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Posts tagged ‘Family’

Meet the House Sitters

I’ve been busy planning a trip.

The preparation lasted over three or four months and began not long after our #2 daughter, who now lives in New York City with her fiancé, visited us last Christmas and culminated recently when we, my SO (Significant Other) and I stepped aboard a 747 QANTAS aircraft at Brisbane International Airport bound for New York City.

In a world where global travel seems increasingly common, there are still a number of us who find a trip from the Sunshine Coast-Brisbane to the other side of the world quite mammoth and exciting.

I originally planned to document this adventure as it unfolded, but researching and planning a trip of this magnitude vacuums minutes and hours into a spinning vortex, where lost moments can never be reclaimed. Time is precious and I discovered that even though I love to write and document parts of my life, there are times when I simply must live the moment and if I do decide it’s worth documenting, then I do it at a more appropriate time that suits me. I’m guessing this may be one of the reasons why I never pursued work as a journalist? It’s simply horses for courses, if you’ll pardon the cliche.

Planning a trip, no matter how long, involves a lot of consideration about your everyday life; the cogs that keep your life moving forward.

Things that needed my attention were our family of fur babies, namely, Mitzi, our ageing 13year old Old English Sheepdog, Oscar, our gorgeous Cavoodle and our inherited, #2 daughter’s, 9 year old cat named Oliver. This trip essentially meant a centrifugal migration from our beloveds and begged the question, ‘Who would step in during our absence?”

Our #1 daughter lives twenty minutes from us, but she commutes to work with her husband and they already have enough responsibilities. We possibly could have asked our neighbours, but we felt this would be potentially burdensome for them, so didn’t pursue that idea. We’ve only been living in this area for the past 18 months, so there really was no one local to call upon for such a length of time. However, I came up with quite an out of the box solution for us, and it took us down a path we’d never been before.

I expanded my list of needing help looking after our important family members to include looking after our beautiful home. I googled and researched the possibilities out there and discovered a website dedicated to connecting people looking to housesit with people looking for someone to look after their homes and animals. There is a whole world out there of people willing to look after your home and pets in exchange for accommodation all over Australia, and the world, for that matter.

The first website I found was Aussie House Sitters and it really ended up proving to be the best site I happened to find. I became a member of the site, listed our home after much discussion with SO. We decided to give this option a fair shot.

As a result, we found Brenda and Tony Hall who matched our dates and said they’d love to look after our fur babies and home while we were away.

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Meeting Brenda and Tony for the first time

Initially, we corresponded with them through the website’s email system and as time drew closer we exchanged mobile phone contact details. Brenda and Tony supplied a couple of references, however, I was more interested in listening and interacting with them, personally.

They shared a little about their own life and sent photos of their large motorhome and in the preceding weeks, I felt very comfortable that they would be just right for our babies and home. We live on acreage and were hoping for a couple who could share the load, although our home is very low maintenance considering it is on acreage. Our gardens are quite low maintenance and we own a ride on lawnmower, so things are quite simplified.

We made an agreement Brenda and Tony would arrive a day or two before we left for our holiday and this worked really well. This allowed us time to share a couple of meals, familiarise themselves with our babies while we were there, show them around, answer any questions we or they may have had and explain the way things worked on the property. Doing this was a very smart thing to do and both parties were pleased with the outcome. We discovered we all got on really well and knew within a very short space of time that our friendship would develop beyond just housesitting.

It really helps to ease any anxiety when you get to know your sitters before you hand over your life. I must admit that strangely, I never once felt anxious about what we were doing from the time I googled till the time we returned from our holiday. I actually felt relaxed and after I met Brenda and Tony I trusted them. I didn’t really have a choice, unless we pulled out of the trip and that wasn’t going to happen. Even SO was calm and relaxed and liked Brenda and Tony from the start.

While we were away, we enjoyed the peace of mind that our fur babies and home were going to be well taken care of. Tony and Brenda were warm, friendly, and interested in our life, our babies and our home. They expressed just how excited they were to be looking after things for us.

They proved to be reliable and we knew we could count on them from the very start because everything they said would happen on the date set, did actually happen. There was only the odd glitch due to technology issues, which can happen when you’re on the road. They showed up on the nominated day and let us know they were going to be a couple of hours later than expected because kind friends of theirs, who they called in on whilst driving up our way, insisted upon them staying for lunch. That’s a lovely problem to have.

From the moment we met them, it really did feel like meeting up with old friends. There was no awkwardness at all and once they parked their van and car, we began showing them around and shared a welcome drink and a few nibbles out the back when the sun began to set.

During our absence we stayed in contact via face book and Tony initiated many messages to let us know how the fur babies were doing. He even sent a couple of photos to show how adaptable our babies had become. It’s always great for the homeowner to receive these photos and communications as it helps to know how things are going and to rest assure there are no problems…however at times, we may have just felt a tad envious!

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Oscar: Missing you, mum & dad!

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Playtime…

We knew we could count on Brenda and Tony and when our water heater element died, they were right onto things. We’d left them a comprehensive list of people to contact and they made use of this list. Before we left for our holiday, we’d also contacted our trusted plumber, electrician and vet to let them know Tony and Brenda were looking after things and to help if need be. Our electrician came out, fixed the water heater and everything planned beforehand, went smoothly.

Tony and Brenda even went to the trouble of visiting an Op shop where they found and replaced the handle to my glass-top lid on my slow cooker. Quite some time back, I had melted the original one when I decided to use the crockery pot of the slow cooker in my oven. It seemed like a good idea at the time, however, I quickly discovered the lid’s handle was not oven proof. But, thanks to Tony and Brenda, that’s all fixed now. I just never bothered.

We also discovered other little welcomed ideas they’d shared to help improve our home. They are kind-hearted and giving. SO and I feel very blessed to have found Brenda and Tony in amongst the crowd listed on the website.

Just before we were due to come home, Tony jokingly sent us these couple of snaps showing Oscar, starring in his new role as the co-navigator, displacing Brenda from her passenger seat, and now ready for a life on the road! Not likely, but probably wishful thinking on Tony’s part, perhaps?

Oscar - the co-Navigator

Oscar – the co-Navigator

Oscar with Tony

Hey mum & dad … look at me!

The highlight of our return after a very long trip involving multiple flights was a hearty lamb casserole, a lemon tart and a bottle of fresh milk left waiting for us in the refrigerator, for dinner. Brenda is a great cook and wow, she needs to know how wonderful and thoughtful she was for going to the trouble of welcoming us back home like that.

Her gesture was very welcomed and both of us were most thankful.

I learned last night that Brenda had phoned our #1 daughter to ask if I liked fruit cake! I don’t and Brenda took the extra initiative to ask what I do like…the answer being, citrus, which is actually a long standing joke between my #1 daughter and me.

I’m really quite obsessed with citrus and to see a whole lemon tart sitting on the shelf in the refrigerator was a sight to behold, and a dream come true…an oasis.

Brenda and Tony also left behind a freshly mown lawn, a clean and tidy home, a detailed letter and thank you card.

I can highly recommend this lovely couple if you ever need someone to take special care of your home and fur babies. They really did go above and beyond.

I’m sure there are horror stories or stories where housesitting hasn’t worked, but fortunately for us and Brenda and Tony, ours is a very positive story and one I felt I needed to share.

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Thanks Brenda & Tony for helping to make our trip to NYC memorable.

All I can say is, thank you, thank you, thank you Brenda and Tony. You were a joy to work with and we both feel blessed that our friendship will grow beyond housesitting.

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Welcome home, mummy. I really did miss you! xx

Have you a house sitting story to share? Why don’t you share your experience in the comments box with other interested readers. I’d love to hear your stories. We’re planning another trip for the end of the year and will definitely be using the housesitting option again.

Until next time,  

happy trails everyone…

Deb

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Greetings from Hong Kong ~ Reaching out from the Empty Nest

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Victoria Harbour, Hong Kong – 31 March 2013

Who has trouble keeping up with life? I know I do. Just when I think things are under control, something crops up to show me otherwise. That’s really the fun part about keeping track via this blog, hence the name, This Pilgrim’s Way. My walk is very different to others, even those whom I am closest to. That’s what makes everything so interesting.

Over the past few months or so, life has been down more times than up. However lately, I feel there has been a couple of positive shifts that have eased the pressure. Just like everyone from time to time, I’ve gone through some tests with personal and health issues, but I know I’m getting there; just as we all do, hopefully.

A couple of weeks back, my S K (Shining Knight) successfully gained a work contract that will ease some of the load we’ve been under. The economy is a little tough at the moment and many families are affected one way or another. Gaining this contract has bolstered a more positive atmosphere around home and it will certainly help us keep things moving along.

One positive outcome is it allowed me to take some time out to travel to Hong Kong to surprise our N2D (Number 2 Daughter) who has just undergone some hip surgery. N2D is living and dancing professionally in Hong Kong at Disneyland. She had no idea that a visitor from home would soon be calling, and with the help of her partner, S I S (Somethin’ in Somethin’), we managed to pull it off without a hitch.

My S K booked my flight and within a week (last Thursday) I boarded a big Airbus A380 bound for Hong Kong. Part of the plan consisted of trialing my new back pack that I’d bought for my pilgrimage next year. What better way than to test it on a 12 day jaunt? I started off so well and managed to pack the clothes I wanted to take, which weighed in total about 8.5 kg, but the night before I flew, word got out among some friends where I was headed and soon I became a courier of well wishes and gifts for N2D.

I changed from back pack to suitcase and it didn’t take very long before my 8.5 kg weight grew to 20.5 kg of well meaning wishes and extra things I thought I might need. Oh well, I’m sure there’ll be another time and honestly, how lovely that N2D has such wonderful friends. You can’t complain about that.

As a compromise, instead of trialing my back pack, I decided I’d test run my new micro fibre towel that S K bought me, along with a bunch of other things he thought I might find useful, for Christmas.

The purpose for this trip was to help N2D in any way I could while she recovered from surgery. She already had  S I S with her and from the communication we’d already had from him, he sounded like he was a rock for her. We felt blessed that someone was there for her when we couldn’t be.

S K and I  are currently going through the transition of becoming empty nesters. Our family is kind of scattered to the winds now and I’m sure anyone who has adult children who are beginning to make homes for themselves will understand the mixed emotions that go with this territory. It’s a time for stepping back from their lives as they step forward to embrace their world. It’s a time for the severing of apron strings. These statements sound very cliché and well worn, but the feelings and emotions that I, as a warm and nurturing mother feels is raw and daunting. I cannot speak for S K or for other parents, but I’m sure there will be others out there who know exactly what I am talking about. The dynamics have shifted and S K and I have entered a new season, even if in some cases it is still in a transitional phase.

S K and I have slowly become used to having N2D living and working so far away in another country, but the real test comes when your child goes through a difficult situation that, for logistical reasons, you can’t really be a part of. This surgery for N2D is the second one she has encountered whilst living in Hong Kong. The first was relatively minor, but this time, the procedure was much more involved. The lead up to the surgery was difficult for all of us. We experienced heightened anxiety and feelings that things were out of our control. It’s times like this I am so grateful to have my faith to depend on.

I couldn’t get to Hong Kong before the surgery due to work commitments, however I arrived a day after the surgery when N2D was safely ensconced in her apartment. The surgery went well and deemed successful, and by all accounts, S I S played an admirable support role. N2D was surprised and after the initial shock of realising I was standing in her doorway, we both got the hug we’d been needing. Yes, there were tears, but they were tears of joy and relief…the best kind.

I begin my fifth day here in Hong Kong of pottering around with N2D and S I S simply being a support where I can, company and sometimes entertainment. N2D has made remarkable progress and continues to go from strength to strength. We are enjoying each other’s company quite well considering we are sharing a small, two roomed hi-rise apartment, and we break any sign of cabin fever with trips to the gym, strolls through the park, window shopping at the local shopping centre and outings for food, although we do eat in as well. N2D and S I S are both accomplished ‘chefs’. I am impressed with S I S who seems to be holding up remarkably well under the circumstances. This trip for me was never going to be just another sight-seeing trip. It was always going to be about spending some quality time with N2D and S I S and helping out wherever I could … and that is exactly what is happening.

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N2D and SIS out taking a stroll to the hotel’s gym

I am really enjoying this special time with my N2D and her partner. It is a wonderful experience for a mother to watch her blossoming child interact in the world they are building a life in. It feels like a privilege and certainly an experience I will treasure. S K is doing his part keeping the home fires burning and is currently working out west in Qld. We try to Skype with him daily so he is part of the experience.

I will use the opportunity whilst in Hong Kong and staying with N2D to walk, go to the gym most days and concentrate on my level of fitness. I’ve already been to the gym several times and I am very surprised at myself at how much I actually enjoyed using the variety of machines to aid my levels of cardio fitness and weight training. I will write a separate post about my gym workouts.

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On our way to the hotel’s gym

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Entertaining ourselves at Ginza Park, Tin Shui Wai

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