Weekly Catch-up: Dutiful Daughter

Last year, we all learnt that plans have to change and do change quickly. My goals for February quickly were tossed aside when Queensland opened their borders to NSW residents from February 1.

For readers outside Australia, I live in the capital city of NSW. Sydney was hit first with COVID. One of the first things the other states did was shut the borders. So we couldn’t cross into other states!

The first time the borders opened between Qld and NSW, I planned my trip north to visit my mother in the upcoming term break.

Then another wave hit in the southern part of Sydney and Qld closed its borders to people from that part. I thought I was safe – I’m at the very north of Sydney.

Then Qld blocked one more local government area (LGA).

Everyone was asking me if I was going north. I said I’d wait until they did one more LGA.

Ha! They went: one, two, all.

Borders reopened just before Christmas so I had everything booked to go up in January. Perfect timing as my mother was going through a sticky patch and I could help her with decisions and selling and getting rid of stuff in preparation for downsizing.

And then Sydney got another outbreak. I ummed and ahhed whether I should jump on a plane, miss Christmas with my family or or risk waiting a fortnight.

Waited and yep, borders closed.

Unexpectedly, the second day that school resumed, Queensland announced it was allowing people from Sydney in. So, even though school had not been back a full week, I took carer’s leave and hightailed it to Qld. I couldn’t risk the borders slamming shut again.

Anyway, perfect timing, except for missing Mr S’s 60th birthday. Mum’s house had sold in record time – it was on the market for less than a week. The removalists were coming the week the borders reopened.

I spent the first five days packing, helping my mum get rid of more stuff, taking that stuff to the op shop, directing removalists, dealing with electricity and phone/internet suppliers, connecting the internet, buying the needed connection to get the phone working. Exhausting. But what a dutiful daughter! Really, they would have struggled without my help.

Then I set up the mobile my sister had bought our mother. Now my patience started wearing thin. Possibly not quite errant, but not the most dutiful of daughters.

Now to explain the need of internet access for banking! They don’t have an active credit/debit card so couldn’t pay the removalists. I paid it and they needed to repay. Like the removalists, I don’t want cash. “What if we get a debit card? Can you use that to take money?” No, I’m not a business. I don’t have a card reader.

How will they pay the rent of the house they are in while waiting to buy a new, smaller property? “We don’t want this internet banking thing. Can’t we just get the bank to send the owners money?” You can try but I don’t think they will. You need to transfer yourself via online banking.

OK, I did become a bit sharp. Still, internet access established (by me) and once money is in the bank it will be my job to pay the rent regularly. DD, again.

But we are still not finished with dutiful daughter jobs. Signing my parts of enduring power of attorney. A visit to my mother’s doctor with her to get him to sign his section on the enduring power of attorney form and discuss my concerns about my mother’s health.

Add in a visit to my aunt who lives nearby and who had a stroke last year. All round it’s been a fortnight of adult offspring care tasks.

I did get to do several rainforest walks. I wish I could share some photos but the camera on iPhone is dead.

Here’s one from an earlier visit:

If I was closer, and the borders didn’t keep closing, I’d be able to spread these tasks out. But then, possibly if there wasn’t a sense of urgency with the move, my parents wouldn’t have accepted my help?

Copying Laura from The Occasional Nomads, I am going to add a regular bit below.

What I’ve just read: The Blue Zones: lessons for living longer by Dan Beuttner. This has invigorated my health goals. Adding drinking water and working on better sleep (again) to my goals. Worth a read. The Living Sea of Waking Dreams by Richard Flanagan. Interesting style but too too depressing story about adult offspring who won’t let them mother die and forced on her painful, invasive medical interventions. Strange choice for my week with my elderly parents. Lol!

What I’ve been watching: too much shit on tele. I need to be more selective. Turning the Tv off will help me with my goals of sleep and home routines. I watch too many American home makeover shows. My favourite is the husband and wife couple on The Fixer-Upper. I also watched the first episode of the new series of Wife Swap. The Australian version. And Hughsies, We have a problem. And repeats of Would I lie to you and QI. Think I should go cold turkey and not turn the TV on after dinner.

Steps to my goal

  • Sleep – I’ve been sleeping well here. No stress of work to keep my mind rolling over.
  • Water – will start tallying my water consumption again.
  • Exercise – four days of rainforest walks in a row.
  • Decluttering – leaving a pair of sandals in Qld. Old and worn. Goal was to wear them out this summer. ✔️
  • Main thing for the year – I have a major goal I am too embarrassed to share until it is finished. But for now, know I haven’t done anything for it this week as my focus was helping mum move.
  • FIRE: I’m starting to think about the FIRE movement – Financially independent, retire early. Thinking but not doing much. Actually becoming more aware my purchases are working against it. $55 for lace bunting? Why? Jeans with beading for $250. I don’t really need them. Anyway, thinking and awareness are the first steps.

2020 and beyond

Like the message in the sand, my goals are always a work in progress.

Actually, they are much the same goals I had when I started this blog – to be healthier, fitter, slimmer, more organised, declutter, have a stylish house and a gorgeous garden.

I haven’t achieved any of these! But I mosey on along.

To get more of the house in order and keep up with the exercise, I’m dropping weekly French lessons. I need more time to do some of this:

Slothing. (Sea lions at Santa Cruz where I was on New Year’s Eve.)

I know I will set mini challenges throughout the year. (Challenges is such a nicer way to say I have tasks or jobs or chores, isn’t it?)

The larger goal of saving and planning for the year off in 2021 continues.

I’m starting my new bullet diary today. The one I bought in Germany. Let’s see how long that lasts!

First up, I’m tracking my fruit and water consumption – aiming for two pieces of fruit and one litre of water a day.

Not to find ways around either goal immediately, but I googled it the sultanas in my bran flakes count as fruit. According to the UK’s NHS, they do. So with the orange, I’ve met the first tick in my bullet diary!! Yay!!!!

Happy new year to all my readers and especially those who comment.

The yucky place

I went down to the garage yesterday to try a little more decluttering and rubbish disposal while Mr S was out.

I know I said I’d put up some photos so you can see before and after but I can’t. I just can’t. It’s not only cluttered; it’s plain filthy.

Mr S has already put stuff back into the place I decluttered. But I ignored that.

I looked to another bit. Mr S won’t throw away anything he has ever owned. He has two old bags he used for work. He is using a new backpack but he tossed the old ones in a pile of shit, well for you know. Just in case. Just in case when the current one dies, he has a spare. But he’ll just buy a new one and put the current one on top. It’s really that he can’t be bothered AND he can’t let anything go.

I went through the two bags. Found over $120 in coins. And about $50 in NZ notes. (I know he’ll claim it is secret money for emergencies but who has time to wade through piles of shit in an emergency?)

Then I sorted through the pile of alcohol. Much of it in gift bags that were rotting away – it’s damp down there. Mr S gets lots of gifts. People like him. All that is nice. They buy him alcohol, knowing he likes a drink. But like all of us, he has his own taste and a lot of what he receives, he doesn’t drink. Bottles of port, whiskey, arrack, rum, Guinness, sparkling wine (how did that one not make it to me, you ask. Cause Mr S just piles his gifts in those reusable shopping bags and empty beer cartons), wine, more whiskey, bourbon. He won’t let me regift it, but shhh, I gave two bottles to The Dreamer to give as a gift to a friend of his. You know, I’d rather people didn’t give Mr S gifts. Maybe I should get the message out that he likes sparkling wine. Then I could drink it and we’d have no clutter and save money. (Hint hint, Top Chook!)

OK, it is not all his. I found half a dozen bottles of wine I bought before I stopped drinking white wine. God knows if they are still drinkable. Won’t be me that tries.

Piles of empty, torn beer cartons and gift bags went into the recycling. And a heap of rubbish went into the bin. The alcohol I salvaged has come upstairs. I will dole it out to the offspring or regift or remind Mr S to drink rather than buying more.

Honestly if it doesn’t get drunk, and our house caught on fire, the arson squad would be called ’cause the firies would think we’d poured on accelerant.

Some of the bottles I salvaged

Fitness Week 4*

*changed the title of tracking my current exercise posts from Fernwood Gym to Fitness, as it is clear I am happy with my gym choice. Now to see if I can actually do more that a couple of months of exercise.

How have I gone this week?

Mmm. Skipped a work out on Saturday. I had French lessons and then went out to lunch and to see a play at the Opera House.

But don’t you fret and don’t you frown, cause I went to the gym on Sunday. Did weights!

I know, amazing, huh? I’m sticking with a weekend weights workout!

Even though I kind of push myself, I’ve realised it is nothing compared to Olga. So I have decided that I will continue with a PT.

This week, at my Tuesday PT session, Olga had me pushing something that looked like equipment the front row of the All Blacks rugby team push to practice scrums. And she had me doing all manner of squats. And she’s upped the weight on the leg press machine. Apparently you are meant to press your body weight – giving me another reason to lose weight. And the abdominal work we did! Phew! I do normally avoid or cheat on abominable abdominal exercises. Amazing how hard you can work in 30 minutes.

Yes, I will definitely continue with a PT. It’s exxy, but if I get stronger (and hopefully slimmer) then it is worth it.

I think I am already stronger. My guide? I can wear high heels to work all day again and not have to swap them for flats after an hour or two. And I’ve done some gardening and not been crippled from back pain.

I know I have to change my eating to actually lose weight. But as that is not currently on my micro-ambitious goals, it has to wait.

Thursday’s yoga was cancelled. Arghh! It was too late for me to psych myself up to face the traffic to go to the gym. The traffic is always worse on Thursday nights.

I was quite disappointed. I may make it up this weekend. Stay tuned for next week’s fitness post to see if I make amends.

I did the usual walk on Sunday, Monday, Tuesday after the PT session and a short walk on Friday. The light is lovely. Look at the setting sun lighting up the red leaves.

Be micro-ambitious

Have passionate dedication to the pursuit of short term goals.

Taken from Tim Minchin.

Ha, that’s what I do.

Time for an update on my three mini-challenges:

Mini-challenge 1, the garage clean out. The outdated paint is gone. A cupboard has been emptied and now fits painting equipment and the few tins we’ve bought for paint jobs in the last couple of years. No paint sitting on the ground. Still much to go.

Mini-challenge 2, wearing a different dress to work each day. Completed, as documented here and here. I basically only wore dresses to work this year. I might cycle through my dresses again this term. But teamed with jackets and coats.

Mini-challenge 3, plant garden in front of fence and tame jungle around the pool. Front of fence garden completed.

The petals are from our massive camellia shrubs growing over the fence from inside our front yard.

Mini-challenge 1 and 3 will continue and now I’m adding three new mini-challenges:

4. Going to the gym

5. Raising sweet peas

6. Minimising and tracking food waste.

Mini challenges; big goals

I like setting myself mini-challenges. Some are just for fun; some are to see if I can do the particular challenge; some are part of the plan to achieve my big goals.

Last year I did 100 day alcohol free. (Not for me some wussy 30 day challenge!) It was easy and I actually went longer than the hundred days.

Then I challenged myself to go without cling wrap. Which means the whole house has to go cling wrap free. They’re not as enthusiastic as me about it. But tough.

As to BIG plans, I have a six step plan to retirement which may take 11 years:

  1. Travel to Germany in 2019
  2. Have a year off in 2021 and spend 3 months of that year in the UK
  3. Pay off my mortgage
  4. Do renos on the house – new kitchen, new bathroom, new back wall and verandah, paint the house inside and out
  5. Do up front and back yard
  6. Save $200,000 outside of super

Which leads me to 2019 mini-challenges!

Mini-challenge 1: In working toward the year off and having work done on the house, I want to empty and sort the garage. So over the next 18 months I will slowly be decluttering and organising in there.

Mini-challenge 2: this is apropos of nothing. Just a spur of the moment thing that seemed like fun. I am going to wear a different dress every day to work and document it here. (I won’t actually be wearing a different dress every day, as when I am working at other sites, I will wear some of my favourite dresses again that I have already worn. But when I’m at the main workplace, I’ll have a different dress until I run out.)

Mini-challenge 3: I am going to plant out the little garden in front of my front fence and tame the jungle around my pool.

Of course, I’m keeping myself busy with other things. I will do all the plans and bookings for Germany myself. That’ll keep me busy this year alone.

I’m also keeping up my French lessons. And, of course, I work full-time. (The dress mini-challenge gives a fun twist to the daily grind.)

Do you have any mini-challenges? Or a retirement plan?

Work, life, imbalance 

Regular readers know I don’t write about my work in this blog, except to say how stress from work affects my sleep and my time to blog. 

I’ve mused before out work and identity.  I don’t want to say work is not part of my life. But it is not all of me, of of my desires, all of what I want to with my time. 

I used not to take balance to mean that time has to be equal because my work ethic meant I accepted spending more time working. But then I read about the 40 hour week and how the unions campaigned for 8 hours work, 8 hours rest and 8 hours whatever. Now I know that wasn’t for management but my award says I work a 7 hour day. 

But don’t you get all those holidays? ask most people and recently a Queensland pollie. Yes, but if I worked in state office, time spent over that accrues for flexi-days off. 

And a couple of minor things took places that really pissed me off. Basically bureaucrats making determinations that ignored the hours spent working and some policy determinations that were just stupid and heartless. 

So I thought I would work out reasonable work hours. And just “let it go” for all the things not done. 

Let’s look at my award. I apparently  work a 7 hour week. That’s a 35 hour week. Let’s say that is for your usual 48 weeks a year. That’s 1,680 hours a year. 

Now let’s cram that into 41 weeks of school term. That’s just under 41 hours a week. But l will donate that extra bit of an hour, effectively working an extra 4 hours above my award every year. Generous, aren’t I?

Anyway the 41 hour week equates to just over 8 hours a day. So if I work 7.45am to 4.45pm without a break, I am working 9 hours a day. Most of my recess and lunch are spent dealing with work issues, but I am happy to concede I must take 15 minutes for morning tea and 30 minutes for lunch. So that becomes 8 hours and 15 minutes a day working. 

At least every second week I have an evening function: so add 2 to 3 hours on for these, though some are much longer, over four hours. And if it is too much bother to go home, because I have work to do, I end up staying from 7.45am until 11pm. A long day!

I’m reclaiming my time. To gain back the time given to evening functions, I will leave 2 hours and 15 minutes earlier once a month for my massage; 3 hours early from once a term after a set work meeting and an hour and 45minutes  on Fridays to beat the traffic. 

Reclaiming my equilibrium and equanimity. Not just my time. 

How, you ask?

I’ve taken my work emails off my iPhone. I won’t have my email account sitting open on my desktop. I will look at the emails three times a day – on getting to work, before lunch and an hour before leaving. And I will have automatic out of office replies for holiday times, saying I am unable to access my email account. If it’s an emergency they can phone and if it isn’t they can wait. 

I will shut my door more to get my work done rather than be available to take other people’s buck passing. 

I will walk out the door and let things go if they can’t be done in the time given. 

OK, reality time. I know I will spend some weekends doing work at some times of the year. But see, it isn’t just the hours but the emotional and intellectual intensity of the work. I need to put these restrictions up and learn to be less of a perfectionist at work. 

I’ll let you know how I go. 

Back to basics

Right! Let’s not think of what might happen in five years let’s think of right now. 

Actually thinking of now, in terms of health, will help with being active and being able to travel in five years time. 

I’m talking about the ongoing struggle journey to be fit and healthy. 

I have been walking quite regularly but I feel a need to get back to basics on my healthy living quest:

  1. Drink more water. At least 1 litre a day. 
  2. Sleep better. 
  3. Eat more fruit and veg. 
  4. Do regular weight bearing and stretching exercises. 

I’m cheering me on. I can do it for myself. I can do it for my body. I can do it for my fifties. 

Starting with water. I will fill the litre bottle and put it on my desk at work. 


A year away from home

If we do get the year away we have to think about our house. 

Do we leave our offspring in it? (Can’t see them going anywhere in five years, more’s the pity.)

Implications: they are lazy shits and will not care for things. So they would have to pay for a cleaner, mum being absent. But at least they’re here to “look after” the house and pool. And we don’t have to worry about our possessions. I would make them pay all the utilities which will be a shock to their system, but will be a life lesson to them, and save us money. 

Do we rent out the house?

Implications: we need to declutter our stuff and put things into storage. Huge effort! I could stop buying clothes and shoes and wear them out over the next four and a half years (which I’m doing anyway) but the furniture still needs to go somewhere. And so will our offspring. Lol. We also need to fix up bathrooms, kitchen and extensive yards. But we would earn a huge amount and it would finish off our mortgage, pay the rates and them some. 

Do we get house sitters?

Implications: we don’t need to declutter so much as furniture remains where it is. I could take the same approach and stop buying clothes and shoes and wear them out, opening up wardrobe space. Our offspring will need to move out. We will still need to fix up bathrooms, kitchen and our extensive yards. We’d earn some money. Enough to finish off the mortgage. 

I don’t want to get ahead of myself, not having applied yet, but what do you think? Which one should I choose?

In five years …

Ever thought what you’d like to be doing in five years time?

I have just over two lots of five year blocks until I retire. Put like that, it isn’t very far. 

So I’ve been thinking about retirement options. And what I need to do by then. And what I want to do by then. 

I have three main goals:

  1. Financial = pay off the mortgage by 57.
  2. Home = fix up the house and garden. 
  3. Travel = have regular holidays and biennial overseas trips. 

With out high mortgage repayments and lots of travelling, we don’t have much money for the second goal and we don’t have time, energy or skill. (During holiday breaks we are travelling.)

I’ve done some thinking and contemplation and realise I don’t want to go further in my career. Bureaucracy bores and frustrates me. I do confess my work takes much of my energy and life force, leaving little time or energy on work days for anything but collapsing in a heap. I can’t see myself doing this until pensionable age of 67. 

Even 62 sounds a little undoable. 

Then it struck me. 

We have a scheme called Deferred Salary Scheme. For four years you get 80% of your salary. The remaining 20% is put in a bank account. So it is really forced saving. You can’t access the funds in that account until the fifth year, when you get the whole year off on 80% of your salary! But the other bit is the leave is press proved and with right of return to your position. You can elect to have the funds in a lump sum or in fortnightly payments just like your income. 

As an added bonus, we still accrue long service leave. So in the intervening four years, we can still take extra holidays, as we are doing for our planned 2017 trip to France. Mr S has months and months of LSL on full pay owing to him. Me not as much as I changed employers and took time for the children. 

My plan is to have both Mr S and me apply for the Deferred Salary Scheme at the end of this year for next year. (You can only commence at the start of a calendar/school year.) 

If approved, in the year I turn 55 we will buy a combi van and be grey nomads for most of the year. There’s so much of this country I want to see. And I want to do it while we are still able. 

Some people I have shared my thoughts with have said we won’t want to go back to work. 

Maybe. But maybe it will be the same as every other first week back: I know I have to do it or have no income. And I remind myself of all the wonderful things I get from the money I earn, not least the ability to travel and own a lovely house. 

Besides having a year to travel around, the 80% model will help us get use to living on less income. When we do retire, our income will drop massively. 

If we manage and love the year off so much, maybe we will apply again!