Villa Am Meer, Chapter 15

A few final thoughts…

New here? Start with Chapter 1…

I’ve been writing about Villa Am Meer for about seven months now. In that time, this beach house has become like an old friend to me. I’ve imagined what it would have been like to have stayed there, listening to the waves crash on the shore, sipping a cool glass of Chardonnay at sunset, and snuggling around the wood-burning fireplace after sundown. I’d like to imagine there were no TVs allowed here, and that guests were asked to leave their cell phones at the door. I imagine soft music playing, an acoustic guitar, and dancing on the rooftop patio under the moonlight.

I’ve been told of family Christmases at Villa Am Meer, with delicious Italian food and homemade ravioli. I’ve been told of summertime parties with friends, sangria, brie cheese and strawberries. And, I’ve been told of the “little house” – a one level, two bedroom guest house on the northeast corner of the property. It had a tiny fish pond in front of it, and a wrought iron bridge you had to cross in order to get to the front door. The “real magic” took place here, from what I’ve been told.

As one might imagine, the family is very private. I guess I would be too, especially if some crazy midwestern woman with no earthly connection to the house suddenly started blogging about it. But, I do hope to connect with them one day. I hope that by sharing the history of this house, I haven’t caused them any distress. That was never my intent. Those who know me would tell you I’m not that kind of person.

So then, what WAS my motivation for writing about this house? In the past seven months, I’ve been asked this over and over, and the answer is both simple and complicated.

I guess it all boils down to this… it got me writing again. I’ve always loved writing, and it seems to come naturally to me. However, a few years ago, I became hell-bent on writing something in order to get it published. I wrote a few children’s books, a middle-grade novel, a screenplay, and even a corporate gift book. Nothing was published. This didn’t surprise me; I knew the odds. But, I have to admit, it was hard on my ego. I wasn’t used to failure.

So, I quit writing. I decided if I couldn’t make my living as a writer, then what was the point. I went back to what I knew and saved myself the heartache.

For two years, I wrote nothing at all. I turned 40, took up snowboarding, and became obsessed with tracking down every branch of my family tree. When I ran out of branches on my own tree, I started tracking down my husband’s branches. Anything to keep from writing.

Then, last March, I was walking along the beach with my husband, on our way to The Colony to have a margarita. I spotted my favorite little beach house amidst a rumble of big rig construction. It appeared war-torn and vacant, and I was certain it was about to be torn down. I ran back to our condo and grabbed my camera, determined to preserve this little nugget of Longboat Key history. I knew nothing about the property or its owners, but for 15 years that little beach cottage had piqued my curiosity, and since it appeared to be on its final death throes, I decided to ask a few questions. And that’s how this whole journey started.

But, truthfully, why did I keep on? (And on, and on?)

Well, I guess because it just felt good. It felt good to be writing again, and I loved the instant feedback that blogging provided. People were commenting on my posts, adding to the story, encouraging me to go on. And so… go on I did.

There was also that moment, while I was on vacation in Montana, when I first learned of Elena’s death. The news hit me hard, and the synchronicity of that event seemed absolutely uncanny. At that point, the story seemed to take on new meaning… like it was bigger than me and just ached to be told. I can’t explain it really… it just seemed like continuing the story was the right thing to do.

One final thing.

On August 1, I began reading The Artist’s Way by Julia Cameron. Ironically, I’d given this same book to an artist friend of mine a few years ago, never assuming it would ever apply to me. I was a writer after all, not an artist.

I was wrong.

The Artist’s Way has changed the way I look at the world. I’ve now realized that the reason I kept on writing about Villa Am Meer is because I was finally writing for the right reasons… not to gain fame, wealth, or success… but simply to enjoy the process. “Creativity is God’s gift to us,” Julia Cameron writes. “Using our creativity is our gift back to God.” The refusal to be creative is counter to our true nature.

I must admit, I’ve been lost for a while, manically trying to busy myself with other pastimes while my one true passion has been stuffed inside a storage locker made of gray matter. And now, I feel like Simba, staring into the water and hearing the reflection of Mufasa telling me, “You are more than what you’ve become, Simba.” Yes, Mufasa, you’re right. I am more than what I’ve become.

And so, starting January 1, my business partner and I have decided to take a two month sabbatical to “be still.” For twenty years, we’ve run a small ad agency together… a company we started just out of college. It’s been a crazy ride… turbulent, exhilarating, and often scary. But through it all, we’ve grown up together, raised our families, and remained best friends. And after twenty years, we’ve decided the best gift we could give each other is two months off. Imagine it… two months of peace and art. Groovy, baby.

I do hope to continue writing about Villa Am Meer, if any new information should trickle in. In the meantime, feel free to follow me on my journey.

(UPDATE: Skip ahead to Chapter 16 to learn the outcome of Hermann Kohl’s and Norda, Inc.’s bootlegging trial.)

Next time… a new story piques my interest…

View all the updates to my Villa am Meer story when you browse by category…


  1. Dearest Joy, Long Boat Key has long been my love as you know, but your interest and writing about Villa Am Meer brought it to life. Thank you. Enjoy your month off (or two), and I know you well, and there will be no “peace” with you. You will again jump off the next obsession cliff (hang glider or not) and find yourself on another adventure of interest to us all. You go girl!!!!! The gift of you in my life keeps my heart filled with love and awe of your talents. I never get tired of this “ride”. Love, your old mom

  2. Betsy Bonnema |

    What an adventure for the writer in you! Thank you for sharing this with your peeps. It has been a great read!

    It feels like we are still growing up and someday we will finally be the adults we dreamed of becoming. Until then, let’s vow to keep the wine rack full, write our morning pages and be ready for Oprah’s call.

    Write on, sister!

  3. Carol S. Edling |


    WOW! I am in awe of your talent. I’ve enjoyed reading about your beach house and you DEFINITELY should be writing; you have a real talent. Enjoy your 2 months!

  4. This post brought a happy tear to my eye. Thanks for reminding us the reward is not in the destination, but in the journey. Well done. Looking forward to more…

  5. Denise Lanthier |

    Joy, I was touched by your honest rendition of your life’s journey. I’m glad you found your way back to your true passion–writing–because I truly enjoy reading your words. Your mom’s comment exposes how blessed and fortunate you are to be surrounded and supported by those who love you. That’s more than half the battle right there. Have fun and enjoy your sabbatical! Love, Denise

  6. Dear Joy,
    and you Are a dear joy,
    thanks for the many times you have entertained me, in person and over the internet. I am anxious to hear what you do in your 2 months off. No doubt I’ll be amazed at your creativity and cleverness and joie de vivre!! And your that of your whole wonderful family across the street from me!


  7. Susan Dressel |

    Dearest Cousin Joy, I’m reading comments through blurry vision and a sniffling nose. You are amazing and I love you dearly. Reading about your personal writing journey and exposing your true feelings to us has encouraged me to look at my life and my passions, get off my _ _ _ and be proactive with my life. You’ve touched so many hearts through your Villa Am Meer blog, please keep writing. I believe we are all finding out my more ourselves along the way. KEEP UP YOUR SUPER-DOOPER WRITING!! Love you!

  8. Thanks peeps… love you all…

  9. Can’t believe I just got around to finishing this great read.

    I just started a book club that is supposed to help us figure out what our gifts are. You beginning an awesome journey now that you know to write for the experience!! I won’t be one bit surprised if you do become famous. All in God’s time not ours.

  10. Tannya Houtchens |

    Joy: I’ve been spending my vacations on Longboat at Four Winds for 26 years. I have long admired the beach house in your story. I have some pictures of “your house” from 2009 when it was vacant. I’m happy to share them with you if you like. Some are similar to yours but I think I have a couple shots that might be new to you. Tannya

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