May 29, 2009

A bit of sillyness, then back to the serious business.

Beer and seven year olds......I don't see a problem.


A handful of 7 year old children were asked 'What they thought
of beer'.

Some interesting responses, but the last one is especially good.

'I think beer must be good. My dad says the more beer he drinks the prettier my mom gets.'
--Tim, 7 years old

'Beer makes my dad sleepy and we get to watch what we want on television when he is asleep, so beer is nice.'
--Mellanie, 7 years old

'My Mom and Dad both like beer. My Mom gets funny when she drinks it and takes her top off at parties, but Dad doesn't think this is very funny.'
--Grady, 7 years old

'My Mom and Dad talk funny when they drink beer and the more they drink the more they give kisses to each other, which is a good thing.'
--Toby, 7 years old

'My Dad gets funny on beer. He is funny. He also wets his pants sometimes, so he shouldn't have too much.
--Sarah, 7 years old

'My Dad loves beer. The more he drinks, the better he dances. One time he danced right into the pool.'
--Lilly, 7 years old

'I don't like beer very much. Every time Dad drinks it, he burns the sausages on the barbecue and they taste disgusting.'
--Ethan, 7 years old

'I give Dad's beer to the dog and he goes to sleep.'
--Shirley, 7 years old

'My Mom drinks beer and she says silly things and picks on my father. Whenever she drinks beer she yells at Dad and tells him to go bury his bone down the street again. But that doesn't make any sense.'
--Jack, 7 years old

May 26, 2009

Did I mention the new owners?

Yes, I think I did. It was interesting to see Carol's sister and husband Jim with the Symons at the pig roast. If you don't mind, I'm going to jump ahead a couple of years into the court mess to the point where a new buyer entered the scene.

First, back in the early stages of negotiations on "how" the cottage would be sold, the court appointed receiver, David Meyer, had drafted a document with some instructions for the bidder. The bidder would not be able to "assign" their right to purchase and beyond some muddied up half done instructions, any bidder would be required to attach a $5000 check along with their bid. David (and only David) was the only bidder at this point and sent in his $5000 check.

Ok, zoom forward to late fall, 2008. December 15, 2008. We were accustomed to zingers from left field at this point but we sure couldn't believe our eyes when all of a sudden, David had assigned his purchase rights to Carol, Trustee of the Reinhart Radke Trust Agreement, u/a/d/ May 18, 1983. Under an assignment dated December 15, 2008, David C. Symons assigned his interest as purchaser to the assignee, Carol A. Symons, Trustee.


" KNOW BY ALL MEN BY THESE PRESENTS, that David C. Symons and Carol A. Symons, husband and wife ("Assignors") assign and transfer to Carol A. Symons, Trustee of the Reinhart Radke Trust Agreement dated May 18, 1983, as amended ("Assignee") all of the Assignors' rights and obligations as purchasers under the terms of that certain Offer to Purchase with respect to the property commonly known as 459 Old Stage Road, Roscommon, Michigan (the "Offer To Purchase").

Assignee agrees to perform all of the terms, covenants and conditions of the Offer to Purchase which are the responsibility of Assignors.

IN WITNESS WHEREOF, Assignors and Assignee have caused this Assignment and Assumption to be executed and delivered on the 15 day of December, 2008."

"signatures of Assignors to Assignee"

If I had a scanner, I wouldn't have had to type that all in. I could have just scanned the original document.

Why is this particularly weird?? Well, it seems that somewhere late last fall David needed to find a buyer for the other 2/3 share of the cottage. Perhaps the market's plunge had something to do with this??? Don't know. What ticked us off was that it was clearly stated that the purchaser could NOT assign his rights. Hmmmmm. The court would have to approve this change. Did the court "approve" this? Not really. Apparently, in one of the first versions of the final report of the receiver for closing on the sale of real property the document (quoted above) appeared.

So, apparently you can just change the terms willy nilly. (Watch out folks). That "version" of the final report was amended a couple of times. Seems that the numbers didn't make sense, didn't include some prorated property taxes, insurance stuff, etc. Ummm hmmm. Back to court. And certainly ground work should we file an appeal which is our right to do.

And now, The Reinhart Trust with Carol and Bonnie as trustees are now tenants in common with DAVID. (per deed recorded February 23, 2009 liber 1080 page 1125-1127).

Tenants in common????????? Oh my!!

May 25, 2009


Hey everyone... thank you. Thank you to the hosts, it was awesome. It was great to see so many good old friends and any reservations we had about coming up north were put to rest. The welcomes, the kindness, the connections with old friends did it. Once a lakesider, always a lakesider.

As we drove up, mother had a moment or two, John had a few minutes of butterflies, me.. I was cool. Lakeside is and always will be our warm blankie, our "happy" place and just flat out awesome. What a beautiful day!!! So, we will be back this summer and will have a great time.

I can't say the same for some others. I didn't notice much socializing going on. Interesting to see the new owners there. From what I understand, they have never been there before. I see trouble ahead for that group...the clouds are forming and I sure hope the new owners have read the book. They will NEED it.

Again, hope the hangovers are bearable this morning, the sun shines bright on the lake and everyone has a safe trip home (if you aren't staying). Thank you all...
Katy S In answer to your question yes the eagle landed!

May 22, 2009

Fitting for the occasion?

This was sent to me, I do not know from who, enjoy!

Update, a big thanks and a shout out to "Doc Bassman"

It appears you will need to cut and paste to get to this site, warning do not attempt to watch this with a mouth full of food.

May 19, 2009

Don't let the truth get in the way of your mission.

There has been some rumblings that perhaps the comical look we gave to that original presentation was, shall we say embellished a little...Perhaps, however, we have from day one been truthful about everything that has taken place. For you naysayers...

Below you will find a copy of a letter that David's counsel wrote on his behalf, directed to both his appraiser and the facilitator. It does not take much to detect the tone of what they are trying to achieve. Further more when you start telling the appraiser what comp's to use speaks volumes for what you are trying to achive.

Dumbing down the cottage benefits only one person, David Symons.

Click photo to enlarge.

Now ask yourself, who is it that would buy that dump?
Lets keep it civil folks

May 18, 2009


It’s hard to reason with someone whose mind is made up and is simply not willing to listen to anything anyone has to offer. From the opening comments about how bad a shape the cottage was in, one would think he was doing everyone a favor by taking it off our hands. Then the outright lies about being landlocked, or the inability to do any sort of renovation without having to rebuild within zoning codes.

We tried to offer several scenarios that we felt would work and not even a glance our way, neither he nor his counsel could even look us in the eyes. And the presentation they so painstakingly prepared was a joke. Not sure who they were trying to impress with the poster board, covered with photos. Some were taken with so much snow on the ground you couldn’t see half of the foundation if you wanted to.

So back to court we go, and to our non-surprise the judge, again could not make a decision and ordered us back to the facilitator to work out how to sell the cottage.

For those who are just tuning in let me take a moment to explain what a partition suit is all about. It is a court ordered sale of a property. The person bringing the suit cannot have the court order it be sold to him or her, simply to sell it, for what we assumed would be its true market value. We were wrong…..

So back we went.

If you ever saw deer caught in your headlights then you know the look David and his counsel had when mother, Betsy and I walked in. You never saw two grown old men move so fast to huddle with Mr. Facilitator about this unacceptable situation. In short order we were ushered into a separate room and were told that I could stay by virtue of Katy’s power of attorney, however Betsy had to leave or they would walk out. We debated over this development for twenty or thirty minutes, not that we were going to push the issue, no, just let them stew for a while. I was reminded of the school yard bully taking his toys and going home. We took the high road and Betsy agreed to leave. What a bunch of spoiled brats, and I am being nice.

We were sitting in a conference room trying to figure out how are we going to negotiate the procedure for selling the cottage when the other side is sequester in a separate room and would not come out and talk face to face. This went on for three or more hours, and it seemed like every time we reached an agreement on one issue, they would change their mind on another. At no time were we face to face, heck we never even saw them leave early. We were instructed to plan on being here all day in order to hammer this out. Unbelievable, they simply announced they have other pressing business matters to attend to and left.

Suffice it to say when the written summary was sent out for signatures and it was apparent that many issues remained unresolved; we would not sign it, and responded with an offer to go back and finish what had been started. However…that meant nothing to them and they filed the first of many motions to force the court to accept what they signed as a binding agreement. This time the court did the right thing. The judge ordered we go back and do it again. Oh great, but maybe Mr. Facilitator will have learned from his past mistake and will get us all in a room together, face to face. Yea, I know wishful thinking!

In all fairness, we had reached agreements on a number of important issues, for instance how we would determine the market value that the cottage would be LISTED for, three appraisals, throw out the low and average the high and middle. This is important to mention and you will see why shortly. We also agreed on allowing those from the other associations to have the first right to MAKE AN OFFER before it would be LISTED WITH A REAL ESTATE AGENT. Again, remember this.

The big issue was timing, David wanted this whole thing done in 30 days, and keep in mind the first meeting we had was January 15th. Now common sense tells you that when trying to market and sell a property similar to ours, one would think that making it available during the optimum selling time period of spring and summer would make sense. Ya think! He was dead set in making sure we never set foot in Lakeside again and this needed to be a done deal before camp opened.

So we shall meet again, or do we?

Stay tuned.

May 17, 2009

Artist's rendition's found...!

In what turned out to be just the beginning of many situations where the judge could not make a decision and passed it along to others, we were instructed to meet with the facilitator to see if there was a way to make this work. Sharing the cottage as had been done for many years. We were optimistic right up to the moment when David and his counsel showed up with their poster board class project.

The meeting, or should I say presentation started, and not once did Davids counsel look at either mother or I. Not once, and David did little more than sit there and avoid any eye contact or verbal exchange. It became apparent early on they had one goal and one goal only, and agreeing to anything short of outright ownership was not an option. They went to great lengths to show just how bad a shape the cottage was in. At one point they almost had me believing that she would fall over in a stiff breeze if the rodents didn't attack us first.

Fortunately we were able to locate the drawings the court appointed artist had created and have painstakingly uploaded them to this posting. Sit back and enjoy.

In this first drawing you will observe the massive infestation of rodents, even Orkin wanted no part of that cleanup:

In the second rendition you will observe the massive peeling paint, which by the way legitimizes the reason given for Why the front door was repainted, it was peeling and needed to be fixed:

In this next rendition you will observe the issue with lot line and how difficult or impossible it would be to sell or do any type or renovation without having to knock down the whole cottage and rebuild:

And finally you will observe the difficulty one would endure having to find a clear path to the lake because of the landlocked cottages. It would be necessary to go outside of the association to find an access point:

Come on now, most of these places are over 100 years old, they are out in the middle of the forest, and one would reasonably expect to find these places in less than brand new condition and usually in need of some form of paint or repair. Our cottage was no different than any other one in our association or one of the other's. The dumbing down that took place that day was just the beginning, it continued for months. You shall see.

May 15, 2009

Coming up, the dumbing down of the cottage.....

Or, rodents, peeling paint, land locked and boundary challenged, but worry not, because you can't use it in the winter anyway!

Since photos were not allowed in that first meeting at the facilitators, we were forced to rely on a court appointed sketch artist to provide reasonable renditions of the 7th grade history presentation that David's counsel put together.

Stay tuned......

May 12, 2009

Sharing a cottage...

Even the most harmonious families face difficulties in co-ownership of a cottage. If any of you have co-owned a boat you know what I'm talking about. Our family was pretty typical..still is actually. Throw some in-laws and children, grandchildren, etc. into the mix and eventually the family grows beyond the number of beds in even the largest of cottages. The schedule that was worked out was done to offer "exclusive" use for a 4 week period each summer and provided a first come first served opportunity out of season. A cottage account was created, all costs and other various fees, needs etc. was drawn from that account and while one family member managed the calendar and notices, another managed the account. For the most part, it worked. It always requires some degree of compromise but for many years, everyone could plan ahead, use and enjoy the cottage during "their" time and share the costs of ownership. Generally it's the money that becomes an issue. One member of the group won't pay their share. This was never a problem. Agreeing on improvement projects was an issue and that was the direct result of little to no communication. We all knew when we could come and go, how much money to send and beyond that.. a short e-mail from time to time was it.

When it was made clear that David wanted to own the cottage ALONE, with no communication or discussion possible, partition became the only option. Partition is a nasty thing. By law, no one can be forced to OWN property. If someone wants out they can file for partition. In this case, David filed because he didn't want anyone else to own the cottage. The rules of partition are scary. Beware!!!
And it works!
Trying out posting from a cell phone

May 11, 2009

The process server comes a knocking

So much for friendly family discourse and communicating their differences. Apparently suing is the chosen method, one what would be repeated several times over the ensuing two and half years.

Almost on schedule a shady character shows up knocking on mothers kitchen window, causing her an uncomfortable moment, prior to serving the summons shown in my previous posting. Click to enlarge it.

So it appears it's game on. The court hearing was a joke, the first of many indications that we had an odd judge who couldn't make a decision without having to sit and study it for a week. He refers us to a facilitator, who just happened to share ownership of a sailboat with the judge, our first indication that this was not going to be easy, nor fair. A lesson experienced often.

Next up a 7th grade history presentation, or I think it was, looked like one, sounded like one, and my apologies to all 7th graders.

May 7, 2009

The ensuing events...

I need to point out that Stu and Kathi did send out an earlier email expressing their desire to sell, a decision they apparently had reached a year earlier but for reasons they choose not to share with any one, they waited until now. There was no mention of a price or value and I quote, "Since this is a family decision, and involves no one outside of our family, I would ask that consideration be given to not making this camp news"

Followed up a short time later with this email...

--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Subject: Re: Cottage
Date: Fri, 15 Sep 2006 00:18:46 +0000

In hindsight, I wish that I would have communicated our decision to sell our share last summer once the decision was made to do so; however, I thought one more summer...

This position has not changed, and while many, many memories and experiences remain with us, we felt that it was time to possibly pursue options, such as a place of our own, giving us the "freedom" to come and go as our schedules dictate.

A joint buy-out of our interest remains an option if all/someone steps forward. The recent appraisal seems fair based upon the facts presented.

Stu and Kathi

Which was followed up with this email...2 days later

--Forwarded Message Attachment--
Subject: Re: Cottage
Date: Sun, 17 Sep 2006 14:23:02 +0000

I will assume that by a lack of response that no one is interested in our share.

Mother responded with the following..

-------------- Original message --------------
Good morning Stu....

Be patient as these things take time. We haven't had an opportunity to sit down and discuss anything yet.

Hope all is well with all of you....

Aunt Jo

Here is mothers response to Davids demand to sell to him..

Subj: Cottage
Date: 9/12/2006 7:46:04 PM Eastern Daylight Time
From: JLee913164
To: DCSymons

Dear Daivd,

I can't even begin to tell you how much this whole cottage thing has upset me. From the time you called me about the front door being painted to the next email, I have to say it's been hard to figure out what this is really about. I waited to hear about the ideas you said you and Carol had, but you never shared them with me. This seems to be about much more than four walls and some property.

I have spent 79 years at Lakeside, and my ties to this cottage are deep and meaningful. I have watched my children grow up here and we all have developed life long friends. This cottage was a gift from our parents; it was given to us to enjoy, to take care of, and to use for as long as we all could manage. We have, by and large, managed pretty well, however, as with any joint ownership there are those moments. Fortunately for us they have been few and minor. This is something to be proud of.

Stu and Kathi have indicated their desire to sell their ownership interest, and I am saddened to hear that. I understand that they wish to pursue other interests and I respect their decision; if and when that happens they will be missed.

For now I find it difficult to discuss this. I do believe there are other options available and I would be willing to sit down and talk about them. For example, a joint buy-out of Stu and Kathi's interest.

You asked for a response by the 13th of September as to whether your proposal is acceptable. As offered, it is not.

I will await your response.


Subject: Re: update
Date: Sun, 24 Sep 2006 15:20:32 +0000

Thanks for the update; we appreciate it very much.

I was expecting an appraisal somewhere around $700,000 - $800,000, based on no real facts.

I expressed my concern regarding the contents as well.


Stu and Kathi

Dear Stu and Kathi,

I thought I would drop you a note to keep you updated on what we are doing concerning the cottage.

Let me explain why I did not agree to David's proposal. First, I felt the assessment was too low. Since then I have received some material that backs this up. Consequently we are going to have another assessment done. When that is done I'll give you all the information on it. Second, I strongly objected to his including all the contents of the cottage in the sale. Some of those contents are mine. And third, I am simply not interested in selling my share, for a lot of reasons.

I also have an idea about solving this without lawyers and the court.
All we have to do is sit down and talk about it. That is,or course, if we all want to.

Gosh, what a way to destroy a family!

Much love,

Aunt Jo

Mothers position from the very beginning was she had no desire to sell her share,was pleased with the way shared ownership had worked, and wished to continue with that idea. She also was very clear about keeping the channel of communications open and had requested on several occasions to all concerned the need to sit down and discuss these issues. Never did she get a response to those requests, Never!

This was the way David choose to communicate:

Click to enlarge

Clearly he had no intent to discuss any options, in his mind there was one option and only one, he was going to get the cottage come hell or high water. And don't get in his way, it could prove to be expensive and nasty.

Coming soon Lets dumb down the cottage, lets make it appear like a standing pile of rotted wood, infested with rodents, a land lock piece of land with no access to the lake. And lets present it in the fashion of a 7th grade history project!

May 6, 2009

Where to begin

It would become clear soon enough that David's plan was to make it seem like the old cottage was one gust of wind shy of a pile of old lumber. A place so riddled with defects that no one would want it and he was doing us all a favor by taking it off our hands.

So lets look at some of these fallacies shall we..

1. The portion of the cottage that is on Morley's lot was resolved many years ago, and presents no degradation in value. A copy of that agreement will be provided in a later posting. He would like you to believe that if something as simple as a bathroom renovation were to take place then the cottage needs to be torn down and moved. Simply not true. I believe the wording was " should the Symons cottage be destroyed, removed or any part that encroaches on lot 19 be substantially rebuilt, then any encroachment shall be moved to lot 20.

2. There is nothing that prevents the cottage from being sold, again the only trigger for moving it is any of the above should happen.

3. The cottage is "essentially unusable in the winter" I think we all remember the events of this past Christmas holiday with David hiring a Sheriffs deputy to serve papers on mother.

4. So I guess we know that it does not need to be winterized, it has been used in the winter for better than 50 years.

5. And then there is this gem... "I am not interested in this cottage being a source of conflict within our family".

6. And then, he wants an answer in 8 days.

Now I won't speak for anyone else, but if I were inclined to make a decision regarding purchasing a cottage, I might need more than 8 days. He clearly had been working on this for some time, evidenced by the fact he already had an appraisal done. So he had plenty of time to gather the other owners to sit down and discuss his intentions. But David does not work that way and this will play out again and again as we go forward.

So that was the start of almost three years of court hearings, meetings, attorneys, more attorneys, more meetings, the sheriff from Roscommon, and a myriad of other players. I like to think we held our heads high in spite of being called everything in the book including vandals and thieves.

And so it began.....

740 Canterbury Dr
MI 48638

5, 2006
Dear Jo, Stu, and Katy:

This letter is to review my recommendation for dissolving our partnership of the Higgins Lakes Cottage. As you know,
we've jointly owned it for years, however, times and personal situations changed and it is now time to move in a new direction. My goal is to lay out the facts and offer a recommendation that is fair to all of us.
To begin with, I requested a valuation appraisal of the cottage. The estimated value was $665,000. However, this estimate is unrealistically high for various reasons. First, it does
not sufficiently consider the fact that a portion of that cottage is on the Morley's lot or consider the fact that we have a signed agreement with Rob stating that the cottage can remain in place until renovated. If a renovation occurs, it must then be physically moved off their lot. Of course, there is a significant amount of expense involved to adhere to this agreement, and this reality is not factored into the appraisal. In addition, the agreement with the Morley's does not transfer to some unrelated buyer of the cottage. This means that it would be
difficult for a buyer to obtain a mortgage or clear title to the property and, therefore, decreases its value. This, too, is not factored into the appraisal.

Moreover, when the cottage is renovated, not only must the portion on the Morley's lot be removed, but Lakeside and Gerrish Township
set back rules must also be observed. Again, this affects the true value of the property and is not included in the appraisal.
In total, these realities are profoundly significant and, if considered
in the appraisal, severely impact the valuation.
Additionally, the cottage is essentially unusable in the winter. Although difficult, the cottage may be retrofitted for winter use.
However, winterizing it may trigger the requirement for the cottage to be taken off the Morley's lot. This fact is not included in the
I also, note that the cottages referenced in preparing the appraisal were not accurate or reasonable comparisons. For the most part, they included relatively new, lake front cottages, not 125 year old cottages in established associations with numerous common areas. As a result, the comparisons are of little use in the valuation determination.
These real and compelling factors lead to my conclusion that the true value of the cottage is significantly less then the estimated amount specified in the appraisal.
Truly, I am not interested in this cottage being a source of conflict within our family. To this point, no one has suggested to me their interest or intent to purchase the whole of the cottage. Consequently, I propose to purchase the cottage and all its contents for $600,000. This offer is fair and reasonable and is contingent on acceptance by each individual with an interest in the cottage.
If one or more are not interested in this proposal, the only choice will be to file for a court order to have the cottage sold. As you may be aware, any joint owner of a piece of property can seek an order to have the property sold. The court will then order the cottage
sold. The court will appoint a realtor to conduct the sale. You may also be aware that the costs of the realtor, all court costs, and the attorney fees incurred in obtaining the sale are taken out of the proceeds before distribution. The customary real estate commission is 7%. For example, if the cottage sold for $600,000, the amount of commission is $42,000. Then, assume court costs and attorney fees to
be $25,000 to $30,000. The resulting value is $533,000 ($600,000 less $42,000 less $25,000). The cottage is the same, regardless of how it
is sold. The only difference in selling before a court filing or selling after a court filing is that after the filing each 1/3 interest in the cottage incurs about $25,000 in costs, real estate
commissions, and attorney fees associated in obtaining the court order. Additionally, an attorney hired to represent an individual will be paid by that individual.
I've provided my best effort to establish a fair and reasonable value for the cottage. Please let me know whether the above proposal is acceptable to each of you. A response by September 13, 2006 is most appreciated.



I do not have the time nor the stomach to go into all the factual errors in this e-mail tonight, but give me a good nights sleep and I shall.

Breaking: Gay Marriage Opponent Topless Photos Leaked

I love the smell of hypocrisy in the morning, don't you?

One more thing.....

The question everyone has been asking... why didn't we buy out the cottage from David...well, first off there wasn't a real clear opportunity for that. I'm sure he would disagree but once it went into the court it became the courts responsibility for managing that process. Did we want the cottage? Of course we did. Did we want to force David out? No. We wanted to create a legal environment for co-ownership of what was a "family" cottage. Buy out arrangements could have been made to make the transition to different ownership possible without any of the "dirty laundry" airing that went on. Guidelines and clarification of the "rules" would have been possible and perhaps, a happy arrangement could have been made to continue, at least for awhile the "family" cottage tradition. This of course would have been ideal. It would however required that the parties involved actually speak to one another. For reasons unknown to any of us, David refused to speak to us about any of this. He opted instead to channel all actions and information through his attorney. Why? My guess is that he was a bit afraid of us. None of us will really ever know. So, there is apparently a clear difference in opinion of "family". I'm pretty certain that both of my grandparents are rolling in their graves. Little did they know....

The house of cards starts to fall....

Over the past few years people have speculated and looked for "reasons" or that one incident that turned one owner toward the courts for resolution. I don't think there was ever any one incident, or point when that course of action became the breaking point. Instead, it was more like a series of events and the right (or wrong) mix of personalities that eventually went south.

The mix of generations as owners was difficult for certain parties to "deal" with. Not terribly uncommon, nor was it any reason to take the action that was chosen. It could have worked. Everything could have worked out if all parties wanted it to work. Over the years, the group of owners would occassionally meet to discuss various needs, projects, etc. in maintaining the cottage. These meetings, for the most part were not usually productive. For some reason, there was a "majority rule" sense of how things should be managed. Majority rule doesn't work and it doesn't have any legal standing as far as estate law. When three owners can't all agree, nothing happens. That was status quo for many many years.

From Saving the Family Cottage, the author Stuart J. Hollander, Esq. outlines a number of "truths" and facts of estate law. "Heirs who co-own the cottage have a say in its operation and maintenance, but (to the susprise of many of my clients) co-ownership does not mean majority rule. A co-owner doesn't need anyone's permission to make a change to the cottage as long as those changes would not be viewed by a court as destructive or damaging.

Real estate law does not establish a standard of maintenance for the cottage, so if the heirs cannot agree upon the way a cottage is to be kept, its condition either drops to the lowest common denominator of care or the heir with the higher standard personally pays for the extra care."

I would hazard a guess here that we fell into the first category...dropping to the lowest common denominator of care.

A number of years ago, actually the last meeting of the "owners" was held and it seemed at the time that it was a great step in the right direction to setting mutually agreed priorities, creating a list of "improvement projects" and prioritizing these items. Everyone left feeling satisfied that finally everyone seemed to be on the same page. Ha.

The "list" was found on the counter in the pink bathroom after having been ignored, tossed aside and new dock sections were made and put in. That wasn't on the list. The floor in the pink bathroom was falling in, but someone else decided they wanted a longer dock. Who paid for these dock sections, the owners.

So.... my dad died. Is it coincidental that this whole mess started shortly after? Don't think so.

Katy and I were at the cottage that spring. The front door was down to the wood with peeling paint everywhere. The weather was not conducive to a day on the dock so we went to the hardware store, bought some paint and proceeded to scrape, prime and paint the front door. So what if we chose red. It's a nice color, it is welcoming and the place needed a bit of brightening up. Oddly, Katy's brother Stu and his wife had come up that weekend and it was discussed with them and we all thought red was a good choice. Apparently one owner doesn't like red. He saw red. Oh boy did he go off. I mean, GO OFF. On everyone. I thought he was going to have a stroke right there on the spot. HE decided that the door MUST be green and promptly made arrangements for it to be repainted immediately after we left. (I'm not sure who paid for that..probably came out of the joint account but who would know since the accounting for that account..well.. there isn't any accounting for that.)

Was the Red Door a turning point? Don't think so. Just another incident in a long line of little differences of opinion. "Playing well with others?"...well, I think we know who has difficulties with that one.

So, the next shoe dropped in the form of an e-mail to my mother. I'll let my brother take the next round on "what happened behind the Red Door".

May 3, 2009

A little background....

As we get ready to share some of the events of the past few years, I thought a little background may help to set the stage. The Cottage has been a "family" cottage, like many others for well over 100 years. Our family faced what many others are now facing and that is, how to make it work with multiple owners with varying degrees of commitment. In our case, it didn't work.

In the book Saving the Family Cottage, author Stuart J. Hollander, Esq. outlined a variety of solutions for protecting that well loved, long held place that many of us have been blessed to have.. the Family Cottage. If you haven't read it, or have put off doing something about your succession planning, do it NOW.

Our family is no different from any other family. We have our ups and downs, screwballs and nutcases, our caretakers and takers, etc. etc.. When the time comes, and it always does, there is always that ONE that doesn't want to play nice. Generally you can spot the ONE. We did. What we didn't do and is all to common, is talk. Really talk. If we'd talked to each other, this whole mess could have been avoided. So, start talking to your family friends. Talk about your vision for the old cottage, share your objectives with each other, see if you can all find a common ground and then do something to legally outline a few basic guidelines. Legally.

We (and I mean most of us) thanked God that our great grandparents had the spirit of adventure and the love of the place to purchase the cottage and additional lots back in the 1880's. My great grandparents thought they had planned well. They bought the adjacent lot for my grandmother's sister Katherine and she built a cottage that my cousins grew up in and is now owned by the Morleys. Our cottage passed along to my grandmother who planned accordingly to have it eventually pass along to her children after my grandfather's death. There were many discussions on rules and individual ownership trusts etc. and for a while it worked. To a degree it worked.

We (my mother, aunt and uncle) shared a joint account that each family paid into to cover the costs of dues, upkeep, taxes, etc.. Improvements to the cottage were to be by mutual agreement. Various "rules" were worked out for each family unit to have exclusive "time" during the season and "first come use" out of season. What was never well understood or accepted was who and how the front cottage could be used. Was the "younger" generation permitted up front without adult supervision? With a wide age span of "4th generation" cousins this issue was a bit tricky. There was no one set of rules about this that anyone actually agreed on. People assumed. Not a good foundation. Occassionally there were meetings. Various improvement projects were discussed and at times, agreements were reached. More often, not. I remember trying to find new carpet. My grandmother did a fairly significant renovation in the early fifties. The carpet that was put in then is still there. My aunt Helen Anne, my mother and I spent a fair amount of time bringing home samples. David refused to have anything to do with it. Could something have been done to resolve this issue? Perhaps but more likely not. No one talked. So, the carpet stayed down. It has been down about 60 some years now. Nice.

We were all up one summer and the refridgerator died. It was pretty old and its time had come. Mother called the other "owners" and David refused to participate in buying a new refridgerator so mother bought it. It is now sitting in our garage and will be donated shortly to a good cause. The list goes on. Curtains, bedspreads, painting, etc.. Mother and Helen Anne, Kathi deGeus,Katy Jenkins, myself.. it was always fun to take on a project and we did. We all grew up knowing that we were "caretakers" of the cottage. We took care. If something needed to be done, we did it. Most of the major projects couldn't be agreed on. We had to live with peeling paint on the exterior, or rotting boards at the beach house. David assumed some sort of "in charge" position there and blocked most suggestions. These are the little things that swept under the carpet too long start to build up. It built up quickly.

When the lines of "ownership" started to shift and some of the 4th generation became owners, David had a problem. A big problem. Control started to slip from his grasp and gasp...we had grown up, had families of our own and a voice. None of these things are unique. All families have these opportunities and challenges. Discussions and shared objectives should have brought everyone together. Instead, separation became more evident. No longer was the cottage the "family" gathering place. Each family became more and more isolated from each other. Those of us who grew up together maintained family ties but the others? We drifted farther apart and became more isolated then ever. And then.....

The bumps in the road happened more frequently. Respect for the cottage, for each other and each other's family started to erode. There is always "that one" remember? As far as I know, no one from our family ever mistreated the cottage. We respected the other family's right to their exclusive use and we left the cottage better than we found it. I can share stories about "cottage raids" as I like to call them. Times that my family, my kids, etc. were there and David would bust in and do "bed checks". Seriously. At 8:00 one Saturday morning, David showed up. I was in my bathrobe, my youngest daughter's boyfriend was in the kitchen with me drinking coffee (you should have seen the look on his face) and David insisted he'd left something there. I assured him that I had not seen it, had not seen it ANYPLACE, that if it did show up, I'd CALL him. After about 15 minutes in the kitchen he insisted on looking through all the bedrooms. The girls had friends up and everyone was in their own beds. All was good. He went through all their rooms. Can anyone imagine my father doing such a thing to them??? Never. It was insulting, invasive and disrespectful. Was it the ultimate deal breaker in all this mess? No. Just one more thing swept under the carpet. The pile was getting larger by the day.

When the time came to make some changes was it a surprise? No. Not really.Was the process of resolution surprising? well... yes. Who would have thought that a brother would go to such lengths to grab away something that was a gift to each of them? A treasure to be cared for, not raked through the public courts. Who or what was won? We will share the story in hopes that this will encourage others to do things differently. It can happen to anyone and let this be a lesson in what not to do!!! More to come....

May 1, 2009

Hello Readers!

I have now reached "guest contributor" status on The Red Door Journal and I love red but when I see red, beware!! I have a gun and I'm out of estrogen!! (I have that engraved on a pill box). I also have plenty to say and offered to help with the upcoming installments of what really happened "behind the red door". I look forward to sharing and can't wait to get started!!

Another note.......

I really don't want to remove comments, however when we get so far from target, and things start bordering on slander, I get nervous, and for good reason.

As long as we are careful in what we say and who we direct it too, I am good. Distant family, and children are not issues and should be left out. They undoubtably will have to suffer the consequences by virtue of being related, that's penalty enough wouldn't you think?

Aside from that I really do appreciate all who have commented and will continue to do so, you are what makes this fun to do, and I thank you for your loyal support.

Follow up to the "Surprise Surprise" post.

And I quote: "3 weeks and the docks will be in and you can get your sunfish and canoe and get that stuff out of here" I added the stuff out of here but you get the gist of the kindly directed message from David Symons attorney Phil Sturtz. It was said not once, not twice but three times.

Fast forward to this morning, in the hand delivered letter to our attorney the plaintiff, David Symons, indicated that I have until tomorrow to remove all said possessions. Sunday at the latest. This was after all agreed that three weeks was fine.

It will be interesting to see what happens when they do not see the whites of my eyes this weekend. I do not have any plans to get these items any sooner than the pig roast weekend, nor do I have the time to do it any sooner. Some of us actually have a life, work for a living and have responsibilities.