there. That security along with my Lords direction will sustain me.

Hebrews 6:19-20 says –

19)We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, form and secure. It enters into the inner sanctuary behind the curtain. 20) where our forerunner, Jesus, has entered on our behalf. He has become a high priest forever in the order of Melchizedek.

Sunset aboard the America 2.0. SV Hindu is in the foreground.

The Road Not Taken

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;

Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,

And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Mike and I were discussing this poem today. Then, because it’s what I do, I researched it and we laughed about how to us it meant one thing, to many something else and Robert Frost had written it as a joke.

What started this conversation was that he and I will rarely choose the straight and obvious path. Our plans changed yesterday when it was decided that our crossing with Bruce on Mambo just couldn’t happen this week. So, we started planning how to get home earlier. Plane ticket charges are astronomical to change plans. We could get a bus and ride for 2 days for cheaper, then forfeit our flights. We could leave it as is and figure out how to get to Wilmington, NC where we had planned to fly out of, or just get altogether new tickets. Every course would cost more money than we wanted to spend. In the end, after more than an hour on the phone with Delta, we were finally able to reschedule out of West Palm, but not until Saturday. We will still miss Matthew’s track meet, but be home for Mothers Day. This is consoling to this mama’s heart.

So, now we have a somewhat forced vacation and will be spending money we hadn’t planned on. Right. We booked an airbnb south of Miami and headed out.

Our first stop was Oleta River State Park north of Miami. We love state parks, wildlife preserves and any nature trails. We rented a canoe, got a brief run down of terrain and routes and expected wildlife then took off paddling.

Point #1: if Mike or I are given a “you could go that way, but we don’t recommend it” you can sure bet that’s the way we are going. We made two “not recommended” portages with our rented canoe and made a loop that took us about an hour to paddle. We had our discussion about the Frost poem and how we always choose the road less travelled and sometimes just make things darn hard on ourselves.

Point #2: We repeat this process over and over. We ate super expensive salads for lunch then bought fried chicken for our supper. Now we are loading up a few drinks and snacks and headed out for another trail and place to watch the sunset.

Our lesson from the Road Not Taken is that is where we will see what others won’t, where we will have our adventures and make our memories and write our story.

Key Largo sunset, we drove an hour to see. Fair winds friends.

Surveyors Report and Closing

                                    ^^^^Mike and Capt Bruce from the Mambo from 2017^^^^

Mike and Matthew had a successful trip and were happily reporting an excellent survey.  The few items found, were a leaking water pump gasket, some hose clamps that needed replaced and a few other insignificant items.  We were set to close on the 11th, but are supposed to be sailing as crew for a friend and wouldn’t be available to make the wire transfer. It’s now postponed to the 16th.  

Bruce, the captain of Mambo, the boat we are crewing on, spoke with Mike this morning and said weather isn’t looking good and it may be the end of the week before we could begin the crossing. We have to be back to work the 16th, so this likely won’t work for us. 

Presently, we are sitting at the airport, waiting to board for our flights to meet up with Mambo.  We have made arrangements for the boys and dogs for the next 13 days. We haven’t been away from Matthew for more than 5 days, so I’m having a ton of apprehension. If we are able to come home early, I won’t be too sad. 

Proverbs 3:5-6

5″Trust in the Lord with all you heart and lean not into your own understanding; 6 in all your ways acknowledge Him and He will make your paths  straight.”

Survey Time and Transition

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Mike and Matthew are off to Georgia to get the boat survey done. This is an 8 hour survey where the surveyor inspects the boat inside and out, topside and downside. This will give an overview of any problems there may be. Although we have no concerns, this is something that an insurance carrier will require, so it is highly recommended. I’m hoping that Mike will take a lot of pictures and we can get them posted.
I said I would go into a little more detail on how having foster children is affecting our transition and plans. I’ll give just a brief history of our foster care life and then go into what our transition looks like.
We began foster care initially as a means of and growing our family. Matthew was/ is desperate for siblings closer to his age and we felt led to explore foster care. We hadn’t thought foster care was something we could do effectively just for the sake of being foster parents. I realize that isn’t really clear- but all of the cliché reasons for NOT doing it, were the ones we were scared of. Becoming attached, letting them go, difficult behaviors and circumstances were all reasons we were afraid. Now, having done this for the last 6 or so years, we have dealt with each of these circumstances and survived. We have set aside adoption as a goal and have just been parents and a family to a hand full of children that needed us. We are so far from the perfect family, but what we can offer is stability, love, direction and structure. When these kids leave us we hope they remember that for a while we provided that and that we will love them forever and that Jesus loves them even more than we do.
As our time of transition has approached, I have had some intense anxiety. This has been like a separation anxiety. Separation from our patients at the clinic and separation from our 2 remaining foster children. K1 and K2 have been with us off and on for a little over 2 years. K2 has been with us this time for 1 year straight, while his brother came back a little later. To say we are attached is putting it mildly. I can truly say I love these 2 as my own and the thought of them going to some unknown family was just about more than I could bear. When they were with us the first time for 6 months, we also had a friend staying with us while she moved back to the area. She lived with us for almost exactly the same amount of time as these precious boys. Therefore, she has known them essentially as long as we have. As time is drawing nearer for our move into our camper and the end of the school year, I had laid it all out to God, that I needed reassurance that my boys would be somewhere safe and where we could still be involved. I had it in the back of mind and etched on my heart that this friend would do it. I couldn’t see how, though. She is in the middle of a business deal and the timing is less than perfect. There is also the fact that she is single and without a husband I was afraid it might be too overwhelming. Not that I doubt her ability, but that it just makes life with children easier with a helpmate. So, I hadn’t mentioned it to her. I kept praying and waiting for the Lord to reveal His plan. Then, while talking over pizza at Chuck e Cheese’s at K3’s going away shindig (he transitioned to his adoptive family) this friend confided that she has had it on her heart to go through the PRIDE classes and become a foster parent, thus being available to take our boys. This was a Saturday evening. I promptly texted and emailed our social worker and program director at LSS and had replies immediately that this was a completely doable plan. (LSS has the absolutely best program and I could rave about them for paragraphs.) The relief I’ve had since is indescribable. We know that she can provide a great home and so much love. Mike can still love and guide them as only a father to young boys can. We can still love on them and follow them as they grow as long as they can be with her. This does our hearts so much good.
This is where we are at in transition. We leave on the 3rd to close on our boat (still unnamed) and crew on Mambo and our friend, Megan and Jon will provide the respite. Moving to her house will happen as soon as she is licensed and school is out and soccer finished. We plan to move to the 5th wheel the weekend of June 15th, so this will all happen before then. Matthew has been pretty sad having K3 move to his forever family and now K1 and K2 moving, too. However, knowing they will be so close and we will still have our family get togethers with them helps so much.
I will update as Mike shares the progress of the survey and shares any photos he gets. If you are so inclined, we welcome prayers as we go through this journey.

Preparation

I feel like I should spend a little time delving into what and how we are prearing for this project. The real planning actually started about 2 years ago. It had been in the “dream” stage prior to that. I’m not really sure when we made the conscious decision to move forward, but our vacations tended to have a more educational feel for how to live aboard and cruise. Any trip we have taken, since the inception of our relationship, we have tried to get on a boat. For the day, several days, or a week.

Our first order of business would be to determine a financial plan. Mike is a much more financially responsible person than I am. I’m not extravagant by any stretch of the imagination. However, if I want a good cup of coffee or new hiking boots, I buy them. So, awhile back we started focusing on what we were purchasing and whether it was “boat friendly”. Then we started curbing our spending. This included gift buying for birthdays and Christmas. We are crafty and appreciate homemade gifts more than store bought, so that’s what we tried to do. We bought used sporting equipment and drive older (1970’s-1986, etc) vehicles. My VW Jetta TDI is a 2013 but is part of a lawsuit withVW due to emissions. We have chosen to sell the vehicle back to them as part of the settlement and I most likely will not replace it. Our houses are being sold and we are keeping a small part of our property where we will build an apartment. Eating out has become a treat we don’t have often. Mike also does 99% of any repair work that needs done, whether cars, household or whatever.

Besides making plans for selling our houses, horses, ranch equipment, belongings that we have excess of, there are the more personal aspects of preparation. Our family, our children,our business are top priorities. We have the houses taken care of. Our son, Sean is buying our Sturgis house, which is our primary residence. The Blunt house, bought in 2011 when Mike had been working at the Pierre Emergency Department for a year, has been such a huge project for us, and has so much character (found under layers of wallpaper and plaster and grime) that it was literally a blood, sweat and tears project. We have prayed the new owners would appreciate the quirks and personality of the house like we have. I had had it on my heart that a certain family in Blunt and or their church should be the owners. I’ve held this conviction for about a year, not seeing how it could come to pass. Well, the Lord works out all things. If what we think is happening plays out, they will in fact be the new owners this summer, when we have with wrapped up the last few projects. Praise the Lord!

After a lot of conversations and interviews and soul searching, we were sent a Certified Nurse Practitioner who is ready to get back to family practice. She has worked in a solo practice for 17 years and a couple other areas since, with 30 years total health care experience. Ann understands that our clinic is built on close rapport with our patients and if one is looking to make a lot of money, they should keep looking. We do a good business and are protective of our patient population and especially of our staff. Toni has been with Mike from the beginning. The beginning being 2001. Mike had been an employee of the hospital owned clinic when that was closed. He decided to stay in Sturgis and open his own office after looking at a few clinics out of state. Without retaining Toni as the front desk, office manager and fill in all the blanks employee, the place will sink. Ann appreciates this as well, thank God! There is already some severe separation anxiety on all our parts and having Toni remain the constant has been a huge relief for patients and us.

Our kids. Right. We have our two adult children. They are actually from Erins first marriage, but are blessed to be claimed by Mike, as well. Megan is married to Jon and they have our only grandchild, Lucian (aka Luc). They live in Sturgis and will be taking care of Cookie, my dog, among a few other responsibilities. Sean also lives in Sturgis and will be selling his home in order to buy ours. He has 2 dogs who we claim as our grand dogs. Bubba and Bonnie for future reference. Matthew is our youngest at 9. When we adopted Matthew we also honorarily adopted his birth sister, Rachel. Rachel, if she were born to our family would fall chronologically between Megan and Sean. She is married to Brad and they have 1 daughter, Elisia. She is our honorary granddaughter. Besides Matthew who will be with us, these are all people that we will miss desperately for the 6 months we are away. Of course, our expectations are that they will visit.

My parents. Where else would I get this ridiculous sense of wanderlust and adventure?? My dad is checking his passport dates to make sure he is legal to travel with us. My mom, although supportive maintains a little less enthusiasm. I’m hoping they will both be able to visit at least once, wherever we are anchored. They currently live 1 1/2 hours from us. This will be a big change that we will all have to adjust to.

My brother Jamie and his family. Jamie, his wife, Bree and children Danny, Nick, Helena and Pearl live in Lead. They also have daughter Litcelle and her husband James who live in Montana. Lead is just up the hill 10 miles to the west of us. These people share our travel gene and are completely understanding of our plans. Jamie and Bree have both travelled internationally and otherwise and don’t have the anxiety a few others have as a result.

My brother John and his family. John, Melissa, Ben, Hannah and husband Austin and Dominc reside in Oklahoma. Because we are only able to see them once or twice a year, this relationship won’t change much. We maintain almost daily contact and as long as we have data or phone service I don’t anticipate many changes. Hannah and Austin are expecting their first child in November. I’m hoping we can meet the newest family member before we set sail.

Unfortunately, Mike’s parents have both passed away. I’m sure his dad especially would love our little expedition. Mike’s brother Nick and his wife Emi live in Oak Park,Illinois in the house Mike and Nick grew up in. They have two daughters, Natasia and Sophia. Hopefully, they will also find time to visit or perhaps follow our little adventure blog.

I’m going to leave this here for now. I think the next entry will relate to our “side job” as foster parents and how this affects them. I will also mention the sweet friend who is stepping up to help us.

Also- Matthew won first place in the Duck Stamp competition so I’ve shared that photo. Pretty proud of this kid who claims to be a terrible artist. 😁

Jeremiah 29:11 NIV says

“For I know the plans I have for you, declares the Lord, plans to prosper you and not to harm you, . Plans to give you hope and a future. “

Offer Accepted!

GOD IS GOOD!!

Our prayer was that if this was the boat God had in mind for us, the offer would be accepted as it was. The gentleman selling was having second thoughts, while his wife was insisting on the sale. It could have gone either way. When we landed in our home airport, Rapid City, SD, Mike had a voicemail to call the broker. He waited until we were where he could talk uninterrupted and returned Preston’s call. The offer was accepted pending survey! There was a verbage issue that was amended on the offer regarding the electric winches, then flight plans were made for Mike and Matthew to fly back to Brunswick for the survey taking place April 27th. Evidently the survey takes 8 hours (wow) and it is strongly recommended that the purchaser is present during the process. This will give Matthew a chance to see the boat and have some special guy time with his dad. We are crewing for a friend May 6-15 and will be away from him, so this will be a little extra 1:1 time to make up for it. We will then close on the boat May 4th when we are in West Palm before we crew from Abacos to New Bern, NC.

Alright, so the boat. Her current name is Azure. We will be changing that. There are a few ideas, but nothing concrete. More on that when it’s decided. As previously mentioned, she is a 1984 Brewer 12.8. This means she is basically an updated Whitby that is 42ft long. The upholstery has all been updated, the deck is all painted, the wood work is all done and beautiful, there is still virgin teak on the cockpit benches, but its in excellent shape. The electronics are new, the dinghy and outboard are practically new. The electric winches motors will be replaced, but that is basically the extent of needed repairs that we know about before the survey is done. Other attributes are a new a.c. with reverse cycle for heat. It also has a diesel generator. The keel and hull are solid, as are the stanchons and lifelines. The motor is low hours, well maintained and reliable. A 5 doot draft with a centerboard were also appealing features. This will come in handy when sailing in the Bahamas. There’s list upon list of other items we liked, but would bore the average reader (if not already bored). Suffice it to say, we love this boat.

Decisions Decisions

Right. Our 5 day whirlwind boat search is almost over. We are about to board our last flight home to South Dakota and are anxiously awaiting to hear from the broker if our offer made this morning has been accepted. I won’t disclose which boat we chose, just yet. I want to take you through the gut wrenching search.
We began Thursday morning by setting foot on the Whitby. She was a very pretty boat with nicely maintained wood work and upholstery. She is currently a live aboard, so we got a good feel for storage, etc. The draw backs were the lack of a few amenities that we felt were important and that it was the slowest boat we were looking at.
The next boat was the Amel. It was very impressive as a good blue water sailing boat, but also completely lacked personality and character. It did have everything we wanted other than the DEEP 6′ 5″ draft. Mike had some concerns about the messy wiring.
The Hallberg Rassy was the Friday morning boat. That boat felt like a tank. She is currently on the hard and therefore was able to be thoroughly inspected. These owners have owned and sailed her for 24 years and gave us a great rundown. The previous owners had crossed the Atlantic twice in this boat. There were, however several cosmetic and convenience items that would need repaired before taking off with her. The mahogany interior was beautiful! There was also just a 2 burner diesel stove that I was concerned with. Pan size would be an issue as well as the oven not getting hot enough for some baking needs. The overall size of the boat felt small and it also had a 6′ 1″ draft.
Friday afternoon found us boarding a Brewer 12.8. This boat took our breath away from the moment we laid eyes on her on the dock. She is a patriotic blue and showed the best of any boat we saw. The upholstery is updated, colorful and stylish. The woodwork is beautifully maintained and the deck newly painted. There is a winch as well as davits for the newer dinghy. When Mike went through the mechanics, etc he was impressed with the diligence and care items were labeled and maintained. The drawbacks were no solar or wind and a few other smaller questions.
On Saturday (was that really just yesterday??) we got up at 0400 and flew to San Juan to look at a Pearson 422. I had this boat really built up in my mind for the huge aft cabin with real shower and convenient fridge. These areas did not disappoint. The owners had just crossed from the USVI and flown home, so were not available in person, but Mike was able to call them. This boat was unique because of location and the in-mast roller furling that had been added. We weren’t sure how we felt about either of these things and the boat had a few random broken or unfinished areas that we weren’t sure might lead to more serious issues.
Suffice it to say that with each new viewing we would say, oh yeah, this is THE boat! We would rehash the viewing and note all pros and cons. Between some we went for a walk in the woods and tried to be critical. Each new boat left us a little more confused. We seriously felt like we were on an HGTV House Hunters Boat edition. Our family even commented they felt like they were watching that episode unfold.
Right. Which boat? After careful and I mean careful consideration- (remember the 7 page taped together spreadsheet) we narrowed it down to the Brewer and the Pearson. Then the Brewer and the Rassy. Then the Brewer and the Amel. Do you see a theme? We made the offer on the Brewer. She is just so gorgeous and well maintained we felt we could set aside our concerns and add the missing pieces without too much expense or effort. She also has a 5′ draft with a centerboard to help point into the wind. She is a cutter rigged sloop, not what we were looking for specifically. She has all new electronics, as well.
I’m going to pull the plug here and will elaborate on the Brewer’s attributes when we know our offer has been accepted.

Stay tuned.