Financially Independent, Retired Early(ish) at 57.

It’s all in how you look at it.

The reason I picked that meme to head this post was that on Thursday I took Mum to a couple of art galleries. The part-time work life I’m living now means that on Tuesdays I have the day to myself, while on Thursdays I visit my brother (who had a stroke on Christmas Day) and then my mother.

Up till now, I’ve been taking her to her physical rehab classes but those have finished. So what am I to do with a woman with a walking stick, who used to be an artist? Well, the answer pretty-well presents itself, doesn’t it?

Since her fall last year, when she broke her shoulder, she hasn’t been to any art classes or picked up a brush. Now that she’s able to move around with her walking stick or her walker, I thought it was time to see if her creative juices could start flowing again. For nearly a year the only things that her imagination has been stimulated by was talkback radio and shows like ‘Antiques Roadshow’ or whatever happens to be on TV. I’m amazed she hasn’t been committed yet. It would send me round the twist within a couple of weeks, I’m sure.

A painting from the first gallery.

Anyway, I swung into action, doing what any sensible person would do. I googled “Art Galleries near (Mum and Dad’s suburb.)

As luck would have it, there was a gallery right at the end of their street! What are the odds? Turns out Mum’s never been there, even though Dad takes her to the hairdresser just a few doors up.

When we walked in, the artist was painting. She welcomed us, then when I mentioned that Mum was also an artist they fell into a conversation about acrylic vs oils; watercolours and other artist-y stuff that I didn’t understand. Mum loved it!

After this, we went to a larger gallery a couple of suburbs away, where, as luck would have it, Mum knew one of the artists who was currently having an exhibition there. She absolutely fell in love with one of his paintings and if the price tag wasn’t in the thousands, I’m pretty sure she would’ve brought it home with her.

All up, we were out for maybe 2 hours. It was the perfect frugal outing, with absolutely no money spent, but lots of chatter and discussion. It was when we got home and were talking with Dad that Mum said something that prompted this post.

“The first gallery – the shop at the end of the street. That poor girl must be doing it tough… they live behind the shop and there can’t be that much money coming in from the paintings. She has a husband and children… money must be tight…”

I began to nod, but then all of the things I’ve read and listened to in the FI/RE movement made to take a step back.

“No, maybe not, Mum,” I said. “Maybe she’s designed the perfect life for herself. She works from home so there’s no commute. She’s doing the thing that she loves and there’s no boss telling her what/when/and how to do it. People would be walking by all the time, so she’d have little chats just like she did with us. If she needs time off she can just put a ‘closed’ sign on the door and her time’s her own. When you look at it like that, it sounds pretty darned good!”

Mum blinked but then agreed.

It’s funny, because either scenario could be true. She and her husband might very well be eking out a miserable existence, longing for her to get a regular job like the rest of us. However, she looked pretty contented sitting in her shop, dabbing away at a commissioned piece while randoms like us wandered in, chatted and whiled away the day.

I like that I got to see this woman living her best life. On every other Thursday in any other year, I would’ve been trapped in a classroom with 28 teenagers…

… or maybe I’d be loving the experience of educating the young and no doubt having a laugh at the same time.

Maybe it truly is all in the way you look at it!


  1. Steveark

    Way to honor your mom! And a very thoughtful and thought provoking post.

    • FrogdancerJones

      What can I say?
      You’re clearly a very perceptive and intelligent man!!!

    • Lucinda

      Great post. I love how you weave a narrative in with a “lesson” and love the meme! You’re on fire! (Sorry, bad pun!)

      • FrogdancerJones

        That post sprang from that remark Mum made.
        Funny how these things work out.

  2. freddy smidlap

    good timing on this one. mrs. smidlap has a gallery showing of her paintings that opens on friday. it’s a lot of work and i am thankful she had a day job for long enough that if she quits her part time job in the near future our existence will be comfortable. we know some people in the art community who work only at their art like you supposed and they’re doing ok. i think it takes some salesmanship and organizational skill but it can be done. you’re right that they might not be getting wealthy with money but they are their own boss. just like investing success doesn’t just happen in a week or a month.

    • FrogdancerJones

      I wish I could see Ms Smidlap’s art. I’m looking for a couple of pieces for my place.
      ‘m not in any hurry – I know that sooner or later I’ll look at something and it’ll hit me between the eyes. Not prepared to settle for anything less.

  3. Shannon@RetiresGreat

    Great writing and good example of the things that are important in life. My mother was an artist (she passed in 2016) and part of her legacy are the beautiful paintings she completed during her lifetime.

    It’s easy to get focused on money and forget to take time to “stop and smell” the roses. Sounds like you’re a great son!

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