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skiddingtowardsretirement

semi-retiring, work life balance, lifestyle block living

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New Life – Family Traditions

Mahurangi Regatta – a harbour full of boats, many of which are traditional and a day of old fashioned picnic fun with three legged races, sand castle contests, sack races, swimming races and …. for young and old

The Saturday of Anniversary Weekend means only one thing to the man and me – come hell or high water, the day will be spent at the Mahurangi Regatta.

And it’s been this way since our kids were littlies. It’s a family tradition, you see.

In the early days, more often than not, the two grandmothers would join us. Sadly, the years have passed and both Hilda and Dorothy are no longer with us.

But our family picnic group has not diminished in size, it has grown. Firstly, each of our three children introduced a partner to the mix; one brought with them our delightful step-grandson. Then, last year, our daughter and son in law introduced their three month old daughter to the tradition. This year our granddaughter was joined by her seven month old cousin. Our  picnic group now stands at 11, with, no doubt, a few more additions still to come.

The thing that the man and I find most gratifying about all this is that the children choose to come. They have continued the family tradition with no prompting from us. We, therefore, think it is here to stay.

Having said this, change is inevitable. Always.

The man is coming to terms with this at the moment. Let me explain. For those who don’t know, the man is a mad keen sea kayaker and has been since he discovered the sport as a 30 or so year old lad in the early nineties.

At the same time he discovered kayaking was the sport for him, he also found out that he was very competitive.  Go figure? Yes, the Stone family travelled up and down NZ so the man could take part in many a kayak race. And by the medals clanging around in his drawer, he was pretty successful – not in the league of MacDonald and Ferg*, of course, but successful all the same.

Now each year since about 1993 the man has taken part in the Mahurangi Regatta kayak race.  Most years the man has taken out first place. Except in 2015 and 2016, he didn’t. Those years he had to settle for second.

In 2018 this changed again. Yesterday he came third.  A close third, but third nonetheless.

So yes, third’s not bad. Except there were only three competitors.

The man, to put it mildly, was far from thrilled. I view it differently though: he should be pleased.  You see, the reality is my almost 62 year old partner can paddle way longer and faster than most of the general population.

So instead of him feeling disappointed with himself for being beaten by some younger bucks, which they were,  I have convinced him to continue competing.

Grant’s cedar Albatross sea kayak. This was designed and built by him. For those who don’t know we manufactured these in kevlar and fibreglass.

Why?  Well, the old bugger loves it. And hey, there is something to be said about not giving up, not to mention being the oldest competitor taking part each year.

So I have no doubt that as long as he is able to crawl into his lovely kayak, he will continue racing at the Mahurangi Regatta.

And  as long as he is racing, the kids, their kids and I will be standing there cheering him on!

*Ian and Paul paddled Olympic class kayaks in the K1s, K2s and K4s competitions – sea kayaks are quite different!

New Life – New Year

New Year’s resolutions.

I admit I have occasionally given these a whirl. You know, stuff like I am going to adopt a junk-free life style.

The lifespan of my resolutions is about a week. Or until the first piece of chocolate is offered to me. Whichever is sooner.

So this New Year’s Eve, I didn’t even indulge in the charade.

Yeah, nah, I don’t need NY resolutions conjured up while slightly tipsy on cheap plonk to feel in control. Ditto: the man. Yes, 2018 is going to be a great year for us.

So what is it that will make 2018 a stellar year?

2017 may have been the year of change, but 2018 will definitely be the year of consolidation.

First and foremost is that we go into the new year incredibly happy and content with all aspects of our lives.

A great foundation to begin with, we think.

We won’t stand still though. We do have plans.

The man and I will continue to develop our property in our slow way.  There is no rush, we will focus on the journey.

The man intends to get a jobette. In part, this is for the social aspect. Working by yourself is isolating. And even more so when living in a new community. Of course, we would be lying if we said the money wasn’t welcome either, but it is very much a secondary consideration.

For me, 2017 saw me land a job in a new field and finally shut the door on a career that I had wanted to walk away from 10 years ago. Except I didn’t have the balls.

This career move has paid dividends. I now wake up every  morning looking forward to going to work, to being challenged, and learning something new.  And it gets even better, my bosses have plans for me. Career development. To this end, they have offered me the opportunity to upskill and study in 2018. This old girl said yes.

Travel plans this year are dedicated to catching up with friends and family. We intend to (finally) fit in a trip to Christchurch and Wanaka to see friends. Another trip to Melbourne to visit a sister is on the cards too, with, maybe, a bit of a side excursion thrown in. And the lovely Hawkes Bay also beckons. Like always, the main constraint to these plans will be time!

No doubt, like every year, things won’t necessarily pan out exactly as planned. There will be obstacles. We are, however, starting from a grand position.

2018. Bring it on!

Toppling over

There is something cathartic about blogging.

I am aware, however, that wearing my heart on my sleeve could be viewed by some as me being totally self absorbed.

If this is the case, then I make absolutely no apology for it. Why? Because this was never my intention.

The purpose of blogging was to clarify things as the man and I explored how to work less and live more. This was both for us and also for those of you who are interested in our journey.

I have also found blogging cheap therapy. You see, life doesn’t always pan out the way one thinks it should or would.  And writing about what happens makes sense of it. Go figure?

This week has been one of those weeks when nothing has panned out.

Firstly I got a thanks, but no thanks to the hospice job I was interviewed for. It was nicely couched, of course, but it still hurt as I really, really wanted it. I admit to being a bit sad for a day or so after getting this news, but then my pragmatic side kicked in and I re-framed it.  This was not failure, this was an opportunity.*

So for the last few days I have been thinking about ways to make a living without working for someone else. Now here are a few of my ideas (sharing is good):

I could start my own library. This sounded sensible as I know the business inside out, right? Sadly no.  This was never going to fly as public libraries are free, so even if I had enough stock, who in their right mind would pay to join my library? Except, of course, naughty people who can’t use the public library because they owe too many fines. Strangely, these people don’t seem  the ideal customer base for my proposed start up. The idea was shelved, no pun intended.

The next idea was to run an  0900  line (psychic or sex, I wasn’t fussed). I must admit that this wasn’t my own idea, I stole it from a book I read years ago. Anyway, it had immense appeal for two reasons. There would be no bad debts because of the 0900 number and no need to even leave the house in the morning. This idea was quickly discounted when I realised I would have no idea what to say to my customers, and if I did think of something I knew that the minute it was out of my mouth, I would giggle like a silly school girl. The ambiance of the occasion would be lost for ever and I would have a disappointed customer. There would be, I was sure, no repeat business. I canned the idea.

So, I got to the last idea.

I could make a living out of telling people how the man and I survived on diddly squat in semi-retirement, but still managed to live an amazingly happy and fulfilled life.  I was not sure how I was going to make a living from it, but it’s been done successfully before, albeit in different guises – the Destitute Gourmet cook books and the ‘Living on the smell of an oily rag’ book being two successful iterations of this theme. To date, it is the best option. More thought is needed.

Or maybe, I just look for that three day a week job after I have moved to Whangarei?** Watch this space.

Now the second thing not to pan out this week is that the buyer for our house has yet to materialise. The idea that he/she would magically appear as a result of the first open home was always just a dream, and I knew this from the get-go. Selling a home is stressful and it would be lovely if we could pre-empt weeks of open homes and bring the auction forward. Having said this, it is only day 4 and the first open homes did attract some interested parties, and the agents are bringing buyers through on a regular basis.

Which brings me to the beautiful house we saw on the internet in Whangarei. The man and I went to see it. It  was absolutely gorgeous and we loved it. We also probably aren’t going to buy it. You see, it is too isolated. And it’s on a main road. No matter, something else more suitable will turn up.

Now the last thing to happen this week was I was challenged (nicely) by a friend. Were the man and I doing the right thing leaving Auckland? Did we know that if we sell up and leave, it would be highly unlikely we would ever be able to afford to come back, she wisely pointed out. I looked at my dear friend and nodded as she was absolutely right. The answer is neither the man nor I know if we are doing the right thing. What we do know is we want to live a quieter life in a quieter place and we think it will work out. In fact, we will give it our best shot. If it doesn’t work out, then we will live with consequences. And although we may not be able to afford Auckland again, we can afford every other place in this beautiful land.

Change is never easy. Some days things fall into place; other days they don’t. I think this is normal.

 

*Thank God for those twee management courses!!

** I have decided that I need to be settled and then look for a job.

Right Direction

Occasionally I find I forget what my ultimate aim is. You know the work less to live more goal.

And recently this was exactly what happened: I lost sight of what I wanted. Yes, I dropped the ball.

So what did I do? Well, I applied for a full time job. In my defence, it wasn’t advertised as a full time number;  it was advertised as a .8 position.  But after applying, I found out there had been a mistake and it was a forty hour week kind of job.

So I withdrew, right? Nope, quite the opposite – I went for the interview!  You see, I had cooked up a plan.  If I got the job, I’d do it for a while and then when a part time job came up, I’d apply. Forward thinking, right?

Maybe. Maybe not.

Meanwhile, I have come to my senses. I don’t want to work full time for a nano-second longer. I also don’t want to work in libraries anymore. I want to try something different.

And so with this goal in mind, I have set things in motion.  I have applied for a four day per week job at a hospice in Whangarei.

I am being interviewed on Monday.  I am so excited – what an awesome place to work!

I am praying I will be the successful applicant.

But if I’m not, I know I am now back on track and going in the right direction.

 

 

Living truly

Sometimes you meet someone who has totally sorted his or her life to work for them. The lifestyle they have chosen to live is a perfect match to who they are and as a result they enjoy every minute of it. Well, mostly – there is no such thing as always perfect in anyone’s life!

These people, I find, are a rare breed.  The lifestyle they choose to live can be decidedly quirky,  or it can be quite conventional. There are no rules here; rather it works for them because there is no disconnect between the actual life they live and the life they want to live. It is one and the same.

Bearing these thoughts in mind, the man and I are having some interesting conversations with a young couple. They have dreams of living off grid on a bit of land.  Their ideas for income range from working remotely in their professions and/or setting themselves up as boutique cheese makers. There is a proviso to this dream: they want this lifestyle to come at minimum financial cost. They have zip interest in being strapped with a huge mortgage for the next 30 years.

This antipathy towards debt has led to a lot of lateral thinking on the young couple’s part. They have discussed living initially in a bus, a converted shed or a hobbit house. The last one is their favourite.  Off grid, of course.

The man and I listen to these dreams. We nod wisely. And occasionally we can’t help ourselves and we put our twopence in. So what are these gratuitous pearls of wisdom?

Simple.

Live the life you want to live.

 

 

 

Letting Go

The son in the bosun's chair

Last night the man and I went on a wee adventure – we stayed on our boat moored in the marina. Odd, I can hear you saying, that is hardly sailing.  And you would be right. However, there was a valid reason behind it; we needed to charge the yacht’s batteries and this was going to take oodles of time, as they were spectacularly flat. Staying overnight was, therefore, the sensible thing to do.

It was nice to be aboard again – it has been a number of months since I have visited, and in the interim, the man has made a bit more progress getting her ready for the market. The middle cabin which was converted to the double berth last year is well on the way to being finished and, if I do say so myself, is looking very, very classy.

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The double berth

Now this is all well and good, except it raises a few issues. You see the more the boat is upgraded, the more we consider keeping it!  Part of us thinks: why shouldn’t we enjoy the benefit of the more luxurious beast rather than someone else?

This is not a new feeling; we do seem to be people who do the things we always had intended to do, when we decide to sell whatever it is. And yes, this always makes it a struggle to let go.

In the particular case of selling the boat, the man and I have also had an orchestrated delegation to contend with: the children love going away on the yacht, and the grandchild too and they have made it crystal clear that they are not happy for us to sell it.

Now we are the first to admit that taking the family out for the day or longer is a great thing to do. The man and I derive so much pleasure from having the kids on the boat and watching them thrive in this environment. It is the stuff of rich memories for all of us and simply cannot be measured by mere dollar value.  In a perfect world, we would therefore like to continue our yachting with them.  Monopoly, anyone?

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The son, daughter in law and grandson off exploring in Te Kaitoa’s inflatable

However, there are questions that need answering here. The first one is: would keeping the boat mean saying goodbye to semi -retiring in the foreseeable future? We aren’t sure: perhaps if we employ some  lateral thinking, we would be able to sort out a way to keep the boat and semi-retire?  Indeed, there are options: we could move onto the boat, give up work entirely, rent the house and sail off. *  Maybe? Maybe not?

The second question is: does the boat actually meet the family’s needs? It is a big, serious boat that is capable of going offshore. Yes, it fits everyone on, but maybe something smaller would be a better match for us, and more doable?

Lastly, if we do keep it, we need to make the best use of it. No point in it sitting in the marina getting a weedy bottom!

Yes, some serious thinking is in order. In the fullness of time, our wants and needs will align  of course,  and  we will choose the best way forward for us.

*This option always becomes very attractive after a slightly off day at work!

Goodbye weekend

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It is almost eight o’clock on Sunday night, so the weekend is fast coming to its conclusion and before we know it, it’ll be Monday morning again and back to work.  As usual the two days off has whizzed by far too quickly. Don’t get me wrong, the man and I enjoyed it, despite the fact that it unfolded in an ‘organic’ way i.e. it just happened and we rolled with it.

Now this rather lackadaisical approach to how we use our weekends is OK once in a while, but becomes a bit of a concern if it becomes the norm. And become the norm it has again – yes, we improved for a while, but there has been slippage and we are often finding that after completing the household chores, we are not making the best use of the time left.  This is despite having lots of things that we will tell you that we would really, truly like to do over the two days off. The man and I will instead find ourselves defaulting to making plans at the eleventh hour, which without too much trouble degenerates into doing stuff that just fills in time.

I am not sure why this is: both the man and I are pretty organised at work, so we can do the planning bit when we need to. Certainly there are old habits coming into play here, but maybe it is more than this? Perhaps it is because while we are at work, we get busy and we don’t think about getting our weekend sorted and then it sort of creeps up on us and catches us by surprise?

Whatever the cause, the man and I need to address it (again), if we are going to get the most out of our precious leisure time. We need to take a proactive, not reactive approach to Saturday and Sunday (note the management speak here – thank you to my present and past employers for sending me on courses where I learned these terms).

The weekend will still fly by no doubt, but by remembering to put a tad more thought into the forward planning side, we will hopefully be doing more of the things we say we want to do. Needless to say, this new approach to time management will work splendidly well until the vagaries of life get in the way!  Sigh.

Well grounded

For the next three weeks, I am on annual leave. I couldn’t be more pleased. I am not going to sit on my hands though. No, sirree, this girl has things to do and places to go; many of which are in the pursuit of the new work life balance regime.

The first thing happening is that I am spending time in the garden. Why do this when you are on holiday, you may ask?  The answer is it is part of the plan. The house we are living in is new to the man and me. We know it well, it was my mother’s home and is directly behind the house  we lived in for close to twenty years of our married life. In December we purchased it and after twelve years living in other places moved back to the area where we raised our children. We have a connection here. It’s nice.

The garden, however, needs work. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a nice garden with flowers and well established trees, but we want to have fruit trees and vegetables too.  Our intention is to plant plums, apples, peaches, pears, lemons, passionfruit and saville oranges. We will put in a good sized vege patch too.

Now I know some of you will be thinking fruit and vegetables are inexpensive to buy, so why bother?  And you are completely correct; they are cheap. If you did a cost analysis, I suspect store bought may even be cheaper than home grown ones, especially when in season.

This is not a budgeting exercise however, rather quality of life is the driver here. Working in the garden, be it plunging hands into soil, watering seedlings or picking the ripened produce, is primal and therapeutic. There is no hurrying: nature is the boss and she sets the pace.

The time, labour, and patience involved is well worth it. The product is more often than not sensational: sink your teeth into a tomato from the garden and taste the freshness and flavour. It is a different beast altogether from its counterpart found in the supermarket aisle*

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Plum jam and homegrown tomato via our little garden at our last house.

There is also the personal satisfaction element.  I derive immense pleasure from preserving produce I have grown or being gifted – no bought fare here. And, let’s be honest, there is nothing more rewarding than toiling over a hot stove in the height of summer making jam or chutney!*  I have done it often. The house we moved from had two magnificent plum trees. On hot days, I would be in the kitchen  happily whipping up plum jam, plum sauce and indeed plum anything I could think of to make use of the crop. The six or so jars that had taken two hours to make made for a feeling of satisfaction, even a wee bit of unbecoming smugness! The product is quite different from commercially produced preserves; it tastes nicer.

As a pastime, the growing and cooking of produce to share with family or friends at the table or as a gift is a caring, comforting pursuit. So, if it’s not cost effective – who cares? Some things can’t be measured by price. I am pretty sure that the Danes with their concept of hygge would approve.***

So these holidays, we have factored in a fruit tree buying expedition to Wairere Nursery http://www.wairere.co.nz/ . Meanwhile, most days I put my gumboots on and in a slow living kind of way saunter into the garden to get it ready.

*We don’t have a farmer’s market nearby. We are a great fan of these and think that although they are commercial, they are a great alternative to the supermarket.

**My favourite preserving book is “Ladies, A plate: Jams & Preserves” by Alexa Johnston

*** See post Simply Present

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