Staying positive despite setbacks

Updates on Midlifestylist

It’s five weeks since my bilateral mastectomies and in that time there have been triumphs and setbacks. First the triumphs:

  • Midlifestylist is now officially a business! I registered the business name on the Australian Business Register and applied for an ABN (Australian Business Number). It’s exciting to see my business name on official documents. I first thought of the name seven years ago and bought a domain name but didn’t officially start my blog until October 2019. If I ever start earning money through my website I’ll need to pay tax so I thought it would be worth registering the name officially.
  • While I’ve been at home healing I completed a legal course for my website. I knew I’d need to get the legal side of things done before my website grew any further but I haven’t had the time to sit down and tackle it until now. The course was very beneficial and included all the templates for Terms and Conditions, Disclosures, Privacy Policy and Disclaimers. A blogger that I follow had her blog plagiarised by a B-grade celebrity who made thousands of dollars off a book that she compiled from 4 or 5 bloggers’ work. The course I did covers copyright and what to do if your work is plagiarised. I recommend this course and if you’re interested, click the link highlighted. The basic course is free but if you buy one of the other courses I may receive a commission at no extra cost to you because I’m affiliated with the course conveners. Read the full disclosure here.
  • My niece Ally, her friend Coralee and I raised over $1000 for breast cancer research by taking part in the GO PINK campaign. We dyed our hair pink and did a live feed which was a lot of fun.
  • My husband and I baked bread for the first time. He did all the mixing and kneading because I’m still not able to do anything strenuous and we ate 3/4 of the loaf with some homemade vegetable soup because it was so moreish. We have a bread-maker on order but it won’t come until July because it looks like everyone else had the same idea when there were shortages of everything in the shops.
  • Our vegetable garden is thriving and we’re already eating produce from it. Every year it improves because with trial and error we’re finding the best ways to do things. The weather has been perfect for growing too with lovely sunny days and plenty of rain. Winter really is the perfect time of the year in Queensland.
  • I’ve been collaborating with other bloggers on some projects which are new and exciting. One of the best things about blogging is the community of like-minded individuals that you meet online. Reading their blogs gives you another perspective as well.
Freshly baked bread

Now the setbacks:

  • I still have a lot of swelling and the wound is taking a long time to heal because of the massive post-op bleed I had on the left side. I had to have another course of antibiotics and I’ve been very restricted in what I’m allowed to do. I’m supposed to start back at work on Monday but I’m not up to that because nursing is a very active job and I’m not allowed to lift anything or do strenuous work yet. I was referred to a haematologist to try to get to the bottom of why I bled so much and it may be genetic because I’ve had a few other instances in my life of unexplained bleeding. I’ve had days when it all gets too much and I’ll be very down in the dumps and cry, but I’m able to bounce back and am in a positive frame of mind most of the time. I’ve had a lot of support so that definitely helps.
  • Because my mobility has been restricted I’ve been very tired at times. The worst week was when my husband went back to work after looking after me for 3 weeks. I wasn’t allowed to drive so was catching the bus and tram which meant catching 2 buses to get to my doctors’ appointments and 2 home, plus walking. I can drive short distances now and that’s been a huge improvement. I hired dog walkers so that my dog didn’t miss out on his walk and now that I can drive I can take him to a dog park where I can park so close that he can jump out of the car and go straight onto the off-leash area so I don’t have to hold his lead. He’s a big boy and at the moment I’m not up to him pulling on his lead.

The social distancing laws are gradually easing in Australia which is a big relief. The border between Queensland and New South Wales will open in a couple of weeks so I’ll finally be able to visit my brother who lives an hour away. We have a camping trip planned for the last weekend in August which has been delayed twice before. We’re really hoping we’ll be able to go this time. My sister-in-law’s 50th birthday party can finally go ahead as well – she was waiting for restrictions to ease. It has an Alice in Wonderland theme so I’ve been making a costume – watch this space as I may be brave enough to publish photos!

I hope all my readers are staying well and coping with whatever restrictions are on in your part of the world. This year has certainly put a lot of stress on to people and we’re all having to cope with current events. There’s still a lot of unrest from the Black Lives Matter movement, which I wrote about in my last post. I hope that this year’s events bring about lasting change for the better. The world has now woken up and it would be awesome if we all learnt the lessons that are available to us.

While recovering from surgery there are triumphs and setbacks. It’s important to stay positive and look to the future as this period in my life won’t last forever. I don’t regret making the decision to do risk-reducing surgery as it means my chances of getting cancer are reduced almost to zero. No matter how hard things seem right now, it is important to focus on the bigger picture. I’ve been through much worse than this in the past and I know I have the inner strength to get through this as well.

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Living the Healthiest Version of Your Life

I was asked to contribute a guest post by Sue Loncaric for her Website Sizzling toward sixty. Sue’s passion is “helping and encouraging women in midlife to reach their full potential living a healthy & active lifestyle”. I encourage my readers to have a look at her website because it has so many resources for women in their midlife to inspire and guide them to live a healthy life. Sue lives on the Gold Coast and we’ve never met in person but I look forward to having a coffee and a chat with her when we are no longer social distancing.

This was my first guest post and I feel very honoured to have been invited to take part in her series Aging Well Living Well. I talked about some of the challenges I have faced in my life and how I overcame them to arrive at this point in my life. Here is an excerpt:

I want my remaining years to be as healthy as possible so I strive to overcome my health issues and live the healthiest version of my life as I canNo matter what your issues are, whether they are physical or mental, a lack of money or support, it is possible to live the healthiest version of yourself. Do what you can rather than focusing on what you can’t.

Christina Henry 2020

Take a look at my guest post at this link:

Living the Healthiest Version of Your Life

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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.

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.

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

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 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! She 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.

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. 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 – I 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

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 I Learned from my Parents that I still use Today
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How to be Self-Sufficient as a Sustainable Future

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.

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

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

Here is what we’re considering as our options:

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.

Water – rain tanks, with town supply as a back-up

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

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!

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

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.

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
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The Half-Empty Nest

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, but I’m feeling a sense of loss akin to grief that only another mother could relate to.

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, and 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.

For years my second son was my shadow – he clung to me. As he grew our bond was strengthened by our similar sense of humour and enjoyment of banter where we fed off each other, talking about diverse subjects at great length 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 then that 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 almost 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.

He applied for jobs all over Australia in his chosen fields, and was keen to start his new career and get out of the crappy retail position he’d held since the age of 14. He struggled to get so much as a reply to his application, and 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 and 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 spiralling into depression again. Of course I was stressed about this and begged him to reconsider. His employers met with him and pleaded with him to stay as he is a hard worker and reliable employee, so 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 and 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 and has now put off going back to university just so he could move out of 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 that he won’t be fulfilled in his current job as 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, and 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, and 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 it is a loss, just like all the other losses I’d experienced in my life. 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.

I was prepared to be emotional because my son and I had been together during several of the hardest periods of my life, and 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 but 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, he’s only 20 minutes drive away. But it won’t be the same without our daily walks, our cooking sessions and our nightly banter at the dinner table.

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.

My New Writing Space
My pets keep me company as I write

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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! 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.

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.

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. So 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/

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What’s with the Middle Aged Spread?

We’ve all heard about the middle aged spread. Many of us in our 40’s and 50’s start to put on weight which seems to cling to our abdomen, hips and thighs. But why is that, and what can we do about it?

I’ve always put weight straight on to my tummy. Looking at photos of my family, we all have a “pot gut” which we inherited from our father! So it is sometimes from hereditary factors, and sometimes from just learning about food from our families. We’re all foodies in my family – we love our food, we talk about food in detail, and love to experiment with cooking. Being good cooks means we enjoy it just a little too much at times and all our social occasions are based on lavish feasts. All well and good when you’re young and fit and can keep your weight down with exercise and eating well the rest of the week.

But after the age of 40, the reduction in sex hormones in both men and women (yes there is a “manopause”!) can lead to excess body fat being stored around the stomach for men and the buttocks and thighs of women. Women and men store fat differently and it can change due to aging.

I went into a sudden and severe menopause when I was about 46 where my ovaries switched off overnight. I suffered hot flushes every 5 to 10 minutes, severe anxiety and insomnia. For me, going on to hormone replacement therapy was vital for my health. I started to put on weight at the same age, but put it down to lifestyle factors. It wasn’t until this year, at the age of 53, that I managed to slowly wean myself off HRT over the course of about 6 months. It’s only been since then that I’ve been able to lose weight more easily than before. Scientific studies dispute the link between weight gain and HRT, but for me, I believe HRT made it harder for me to control my weight.

Because weight gain in middle age is so common, it is important to look at what we can control, especially our diet. I genuinely did not know that the recommended number of servings of protein and grains is lower after the age of 50. Here was I, eating the same amount of food as my sons who are in their 20’s, and wondering why I was putting on weight! It wasn’t until the dietician told me this that I had a light-bulb moment and realised that I needed to change not only how many servings I was eating, but the amount of food per serving as well.

Once I did this, the weight actually came off easily. I could no longer eat 3 stalks of broccoli and call it a serving, and 200g of red meat and think that that was a reasonable amount for dinner. Here are the recommended amounts of servings per age group:

Recommended number of Servings per Day

You can see from this table, the number of servings drops after the age of 50, so it’s important to adjust our eating habits accordingly. I had assumed that my diet was full of healthy fruit and vegetables, but when I looked more closely at it, I realised that I really wasn’t eating many vegetables at all. It was easy to fix – I just started eating a large salad or some homemade vegetable soup for lunch, and loaded extra vegetables into my night time meals. My serve of meat is now much smaller, and I’ve started incorporating legumes with my meals. My son went vegetarian at the beginning of this year and we’ve really enjoyed cooking sessions where we experiment with different recipes. He’s becoming a good cook as well. His meals look far nicer than our carnivorous ones!

A healthy diet should contain 2 serves of fruit and 5-6 serves of vegetables per day
A healthy diet should contain 2 serves of fruit and 5-6 serves of vegetables per day

There are some great resources on the internet about serving numbers and sizes. The one I use is an Australian Government website:

https://www.eatforhealth.gov.au/

It really is as simple as that: keep to the recommended guidelines for your age and sex, and you will begin to lose weight. Add in exercise, and you’ll not only lose weight, you’ll feel so much better too.

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About Me

I first came up with the concept of writing this blog about 6 years ago, but never got around to starting it because it always seemed to be in the too-hard basket. In the meantime, I came up with many ideas for articles, so I wrote them in journals and always thought “one day I’ll get around to starting that blog”. I never really had the confidence to put it into action. Then this year I succeeded in losing a lot of excess weight, my confidence was restored, and I finally felt like I had something to back up what I was writing. I felt like I had gained enough insight into changing my lifestyle to actually advise other people. It’s no point in giving people lifestyle advice if you yourself aren’t living a healthy lifestyle. The turning point for me was being able to lose 17kg and keep it off.

I’ve been writing all my adult life. I’ve had two other blogs – This is Who We Are, which is about my family history, and My Healthy Heart, which was a journal about my heart condition. The idea for this blog has been in the pipeline for 6 years, and in that time I’ve married for the second time, renovated two homes, battled some health conditions, and gone through some major life challenges.

This blog is for people like me: people in the prime of their lives. I’m also a Registered Nurse and mother of two adult sons in their 20’s who still live with us. Our blended family also consists of 2 border collies, three cats, a budgie and a pond full of goldfish. My husband and I love to travel, eat good food and have started growing our own vegetables.

To read my previous blogs, go to http://chill777.wordpress.com and http://myhealthyheartjournal.blogspot.com

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Midlife or Prime of our Lives?

Midlife or prime of our lives?

Post updated 24 June 2020

At our age (40’s and 50’s), we have friends who are having their first baby, as well as friends who have grandchildren. We can be in different stages of life – you may have chosen career first, or just not found the right person to settle down with earlier, so are just starting off married life together. Fertility problems may have delayed that first child too. On the other hand your kids might be off your hands and you’re experiencing freedom from school fees and weekend sports for the first time, also have more cash to spend on travel, yourself and your home.

Midlife is an exciting time and one which brings challenges too. Some of us may have to care for aging parents, or even have some health problems ourselves. We’re looking at retirement in the no-too-distant future and funding that so that our finances support a lifestyle that lasts 20 or more years.

The Midlifestylist blog covers some of the challenges and joys of this period in our lives. I have experienced many of them – health issues, divorce and remarriage, work-life balance, loss and grief, traveling, creating a home, and many more. I hope this resonates with my readers and would love to hear of some of the challenges and joys they experience in their lives.

You may enjoy these articles on Midlife:

For a comprehensive list of all midlife articles, click this link.

Please feel free to comment if you are facing different issues to the ones mentioned, and you may see an article about it in the future!

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