Superior Hiking Trail and a box of bills

As I hiked this June toward Jackson Lake on the Superior Hiking Trail, I felt confident. I was a lot more confident than I was four years ago when I escaped to Grand Marais to try to figure out what was going on with our finances.

This is a great trail that first goes to the lake and then meanders high up on a ridge. I stood resting on the ridge when a huge flock of geese flew right above my head to greet me! Later as I hiked back to my car, I ran into what I first thought was a bear cub. It stopped and starred at me from just ten feet away. I stomped on the wooden plank trail and I noticed that he had a long tail as he ran away. I was convinced it was a wolverine. But I wasn’t scared in the least — after everything I had been through in the last four years, a wild animal wasn’t going to scare me! I have come face-to-face with the IRS after all!
I can’t believe it was just four years ago when I went off to Grand Marais mad, angry and confused. My husband Barry had mismanaged our finances, and I had no idea why. That spring I discovered that a royalty check I had just deposited was taken by the bank for past due debt on our bank credit cards. My bank balance was a big fat zero and I was terrified. I realized it was time to take action.

Before I left for a few days up north, my son Mike and I devised a plan. We sent Barry to the store, and while he was gone, we piled all of Barry’s files and paperwork into a box and put them in the car. I could not get any answers from Barry about why we were so broke. I had no idea at the time that frontotemporal dementia (FTD) was taking over his brain. But I hated this person I was married to, and I knew I was now on my own. Looking back, this all seems so dramatic but it was the moment I finally took action. That evening I locked the car and held the keys close all night. Barry had begun to go through my things looking for cash, and there was no way I wanted him in my car. The next morning, I got up early and drove to my friend’s cabin on Lake Superior. Barry didn’t ask where I was going.

A box of horrors

When I got up north, I planned to go through all this paperwork to figure out what the heck Barry was up to. But for a week, that box sat untouched while I rediscovered my love of hiking on the North Shore. The last evening of my trip, I sat in a trailer at the Grand Marais campground and stared at that box. I gathered my courage and began to look through it. I was shocked by the number of credit cards he had opened and by the letters regarding unpaid student loans. Feeling overwhelmed, I dumped everything back into the box and took a walk on a little trail in the campground. When I got to the top of the hill, I wanted to cry. I realized that we had a big, big, big problem that I had no idea how to deal with.

After I got home, that box sat untouched for a few months until one day I just had to face what was inside. So with my lawyer friend and I went through each and every piece of paper in the box! I didn’t know then that I could have saved a lot of time by simply doing a full credit check – which I finally did after Barry was diagnosed with FTD.

As I hiked this past June, I thought about how slow I have been to get this all figured out. It was just so damn tempting to hope that it would all just go away! In the past few years, I handled bankruptcy action for Barry and wrote letters to the student loan people explaining his disability and the fact that he will never work again.I filed bankruptcy for me last November, but after making payments to the court for six months, I was told that my case was rejected by the trustee. The first mistake I made was working with a really bad lawyer who would never answer my calls or emails. But he sure didn’t waste time cashing the check I paid him. It’s my fault, too, for not carefully looking over everything!

So for now, I have decided to work on the IRS problem first and go from there. I will try and pick off the credit cards one by one when I have the money. I am happy to now have an accountant who is a friend and who looks at my bank statements each month. And I have a really good lawyer who cares. I am not sure what other surprises are around the bend — kind of like that wolverine that actually turned out to be just a friendly fisher. It’s been four years since I began
taking control of my finances. This June day I felt pretty sure that I can handle whatever else lies around the bend.

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5 comments on “HIKE FIFTY-TWO
  1. Jay says:

    Hi Nancy,

    Very brave of you to share this sad story. How about coffee sometime.

    Best wishes,


  2. If it were only the money, it would be hard enough. You can keep on, Nancy. You have head and heart and hiking boots, and you are strong and brave. Keep on.

  3. Ellie says:

    Life…somehow it all works out….keep the faith Nancy.

  4. Karolyn Lee says:

    Keep hiking! You are one very strong lady! I am glad everything is starting to come together! I feel bad you had to go through so much .

  5. Judy Peterson says:

    I need a pair of hiking boots…dealing with my mother’s finances and there are no easy answers. You give me courage and hope…one hiking step at a time!

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