Sunday, September 16, 2012

Fate is Smiling On Us

For several years Joe has wanted us to become members of an international home exchange program.   He was very keen to swap houses with someone in Europe.  But I wasn't so keen.  There was NO WAY I wanted people staying in our falling-apart house.  It would be too embarrassing.

I mean, things were bad around here.  Kitchen handles fell off in our hands when we opened the drawers.  The back deck was rotting off its moorings.  The wall-to-wall carpet that ran throughout the house was stained.  I won't go into any more gory detail, but the house and its contents were in a sad state of affairs.

I refused to allow our house to be put in a home exchange program.  I flat out refused.

Fast forward a few years.

As everyone knows, we pretty much gutted our house last year.  New rooms, new floors, new furniture, new deck, new kitchen, new TV room, new windows, new fireplaces, new light fixtures, new appliances, new stairwell.  You name it, we replaced it.

NOW I was ready to throw our house into the home exchange ring.  I was excited to exchange homes with someone in the UK.  But I didn't have a clue how to do that.  So I consulted my friend Melissa who has done twelve European home exchanges over the past dozen years.

I went to her house one day last month to visit the website she uses and to see her homepage on it.  Members' pages were full of photos of their homes accompanied by little write-ups of their hometowns.  "Seems easy enough," I thought.  "I can do this."

I thanked Melissa for her time and she walked me out to my car.  As we were nearing the end of her driveway, her neighbours rode up on their bikes.  Her neighbours are colleagues of mine and we casually chatted about our summer holidays.  I told them that Joe and I were interested in doing a house exchange in 2013 and that I'd come to consult the 'expert'.  I bid them all good-bye and drove away.

By the time I arrived home, Melissa had e-mailed me saying, "You will never believe this.  After you left, I told them you wanted to do a home exchange in the U.K.  They asked if you wanted to exchange with Claire’s mom and dad.... who are LOVELY.  Anyways, her parents live in a little village outside of London, near Bath (which is beautiful).  Could save yourself the $200.00 Intervac membership fee if it works out.  Claire asked that I give you her email address.  Contact her if you are interested as her parents would love to come to Squamish on an exchange.  Fate may be smiling on you."

 REALLY?  I could not believe my good fortune!  I could barely contain my excitement!  I couldn't wait to tell Joe.

Call it fate.  Call it serendipity.  Call it luck.  If I had left Melissa's house 5 minutes earlier or 10 minutes later we would not have run into her neighbours on the street, nor had the home exchange conversation, nor have made the UK connection.

We have since been in touch with Claire's parents.  We have exchanged descriptions of our homes and photos of our houses.  We have agreed to exchange our vehicles.  We have agreed on dates.  Our home base is going to be in Taunton, Somerset, England for 6 weeks next summer!  We are over the moon.

Photo courtesy of Claire's parents.

Photo courtesy of Claire's parents.

Photo courtesy of Claire's parents.

Photo courtesy of Claire's parents.

Joe and I have looked to see where Taunton, Somerset is on the map.  We've looked at photos of Somerset.  We've heard about the incredible walking trails.  We've mapped out Stonehenge.  We've checked into flights to Dublin (16 pounds one way from Bristol).   We've looked at photos of Bath.  We've estimated the miles to Wales.

Map of southwest England

River Tone, Taunton, Somerset

Bath, England

Glastonbury Tor, Somerset


Fate is indeed smiling on us.

Monday, September 3, 2012

Roots and Wings

“There are two lasting bequests we can give our children: 
One is roots, the other is wings.”  
Hodding Carter.

Molly at 6 years old.

I've always believed that our children are only on loan to us.  I believe they come through us, but do not belong to us.  They belong to the world.  And as parents, we are entrusted with their care until they are able to care for themselves.

That lesson hit home last week when Molly left for graduate school in Ontario.

Molly wasn't yet 18 when she left home to attend university in Vancouver.  But we saw her often over those five years as she was just an hour's drive down the highway.  Plus, she returned home for all of the holidays and every summer to work.

After graduating from Simon Fraser University, she lived and worked for two years in Vancouver.  Molly was making it on her own.  She was happy, she was healthy, she was independent.  Everything a parent could want for their child.

Molly left everything behind at the end of August.  She left everyone she knew and loved.  She boarded a plane and flew east to attend school at the University of Western Ontario.  Ever since she was a teenager she has wanted to be an academic librarian.  She is realizing that dream and is now working towards a Master's Degree in Library Sciences.

I know being away from her friends and family isn't easy for her.  Molly is prone to bouts of homesickness.  There have already been several teary long-distance phone calls and I've had to give her some loving, encouraging pep talks.  I believe in her.  She can do this.

We are so proud of Molly.  She is in unchartered territory and is facing her fears brilliantly.

I keep reminding myself, "She will be fine.  We have done a good job by giving her roots and wings."

Saying good-bye at the Vancouver airport.