Planning for Retirement – Is it Ever Too Early?

I’m turning 54 this month and my husband just turned 52. While I’ve been thinking of and planning for retirement for years, he still lives in the here and now and hasn’t put any thought into retirement. Part of that is his work mentality – he couldn’t imagine working anywhere else, and can’t see past the next 15 or so years til he retires.

I’ve always been a forward thinker, and an organiser and planner. I like everything organised down to a “t” and I’m not really good at winging it. I think in the big picture and like to consider things from every angle. I don’t always get it right but more often than not my plans are successful. When it comes to retirement, thinking ahead is essential if you don’t want it to take you by surprise. From what I’m reading from people who have retired, the ones that didn’t plan it before-hand found themselves lost and didn’t cope so well when the worker role was at an end.

Are Women more Prepared Than Men for Retirement?

This may affect men more than women perhaps, because mens’ identity is so tied in with their role as a worker, but I suspect that women are catching up now that most of us work compared to past generations. Women have an advantage in that they have strong connections with other women and because a large percentage of us work part-time we have time outside work to express ourselves through other means. This starts from when we took our newborn babies to mother and baby groups, then play group, tuckshop duties and so on. We were able to make connections outside of work with other women in the same stage of life as us.

Part of the difficulty with retiring before you are emotionally ready, is that you are left with time on your hands and feel lost without some purpose to your day. There probably aren’t as many structured social gatherings for people in that age group, like there are for younger women. We need to seek groups where we can find purpose in our lives and develop relationships with other women in our age group.

Looking ahead to retirement in your 50’s is not too early in my opinion. Not only do you need to set yourself up financially, you also need to start creating a life outside of work so that your identity is not solely tied with your employment. This is especially important for men who often don’t belong to clubs, and spend most of their hours at work or home.

Where Can Retirees Find Social Connection?

Some suggestions for places that may help you to connect with other people after retirement are:

  • Mens’ sheds where men can build things and donate them to charity while creating connection with other men
  • Charity groups such as Lions, Meals on Wheels
  • Volunteering, e.g. Red Cross, hospitals, RSPCA
  • Sports clubs e.g. bowls, golf, tennis, swimming
  • Traveling especially organised tours, cruises
  • Retreats and meditation or yoga classes
  • Church groups
  • Craft or other hobby groups
  • Car clubs
  • Clubs such as the RSL, surf clubs, bridge clubs
  • Bingo
  • University of the third age
  • Council-run free programs
  • Library resources and courses
  • Mentoring younger people
  • Meetup which has groups for every type of interest and if there isn’t one you can create one
  • Online – Facebook groups
  • Landcare – caring for the environment
  • Book clubs
  • Local historical society or family history centre
  • Dancing e.g zumba, ballroom
  • Arts, music or museum e.g. Friends of the Museum
  • If you have a chronic illness there are often recovery and support groups e.g. walking groups for heart disease

Isolation and Its Impact on Retirees

Isolation can be particularly distressing for people who have not formed connection with others. It may take time to create these connections but many of the places I have named can give people a sense of purpose to their lives where they can use skills they developed over their lifetime of work. It is important to reach out if isolation and lack of direction is causing emotional issues like depression.

According to this article by VicHealth, loneliness is particularly prevalent amongst elderly people. Loneliness in our society is a growing concern that should not be ignored. We can avoid this by preparing ourselves ahead of time – create connections before you retire. If you are transitioning into retirement by reducing your work hours, use that time wisely. Join groups and find some purpose in your life so that when you eventually stop working you have already begun to structure your time to incorporate time elsewhere.

Planning Ahead for Retirement

As you begin to think of retirement, picture how you want to live. Do you want to live in a retirement village or independently. Start looking at facilities they offer so that when the time comes you already have a plan in place. Do you want to be a grey nomad or a world traveler or would you be happy to spend most of your time at home? Do you want to live close to your family and friends?

I have already started planning ahead for retirement by picturing the life I want to have. I don’t want to live in the rat-race we live in now, and I want a slower, quieter life. However, being close to services such as hospitals will be crucial. We will be downsizing to a smaller house in the next few years, and the place we retire to will be much smaller again. Having less upkeep than we have here will be necessary as we both experience physical problems like chronic back pain and joint issues.

Preparing Financially for Retirement.

Meanwhile, we’ll being to prepare financially by paying down our mortgage and investing in superannuation. Gone are the days when people could leave all their life savings to their children. People are living much longer these days so the money may be gone by the time you pass away. We may need to fund a retirement of 30 or more years! My father retired 30 years before he passed away.

See a financial advisor early on – in your 50’s and start building your nest egg. First pay off any debts, especially ones with high interest rates such as credit cards. Put any extra cash, e.g. tax return, into your superannuation. Interest rates are at an all-time low. Since we bought our house, the interest rates have decreased dramatically but we have deliberately kept our repayments the same. Without changing anything we are paying our mortgage off quicker.

Your Superannuation fund may have information on their website on saving for retirement. My superannuation fund has a tool to calculate how much superannuation I’ll need when I retire. I can also work out how much my nest will grow if I put extra payments in, which is a good incentive. They have an excellent budget planner as well which is another free tool available to anyone online.

Sources for Superannuation and Pension Information

In Australia the best source of information is the Money Smart website which is free to use and is not just for people planning their retirement. Good money management should start when you are young. When my sons started their first jobs at age 14, I helped them to set up an automatic deduction of $5 per week into their superannuation. It’s not very much, but compound interest will see it grow, and it gets them into the habit of saving for the future at a young age. Now they’re in their 20s and they don’t own a credit card or have a loan, and are pretty good with their money. They don’t have any assets worth mentioning but they have fantastic memories from their travels across the globe.

Look into what pension you may be eligible for, well in advance of retirement. There are Transition to Retirement packages available in some situations. There may be concessions and rebates available to help with the cost of living. In Australia, each state has its own Seniors Card, and there is information online about what you may be eligible for. (These links are to Australian websites only). I’m not an accountant or financial planner, so for individual advice I recommend seeing a professional trained in that field. This is merely some advice on where to start doing your own research.

Start Planning for Retirement

Is it ever too early to plan for retirement? The earlier you start, the more you will have in place so that your transition out of the workforce is a smooth one. By getting financial advice early, you can start building your nest egg through superannuation and other investments. To avoid loneliness and loss of purpose after you retire, social connections should be built prior to then so that you have prepared for a life outside work. I’d love to hear from my readers – how are you preparing for retirement? If you have retired, what advice would you give to someone like me?

If you enjoyed this article, read How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future, about our other plans for retirement.

Retirement: How to Prepare for it.  Is it ever too early to plan for retirement?  This article explains why early retirement planning is essential
Retirement: How to Prepare for it. Is it ever too early to plan for retirement? This article explains why early retirement planning is essential
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Why Your Waist Measurement Matters and How to Reduce It

This article will explain the relationship between waist size and your general health. Why your waist measurement matters, and how reducing it will improve your overall health.

According to research, reducing the size of your waist to a healthy size will increase your longevity. Other benefits are that it will reduce your risk for other diseases, such as dislipidemia, insulin resistance, cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes. Even if you are relatively smaller everywhere else on your body, the increased weight around your waist will still lead to other health problems.

My Own Health Concerns

One of my biggest concerns with my weight was my waist circumference. My waist measured 109cm (42 inches) when I started on my weight loss journey. This put me at a much higher risk of type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cancer. An ideal waist measurement for women is 88cm (35 inches) or less, and men is 102cm (40 inches) or less. Anything above this is classed as abdominal obesity.

All the extra weight I was carrying was fat, which was surrounding all my vital organs like my heart, liver and pancreas. I had been taking blood pressure medication for a couple of years, and for my cholesterol for at least 6 years. This meant my body was already showing signs of issues caused by this excess fat around my abdomen.

How to Measure Your Waist Size

Along with wanting to lose weight, I was desperate to reduce the size of my waist to prevent any other health issues. I started measuring my waist, hips, bust, thighs and upper arms along with weighing myself 2 – 3 times a week. I used a Body Fat Calculator to assess this. My body fat percentage a year ago was 43.3% which is very high. Now it is around 28% and in the healthy range for my age.

I have found that taking those measurements is more incentive to than just weighing on the scales alone is. Some days I’m quite bloated with my waist ranging between 84cm on a good day to 88cm on a bad day! The “bad day” is usually from working night shifts or having a day or two of eating and drinking unhealthy food. I accept that we all need a day or two like that occasionally.

Image credit for feature photo: Pixabay on Pexel

If you are interested in starting to do the same measurements, there’s a great website called Calculator.net. It has a number of health and fitness calculators that are easy to use, including a Body Fat Calculator. If you don’t want to go to that much trouble, try writing down your waist measurement and weight once or twice a week.

Gauging Your Waist Size by How Your Clothes Fit

The way your clothes fit will also be a good way to gauge whether you’re losing weight off your waist. I’ve had to totally replace my whole wardrobe twice in the last year, down to my underwear! It’s so rewarding to be able to see the results, and know that I’ve improved my health by reducing my waist size.

Another benefit of reducing your waist size is that clothes fit better! I always found it really hard to find clothes that fitted my apple shaped body and was always trying to hide my belly with tunics etc. It’s now so much easier to find clothes that fit, and my body has a better figure. (not quite an hourglass shape though!)

Here are my measurements before and after:

October 2018 / October 2019

Weight 83.5kg / 66.1kg

Waist 105cm / 84cm

Hips 109cm / 95cm

Bust 104cm / 90cm

Thighs 69cm / 59cm

Upper arm 30cm / 27cm

My Weight Loss Success

Before 83.5kg October 2018. After 66.1kg October 2019

Steps to Take to Reduce your Waist Size

The following six steps have been shown to effectively reduce your waist size:

  1. Cut out all sugar, especially drinks that have been sweetened. A high intake of sugar leads to the liver getting overloaded, resulting in insulin resistance. Your body can’t cope with so much sugar (fructose) and stores it as fat in your abdomen and liver.
  2. Increase your protein intake, because this reduces cravings and boosts your metabolism. High quality protein is important, such as that found in eggs, fish, legumes, nuts, seafood, meat and high quality protein supplements (whey powder).
  3. Cut carbohydrates, particularly highly refined ones found in cakes, sweets and white bread. Some people cut carbs drastically leading to ketosis (the popular keto diet) which reduces your appetite and leads to rapid weight loss. My brother has done really well on this diet, while I found just dropping all the rubbish like lollies, cakes, muffins etc. was enough for me to be effective. I find that if I have any of those foods now I get a migraine. That just proves to me that this type of food is bad for my health.
  4. Eat food high in fibre, particularly vegetables. This helps to fill you up, and aids digestion. One of the most effective steps I took was to amp up my vegetable intake, replacing a lot of the carbs with vegetables. Vegetables contain plenty of vitamins and minerals which also help our health and well-being. Other food sources of fibre include fruit, cereals and legumes. Adding a fibre supplement like Metamucil would be effective as well.
  5. Exercise, in particular aerobic exercise such as walking, running, swimming and cycling. Spot exercises like sit-ups do not work! Improving your core muscle strength will help you overall but it might not necessarily reduce your waist size unless you are doing aerobic exercise. I can’t do heavy exercise but I have found that regular walking has been effective for me.
  6. Count your calories using a macro counter. I use an App on my phone to record everything I eat. From there I can see my macros (percentage of protein, carbs and fat), and calorie intake. I try to keep to between 1500 – 1800 Kcal per day, and make sure my calories in is lower than my calories out. Even though my weight has been stable for months I still track my intake because I find it helps me stay accountable to my health goals.
Why your waist measurement matters - how your waist measurement affects your health and what you can do to reduce your waist measurement
Why your waist measurement matters – how your waist measurement affects your health and what you can do to remedy it.

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Letter to myself – aged 17

I have been thinking of my parents a lot lately, especially when I was writing my last two blog posts. Reflecting on what skills I learned from my parents, I realised that I didn’t appreciate it at that age. I was a bit of a handful for my parents, rebelling against their strict rules. I was able to rebuild my relationship with them in time, but I really wish I’d listened to their advice more.

This isn’t an original idea – I have seen other people write letters to their younger selves. Oprah wrote a powerful one and asked 17 well-known people to write letters as well – they’re on her website. There’s even a Grammy-award winning song by Brad Paisley:

If I could write a letter to me
And send it back in time to myself at seventeen

After reflecting on the things I wish I knew when I was 17, I decided to write a similar letter to myself:

A photo of the author, Christina Henry, aged 17
Me at aged 17

My Letter to Myself, Aged 17

Dear Christina,

I am writing to tell you that you need to appreciate your parents more. They really love you and only want what’s best for you. Their rules are there to protect you, even if they are strict and old-fashioned.

Learn as much as you can from your mum. She’s a beautiful person who gives her whole life to you – appreciate her, because she won’t be there when you really need her. She’ll be at your wedding, but 4 months later she’ll pass away from cancer. You will miss her for the rest of your life but you’ll be so grateful that you learnt a lot about cooking and homemaking from her. You’ll draw on your memories of your mother when you have your own children, and you’ll appreciate the advice she give you in her last few weeks about bringing up children. Memories like that will be treasures.

You will grow to appreciate your father, but not until you have your own children. Then you’ll realise how hard it is to give them a private education, holidays overseas and a nice house. You’ll come to terms with the type of man he is and that he was very much a product of the times when men were chauvinistic and had little to do with child rearing. You may never want to rely on a man, and you will always be strong willed and independent. You’ll eventually be on much better terms with him, but it’s not until his deathbed that he’ll tell you you’re a good daughter.

Don’t drink too much alcohol. It doesn’t agree with your body, and will play havoc with your mood and mental state. It won’t help at all when you’re grieving. You’ll make some pretty awful decisions under the influence, for which you’ll be regretful. Definitely don’t take drugs because the affect they have on family members will be devastating. Keep an eye on your sister – her spiral downwards in mental health will eventually have a diagnosis but not for 10 years. Step in and get her help when she has her first psychotic episode – she needs medical attention so don’t hold back from seeking it.

Learn to walk away from people and situations before they start affecting your mental and physical health. You will try to help so many people who will hate you for it, and it won’t be until years later that you learn boundaries. Find help with being assertive and only let people into your life who are authentic and care for your well-being. Even if that means having fewer friends – quality is better than quantity.

The author with her best friend Paula, aged 17
Me with my best friend Paula, aged 17

Don’t try to be a people pleaser. People will walk all over you until you learn to listen to your own inner voice and stand up for what is right. Don’t ever be a doormat. Your shyness will hold you back, and it will become so bad you’ll develop social anxiety. Seek help for it because there is treatment that will help. There will be one person who is strong enough to help you and will always have your back – you won’t meet him till you’re in your 40’s but when you do, there’ll be an instant connection and you’ll know you’re with the right person. Life won’t always be easy, but he’s the one you’ll be able to grow old with.

Protect your back. Back pain will be the defining feature of your later years. Nursing is a wonderful career which you will love, but it will take a toll on your health. Don’t stay in a job that causes too much stress. It’s not worth it and there’s better jobs out there.

Appreciate your healthy body. Look after it and don’t take it for granted. You’re in for a lifetime of health related issues so appreciate your youthful body. Get your teeth fixed while you’re young – your confidence and self esteem will improve. Investigate your migraines and palpitations – the underlying cause will shock you but you’ll be on a better pathway towards a healthier you. Watch out for weight gain – you’ll discover that more of a plant based diet is the answer to maintaining your weight and well-being.

Travel as much as you can when you’re young. The world will change so much and your health will limit how much you can travel.

The author aged 17 - she looks so shy and insecure in this photo
Myself at 17 – I look so shy and insecure

I don’t need to tell you that motherhood will be the most rewarding role you’ll have in life. You already know you will be a mother, even if it takes you years to have children. You will guide them in the way you wish your parents had guided you – with strong communication, mutual respect, and appreciation of the unique creative people they are. They will give you so much joy and fulfillment.

Don’t ever stop writing and reading. It will give you untold joy and satisfaction. You’ll always want to learn something new, and you’ll throw yourself into new projects with passion – don’t ever stop doing that!

Above all, keep believing that there’s a higher reason for all of this. We’re spiritual beings in human form and our goal is to learn as much as we can in our lifetime. Your life will throw you many curve-balls, and at times you’ll struggle with the weight of so much burden on your shoulders, but you’ll always get through each challenge. Care for yourself, make sure you take time out for yourself. Enjoy your life,

Love Christina, aged 53

No Regrets

I don’t regret much – my life has been a learning curve and I’ve probably dealt with more situations than some people. Some I’ve dealt with well, many not so well. I’ve learnt to accept myself with all the traits, good and bad, that I have. Some inherited, some learnt as I’ve traveled through life. I enjoyed writing this letter to myself as an exercise in self reflection.

What would you tell yourself at 17? Please comment below.

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The Skills I Learned from my Parents That I Still Use Today

The Importance of Skills I Learned From My Parents

As parents we hope that our proteges take after us in some way. We try to teach them important skills and values as we raise them. I reflected on this very thing and realised that there are some important skills I learned from my parents that I still use today. It was not until I had my own children that I appreciated that I had been given these skills and values. I regard these skills as a vital part of my life and I value them more as I age.

How Old-Fashioned Skills are Helping Me Now

In my previous post, I explained that I am investigating self-sufficiency as a prospect for a sustainable future. We plan to supply most of our own basic needs, including growing our own food. My parents taught me some important skills as I was growing up, most of which I took for granted and have not used in my adult life. As I am heading into my later years, I am realising that those old-fashioned skills are relevant now.

If we are to supply our own food, we will need to be able to preserve food that we have grown ourselves, so that we have a steady supply during the months that our garden isn’t producing. Plants grown in season are more easily grown – you don’t need to provide an artificial environment (such as a green-house or water sprinkling system) to keep them alive. This means you harvest a large quantity at one time. Learning how to preserve some of the crop is essential.

My sister and I in 1977 with our mum - holding a 9 lb trout.  Our love of fishing and the outdoors stems from our parents.  We always had a boat for fishing on the many lakes around Rotorua, New Zealand
My sister and I in 1977 with our mum – holding a 9 lb trout. Our love of fishing and the outdoors stems from our parents. We always had a boat for fishing on the many lakes around Rotorua, New Zealand

The most useful skills I learned from my parents

My mother was a down-to-earth, practical and savvy woman. She was a stay-at-home mum of four kids under 5. The skills I learned from her were:

  • Budgeting – she took full advantage of using discount coupons, bought in bulk, never racked up a debt, and seemed to be able to stretch her money so that we never went without;
  • Sewing – mum made all her own clothes. She taught my sister and I to sew and knit. Mum also had a spinning wheel and made her own wool out of sheeps’ fleece;
  • Gardening – my parents were avid gardeners and grew most of our vegetables. They researched alternative growing methods and put them to use through having a greenhouse and hydroponic set-up which could produce out-of-season food in a cold climate. We also learned composting from them. Their green thumb has passed on to the rest of the family and we all enjoy growing our own produce;
  • Cooking – we rarely ate out, and mum cooked all our food. She baked cakes and biscuits, made icecream and other desserts. My dad cooked every Sunday for a house full of guests – he loved to experiment with food and entertain our guests. We all love cooking, and especially love to experiment with new flavours and techniques.
  • Preserving food – My mum used to make chutneys, jam, and preserved fruit. Dad made brawn – preserved meat. These skills are ones I now want to learn as a skill that will be needed for self-sufficiency. I have made pickles and chutneys, but only in small quantities. I am going to learn about bottling food so that it can be stored safely for future use;
  • Smoking food – we have a smoker so we can make smoked fish and meat. I know this has been used successfully to preserve food so we will learn how to do this as well;
  • Fishing – my husband and I both grew up in families that loved fishing. My parents owned a boat and we used to go trout fishing on one of the many fresh water lakes around our city. My husband’s father took him sea fishing and they still enjoy that now on their boat.
  • Health promotion- my mum was into natural therapies throughout her life. She knew every natural remedy known to man! Mum preferred to promote health by having a healthy diet and supplements. She practiced yoga and meditation as part of her philosophy of self-care.
  • Housekeeping and house maintenance – my parents did all their own cleaning, yard work and maintenance. I learned many skills from them and still struggle to hand those tasks over to anyone else. I prefer to do all my own cleaning, and my husband does everything he can in the garden and around the house. We are only able to hire someone else when we acknowledge that the skill required is outside our limits, or would take us too long to finish. As we get older we are realising our bodies aren’t up to doing hard work and sometimes it’s better to hire someone to do it;
  • Researching – my parents passed on their love of reading. They used to research all different things, and that love has passed on to me. My other hobby was genealogy which I learned from my mother – I was able to use her research as a basis for my own. I have another blog, This Is Who We Are about our family history
My father and his tomatoes - grown in New Zealand during the winter in a greenhouse.
My father and his tomatoes – grown in New Zealand during the winter in a greenhouse.

I guess I was like any other teenager and did not really appreciate my parents until I left home and had my own family. My mum passed away when I was 24. I really missed her presence in my life – it was very hard bringing up my sons without my mother to advise and help me. In a way I was lucky that she was such a wonderful parent and I learned so many skills from her as I was growing up. I was able to draw on that knowledge throughout my life. I certainly don’t take it for granted and really appreciate everything my parents taught me.

My sister working in the hydroponic greenhouse my father set up in the mid-80s.  It was the first hydroponic garden in New Zealand and used to attract tourists from all over the world
My sister working in the hydroponic greenhouse my father set up in the mid-80s. It was the first hydroponic garden in New Zealand and used to attract tourists from all over the world

Many of the skills I learned like preserving food will be necessary as we aim towards self-sufficiency. In the next few years I will be researching different skills in order to be able to live a self-sufficient lifestyle.

10 Skills my Parents Taught Me that I Still Use Today
10 Skills my Parents Taught Me that I Still Use Today

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How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future

The Goal is to become Self Sufficient

My husband and I have a goal – to become self sufficient by the time we retire. We have been researching how to be self sufficient, and what we need to consider before we can regard ourselves as self sufficient. Considerations for self sufficiency include how to meet our basic needs: water, food, energy and shelter.

Investigating Self-sufficiency as a Retirement Goal

My husband and I are in our early 50s so we’re not at the official retirement age and won’t be for over 10 years (67yrs in Australia for those of us born in the mid 60’s). The prospect of working for the next 13 years is daunting for me. I have chronic back pain caused by several back injuries and general wear and tear from over 30 years as a nurse. I’ve already reduced my work hours but the writing is on the wall – I know I won’t be able to work as a nurse for much longer.

I have been looking towards retirement for the last few years. Our current situation is that we have a large mortgage on a big property in a very busy city. It’s a rat-race and we feel like we are just rats in a wheel, chasing our tails – working long hours in jobs that aren’t easy, often not seeing each other for days at a time. Quality time together is limited. Our overheads and cost of living are huge. Living here is not sustainable in the long term, either financially or practically. So we must look at alternatives to our current lifestyle.

Downsizing is our First Goal

We have been considering downsizing as the first obvious choice. Once my older son leaves home and there’s just the two of us, continuing to live in our large house would be silly. It’s not designed so that we could create a self-contained unit to rent out so that’s not an option. So our first step would be to sell it and buy a smaller house on a smaller block – one that is easier to maintain.

We would still have a mortgage, however. To be able to buy a house mortgage-free we will have to sell up and move to a regional area where the cost of housing is much lower. The drawback is that we would probably be too far from medical services to be able to do it. That is why we are looking into becoming self-sufficient.

Being self-sufficient to us would mean being able to provide for most of our needs ourselves. It would mean that we would have to set up a property with energy, water and food supplies so that we didn’t have to rely on outside sources.

How to meet our basic needs

Our basic needs are shelter, energy, food and water. To be self sufficient we would need to provide most of them ourselves, and have the necessary resources in place to reduce our living costs. Using sustainable resources is another goal because we would like to reduce our carbon footprint.

Basic needs for self sufficiency - water, food, energy, shelter.
Basic needs for self sufficiency – water, food, energy, shelter.

Here are our most important considerations for self sufficiency:

Shelter – a small house on a small block. If we can afford it, a separate dwelling to rent out for income.

Energy – solar power, with a generator for back-up. Sustainable energy such as solar is cheaper in the long run. We may even earn money by feeding the excess back into the grid.

Water – rain tanks, with town supply as a back-up. Another sustainable choice.

Food – gardens with a variety of food such as vegetables and fruit. Chickens for eggs. A beehive for honey. Any surplus can be sold, or swapped with other gardeners. Any food that we can’t grow ourselves would be bought in bulk from bulk food supplies, or from local producers to inject money back into the economy. We love fishing so we could catch our own fish. I’ll be learning how to make my own preserves, bread, etc. – going back to skills my mother had like bottling fruit, making jam and sauces and cooking everything from scratch. It’ll be healthier as well as cheaper.

Other Considerations for Self Sufficiency

Waste – Recycling and reusing everything we can. Septic tank for waste. Compost and worm farm to use our garden and food waste up and improve the growing conditions for the soil in our garden. We already have those in our current property.

Community – You need to have a network of people who are willing to share their expertise when you are starting on this type of venture, especially if you’re moving to a new area to set up your self sufficient household. Our future plans include being close to my brother so that we have support and can help each other. Getting involved with the local community is also important – being self-sufficient doesn’t mean isolating yourself behind a wall. Just the opposite – you need to be connected to the community in which you live. We’re no doomsday preppers!

A suitable property

Suitable property – My brother has been researching self-sufficiency for over 30 years and much of his knowledge stems from our parents. They researched much of this in their life-time, incorporating vast knowledge of using your property to provide most of the food you will need. They were avid gardeners and often experimented with alternative growing techniques – the first hydroponic system in New Zealand was set up by my father. I’m lucky to have this knowledge base to assist me.

He has stressed the importance of choosing land that is rich and fertile and slopes or faces North. We currently live in an area where the soil is very sandy and doesn’t hold water or nutrients which poses a huge problem for growing plants. We’ve dealt with this by having raised garden beds and containers, and choosing the right type of plants for our climate.

Our raised garden beds.  We grow a variety of vegetables every year
Our raised garden beds. We grow a variety of vegetables every year

Town planning / Council Restrictions – we would have to ensure that the property we buy is in a Council area that allows us to use tank water, keep chickens etc. Most Councils have restrictions on keeping animals, dwelling size and use of the dwelling for commercial purposes, for example.

The Benefits of Becoming Self-sufficient

Self-sufficiency makes a lot of sense to me, both financially and as a way of being more environmentally friendly and reducing our footprint globally. It comes as no surprise that it’s a cheaper lifestyle and it appeals to me to not have to pay large energy bills and rely on the government to supply our every need.

Other considerations for self sufficiency are the costs of setting ourselves up. The initial costs will be the house and land, solar system, water tank, gardens, and septic tank. If we purchase a dwelling that has the basics, we can supply the rest initially or over time.

Comparing ourselves to our parents, my husband and I will probably have at least 30 years of retirement because most of our predecessors lived to at least 80. Our superannuation will not stretch that far and the Government pension will not be enough to live comfortably on, so reducing our cost of living is essential. Providing most of our own needs will save money in the long run, even if the initial set-up costs are high.

I’d love to hear other ideas that my readers may have for self-sufficiency or reducing their living costs. Please feel free to comment.

Our goals for retirement include being as self-sufficient as possible in order to create a sustainable lifestyle
Our goals for retirement include being as self-sufficient as possible in order to create a sustainable lifestyle

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How To Increase Traffic to your Blog

Using Pinterest to Drive Traffic to your Blog

One of the most important aspects of blogging is finding an audience for your written word. We would all like our audience to read our work, so increasing traffic to our blog is essential. One of the best ways I have found is to use Pinterest. It is a search engine just like Google, where people can find exactly what they need to know using keywords. This post will give you some ideas on how to increase traffic to your blog using Pinterest and Tailwind.

If you’re new to Pinterest, you can do a free course which I highly recommend. I had no idea how to set up my Pinterest properly, create pins or link pins to my blog until I took this course, Pinterest for New Bloggers. It was incredibly helpful, for people whether new to Pinterest, or even if you’ve been using Pinterest for a while. The Course is presented by Blogging for New Bloggers who have a number of other fantastic courses. I’ve taken quite a few of them, and you can check them out here.

This post may contain affiliate links, which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure

Do you want to increase traffic to your blog?  Midlife bloggers - share your content and increase traffic to your blog with Tailwind Tribes.  Get your invitation here!  Midlifestylist.com  Pin image with above words in it.  Photo of a computer and pile of magazines, rose in glass
Pin image – Do you want to increase traffic to your blog?

Pinterest relies on people to Pin new Pins to their boards frequently. Having an automated schedule for your Pins takes a lot of the work of repinning contents away from you. You can schedule your Pins in advance, to Pin to boards even when you aren’t able to yourself, meaning that your Pins are getting seen regularly, thus increasing traffic to your site.

That’s where Tailwind comes in.

Using Tailwind to Schedule your Content

If you are new to Tailwind, it is a scheduling service for sharing content to Pinterest. You can join for free, and this will allow you to join 5 tribes, and schedule 30 posts to your tribes per month. Click on this link to watch a short video which explains what Tailwind is, and how it can help you share your content. In addition to the free service, you can Pay for a subscription. If you use the following link you will get $15 off Tailwind Plus:

https://www.tailwindapp.com/i/chenry1320
I will also receive $15 credit from Tailwind if you use this link

I have started a new tribe on Tailwind called Midlife Bloggers Aging Well. About this Tribe:
Midlife Bloggers Aging Well is for people in their midlife (40s-60s) who write about midlife, for example, lifestyle, health, menopause, travel, challenges of midlife, planning for retirement, looking and feeling good in your midlife. The tribe will focus on tips on aging gracefully and maintaining a healthy lifestyle as we age

This is the link to go directly to the tribe:

https://www.tailwindapp.com/tribe/join?h=lKvGsomnpiOjDe

If you write for midlifers, I invite you to join my tribe so that you can share quality information with other bloggers in our niche.

Pinterest Group Boards

I’m also taking this opportunity to invite you to my Pinterest group board, Midlifers Group Board. Sharing our content is a win-win situation for everyone. If you are not yet a member of this group board, here is the link to request to join here

I also have another group board on Pinterest for bloggers who write about maintaining a healthy lifestyle called Staying Healthy – Group Board. This is for all age groups, not just midlifers. Request to join here:

My third group board on Pinterest is Planning for Retirement. This is a group board for midlifers who are planning for their retirement – financial, lifestyle, downsizing, health, family. Request to join here.

One of the best outcomes I have received from blogging is networking with other bloggers. I really enjoy reading their content and have learned a lot this way. I would love you to join me in sharing quality information by using these platforms.

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How to Make the Most of Your Staycation

It’s not surprising that more people are choosing to stay home when they have a holiday. Termed a Staycation, it’s a nickname for just that – staying at home instead of traveling. The latest coronavirus outbreak in China has given everyone the spooks, but over the years there have been multiple reasons to stay at home rather than travel, such as terrorism, natural disasters, plane crashes, outbreaks of gastro on cruise ships to name but a few. Other reasons may be ill health, economic or commitments at home.

My husband and I try to make the most of our annual leave and travel either overseas or within Australia. Our time off is precious to us because we both work odd hours and can go days at a time where we barely see each other. He has to go away for work sometimes, and I do shift work.

I am currently on annual leave for 2 weeks, and my husband only has one of those weeks off so I find myself with some time to myself. So that I don’t waste this time, I’ve compiled a list of tasks to do. It’s a chance to do things uninterrupted. I thought I’d share some ideas that other people may find helpful, to make the most of their Staycation.

  • Get on top of chores e.g. spring cleaning, yard work, gardening
  • Make appointments to the Dentist, Optometrist, skin clinic, etc. for your six monthly or yearly checkups.
  • Have coffee or a meal with friends and family you haven’t seen for a while
  • Visit the local art gallery, museum or historical society
  • If your town/city is in a touristy area, be a tourist for a day and go to a theme park or local attraction
  • Invest some time in yourself. Have a day of pampering at a spa, do a course on mindfulness or meditation, get your hair restyled
  • Read a book, do some craft or another hobby that you usually don’t have time to do
  • Cook some meals in batches to freeze for when you’re back at work
  • Rent accommodation or go camping in a nearby area that you wouldn’t usually stay. I often have a weekend away in a unit or house I’ve rented through Airbnb, in a town or suburb within an hour or two of home. That way we can feel as if we’ve been on holiday without the outlay of transport costs. I’m constantly surprised at the difference it makes to have a weekend away without going too far from home – it’s enough to revitalise you.
  • Declutter and sell or give away all the excess “stuff” you have. Your holiday at home might end up making you some extra cash
  • Do a short course to learn a new skill
  • Do any repairs around your property or organise for tradesmen to do work while you’re at home. We’re getting our roof repaired and repainted while I’m on a staycation
  • Rearrange the furniture in one room, redecorate it, add indoor plants or change the soft furnishings. Just giving one room a new look will be uplifting.
  • Plant a herb garden or some vegetable seedlings. If you don’t have a garden, use pot plants. Adding fresh herbs and vegetables to your diet will improve your health and wellbeing
  • See a movie or concert with a friend
  • Take your children or grandchildren to the park or beach. Make the most of your local area and spend quality time with the younger generations
  • Make the most of not having to do anything to a schedule. Sleep in, stay up late, have a rest during the day or exercise every day. You’ll go back to work refreshed and feeling great

You certainly don’t have to go out of your way or clock up a huge credit card bill to enjoy a vacation. Globally, the increased fear of traveling due to disease, natural disasters, terrorism etc., will lead to more people staying home. That doesn’t mean you should feel deprived – make the most of it! I’m such a homebody that I never feel as if I’m missing out by having a staycation.

I’d love to hear about my readers’ ideas for a staycation. Do you usually go away, and if so, are you considering staying at home for your next vacation?

Make the most of your holiday at home.  How to enjoy your staycation.  Useful tips so that your staycation isn't wasted
Make the most of your holiday at home.
How to enjoy your staycation. Useful tips so that your staycation isn’t wasted
shared at this link-up party https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/why-did-i-32-51-lifethisweek-64-2020/
Shared at this link-up party – life this week, https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/taking-stock-3-27-51-lifethisweek-54-2020/

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The Half-Empty Nest

The Half Empty Nest

When a Child Moves Out it Feels Like Grief

A week ago my son moved out of home. I knew it was coming – he’s nearly 25, but it still caused an upheaval in my life all the same. I have my other son at home still, so the nest is only half-empty. Despite this I’m feeling a sense of loss akin to grief that only another mother could relate to. Empty Nest Syndrome, while being a cliche, is very real.

This is the son who I bonded with immediately after birth when he latched on in the delivery suite. It was complete love at first sight with my second baby. My first baby had been born three years earlier when I was mourning the death of my mother. This meant my bonding with him was affected by post natal depression and anxiety. And from not having the one person there for me – my mum, whose presence would have made such a difference to a new mother. He had colic as well so he cried a lot. In contrast, my second baby was a calm, relaxed and cuddly child, and I was a more experienced and confident mum.

The Close Mother-Son Bond

For years my second son was my shadow and clung to me. Our bond was strengthened by our similar sense of humour as he grew older. We enjoyed banter where we fed off each other, talking about diverse subjects at great length. This was often to the bemusement of the rest of the family who didn’t really ‘get’ us. Our mutual love of animals and our taste in music, our enjoyment of cooking together, and our daily walks with the dogs meant that we spent a lot of time together over the years.

My son went through a period of depression a few years back and he dropped out of university. 18 months later he decided to re-enroll in a different course in another university. I told him I would be keeping a close eye on him to make sure his mental state didn’t suffer by taking on another course of study. Our conversations became more in depth as I didn’t hold back with communication. I needed to make sure he was OK this time around, and that the pressure of studying, working and internships didn’t impact his mental health.

To my absolute joy he thrived under pressure, and was able to take on a heavy study load while working full-time and doing two internships at the same time. He was more motivated to accomplish his goals when his schedule was full. He completed his degree in communications, public relations and journalism in just over two years.

Coping With Disappointment

My son applied for jobs all over Australia in his chosen fields. He was keen to start his new career and leave the crappy retail position he’d held since the age of 14. He struggled to get so much as a reply to his application. The few interviews that he attended did not even bother to let him know he’d been unsuccessful. After six months of knock-backs we were both disheartened and incredibly disappointed. For me as a mother, it was like a stab in the heart to watch him go through this.

Honestly, I do not know what is wrong with employers these days. They do not even send out an email to let applicants know they’ve been unsuccessful. No wonder young people struggle to find a job, and when they do, there’s not the sense of loyalty that we had to our employers. I’m disgusted by how rude it is. The least they could do is send out a polite email thanking them for their application and telling them they have been unsuccessful.

So my son stayed in his retail position, stayed living at home and gave up on applying for jobs. My husband and I went on holiday. While we were there my son rang me to tell me he’d quit his job. He couldn’t work there anymore – it was making him ill, both physically and mentally. He was getting migraines nearly every day and spiraling into depression again. Of course this caused alarm and I begged him to reconsider. His employers met with him and pleaded with him to stay as he is a hard worker and reliable employee. He dropped back to casual and took on another job (retail as well!).

Then he decided to go back to university and do his Masters Degree in Secondary Education. He’d be able to teach high-school English and History. I wrote about it in my last blog post Don’t Hold Back . He was all set to start university this month then out of the blue he decided to move out of home and take on a full time position in his new workplace. Just when I thought he was set on one path, he did a 360 turn. He has now put off going back to university just so he could move out of home.

The Turmoil Caused by a Child Leaving Home

Our household has been in turmoil for the last few weeks. Quite a few deep discussions have occurred between my son and I as I attempt to persuade him to reconsider this decision. But he was set on this path and has now moved out. My main concern is that he’ll regret this down the track, and he won’t be fulfilled in his current job. I know it won’t be challenging enough for him mentally. He needs a job that will stimulate him intellectually for his own well-being. He acknowledges that but is still keen to spread his wings and become a fully functioning adult by cutting the apron strings.

I was fine until I drove toward our house the evening before he was due to move out. I realised it would be the last time our family of four would sleep in the same house together. The floodgates opened and I couldn’t control the tears for the next 12 hours until I had to show up for work again. It felt like I was grieving for my father again – he’d passed away 18 months prior. That’s understandable because a partial empty nest is a loss, just like all the other losses I’d experienced. I’d had the same reaction when my mother and sister had passed away, and when I separated from my ex-husband. No-one died obviously but I was losing a massive part of myself all the same.

The bedroom my son left behind is now my new writing space.  This has eased the feeling of an empty nest slightly.
The bedroom my son left behind is now my new writing space. This has eased the feeling of an empty nest slightly.

Close Bond Reinforced Through Shared Experiences

I was prepared to be emotional because my son and I had been together during several of the hardest periods of my life. Despite his youth, he had proved to be an incredibly resilient person and very supportive, emotionally mature and caring. When my father was suffering from cancer and spent the last few months in and out of hospital, it was my son who came with me to New Zealand to see him.

I leaned on him more than what a mother would normally do with their son. His strength of character showed that he could handle this. He did it willingly and generously, not holding back from seeing the brutality of his grandfather dying from pancreatic cancer. We grew even closer from that shared experience. We both felt honoured to have spent that time with my father, who, despite being in pain and hallucinating from his condition, displayed utter peace at being so close to dying. He was praying that God would take him and he had incredible faith right until his last breath.

If my son had moved out a year ago I would not have coped as well as what I have, because I was still grieving my father. For anyone who has lost someone that close, you know that the acute stage of grief varies. It has been different for each person I’ve lost – my mum when I was 24, my sister when I was 45 and my dad when I was 52. But eventually it becomes easier to bear. So in no way do I feel that my son moving out is in any way as bad as losing someone who has died. I still see my son as he’s only 20 minutes drive away. But it won’t be the same without our daily walks, cooking sessions and nightly banter at the dinner table.

My pets keep me company as I write
My pets keep me company as I write

How Has Your Empty Nest Impacted You?

I’d love to hear from you, my readers – how was the empty nest for you? What helped you to adjust to the gap left in your life? Do you still miss your children or are you enjoying the freedom of not having dependents at home? My immediate way to adjust was to clean out his room and turn it into a study for me. A space where I can write freely without interruption, and decorate it according to my taste, in soothing colours. I write surrounded by my pets who are great company.

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How to Grow your own Sprouts on your kitchen bench

This post will tell you how to grow your own sprouts with easy step by step instructions. Sprouts have many health benefits: they are full of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins such as Vit. D, A, zinc, biotin and iron, fibre which aids digestion, and omega-3 fatty acids. The process of sprouting enhances the nutrient value of grains, legumes and beans. They are easier to digest when sprouted, allowing our body to utilise the nutrients easily. While they are full of nutrients, they are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without worrying about the calorie intake.

To buy them from the supermarket is relatively expensive and they have to be used within a couple of days. I usually end up throwing most of them out because they deteriorate too quickly. By growing my own, I can have sprouts at various stages of growth so that I have a steady supply. They are very easy to grow – you don’t need a garden for these! They can grow on your kitchen bench in a jar and only take about 3 days to grow.

Affiliate Disclosure: This post may contain affiliate links which means I may receive a commission, at no extra cost to you, if you make a purchase through a link. Please see my full disclosure

Equipment Required to Grow Your Own Sprouts

  • Clean glass jar. You can use any jar for this but a medium sized jar is best
  • A sprouting lid which has wire mesh to allow air to circulate, and water to drain off the sprouts. Sprouting lids may be purchased online separately, or you can buy a starter kit of jar, lid and rack (to aid drainage) from Amazon
  • Sprouting seeds e.g. alfalfa, red clover, mung beans, chia seeds, broccoli, wheat, radish, soybean, mustard, lentil, sunflower seeds and pea shoots. Anywhere that supplies seeds should have them, and they will say sprouting seeds on the packet. Health food stores usually supply them too, and you can buy them in bulk online. It’s best to buy special sprouting seeds because they are free of bacteria and are packaged in a controlled environment. Using lentils or other seeds from the grocery store is not as safe because they are meant to be cooked, meaning that they may not be free of the bacteria that causes salmonella or e. coli gastroenteritis.
  • I use a tea strainer to strain the water off as some of the seeds are very small. The rinsing and draining process is important as you don’t want them to sit in stagnant water.
Equipment used to grow sprouts and sprout seeds

How to Grow Your Own Sprouts

Steps

  1. Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar. Cover with warm water and leave overnight – 8 to 12 hours
  2. Drain water off (I use the tea strainer to drain it through). Rinse a couple of times until the water runs clear. Do this morning and night. Leave them pointing downwards so that the water drains well.
  3. After a few days the sprouts will be ready to eat. Put them into an air-tight container in the fridge and eat within a few days.
Sprouts growing – day 2 to day 5

You start a new batch of sprouts every couple of days to ensure a continuous supply.

Enjoy them in salad, sandwiches, wraps or stir fries.

Using sprouts in a salad

How to Grow your own Sprouts on your kitchen bench

Sprouts have many health benefits: they are full of nutrients, antioxidants, vitamins such as Vit. D, A, zinc, biotin and iron, fibre which aids digestion, and omega-3 fatty acids. The process of sprouting enhances the nutrient value of grains, legumes and beans. They are easier to digest when sprouted, allowing our body to utilise the nutrients easily. While they are full of nutrients, they are low in calories so you can eat a lot of them without worrying about the calorie intake. To buy them from the supermarket is relatively expensive and they have to be used within a couple of days. I usually end up throwing most of them out because they deteriorate too quickly. By growing my own, I can have sprouts at various stages of growth so that I have a steady supply. They are very easy to grow – you don’t need a garden for these! They can grow on your kitchen bench in a jar and only take about 3 days to grow.
Prep Time10 mins
Total Time10 mins
Course: Salad
Cuisine: Healthy, Vegan, Vegetarian
Keyword: Easy, Healthy, Sprouts, Vegan, Vegetarian
Yield: 1 cup
Author: midlifestylist
Cost: $2 per cup

Equipment

  • Clean glass jar. You can use any jar for this but a medium sized jar is best
  • A sprouting lid which has wire mesh to allow air to circulate, and water to drain off the sprouts. I have made do with the foot end of a pair of pantyhose stretched over the mouth of the jar. A piece of muslin or cheesecloth and a rubber band would work as well.
  • Sprouting seeds e.g. alfalfa, red clover, mung beans, chia seeds, broccoli, wheat, radish, soybean, mustard, lentil, sunflower seeds and pea shoots. Anywhere that supplies seeds should have them, and they will say sprouting seeds on the packet. Health food stores usually supply them too, and you can buy them in bulk online. It’s best to buy special sprouting seeds because they are free of bacteria and are packaged in a controlled environment. Using lentils or other seeds from the grocery store is not as safe because they are meant to be cooked, meaning that they may not be free of the bacteria that causes salmonella or e. coli gastroenteritis.
  • I use a tea strainer to strain the water off as some of the seeds are very small. The rinsing and draining process is important as you don’t want them to sit in stagnant water.

Materials

  • 2 tablespoons Sprouting seeds

Instructions

  • Place 1 or 2 tablespoons of seeds in the jar. Cover with warm water and leave overnight – 8 to 12 hours
  • Drain water off (I use the tea strainer to drain it through). Rinse a couple of times until the water runs clear. Do this morning and night. Leave them pointing downwards so that the water drains well.
  • After a few days the sprouts will be ready to eat. Put them into an air-tight container in the fridge and eat within a few days.

Notes

How to grow your own bean sprouts
Growing sprouts is easy with these instructions. Sprouts are nutritious and may be added to salads, sandwiches or stir fries
You start a new batch of sprouts every couple of days to ensure a continuous supply.
Enjoy them in salad, sandwiches, wraps or stir fries.

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Don’t Hold Back

My motto for this year is Don’t Hold Back


My motto for this year is don’t hold back. For years I’ve left things on hold because of lack of self confidence. Last year I finally started my blog after having it on hold for 6 years! My confidence last year was inspired by my weight loss and new zest for life because I had more energy and felt good about myself. Once I had started writing, it just flowed. I have written in journals all my life but finally I am writing for other people! I’m learning new skills and connecting with other people who have a passion for a healthy lifestyle.

Once I could see the possibilities open up to me, it flowed on to other aspects of my life. I’ve been a nurse for over 30 years but I’ve held myself back in my career even though I’ve studied and obtained other qualifications. Whenever a career opportunity has come up I’ve always said to myself that I can’t apply because I don’t have those skills or experience in a particular area. I’ve decided the best way to fix it is to get those skills!

Learn New Skills to Improve Your Career Prospects

This is the year I’m finally going to give myself permission to learn new skills so that I can go for those jobs. If it means stepping out of my comfort zone then so be it. By learning new skills I’ll be opening myself up to working in areas that are much more suited to my stage of life – that being someone with chronic back pain who can’t work a day without it causing severe pain, and insomnia so bad that the shift work I do is intolerable.

My older son has always had a dream to be a film editor. He got the nickname “Steven Spielburg” when he was only very young because he was always filming on our home video camera. He’s been slowly building up his portfolio of work by doing free work for his niche industry (music and tour videos for bands). His goal is to be an editor and he’s been planning to go back to University to study towards this. He said to me a couple of days ago that next year he would start applying for editing jobs and if he doesn’t get one by the end of next year he will go back to studying. I said to him, “Why not do that now? You’re ready for it. This is the year we should all decide that we’re going to go for it. If we’ve had a dream to do something for years, then this is the year we will do it. What have I got to lose? I’m 54 this year and if I don’t do it now I probably never will.”

With that I could see the light-bulb moment shine in his eyes and he said, “You know what? You’re right! What have I got to lose? I’ll bring my plans forward to this year and start applying for editing jobs”. I’m glad my influence can inspire someone else to follow their dreams.

When Your Dream Job Doesn’t Materialise – Act On Plan B

My other son finished a degree in journalism and communications a bit over a year ago. He applied for many jobs but was pretty let down by the lack of response and his dream was shattered. Mid last year he decided to look into going back to university and studying teaching. He’s had the dream of teaching since he was a child. I can remember him telling me that when he was at Primary school himself. It was always “Plan B” and something to do when his writing career was stagnating or he was settling down to married life and had a family. So he looked into university courses and decided to apply for a Masters course to become an English and history teacher- not some time in the future, but now, this year! It meant taking a few more history subjects at university last year but if he’d waited till this year it would have been one more year before he’d been able to start his Masters.

Don't Hold Back from achieving your dreams.  Shows woman holding a large egg timer
Don’t Hold Back From Achieving Your Dreams

Stop Procrastinating, What Have You Got To Lose?

So this year is going to be the year that we don’t hold back. No more procrastination or self-doubt. Just go for it and give it a go. What have we got to lose? Nothing! But if we let self-doubt hold us back, then our dreams will be on hold for another year and another. My message today is – If anything’s been holding you back, figure out why? What is it that you lack? If it’s skills or experience, then study or find a mentor. Volunteer or work freelance, or work for free to get some experience. Do a course or just learn it from books at the library or Youtube videos or online courses. Whatever it is, don’t hold yourself back. What have you got to lose?

Shared at the following Link-up: https://www.denysewhelan.com.au/denyse-blogs/kindness-in-covid19-times-24-51-lifethisweek-48-2020/

Update to Post 23 September 2020

Eight months ago, when I wrote this post, the world was a different place. That was pre-Covid-19. For myself and my family, we have been through perhaps one of the most challenging periods we’ve ever had to deal with. A month after I wrote this I was diagnosed with the BRCA2 gene mutation. You can read about it in this post. I’ve had five surgeries this year and have been unable to work for the majority of 2020.

My sons have moved out of home. My younger son did return to university, to start his Masters in Communication. He just landed his first job in the field so won’t be studying teaching now. My older son has moved to Brisbane, and was transferred to another branch of his company. He is yet to return to studying.

Even though our plans for the year were shattered, we feel lucky that we haven’t been affected personally by Covid-19. My health has been challenged but I haven’t contracted the disease. Our family is well, even though I can’t see my brothers and nephew who live over the border.

There’s still time to realise those dreams, they’re on hold for now. My message is still the same – if you have a dream, work towards it. Covid-19 may have messed up our plans but we can still dream of a better world.

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