I first met my friend Christine a little over a year ago. As I started to write this story I had to go back and check my horse paperwork for the exact date, because it seems that I have known her for much longer than that.
Christine was referred to me by our mutual friend and veterinarian, Billy Maupin. She had a pony that her sons had almost outgrown and she was thinking about selling him. I had mentioned at the veterinarian office that I was looking for a horse or pony for Annabelle. Billy put two and two together, and Christine gave me a call.
I almost didn’t go to look at the pony because he was more money than I wanted to pay, but out of respect for Billy I made what I thought was a courtesy call to check him out. I liked Christine as soon as I met her, and I thought Reno was the cutest little black pony I had ever dreamed of (literally, but that’s a story for another time). To my happy surprise, Christine offered to lower Reno’s price to my exact maximum budget (without me even asking) and a deal was made.
Reno and Annabelle hit it off immediately, and it was hard to tell who was happier, my little blond girl or her fuzzy black new best friend.
I sent Christine a few follow-up photos so she could see how well Annabelle and Reno were getting along, and a couple of months later we arranged to go ride together in the Boise foothills.
That ride was the beginning of a great friendship. We rode together many times over the course of the next year. As Annabelle says “Mom, we wouldn’t know ANYWHERE to go if it wasn’t for Christine.”
We went for long rides together at Avimor.
Christine is one of the those people who can best be described as, well, competent. I know the word competent doesn’t sound very glamorous, but it should. Annabelle soon refused to go with me to any new place to ride without Christine, because Christine always carries a gun and she never, ever gets lost.
She is also quick to take charge of any situation, and to help as needed to get things ironed out. Like adjusting Annabelle’s saddle before descending down a steep trail, for example.
After we had ridden together a few times, Christine invited me to join her Ladies’ Marksmanship Group, a small group of women who meet monthly to practice shooting handguns at a local range.
Although I hadn’t shot for years, I felt comfortable going with Christine. She helped me load my gun, set up the target, and reminded me of the proper grip and sighting sequence to be able to hit what I was aiming at. Sometimes.
Just look at her. You can tell she knows what she’s doing!
It wasn’t long after I met Christine that she mentioned in conversation she and her husband Mark and their two boys, Logan and Cole, were avid sailors. She told me that she and Mark planned to spend their retirement on a sailboat, sailing in the Bahamas.
A few months after that, Christine casually mentioned that they were thinking of moving their sailing adventure up in time. From that conversation forward, it seemed that every time we spoke the sailing date was scheduled to arrive sooner and sooner.
I knew that this whole plan was real when Christine put her lovely horse Loretta up for sale, and sold both the mare and her horse trailer early this spring.
Christine really loved this horse, so when she let Loretta go I was sure there was no turning back.
The planning process for taking on an adventure the size of the Fiechter’s is mind-boggling. Christine methodically began the process of making lists and spreadsheets; selling excess belongings and learning the basics of home- (or boat-) schooling for Logan and Cole. Her husband Mark began the arduous and time-consuming task of traveling to Florida to check out boats for sale, while still continuing to work at his long-time engineering job at Micron Technologies.
Through it all, Christine made time to keep riding with me and Annabelle. Once she sold Loretta, she began riding my mare Spice, and we continued to go to our old haunts together, with Annabelle on Reno and me nudging along old Grumpy.
On each ride we would get the update on progress toward the trip. My respect for Christine grew and grew as I slowly began to understand the complexity of the undertaking this family was preparing for.
I have never known anyone who completely turned their life upside down to follow a dream. Well, that’s not exactly true. I do know people who did that, several of them, but not people like the Fiechters.
The Fiechters are some of the most conservative, responsible and pragmatic people I have ever met. The fact that they are willing to disrupt their structured, predictable, and carefully planned life for this adventure speaks volumes about their dedication to following their long-time aspiration.
That dedication is something that I find awe-inspiring. I am thrilled to even know people who are just so freaking cool, and even more thrilled to call them friends.
The other thing I find extraordinary about this plan is how much it involves the whole family. The Fiechter’s two boys, Logan and Cole, are wholeheartedly on board (couldn’t resist, sorry) and are so very excited about experiencing the world as few people ever get a chance to do.
Besides their home, school and friends, two things the boys have to leave behind are their beloved guinea pigs, Snowy and Zoe. Christine emailed me a month or so ago and said that they needed a temporary home for the girls. After a quick consultation with DH I said yes. I held off on telling Annabelle and Zach for a while, since I knew they would bug me non-stop, and sure enough, once I sprung the good news they pretty much nagged me ten times a day about when their new house-guests would be arriving.
Zach calls our house-guests “Skinny Pigs,” and has done so since he first heard their names. Annabelle tried and tried to get him to say the name ‘Guinea Pigs’ correctly, but she finally gave up on trying to correct his grammar and has taken to calling them Skinny Pigs as well. Just like me.
This last Sunday the Fiechter’s came over to deliver the girlies. My kids had decided to get rid of Zach’s bed (italics intended) so the guinea pigs could sleep in the same room with them. If you have read my blog much before, you already know that Zach has refused to sleep in his own bed for several months anyway, and instead sleeps on the end of his sister’s queen bed. Like a dog. So getting rid of his bed was not as big of a deal as one might expect.
Here is a picture of the cage sitting where my little boy’s bed formerly resided.
And here is a picture of the kids holding the pigs. They are the first thing the kids play with every morning and the last thing they say goodnight to before bed.
If you have never been around Skinny Pigs before you are missing out. They are the funniest little pets I’ve ever seen. They are totally tuned in to their humans, and figure out right away who does what. When I walk down the hall, Snowy stands up on the bars of her cage and squeals at me. It sounds kind of like a cross between a ground squirrel and a mouse, and occurs in rapid succession until I stop in and say hi. Or better yet, deliver a couple of carrots or grapes for a snack.
We are thrilled to have the pigs for the time their real humans are traveling. Being the planner she is, Annabelle has already procured a verbal contract with me to purchase her and her brother their own Skinny Pigs when Snowy and Zoe return home. I am sure, since she is now in kindergarten, that a written contract will be required once she learns how to write all the words.
I stole the Skinny Pigs real owners’ pictures off of their blogs. They really are super cute kids. And extremely smart.
Here is Logan.
And his brother Cole.
Our Marksmanship Group held a little goodbye party for the Fiechters last week at our friend Katie’s house. Seeing the genuine respect and support that was exuded for this wonderful family by each and every person there made it obvious that I am not alone in my strong admiration of my friends.
There were not one but two cakes.
And much camaraderie shared.
Christine and Mark and the boys set off today for their grand adventure. Their house is packed and will soon be rented out. Almost all of their belongings are in a storage unit awaiting their return.
My friends will slowly make their way to Florida, where their 37” Hunter Sailboat, Truansea, awaits them. Isn’t that an awesome name, Truansea? Sometime in late fall the family will set sail for the Bahamas. For at least the next year they plan to live aboard the boat and experience a side of life rarely seen by us mere mortals.
I am so jealous.
But I am also happy that they are planning on documenting their travels in a blog. It is already up and running, at www.truansea.com. I encourage you to follow their adventures too. I think we can all learn something from people with the courage to so passionately pursue a dream.
Mark and I share a favorite quote, which he has on his blog page and I will steal and put here. I think it best sums up the spirit of the days ahead of them.
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things you didn’t do than by the ones you did do. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.” Mark Twain
Fair winds, my friends. We will surely miss you.