For this family, happiness meant downsizing to a smaller, eco-friendly home within walking distance to school and work
When my husband and I were first married nine years ago, we looked at each other and asked, “Where do we want to live? What is important to us?” We decided in that first discussion that stopping our long commutes and living in a small-town feeling neighbourhood were important to us. Staring at each other, we weren’t sure where that place was. We agreed to secretly write our dream city down on a piece of paper and show it to each other. With shock, we discovered we had chosen the same city!
On a bit of a whim, we traded our Calgary stampede gear for a view of the ocean in White Rock, BC. Living in BC with salt air coming in our windows was certainly an amazing experience for us. I’d often walk down Thrift Ave shaking my head, thinking, “I can’t believe I live here,” after having grown up in northern Manitoba, with ten foot snow banks for a view.
The reality of the long miles between our families settled in a few years after we arrived and through a tear-stained face, I realized I was going to have to give up the ocean and also seeing, skiing, and hiking in mountains for a home closer to those we love. On one October day, we asked the same question, “Where do we want to live that isn’t so far away? What is important now?”
The answer to that question was “family.” At that time, my mother had passed away, my first child had arrived, and I longed for the company of my sister. I wanted to stop being a three-hour time difference and five hour flight away from her. From the time I turned about twenty-five, I wished and wished that we’d end up together. I decided to stop wishing and do something about that.
The second answer to what is important now for me was, “to not be freezing all the time,” so the combination of warmth and my sister turned our gaze to southwestern Ontario—my fourth home province. When people ask, “Why London?” my husband jokes that we moved here because this is where my brother-in-law got a job.
In the process of finding our first London home, we happened to see a beautiful property within walking distance from the house that could potentially house my husband’s medical practice.
When this building was still for sale three months later, on our house move-in day, we decided to take the business-owner plunge. My husband wanted to create a progressive four-doctor group with an “advanced access” approach (you can call/ get in to see your doctor the day you need to) and use of technology rather than paper. He wasn’t finding an opportunity to join a group like this so we decided to create our own.
After a year of plans, building and tears (and the arrival of another child), The Core Family Health Centre was born! You know the phrase “if you build it, they will come,” yeah, well, they didn’t. The doctors did not burst through the door to join us—they were choosing high signing bonuses from small towns just outside our city.
We persevered and six years later, through a series of both fortunate and very difficult circumstances, our clinic now has its four-doctor group along with other allied health practitioners. With our business a bit more settled, we again asked the question, “What is important to us?” and surprisingly came up with new answers: Community, friends, reducing our footprint, de-cluttering and being close enough to school so the kids could walk.
It came as a shock to us (this happens often when we ask that importance question!), to find ourselves talking about finding a new house to live in—one we could significantly renovate to create the greenest home possible. We had both thought we’d be in our other house until our children were grown!
The dust is now settling on our new house: a smaller one with fewer rooms. We downsized from six bedrooms to three, and two cars to one, now that we can both walk to work and to our children’s school.
I sat on the front porch the other day, smiling and in tears as a group of girlfriends strolled by, followed by a rush of kids coming home after school. Looking at the yellow, red and orange leaves surrounding me, feeling the warmth of mid-October sun, all the risks and tough decisions we made to honour our priorities has been worth it. I won’t say it has at all been easy, but certainly important for our happiness.
Photo: Andrea’s boys enjoy watching the transformation of their new smaller and greener home.
This is #1000families post number 35. Do you have a family story of your own to contribute to the 1,000 Families Project? Or do you know a family that might want to do so? Learn more about how the series got started and how to get involved here. You can find all of the #1000families posts here.