This is my first blog post so it’s not perfect, and a bit longer than I expected, but I really hope you find value in reading it.
Hi I’m Carol.
Peter and I were married 18 epic years ago. It was love at first sight. I am originally from Oregon, USA and moved to Toronto, Canada to start a family there with my husband.
We started with very humble beginnings, living in a small upstairs rented apartment with almost no furniture and a three-dollar coffee table. Some of our fondest memories are sitting around that little coffee table getting to know each other better. One thing we understood sitting around that little table was that if we weren’t happy in a small apartment we wouldn’t be happy living in a mansion.
We both had a strong work ethic, not knowing that “normal people” took weekends off or drove vehicles other than their work trucks. It never phased us, we were too busy working and having fun.
Soon Caroline came into our lives and then Pete Jr. The doctors told us we were at too high a risk with each birth, and that having more would most likely not happen, then along came Daniel. I feel so lucky and blessed to have each one.
As a snow plow and salt truck operator back in the early days of our marriage, Peter was often gone for days at a time. We wanted to spend time together but also knew he couldn’t abandon his work responsibilities. That’s when I had an idea. Yes, you guessed it. In the truck I went baby seat and all. Once during a particularly nasty ice storm the salt dispenser on our truck broke and we were far from the shop. That’s when Pete taught me how to drive a 5 ton truck in low gear with the instructions to drive around in circles. He then jumped up in the salt hopper with a shovel and proceeded to salt the entire office complex by hand. What great memories and family bonding experiences these were!
Fast forward through the years of building our first home then selling it to build another – selling it and renovating another home where we lived happily for 10 years. These were busy times and we used to wonder what it would be like to just sit around and have a BBQ on the weekends.
Peter was thriving in his new role as CEO of the family franchise business. My passion other than our little family was to help and support him however I could. I would contribute in little ways like helping on a garden crew when they were behind or washing trucks or picking up uniforms and supplies. There was a time when we would sit together as a family at night in our living room and stamp, label and pack 4000 envelopes for our monthly company newsletter. I loved how we could balance work and family even while not always being able to be together physically!
When Peter had to leave on business trips, I would find notes by the kids beds telling them how much he loved them and how he was counting on each one to do their part
in helping mommy and the business by bringing in firewood or keeping their rooms clean and being on time for school.
Doing a morning huddle at home helped me and the kids be a part of everything. This face to face time gave us the opportunity to share good and bad news, to celebrate each other and to reassure each other that we are not alone. It was awesome to hear the kids talk about a test they were nervous about, or a new trick they had learned on their snowboard. We never felt we were on our own even though he worked around the clock.
I especially loved when we started We Care Day (Link) in honor of Peter’s sister and her children. This initiative really became the heart and soul of our office and franchise family and inspired us to learn to give.
We Make a Life by what we Give
One day a dear friend of ours told us about a mission trip they were all doing in Haiti. She invited us to participate in purchasing, assembling and delivering solar light kits to a remote poor community in Haiti. Our role was to assist with the donation, but also our time teaching the families how to operate and maintain their new lights. Spending time in the village really had a positive effect on us. I think we received as much help from this experience as those we were trying to help.
Balancing work, play and CARE became our motto.
As a family we began to rethink our own life style and looked for ways to give back to those in need. Not just money, but time. Not just our own people, but also the unseen, unpopular and lowly. – “the least of these my brethren.”.
We became very aware about whom we surrounded ourselves with and how we chose to live each day.
Why are we striving for “things” to impress other people? Success is not in material things is it?
Every month we made it a habit to read out our personal goals. Over time we realized that what we dreamed about were experiences but, what we spent our money on were things.
We are doing all of this for you guys, we’d tell the kids. Don’t you want nice things, and to live in a big house? we’d ask. As only a child could reply, “not really… we only use three rooms as it is.”
Our kids helped us realize that “time” was the best gift we could give our children and others.
We stopped thinking about money and what we could GET, and started thinking about what we could GIVE. That’s when it all changed for us.
For the next seven years we were on top of our game. Our business was growing rapidly and we were closer than ever as a family. Although it cost us at least four times more to do so, we traveled together as often as we could to trade shows, speaking engagements, conferences and expos. We knew we may never have a rich bank account doing this, but our lives would be richer in the fellowship and experiences we shared together.
Our vacations were usually work related events where we attended and participated at a conference and took an extra day or two to unwind. We would combine work and play so that they became one. We bought 5 longboards and between meetings would be seen longboarding through Central Park in New York or along the beach in Florida. We couldn’t afford the time or money to go on long trips around the world, so we explored our own local area and had a blast making so many memories!
I released that people won’t always understand the way you think! This time in my life really taught me to make our own family traditions and way of life. What works for one doesn’t necessarily mean it works for all. I loved meeting new people at franchise Expo’s and landscape shows and best of all I loved being in our home office surrounded by our team. You could say they and our franchisees became family.
In 2008 Peter told me that he had written a goal to travel around America in an RV. I laughed out loud because it just seemed impossible! We can barely take a few days off, how could we ever just go away like that? It took 8 years of hard work, but that dream came true!
It’s amazing how things fall into place when you are clear on your goals, and when you are working for a greater purpose. In 2015 Peter’s families’ business where he was part owner, and had been working for 25 years, was acquired by our business partner The Dwyer Group. The timing was right and was a good move for our franchisees our family and the Dwyer Group.
After a six-month transition period however Peter was essentially out of a job. With Peter’s experience in the franchising industry, he had many employment opportunities available but instead decided to put our money where our mouth is and choose a simplified, minimalist life-style that would allow us to spend lots of time with our kids. If Peter had owned the whole business, perhaps we could have retired, but as part owner we needed to continue making an income. Together we started a small speaking/ coaching business we call “Work Play Care” where we help others create success through a balanced, holistic approach to life.
What a year!
This last year was exciting being on the road full time! It was also a bit of a culture shock from the “norm”, and initially going from 2,500 ft2 to 250 feet was kind of hard.
I was enjoying our trip and travels, hiking, biking and meeting new people, but sometimes I’d miss the “comfort zone” of my routines – my house and friends and little things like cooking with an oven.
Then something happened that took us all by surprise and shock! I remember it clearly. We were hiking in Joshua Tree National Park in California. There was no cell phone service in the valley but as we climbed to higher elevations Peter’s phone began to beep with incoming messages.
When I looked back, I noticed he had stopped down the trail and then called for me to come back. I thought that’s odd, and saw on his face that something had happened. He gave me his phone and I was in shock!! I was looking at pictures of our home having been robbed and ransacked!
The same home we had worked so hard for. All the things we had collected over the years were all taken or trashed! The kids toys, jewelry, paintings, computers, TVs – everything was broken or taken! A feeling of violation and hurt came over me. Who would do such a thing? Do you know how hard we had to work for that?!
I remember Peter just said oh well it’s just stuff, we still have each other, but I wasn’t feeling the same way.. yet.
We decided to drive up to Oregon and have the kids stay with my family while Peter and I flew back to Toronto to clean up the damage. We also had to fly to Ottawa for the Canadian Franchise Conference and then back to Toronto for a speaking engagement. For the first time in a long time I cried on our flight. I didn’t want to leave the kids.
When we arrived at our home and saw the police tape on our doors it became real. Looking around at the mess was horrible! I didn’t get really upset till I went in the garage and noticed that even my garden tools had been taken. WHAT!? Anyone who knows me knows I love my tools. It was heartbreaking to see things like the boy’s paintball guns that they had worked so hard for, or my great grandmothers necklace gone.
We decided after talking with the kids on the phone we would put the house up for sale. This was not a new idea for us, we had been talking of it ever since Haiti. It was clear it no longer felt like our home nor did it make sense to keep it now that we were on the road full time and had sold the family company.
We managed to clean up the mess by staying up till sunlight loading a large rubbish bin and burning the broken furniture in a big bonfire. In the morning we caught our flight to Ottawa then back to Toronto two days later.
After Peter’s speech we had a few hours to drive back to our home, buy a few pictures for staging and meet the real estate company to take pictures and sign the listing papers. As we were running out the door to catch our flight back to Oregon I remember looking at Peter shutting the door with this look of peace and excitement. We had talked of being free from material things, and now we were actually doing it. We had taken the leap!
It felt like a weight lifting off our shoulders as we opened the door to a new way of living.
We had no idea that the weeks ahead would test us even more. More than the sale of our business, more than our home being robbed and more than learning to live on the road.
A Life changing turn in the road
On one of our hikes in Yosemite National Park our son Peter Jr. began to feel very ill. We took him to a local hospital and were shocked when the doctor diagnosed him with Type 1 diabetes. His body had stopped producing insulin and as such despite eating and drinking liquids like crazy he was slowly starving and dehydrating. There is nothing quite as difficult as seeing your child lying in a hospital bed on multiple IVs and monitors. As a parent it really makes you realize just what is important to you in life. Wouldn’t you give all that you own just for another day with your child? (YouTube video of that moment here)
Pete’s positive attitude through his ordeal and recovery has been such an inspiration to us and to anyone who has heard his story and we know God had great things in store for him. (see Peter Jr’s Blog Post Here)
Things I am learning on this journey
- Know YOUR dream and then take the leap.
First and foremost, it’s about knowing your own dream and not someone else’s dream for you. Be crystal clear on your dream and then make the leap required to achieve it.
- Be grateful and content with what you have.
Be content and happy with what you have and you will be in a position to receive more.
- Your calendar and wallet will show your priorities.
- Anyone can do this, not many will.
Just work 19 hrs a day for 20 yrs and then sell everything and go. (I know people much smarter than us that have done it in much less time)
- Maximize the time with your family while you can.
We never know how much time we have with our health and with our precious loved ones. Don’t wait.
- Integrate work, play and care.
Work to integrate these three no matter what stage of life you are at. Just starting out with your career? Work will likely dominate, but don’t neglect the other two. Someday things will change and you will need to maintain the balance.
- Enjoy life in the process!
The best days of my life are right now. Not 5 years from now. Not once we achieve this or that, but right now. Enjoy the struggle, enjoy the learning and enjoy the success. Enjoy life in the process.
Thanks for reading this, I hope you found some value in it. I am not usually this long-winded but this is my first post. I welcome you’re feedback. Do you have any comments or questions? Please comment below and don’t forget to follow us on Instagram etc. Click follow below as well.