Burning Desire For FIRE

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

Category: Uncategorized (page 1 of 2)

One big step closer…

Well, I’ve bitten the bullet. After weighing up all the pros and cons of whether to work full-time, part-time or pull the pin altogether, something happened that made me walk into my principal’s office a few days ago and formally let her know that I’ll be looking to cut back my time at work by 2 days a week.

From next year I’ll be working 3 days a week.

Mum is the final nudge that led me to make a decision. She’s nearly 80 and has been having problems with her health for years. What with the rheumatoid arthritis, heart bypass and breast cancer episode, she’s certainly not a boring patient! However, for the last few years she’s been feeling constantly dizzy and this has affected the way she moves around the world.

She can’t drive anymore and she walks with her father’s walking stick. Dad is there to lend a steadying arm and she’s become increasingly reliant on him. Then a couple of weeks ago she fell across the coffee table in their lounge room and broke her arm.

Shot of my backyard beach.

This has taken things to a whole new level.

She’s totally dependent on Dad now. She can’t get out of bed, go to the toilet or do anything without him being there to support her. Dad has barely cooked a meal in their 60 years of marriage, so my sister Kate and I are supplementing Meals on Wheels with cooked frozen dinners for them. They’re going to get people from the council in to do some cleaning. I thought things were on an even keel – well, as much as possible anyway – until they came over for lunch on Sunday.

I asked them over so Ryan24 could give his grandpa a back massage. Ryan24 needs to get 20 people massaged in the next 4 weeks as part of his remedial massage course and I thought that Dad would probably need a back massage, what with having to lift Mum on and off the toilet, in and out of bed and supporting her onto every chair that she sits in.

Shot of my backyard beach.

I made date scones for when they arrived. Dad loves them. Then, while he and Ryan24 went into the Man Cave and did the massage, Mum and I sat over cups of tea and talked one on one.

It was really nice. As we were talking it occurred to me that I can’t remember the last time we talked like this in person. Sure, we talk on the phone every week, but when we’re in the same room there are always other people around. It was a novel experience to sit down and talk one-on-one with my mother. How bad is that?

Then, Dad helped her out to the car and she stood beside it while he opened her door. She was too far forward and Dad asked her to step sideways so he could manoeuvre her in. She couldn’t move her feet sideways. She couldn’t move.

I looked at her feet, trying to move in the direction she wanted them to but just stepping on the spot. I thought, ‘I think it’s time. They’re going to need more help.’

Before I could talk myself out of it, I went to see my principal and let her know that I’ll need to drop back my days next year. I can’t do it this year because I have my year 12s. I told her that ideally, I’ll be working 3 days a week next year. That’ll give me a day for me and a day for Mum.

Then, once I left her office, I started telling some friends on staff. This ensures that I’ll be forced to go through with it.

And now I’m telling the whole world – or at least the part of the whole world I care about – which is of course YOU. This will really lock me in!

All of this happened a week ago, but I’ve found it hard to write about it. Crazy, really, when you’d think that a FI/RE blogger would be really excited about telling everyone that she’s taken a big step closer to reaching the big goal. But it’s taken 5 days to get my head around how much life will change next year.

Ever since I made what was probably the biggest decision I’ll ever make in my life – the scariest financial decision of all – I’ve always been on the hunt to make more money. Deciding to leave your husband, taking 4 boys under 5 with you and with only $60 cash to your name tends to make you focus on your income and expenses with laser-intensity! Raising my income and lowering my expenses has been at the forefront of the way I’ve run the household for the last 22 years.

So choosing to slash my income by 2/5ths goes very much against the grain. It’s taken a few days to embrace the thought, which is probably why I haven’t been able to finish this post until now.

I’m used to the idea now and I’m starting to look forward to having more of my life back. I’ve been running around like a crazy woman ever since my youngest hit school age and I began working full-time. Today, as I’m writing this, it’s Friday afternoon. I had to take the day off because the NBN was being installed and someone had to be here to let the technician in.

It’s been a good day. I walked into the hairdressers first thing and didn’t have to wait. I did some grocery shopping after I’d finished being beautified, then came home and read a book. After lunch I had a quick restorative nanna nap, then after I finish this post the dogs and I will go down for a walk on the beach.

Tomorrow we’re driving up to Ballarat to see Evan22 in his second-year play. That’ll take up all of Saturday. Normally, I’d be stressed by having half the weekend gone… how will I find the time to Get Everything Done? But with this extra time, it’s been lovely.

Soon every week will feel like this. I’ll have TIME. Time for me and time for my parents. I’m looking forward to how this next stage of my life is going to play out.

Start from where you are.

Lime verbena plant.
Lime Verbena. All of the images in this post are taken from when I first decided to Start Where I Was.

I was driving to work this morning, listening to a podcast, as I always do. This particular one was Choose FI: Alan Donegan. A lot of what he was talking about wasn’t really applicable to my situation, but I liked his zest for life (and I’m always a sucker for a British accent) so I kept it on as I drove. Then, towards the end of the podcast they started talking about people who may feel as if they’ve missed the boat with financial independence because they only stumbled across the idea in their 40’s, 50’s or 60’s. Alan Donegan declared, “Start where you are!” and that resonated with me.

Because 6 years ago, I was that person.

My house in the middle of painting it dark blue.
I decided to paint the house once I’d paid it off. It looked fabulous!

Just after I turned 50, I finally paid off my house. I’ve written about accomplishing that HUGE goal here. For about three weeks, I felt terrific. I’d done it! The boys and I were finally secure! No-one could ever take that place away from us and the boys would always have a place to come back to if they ever needed it. I lashed out and bought a brand new pair of sandals (Poppy the puppy chewed them up a week later), and I ordered $300 worth of knitting yarn to celebrate – yes. I bought ALL the colours.

Then, after the euphoria started to fade, I realised that I’d only achieved the base-line level of security. Ok, so we always have a safe place to lay our heads. But what about when I get old? How was Old Lady Frogdancer going to pay for her retirement?

2 white chickens
My first chickens – Buffy and Willow. They were joined by many more, mostly pure breeds.

I had no idea where to turn. Sure, my parents had self-funded their retirements, but they did it with property. I was living in the midst of one of the biggest property bubbles on Earth. That was wasn’t open to me – after all, it took me 17 years to pay off my house. I was running out of time – I definitely wasn’t getting any younger…

I knew I had a couple of things in my favour to put against the fact that I was elderly and tottering towards the grave.

  • I’m a saver. Right at that stage of my life, I was literally starting with $0 in savings because I’d poured them all into getting rid of the mortgage, but I knew that I’d build my savings up again. After all, I’d done it before.
  • The boys were coming to the end of their total financial dependence on me. Two of them were already ay University and the other two were in upper secondary. They were still a huge expense – have you ever seen how much adult men can EAT??? – but I could see light at the end of the tunnel.
  • I’m frugal. Sure, I can spend when I want to, but my living expenses and hobbies are cheap to run.
  • I was on the top tier of the teaching pay scale, so I was on a decent wage. Given all of the above, once I learned about investing, I’d have something to play with.
3 of the boys, with Poppy as a pup.
3 of the boys back then, with baby Poppy. They were all living with me then. How time moves on!

However, it wasn’t all beer and skittles:

  • I had no idea where to start. This is seriously what stops most people from even beginning. The investing world is seriously intimidating.
  • I have a real fear of numbers. I joke about hating numerals, but when I see a whole heap of them on the one page, my brain seizes up. Give me pages of text and I’m happy, but change it to numbers and it’s horrifying.
  • I didn’t know much about the investing world, but I was pretty sure that numbers have a good bit to do with it.
The day's egg collection.
I used to love collecting the eggs every day.

I don’t mind telling you, I was scared. Very scared. I was on my own, with no partner’s income and knowledge to smooth the ride. Any decision, or lack of decision, that I made could possibly have huge ramifications for Future Frogdancer down the track. It was paralysing, to tell the truth.

The risk of inertia putting people’s retirements at risk is a very real thing. Often, doing nothing is riskier than taking action. Inflation eats away at savings and you can find you’re like a hamster on a wheel, forever racing and getting nowhere.

Shopping for compost to build up the soil.
I put a lot of effort to build up the soil in that garden. The knowledge hasn’t gone to waste – I know what to do in my new place.

In my case, a thread on the Simple Savings forum, which mentioned that the Barefoot Investor was starting an investing group, was what saved me from that trap. They mentioned that the first thing he was planning to do was ‘Rescue Your Retirement’. It was a workbook and video that promised to lay out a gameplan for people like me who had no idea what to do.

I signed up immediately. When the ‘RYR’ was released a week later, I watched the video and looked through the workbook and at the end, I cried real tears of relief. I’d been so scared that my situation was hopeless. I was in my 50’s and, apart from the paid-off house, I had not a penny to my name. But here was a guideline to follow that meant that by the time I reached retirement age (which is 67 in Australia) I’d be able to be a self-funded retiree and not rely on the Age Pension.

Beans growing.
I grew things everywhere I could. Here are some beans growing in a wicking bed in the driveway.

It was shortly after this that I read Go Curry Cracker’s and Mr Money Moustache’s explanations about the 4% Rule, which I summarised in the post called “The 4% Rule for people who are scared of Maths.” (The original links are in that post.) I’d found the FIRE community.

Hooray!! I had a figure to aim for! It was daunting, sure, but as the saying says, “Shoot for the stars. If you miss, you’ll at least hit the moon.” This meant that if I couldn’t reach my 4% FI number, at the very least I’d reach retirement age at 67 with a healthy portfolio behind me and (hopefully, all going well) a vastly decreased risk of having to eat dog food in my old age.

I was excited. I rolled up my sleeves and got started. I figured that I might not make it to the best result, but it stands to reason that Future Frogdancer would be better off than if I did nothing and continued to freeze in fear.

Baby peaches growing.
My first peaches! This tree is now growing in a friend’s garden. Her little girl loves the pink blossoms.

I read as many FI blogs and books as I could lay my hands on. I learned to invest, firstly from Barefoot, then, as his advice became too simplistic, from others. Bit by bit, ever so slowly but steadily, my knowledge and confidence continued to grow.

As people who’ve read this blog before would know, sometimes things change. With all the reading and talking I was doing, I picked up a smattering of knowledge about lots of financial things. This came in useful when I decided to completely up-end my life and move down to The Best House in Melbourne 3 years ago.

Poppy and Jeff.
Poppy and Jeff at around 18 months old, I think.This is long before we dreamed Scout would come along!

If I hadn’t decided to put the “start from where you are” philosophy in motion, things would be very different.

If I hadn’t tweaked geoarbitrage to free up the equity in my little weatherboard house in the best school zone in Melbourne, I know what my next 11 years would look like.

I’d be working full-time until I was 67. By then, all things going well, I’d have close to a million dollars in investments. I’d still be living in my tiny 1950’s weatherboard with the food forest and the chickens. I’d be happy enough, but locked in to the job and the lifestyle.

Instead, I have choices. Choices I would never have been able to have access to if I didn’t elect to start where I was.

Peach with a bite taken from it.
Bloody beautiful! Nothing like fruit fresh from the tree.

I’m not saying everyone can do what I did with the geoarbitrage. I got lucky with that one. But everyone can start to make moves towards financial independence, no matter how old you are.

I was 50 years old, with no savings behind me. I had my house paid off, my car was paid for and I had no credit card debt. I was essentially starting from nothing.

But the important word in that previous sentence is “starting.” It was scary and intimidating, but honestly, if I can do it you can too.

Don’t get to the end of your life and look back with regret. Start from where you are.

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!

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.

Mindfulness

This year our school is rolling out weekly Mindfulness sessions throughout the whole school. Every Monday morning after we mark the roll, there’ll be the sound of a Tibetan bell and all the kids will be guided for a 10-minute Mindfulness/meditation session by their teachers. We start next week and I’ll be guiding my little year 7s through it. They’re going to love it.

The school has had mindfulness classes for a couple of years now, but these were optional classes at lunchtime. Now, after more data has been collected, particularly by Monash University, everyone is going to get the benefit.

Blogless Liz, the woman I sit next to in the staffroom, has been a huge fan of meditation and mindfulness for years. She’s talked a bit about it but I’ve never actually done a session like this until we started the teacher training when term started a few weeks ago.

Basically, it’s a little like meditation but with no mantras. You sit or stand quietly, noticing sounds, smells, your breathing, the way your feet feel on the floor etc. Any time your thoughts start to wander, when you realise it you bring your attention back to the ‘here and now’. It’s incredibly grounding and refreshing.

When we finished the first session, Blogless Liz asked me what I thought.

“I’ve been doing this for the last 15 years – I just didn’t know it had a name!” I said. ” I’ve been calling it ‘Noticing the little things,‘ “

This was brought to my mind today when I was listening to a podcast, where the Mad FIentist was interviewing Grant Sabatier about his new book. Towards the end of the podcast, they talk about the first times they were ‘in the moment’, truly contented and enjoying what was around them, instead of constantly thinking and hustling and striving or the next goal.

Mindfulness.

The choice to focus inward, with no judgement, to centre yourself and focus on what IS, not what you’re working towards and planning towards. This is a novel experience for FIRE people – we’re always looking to optimise habits, earning capacity and spending to get to where we want to be as fast as possible.

For anyone who’s interested, Monash University is running a free online course, starting at the end of April. I’ve signed up to it, along with everyone else in The Danger Zone (our section of the staffroom.) Monash Uni has made mindfulness a core part of most of their undergraduate programmes, particularly the high-stress ones like Medicine and Law.

Here’s the link. Enjoy! Anything that lowers stress and makes people feel good without doing stupid or illegal things is a Good Thing in my book!

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Please keep your fingers crossed for Scout.

As I write this, Scout is undergoing emergency surgery for a suspected intestinal obstruction. She is a very, very sick little dog.

She looked a little off colour when I came home from work on Tuesday. (It’s Thursday now.) David25 said that she wasn’t really herself. Every now and then she’d cry out, but she’s done that before and it’s always been fine. She didn’t eat her dinner though, which isn’t like her.

I went to work the next day after she got up and ate breakfast. I gave her dry food, not a chicken neck, as I was worried that maybe the chicken neck was the problem. Ryan24 was going to be home all day so I knew she’d be under observation, but just as a precaution I rang the vet and booked an appointment for later that day. I figured that if Scout was better when I got back, I’d take Jeff for his vaccinations. He was due for them anyway.

When I walked through the door, Scout came out and jumped on the couch, wagging her tail. She still seemed a little flat, but she was definitely chirpier than when I left that morning.

I decided to give here a test and threw her favourite ball down the hallway. She ran after it, and even though Poppy got to it first, which is rare, Scout looked so much better that I thought she was on the mend from whatever ailed her, so I took Jeff to the vet instead.

Wrong decision.

When I left for the vet with Poppy and Jeff, we could hear Scout barking indignantly from my bedroom where I’d locked her in. By the time we came back she was flatter. She didn’t eat dinner.

The dogs sleep in my room, which turned out to be a good thing when she threw up twice in the middle of the night. It was clear that her stomach hadn’t absorbed anything for at least a day and a half. She lay in her bed, moaning softly.

I was at the vet practically banging on the door at 8AM.

When the vet rang me at 2PM, he said that she wasn’t in a good way. They were so concerned about her that they’d rushed her bloodwork by courier to be tested. The results weren’t great. They’d given her a barium drink, and even after 2 hours the xrays showed only the barest trace had escaped from her stomach. There was clearly something in the way.

I okayed the surgery over the phone, but he insisted that I come in to discuss it. After I got over the phone I said to the boys, “I get the feeling he’s giving us the chance to say goodbye, just in case.” So all 3 of us went down.

I’ve never seen a dog look so sick, and I’ve owned a lot of dogs and been in quite a few vet surgeries in my time. She’s such a little scrap of a thing and dehydration hits little dogs (and humans) hard. She barely reacted to us being there, which we assumed was due to her being sedated, but the vet said that she had only had mild pain relief. This wasn’t sedation. This was how she was.

She looked as if she had retreated into herself.

The vet said it would be three hours until he could ring us. As luck would have it, yesterday was the only day I’ve ever left my phone at work, so he’s communicating with us through Ryan24’s phone. I can’t talk directly to my friends, only through Messenger, so I guess that’s why I’m writing this to you. I have to communicate somehow. Besides, she’s been in so many photos here, and featured in a few posts.

It’s funny though, how even in the midst of intense worry, life has its own weird sense of humour.

About an hour after her operation started, I said to Ryan24, “I just don’t want your phone to ring until about 5:30. That’ll mean she’s made it through the operation.”

I then thought to myself, ‘I shouldn’t have said that. It’s tempting fate.’

Then, not one minute later, his phone rang.

We looked at each other and my eyes filled. Neither one of us wanted to pick up. Finally, I did.

It was a damned salesman trying to sell Ryan24 – a student without a house of his own – some subsidised solar panels. We had to smile, but it was from utter relief.

Never Tempt Fate. Fate doesn’t have a very good sense of comedic timing.

Anyway, I’ll press ‘publish’ on this. I should be hearing from the vet within this next hour. Please keep our little girl in your thoughts – she needs all the goodness she can get.

Thanks.

FRIDAY MORNING: I just talked with the vet. He went in to check on her at 10PM last night and said that she was lethargic but stable. This morning when I rang he sad that she’s turned the corner. She’s wagging her tal, they’ve taken the drip off her – I was so pleased about this one because it proves she’s feeling better – and they’ll be test-feeding her today to see if she can keep food down.

If she continues o do well, she might be coming home tonight.

If I wasn’t typing this in front of a class I’m subbing, I’d be dancing for joy.

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