Burning Desire For FIRE

Financial-Independence-Retire-Early(er) in Australia from the female perspective.

One More Year?

Dwight Shrute meme

I tot up my net worth at the end of each calendar month. It doesn’t take long – it’s not as if I have a hugely complicated estate, after all – and I have a table that I record my figures on. I don’t include The Best House in Melbourne’s value on the table because the purpose of the exercise is to track my progress towards my “FI” number. You can’t eat your house, after all!

My ‘FI number’ is the dollar amount that I’ve estimated I’ll need before I can think about pulling the pin on my job. Financial Independence is the goal I’m aiming for. I want to have enough money coming in so that I can afford to maintain the lifestyle I have, along with a few added extras like an overseas holiday every year or so.

I’m a pretty frugal person, so when I say that I’m aiming for ‘FAT FIRE’, I mean that it’s a figure that’s far more than I need to survive on. For many people, my “FAT FIRE” figure will be their ‘LEAN FIRE’ number.

They don’t call it personal finance for nothing!

Anyway, I was totting up my numbers last month and it appears that I’ve passed a fairly significant figure, which puts me at 80% of the way towards my goal. Already! (I was vaguely aiming to get there by the end of the year.) I won’t stay at this level – I’m going to get those security doors and screens I was telling you about last week, along with finishing off the landscaping in the back yard. But still, it’s encouraging to see that this compounding effect that all of the numbers people keep telling us about actually appears to be working.

Last week I was on a podcast, where I was talking with Breanna about how important it is for teachers to get to FI as soon as they can. It gives options and helps us to avoid being one of “those teachers”… the teachers who are burnt out and don’t want to be in the classroom anymore, but they’re forced to stay there because they can’t afford to walk away.

Those of us who are teachers know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all worked alongside them. Those of us who have been students know exactly what I’m talking about – we’ve all been taught by at least one person who’s heart has clearly gone out of it, but they plug along regardless.

Teachers like this can do a lot of damage. Kids always know who wants to be in front of them and who doesn’t.

A teacher can make or break kids’ passion for a subject. When I was a student manager I used to interview kids for the subjects they wanted to do for the next year. It was so common for kids to be fired up about a subject because they liked the teacher that had taught them. It’s so important to have people teaching subjects that they love and who eagerly share the really cool things about them.

Now, I’m not saying I’m a burned-out and bitter old crone, but for the first time since I came back to teaching after my 10-year gap when I was raising my pre-schoolers, I can see that the time is approaching when the annoying things about the job will outweigh the fun stuff.

This morning, as my feet hit the floor, I thought to myself, “How about I make it One More Year?” One more year of full-time work, then either pull the pin entirely or drop back to part-time work, but not just for 4 days/week. How about if it was 2 or 3 days?

How would that feel?

One more year of the long commute every weekday…

One more year of getting up in the dark every weekday for most of the year…

One more year of earning over 6 figures so I can Get Things Done…

I reckon I could put up with another year of full-time work if it was the last year of full-time work.

This is an interesting idea for me to kick around. I could always drop back to part-time in 2021 if my ‘FIRE figure’ wasn’t where I wanted it to be, or if the share market looked shaky. One more year of full-time work would mean that all of the big, expensive jobs I want to tick off would almost certainly be finished. Especially if I knew that it was the last year of that level of income.

Then, a trickle of part-time or CRT (supply/emergency teaching) would be enough to have day-to-day expenses taken care of and would keep me in touch with the young folk and all of their newfangled ways.

Hmmm…

I don’t mind saying that the very idea has made a huge difference to my day.

Of course, as Murphy’s Law would have it, once I thought of this, today has turned out to be a very easy day on the job. I read ‘Coraline’ aloud to one group of year 7’s and I watched the movie for 2 periods with the other year 7’s. I’m in front of my angelic year 9’s who are working their way through some language analysis in their textbook and no one needs any help. The only class that’ll have any sort of grunt in them will be my year 8’s at the end of the day.

When I have days like today, I wonder why I’d ever contemplate leaving. Why would I leave such a cushy job paying 6 figures to loll around at home with my dogs all day? Am I mad?!?

Given this, and assuming I’m not actually mad, towards the end of 2020, I’d better hope for any of the following to happen:

  • an annoying helicopter parent to pop up and harass me.
  • a new government teaching initiative to come along that will either offer nothing new at all/has been tried 20 years ago and it didn’t work then either/will mean bucketfuls of extra work for no benefit to the students in front of us.
  • notification that a staff member that I find intensely annoying will be moved to the desk beside mine in the staffroom.
  • I’ve been named to teach year 12 English the next year.

Any one of those will be enough to push me over the edge and get my to drop my hours. A combination of these would probably get me to drop the job entirely!

It’s an idea that I’ll continue to mull over. It gives me time to sort out what I want to do before I jump into anything too reckless. I can access my Super in 3 years, so the part-time/CRT route gives a gentle glide-path down towards being fully reliant on that money.

If I keep on working full-time without any clear end in sight, I can see that I’ll become burnt-out and I’ll be one of ‘those’ teachers.

But I can certainly keep going at the pace I’m at if I know it’s for one more year…

Things I won’t miss: Parent/teacher days.

Today is parent/teacher day. I’m writing this in a half-hour gap I have between parents, as I sit at my desk with a coffee and a biscuit.

Our school has a full day set aside for talking to parents. We start at 9:45 AM and finish at 8:30 PM, with parents shuttling through on 5 minute increments. I have 4 full classes, with one being a year 12 class and the rest are English, so my dance card is always jam-packed. I’m seeing nearly 80 sets of parents today.

It’s a long day. The school feeds us dinner, which is a nice little bonus, but all the talking is hard on the voice. Some teachers hate these days, but personally, I don’t mind them. It’s not the interviews that bother me, it’s simply the length of the day.

The kids are expected to come with their parents, dressed in full school uniform. (The kids, not the parents.) It’s a nice opportunity to congratulate the good kids, rev up the lazy kids and sink the boot into the naughty kids.

This year I have a year 8 class with a clot of very immature, loud boys that have been driving all their teachers and the rest of their class crazy. They’ve been eating the new, young teachers alive because they work in tandem to create disruption, which we rarely see at our school. I’ve brought up lots of boys and taught hundreds more, but even I sometimes feel as if I have to carry a whip ad chair into class when I have them, particularly at the end of the day.

A few weeks ago we instituted a seating plan for them across all of their classes. It’s spoiled all their fun and so it’s a great success. It’s been interesting to see which parents know about it and which don’t. I’ll give you three guesses as to which parents fall into which camp!

These interviews are very therapeutic to a teacher’s soul. The parents look daggers at their son and the kid looks sheepish. I never start off on the attack – instead, I ask the kid what they think I’d say if I was asked to comment on how they’re going.

Kids are pretty honest. It’s very rare that I have to cough, lean forward and say, “That’s a very interesting interpretation of what’s going on in the class. However…”

But yeah, as I said before, it’s the sheer length of the day that gets you.

After 8:30, by the time you get to your desk, grab your stuff and get to your car it’s pushing 8:45. Granted, the drive home takes far less time at this hour of the day than the morning and afternoon commute, but I’m still walking through the door at 9:15 at night.

A couple of students asked me if we get extra pay for this. I laughed and laughed.

We go through this twice a year. I know that when I retire, even though I don’t have a bad time while they’re going on, these parent/teacher days are definitely not ones that I’ll be looking nostalgically back upon.

So I took the day off…

Poppy and Scout on the beach
Poppy and Scout chasing sunbeams.

I took the day off yesterday because I was getting quotes for the Crimsafe security doors and window screens I was telling you about a few days ago. All of the shots are from the walk the dogs and I took on the beach, while the rest of the English faculty were stuck in a meeting after work.

Moments like this make retirement seem ever more enticing…

Totally blue sky over the Backyard Beach.
Autumnal blue sky.

A couple of weeks ago I went into a Crimsafe business and asked about prices. Given what they told me, I went home and totted up what I’d be up for. It came to around the 10K mark.

Exxy, but Old Lady Frogdancer wants to be safe when she’s home alone, once the boys move out. I figure that it’s the kind of bill that hurts once you’re paying it, but down the track you forget the sting of it and are simply glad that you got the job done.

Seagulls on a sandbar hidden under the water
The seagulls are actually standing on a sandbar. Poppy longed to reach them, but she’d have to get wet.

How often in life do quotes come back well under what you estimate??? That happened with all 3 quotes that I received. I didn’t take into account that they’d all knock off anywhere from 1K – 2K to get a ‘full house’ job.

No one else on the beach.
There are few places more peaceful than a totally empty beach.

An added bonus is that the guy who was going to come over at 3 PM actually arrived at 12. So I had the afternoon free. So, while I was waiting for a couple of the quotes to come in via email, I had a short, revivifying nap, (simply because I could), and then took the dogs down to the beach.

We had the place pretty much to ourselves. I looked at my watch. It was 3:30 – just the time when all of the primary-school Mums were picking up their kids.

It was also the time that my colleagues at work were walking into their meeting…

Scout on the sand.
Scout.

The day was sparkling – a gorgeous autumn day. The sun was warm and it seemed incomprehensible that people were spending it sitting in a meeting, talking about spelling bees and literacy strategies.

Poppy and Scout chasing each other on the sand.
Poppy and Scout chasing each other on the sand. Jeff stayed beside me.

When I got home, after a full hour spent enjoying the afternoon, the quotes were waiting for me.

The first guy was an ex-builder, based on the Peninsula. He was a nice guy, appearing to be very thorough in his measurements and he was also very flexible with the job, saying that if I decided to do the work in stages, the quoted prices would be valid for anywhere up to 2 years. Apparently people sometimes choose to do this room by room, or they do the doors first and then work their way around the house with the windows. Little does he know that Frogdancer Jones likes to get a job over and done with!

The third guy sent in a hand-written, scanned quote with illegible handwriting – and I’m an English teacher so I can read just about anyone’s writing – and he didn’t even add up the totals, so I had to do MATHS. On closer inspection, he didn’t even quote me on some of the windows, so his quote was ridiculous.

Looking towards the Melbourne CBD.
On the horizon is the Melbourne CBD.

The first guy was the cheapest by a couple of hundred dollars. The second guy, who was young and hungry, pushed me to contact him if anyone was cheaper so he could price-match, but meh.

I think I’ll going with the first guy. He gave me the cheapest price upfront and he seems to know his stuff.

I have to say, having the day to myself was really good. I got quite a few little things done after we got back from the beach. It felt like a full day had elapsed, but when I looked at my watch I said out loud, “My God – I’d still be in traffic now!”

It’s another sparkling day today. I’m here, sitting at my desk like a dutiful working girl. I have to say, though, it was hard work to go out to the car at 7:30 and start driving to work, knowing what I could be doing instead…

Sunlight on the waves.

Thankful to my younger self.

Shot of my backyard beach.

“I was thankful to my younger self for planning and anticipating our future needs.”

This was a quote I saw a few days ago on the Simple Savings forum, written by a woman in (I think) her 50’s, who was detailing the day she’d planned. She was able to retire in her early 40’s, she and her husband had a big veggie and fruit garden with chickens and they lived in a rural town that was close enough to the capital city to get there if they needed anything, but far enough away that their housing costs were small.

Her sentence really jumped out at me.

I’m hoping that I’ll be saying the same thing in a decade or so.

Poppy modelling the paving.

Here’s one way I’ve hopefully ‘future-proofed’ my retirement lifestyle. I’ve paved my entire backyard and the sides of the house with reclaimed bricks, so that Old Lady Frogdancer won’t have to bend down and pull weeds or mow grass. The paving runs around my wicking veggie beds, so that she’ll be able to grow organic veggies for as long as she pleases, saving on grocery bills and providing a way to spend some untroubled hours in the sunshine.

The paving on the lower level of the yard will be the floor for my outdoor room, which will be in place by the end of the year, unless something really unexpected comes up. Just have to hire someone to put up the roof.

These projects are not at all what you’d call cheap, but once the sting of paying the bill has faded, I know I’ll have decades of enjoyment out of them.

Doorway to The Best House in Melbourne.
Welcome to The Best House in Melbourne!

It’s no secret that I love love love my house – everyone who steps through the door for the first time gets a walk-through, as recent visitors can attest. But I’ve never been happy with the look or strength of the screen door.

A couple of weeks ago a caravan parked in the driveway of a house a street away was torched. It went up like a … well, like a great big fire and all the neighbours gathered to watch the firemen put it out. I’m away from home a lot, with the full-time job and all, and I met a few neighbours I’ve never met before and heard a few bits of gossip that I was blissfuly unaware of.

It seems we have an arsonist in our midst.

Around a year ago Evan21 came back after a run and said that he’d passed a burning bush. Nothing biblical about this one, it was alight. We’d forgotten about it until I heard from the neighbours that an empty house on Station St was burned to the ground a couple of months ago. A little while after the fire in the caravan, which was deliberately lit, I was talking to the young couple next to me who said that the local scout hall a couple of streets over had burned to the ground a couple of nights ago.

As he was telling me this, a couple of teenagers rode past. Now, I work with teenagers and I like them a lot, but these ones looked dodgy. In fact, I’ve seen them around a lot and I know they’re dodgy. My neighbour said to me as they rode past, “The next generation of (suburb name) Crime.”

He didn’t see the second kid, in a red beanie, swivel his head and look at him as they rode past, then keep looking back at us as he rode off down the street. Great, I thought. I had the dogs with me and everyone in the street knows my dogs. I’d be easy to identify, even though I hadn’t said it.

I was planning to upgrade security around the house once the boys left home, but even though I still have 2 adult men around the place, they’re away more often now and I’ve decided I should probably move that project forward. I have security screens on the windows at the front of the house, but anyone going around the back would be free from prying eyes.

I’m having some people from ‘Crimsafe’ come in and give quotes next week on window screens and security doors. Again, this will definitely not be a cheap exercise, but I’m putting it in the category of a younger self putting things in place for my older self. I’ve written before about how much being financially secure means to me, but I definitely want Old Lady Frogdancer to feel physically secure in her own home as she totters into her twilight years.

Jeff sleeping on the couch on the verandah.
One of my guard dogs on the front verandah.

There’s so much to consider as you make the moves towards setting up a secure retirement. It’s not just the financials, though that’s stressful enough! It’s the other things that, while we have a secure income rolling in, we can set aside some funds to smooth the way for our older selves and pay for things now that they don’t have to shell out for.

I’m putting things in place to ensure that Old Lady Frogdancer will be able to travel the world for as long as she wants to. But I also know that I’m a real homebody, so making The Best House in Melbourne comfortable, safe and cheap to run is VERY high on my list of priorities as I get nearer to retirement.

I hope that in a couple of decades, I, too, can look back and say, “I was thankful to my younger self for planning and anticipating our future needs.” It sounds like such a nice position to be in.

Sunset on my backyard beach.
I’m very thankful my younger self bought the house that made this view a brief five minute walk away!

Frugal Friday: Frozen Tomatoes save the day!

One of the most frugal things you can do is to cook at home. It’s one of the basic tenants of FI – “cut down on your 3 biggest costs – housing, transportation and FOOD.

Last night I came home from a day at school. It was an annoying day for me because the rest of Australia had a public holiday for ANZAC Day, but my year 12’s seized on the opportunity to have a day of rehearsals for the play we’re putting on next week. So their stupid ultra-professional teacher gave up her precious day public holiday to drive to work and watch them perform ‘The Importance of Being Earnest’ – twice over.

When I came home at 6 PM I was tired. I knew that the boys would be home for dinner and when I walked through the door, nothing was cooking. I was so tempted to send one of them down to get some fish and chips – but I’d already done that twice in the holidays for 2 sets of international visitors. I sighed and opened the fridge to see what we had.

There was a packet of garlic bread that I’d bought for some lunch guests on the holidays. I’d forgotten to throw into the oven with the lasagne I’d made. Of course! I’ll throw together a quick pasta sauce, (do I have some frozen meatballs in the freezer??), and the meal will be done.

Turns out I DID have some meatballs. The boys were rapt. I also had the very last of the tomatoes I grew in the veggie garden. I’d thrown them whole into a plastic bag in the freezer, where they’d rolled around like hard red golf balls ever since.

I weighed them on the Thermomix, (see the light glinting on their frosty surfaces?), let them thaw ever so slightly and then threw them into the Thermomix to cook the sauce. It’s a meal that I’ve made a million times before so I was pretty much on auto-pilot. I poured a shiraz, cooked the meatballs in the air-fryer and popped the garlic bread into the oven for 10 minutes to cook. The smells were delectable.

Afterwards, I realised that if I had’ve sent the boys to get fish and chips, that dinner would’ve come in at just under $30.

Instead? The meatballs were just under $4. The pasta was 60c. The garlic bread was the ‘gourmet’ sort because I was buying it for visitors, so it was around $4. The sauce and the sprinkling of parmesan cheese on top would’ve been around $2, due to the home-grown veggies and herbs in it.

With the addition of the garlic bread, which we don’t usually do, that meal was around 1/3 of the price of the takeaway meal. Imagine how much cheaper it normally is?

And honestly, considering all of the appliances I used to cook it, the home-made meal was equally as convenient to organise.

I don’t know about you, but sometimes I forget this.

Simple, home-made food should definitely be the fall-back position.

Two days in after two weeks off.

Two days into the term and I’m watching some kids doing this meme in real life.

I’m in front of a year 9 class and they’re writing a persuasive piece about capital punishment. We’ve talked through the pros and cons, I’ve written a list of each on the board and now I’ve set them loose on it.

I looked like this meme 10 minutes ago.

The lesson before, I had a roomful of kids looking at me like this:

I tell you, its a roller coaster. How could retirement compare to this?

Back at work after 2 weeks off.

Yeah, I’m not feeling the love…

Using the 4% Rule to estimate future costs is depressing.

This house is clean, says housekeeper.

Today I’m having a few friends over for lunch. My dear friend Scott, who used to be my work husband before he and his real-life husband moved to the UK 10 years ago, is back for a visit. He’s such a good friend and it’s so much better to talk away with him in person, rather than over Skype. I’ve invited a few other people over for lunch and then he’ll hang around for dinner.

He’ll see the Backyard Beach, the dogs and, of course, The Best House in Melbourne. Which means, of course, I want it to look its best.

Every now and then it’s good to invite people over. I’ve learned that it makes me do a deep clean of the house and then I can relax for a while and just keep tidying as I go. There are many things ahead of cleaning on my ‘What do I want to do for fun?’ list.

One of my goals when I retire is to have a cleaner come in, maybe once a fortnight. At the moment I do the cleaning myself, or better yet, I nag the boys to do it. They’re responsible for their bathroom and toilet and their own rooms, which works out pretty well.

It’s amazing the difference having a girlfriend makes! David 25 keeps his room vacuumed, dusted and neat… “Izzy’s coming over!” he’ll say as he drags the vacuum cleaner out of the cupboard. Ryan24, on the other hand? Let’s just say he really needs to get out more and meet a nice, sensible gamer girl – his room’s a mess.

As an organised, responsible financial blogger, I decided to see how much I would have to put away in an account to pay for a cleaner in perpetuity, using the 4% Rule. The result was depressing.

(For those not sure about what the 4% Rule is, I blogged about it here in ‘The 4% Rule For People Who Are Scared of Maths.’)

Maids make housecleaning way more fun.

Assuming a cleaner costs around $30/hour, which appears to be the going rate here, if I hired someone to toddle over once a fortnight for a couple of hours to wave a mop and duster around, it would cost $1,560/year. Let’s round that up to $1,600 because it’ll make it easier.

$1,600 X 25 = 40K. Yikes!

As I look at that total, it really brings home how every single cost we have is amplified when we’re looking to save for retirement. $60/fortnight doesn’t seem like a really big thing, yet if it’s included as part of the annual running costs of living, then over time it becomes significant.

Of course, the question then becomes… how much do I really hate cleaning? Do I hate cleaning 40K’s worth? I’m frugal, but in my spending I’m a Value-ist. I don’t mind laying out the big bucks if I feel something significantly adds value to my life.

The answer will almost certainly be that while I still have boys living with me that are big enough and ugly enough to wield a broom, a lawn mower and a toilet brush, I’ll probably hold off on getting a cleaner. But once I’m on my own… hmmm…

The house won’t get nearly as messy. I’ll still loathe having to mop and dust. It’d probably be worth it to get someone to come in. Just as a little reward to myself.

I love a clean and tidy house. I just hate having to do it because it never stays that way. I wouldn’t mind doing a perfect job of cleaning if I only had to do it once and then it would stay that way for years. Because it doesn’t, it seems like a waste of effort, doesn’t it?

Anyway, it’s 8AM and that lasagne won’t make itself! I’ll go and make what I can for lunch early, mop the floor, dust my room and, if I’m lucky, get out into the veggie garden and sweep all the bougainvillia flowers off the paving. I know there are some visitors who’ll want to see how it looks.

You know, the more I think about it, a cleaner would be a valuable time-saving resource… imagine all the other, more creative and interesting things I could be doing with my life instead of mopping and dusting? It’s dawning on me that it’d almost be irresponsible NOT to hire a cleaner… how much is Future Frogdancer’s time worth, anyway?

Probably much more than $30/hour…

See you after lunch!

Sometimes you’ve just got to do it now.

This morning I woke up to the news that Notre Dame in Paris is burning. My heart is so heavy. Back in 2015, on my big 9 week trip to Europe and the Uk, I went to Notre Dame on my last day of the bus tour through Europe.

Thankfully, if you blog, you keep the memories. Here is my account of that day, complete with photos of that beautiful cathedral. It’s been standing since the 1100’s… how could we have any inkling that less than 4 years later it would be alight?

When I woke up today, I reached out to grab my laptop from the bedside table and saw the news. After my first feeling of horror, my next thought was , ‘Thank God I got to see it.’

People who are on the path to FI are very focussed. We’ve found out about the 4% rule, the amazing benefits of compounding, frugality, side hustles and the importance of our savings rates. We know that if we keep our eyes on the prize and hustle, we can shave years off our need to go and work for the Man.

I first saw Notre Dame on a river cruise we took on our first night in Paris.

But life is a balancing act. How much do you put aside to work for the future and how much do you ‘YOLO’?

For those of you who don’t know my story about my trip to Europe – I first planned this trip when I was 15. I’m a history buff, particularly English and French history, so I had a huge burn to get over there and see all the things I’d only read about.

But then life intervened.

Ironically for a teacher, I’m not a natural student. While most people who were going to travel took a gap year after high school, I knew in my bones that if I took a break from study, I’d probably never go back. I wanted that degree under my belt, so I decided to go straight to Uni, get my Bachelors and then go travelling. What could go wrong?

My biggest mistake, that’s what. I met the man I was stupidly going to marry and he had no desire to travel at all. I put my dreams on hold again.

I kept snapping as we glided past. The spire is gone now.

Of course, once I divorced him, walking away with $60 cash and with 4 small boys under the age of 5 to support, there was no money for travel. I was scrabbling just to keep the roof over our heads. Europe and the Uk faded away into an impossible dream while I kept my head down and worked to support my family.

But if you work hard, things have a way of changing.

I paid off my mortgage. My kids were growing up. I could see light at the end of the tunnel. I discovered FI/RE and got excited about investing for the future.

But I still wanted to see Europe.

I had a choice. Keep going as I was going, putting everything aside into investments and working towards a comfortable retirement where I could travel as much as I want – or bite the bullet and go now.

The rear of the cathedral.

I decided to wait until Connor17, my youngest child, was finished with high school, take a term of fully paid long service leave and Just Do It.

When I got there, I was 51.

That’s fully 36 years since I first planned a trip there. (I know – I did some Maths. I did it so you don’t have to.)

I spent around 30K on that trip. I don’t have exact figures – it’s too scary to tot everything up – but after a lifetime of waiting, I decided to deny myself very little and do, see and experience everything I possibly could. The investment opportunity cost of that trip is huge – but do I regret it?

Not for a moment. Especially this morning, when this awful thing is happening and it brings home the fact that in this life, some things can’t be put off. You never know when things or people are going to come to an end.

It’s all very well to be practical and have an eye to the future. After all, it’s one of the things that Frogdancer Jones knows all too well how to do, being a natural long-term thinker. But also…

Sometimes you just have to do it now.

This shot captures my trip.

You always have a choice.

1985 Tarago Van, just like Frogdancer Jones used to drive!

Do you laugh or do you cry?

When I was at home with the boys, right after my marriage failed and we were living on nothing, I drove a Tarago van. It had seen better days. It was rusty, about as aerodynamic as a loaf of bread and the skylight leaked. Every time it was raining and I had to turn right, a trickle of water would sneak down the back of my neck. If you think that doesn’t snap you to attention, you’d be wrong!

But I owned it outright, so I kept on driving it.

One Saturday, we’d been to watch Tom8 play football. After the game, we went home via JB Hi Fi, an electronics shop that had a peculiar fascination for my boys. They’d save up their pocket money to buy games, cds and dads. One or two of them had some money that was burning a hole in their pockets, so to JB Hi Fi we went!

How the back door used to slide open.
How the back door used to slide open.

Once they’d finished, they followed me back to the car.

I grabbed the door handle and slid the door open.

Except it kept on going. The door slid right off the car, with only one set of bolts or screws or something holding it on. It hung by one screw, gently swinging.

The kids stared, open-mouthed. 

I stared, open-mouthed. 

My thoughts were racing. My mobile was at home. Speaking of home, we were too far away from there to walk. The car was now unroadworthy and the door was hanging off like a drunken teenager off a tram. How could I sort this out? What was it going to cost?

My choice was clear. I could either laugh or cry.

I swung around to face the kids. They were looking at me, awaiting their cue. I knew whatever I did next would be important.

I started to laugh. 

I laughed and laughed, practically doubling over.

The kids’ faces relaxed and they followed my lead, all 5 of us laughing like crazy.

I mean, why wouldn’t we? The whole situation was ludicrous. 

If something happens that you can’t change – unless it’s an absolute life tragedy – you always have a choice on your attitude towards it. Whether you laugh or act like it’s the biggest drama EVER, it’s not going to change the situation. So why not make things easier for yourself and everyone around you by seeing the lighter side of it? Nobody likes a Debbie Downer.

And if there’s one thing those hard years have taught me, everything bad, embarrassing or uncomfortable that happens to you ends up being a damned good story one day. Think about it – it’s true.

We ended up walking to a car yard a few hundred metres up the road, where they let me use their phone to call the RACV. The mechanic came and secured the door and we were able to drive home. All’s well that ends well.

And ironically, one of my most treasured memories of those hard days is swinging around to see the kids’ faces after the door kept going, and then our (probably slightly hysterical) laughter on the side of the road as the door hung crookedly, still swinging as we laughed.

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