Most Fairy Tales start with Once Upon a Time. This one did not. Life happens and sometimes life throws things at you that you do not understand why.
Rewind to four years ago. There was that phone call on July 17, 2012. I picked up the phone expecting to have my evening phone call with my mother. Instead, it was the nurse on the phone from the home she lived in. There had been an accident. Mom had choked on a sandwich and she was not breathing. With a great attempt from the staff in the emergency room, they had brought her back after her having two heart attacks, but she was now in a coma. The decision had to be made by me, she was not coming back and with no other choice, I let her go. She was 65. I was not fifty yet and I made one of the hardest decisions I ever had to make.
And then it got worse.
The next spring, I learned many things about the place I worked. The next big decision came that I had to make. Would I stay and tolerate what was unacceptable to me or would I walk away from the job that I thought I would spend the rest of my career at?
I walked away, leaving behind a job that I was very good at. That I had turned into a successful business with a few people who I had cared very much for. Unfortunately, my leaving did not go over well, and hurt feeling turned to anger on the other end. With a heartbroken, I never had a chance to say goodbye to a few people who I knew I would miss.
And then it got worse.
I was officially diagnosed with Fibromyalgia. I was told that my career was over. That I would be home and be in pain for the rest of my life. I gave up the next job I had taken. There would be no more management for me. I stepped down from the boards and committees I was on. I had no choice. I had to slow down.
Luck finally came my way and I found a job. One that I was so excited to take and ready to start and then the next two things happened.
In June of 2014, my grandmother past away at age 99.9. She was my hero. The wind beneath my wings.
August of that same year, my young, athletic, wonderful husband had a serious heart problem. I had noticed that something was wrong with him, he seemed tired which was not normal for him. I sent him to the doctor and got a call on August 31, 2014. Two days after that appointment, I was told not to let him out of my sight. It was a real emergency. His heart rate was 48. He would not have a heart attack; his heart could just stop. It turned out the electrical in the bottom of his heart was no longer working. If he hadn’t come in when he did, he would have been gone in less than a week. A few days later his heart rate was 26.
The staff at the General Hospital in Hamilton, Ontario, moved mountains to take care of not just him but support me too. Our family doctor jumped through hoops, along with them to keep us going and keep him safe. There were a few scary moments and a couple of setbacks. One that brought us back to the hospital again, only this time by ambulance.
His chest didn’t feel right. I called an ambulance. In less than five minutes, I had the fire department and paramedics at my door. Six minutes later he was on his way to the emergency room with our wonderful staff waiting at the General Hospital to go back into his heart again. The electrical wire from the pacemaker they had put in only weeks ago, had slipped and punctured the heart. New wires had to be put into the heart. I will never forget that day.
We spent the next three months and three days by each other’s side. Around a hundred doctor’s appointments. Sometimes three in one day at many different locations. There we were, he was fourth-eight and I was fifty-one and we were both sick. We didn’t know if either one of us was ever going to be able to work full time again. Or if we were going to lose everything that we worked so long and too many hours to get.
Luck came our way. My new bosses stood by my side. His bosses did the same. They were keeping our jobs and were giving us whatever time we needed. They sent flowers and calls of support.
Several months later with both of us getting back to work and both doing very well. Now the dog has cancer. And the next fight starts.
The two of us had made it through what neither one of was supposed to and come hell or high water, so was the dog going to.
Then came the trips, many, to the University of Guelph Veterinary Hospital. Where again a large medical team worked with us, this time to save Coco, our beloved Doberman.
With the loss of my mother, my grandmother, my job, and almost both of us and the dog, here we were standing looking at each other. It was our fifteenth wedding anniversary. With someone or many someones watching over us from above, the dog had some surgery and he is cancer-free.
So there we were. The dog had a minor change in his gate from the surgery. The husband has a pacemaker, the words heart transplant has been removed from our daily fears, and I learned how to rest when I am tired. We learned how to love, laugh, fight, and get back up.
Our luck had finally changed; my husband would say. I said we had been lucky, everything could have gone the other way. It was time to get back to what we knew how to do and that meant getting back to our lives.
On September 23, 2015, our fifteenth wedding anniversary, we rented a cottage on Riley Lake in Ontario.
We had talked many times about buying a cottage, but we were always too busy to get around to that. That weekend, we made the decision that it was time to look at cottages. Winter was coming, we would start looking in the Spring.
The owners of the cottage on Riley Lake turned out to be wonderful people, who spent much time with us. We had told them that we had always wanted to buy a cottage for us to have and to rent out. They made us fresh bread and came over and spent a lot of time that weekend with us, teaching us everything we needed to know about renting a cottage out. The good and the bad.
Again, we were blessed with good people. First the staff at the hospital, both for us and then Coco. Then our bosses. Now at the cottage. There seemed to be a pattern starting here.
We enjoyed that weekend more than any trips we had traveled on. There had been many islands, we enjoyed those vacations, but there was something about the peacefulness and the sound of the water. We knew we had to get moving on this adventure. Life had taught us that you don’t wait for retirement. Many people don’t get retirement. We almost didn’t. It was time to live now.
Spring of 2016 came. I contacted our real estate agent, Darrel. We had known Darrel for over 15 years. He was not just our agent. He was our friend, confidant, and Husband, occasional golf partner.
We told Darrel what we were looking for and he set out on a mission to start looking for a cottage for us.
On Easter Sunday, with husband and Coco in the car, we headed to the lake, to look at cottages. We were heading to Lake Erie where an old friend had a cottage many years ago and my children had played on the beach.
What was supposed to be a quick walkthrough so husband could see the area and see if he liked it there, turned into many hours. The cottagers were there opening their cottages. As we walked the area, we were invited into their cottages, Coco too, to come and see their summer homes. We ended up spending hours there that day. It was decided. This was going to be where we were going to buy.
A trip there with Darrel having keys in hand, we looked at four cottages. The first one was on the lake and ready to go. It was turnkey, but a little small. The next one needed some work and was not what I was looking for. The neighbor’s property was messy and I hate mess. The third one was a little more money, on the main road and needed some work. And the fourth one… You have got to be kidding, hopeless would have been kind words.
That cottage needed to be gutted. It hadn’t been touched since the 1970s. It had paneling and orange shag carpeting. The walls were too short. The bedrooms so small you could only get a bed in them and what I called the walk-in closet had three walls about two foot by two foot, no door, and four hangers in it. That was a definite NO.
Then it happened. Darrell, our friend, and real estate agent jokingly said “I think you should buy this one. With what you two know how to do, you could make this really special”. We laughed and said No. We left there with no decision made.
Later that week we showed pictures of the cottages online, to our children and my in-laws. They loved the one on the water and we had decided that was going to be the one. It was a little small, but we would make it work. We also showed them the others, including the one without hope, and they laughed too.
The next week we went back up to look one more time before putting an offer in, on the one by the lake. And we went back to look at the one with no hope. While up there Darrel said, “I still think you should consider this one”.
In my past employment, I was a landscape designer, before I was a nurse and a writer. My husband is a contractor. There we were about to put an offer on the one by the water and ended up making an offer on the one without hope.
Somehow after everything we had been through, we decided that the one without hope was the one that we saw hope in. We had changed our minds. We were going to fix this one up and flip it and buy something nicer for our next project. So we made the offer. And it was accepted.
The first weekend that we had the place, nine of us went up to completely gut the cottage. We did it in six and a half hours and somewhere along that time, something happened.
We watched everyone enjoying themselves. They were talking and laughing. Friends were getting to know other fiends. There were conversations, music, and a barbeque. But mostly there were smiles.
I saw something happen that day. I watched a whole lot of people I loved, fall in love. With the sounds of the water, the music, the laughter and I saw love again and more hope.
That day jokingly, I had called the place without hope, The Love Shack.
So it began. The place that was once going to be a partial rental, then a buy and flip, became the start of the summer home for our friends and family. She will no longer be sold. Nor will she be rented.
She is a place to build together. To be shared with our family, friends, children, and grandchildren of all.
Like so many times in the last four years, when life had let us down, and it felt like there was no hope. Hope was found and help came.
Now it has come again. This time for us to build the Love Shack. And for The Love Shack.
The hopeless Love Shack has become to us… The place of hope, and love has found us, yet again.
This is our journey… A Fairy Tale comes true… We call it… Building the Love Shack.
This is our adventure. I welcome you to enjoy it.
Along the way, I will share pictures and stories with you. I would love your feedback. And thank you for following my Blog.
Lacie Sheldon Winters