Well I thought it was time I volunteered some of my life story just to fill you in... if you're interested....
I've now lived for five decades and have entered my sixth, and each decade has presented me with challenges. So perhaps I'll work through each decade briefly...
Decade One...up to the age of ten.
Grew up as the eldest of seven children. Lived with my German grandparents on a farm up to the age of 8, learning to raise (and slaughter and prepare for the kitchen, and cook and eat) chickens and geese, milk cows, make butter, bake bread, build stuff, grow produce and barter with neighbours. My grandparents were the original greenies, surviving only upon what they could grow, produce themselves or barter for. We had a compost, fruit trees, pumpkins, cucumber and chokoes running wild, and a strawberry farm which supplemented thier income. My grandfather worked as the gardener at the abattoir and milk fed lambs would come home with him, be petted for a while, and suddenly disappear overnight. It was only ten years ago, that I made the connection between the lamb chops which would then appear on my dinner plate, and the woolly creature I'd been feeding with a baby bottle...a bit slow in that respect, aren't I!
Mum and Dad divorced. Started a very different, new life with Mum as a single parent in the late 60's when this was rare. Moved frequently as it was difficult to find long term, budget friendly rental houses for such a large family. Mum steadfastly refused to apply for public housing as she wanted us to grow up in 'good' neighbourhoods. She worked, but was always home before and after school. Her work was primarily in the Hospitality sector as either a housemaid, or kitchen hand. She learned lots of things in that environment, that she transferred to the home to make things feel special for us even though we had little money. She would bring home leftover canape's from posh weddings, little crystal dishes that had seen better days which she would fill with sugar cubes instead of normal sugar, and real linen serviettes that the hotelier would pass on to her instead of discarding them in the rubbish. All of this, she told me when she became terminally ill, was to show us (in her words) that there was a 'way out of poverty'. I remember being so utterly gobsmacked when she said that to me, as we never felt we were raised 'in poverty' at all.
Each year we would take a trip on the Sunlander, the overland train in Queensland. As a single parent family we were entitled to a 'free' trip, but Mum always upgraded us to a sleeper cabin. It was a tight fit, but six of us would sleep toe to tail in the three tiny bunks, with Mum and the youngest brother sleeping on the floor. We'd stay in big old houses on Magnetic Island and troop through lush tropical forests to pristine beaches lined with rock pools swarming with Neon Tetra fish and anemones. We felt we lived abundantly, always.
Decade Two...10-20 years
My teenaged years were spent with armies of friends practically living at our house because Mum made them all so welcome. There was always food for just one more, and it was nothing to find 8 or 10 extras sleeping haphazardly all over the living room, most weekends. Our time was spend building tree houses and go-karts, picking fruit straight from the trees and eating as we went with mulberries, macadamias and mangoes being the usual fare. We'd spend hours exploring the neighbourhood, always finding something delicious to eat upon our return. Sometimes it was just damper and golden syrup, but eaten straight from the oven, it was heavenly. Mums frugal ways impact on all of us enormously.
I finished school and fell madly in love with a musician (silly me), and to my Mothers great chagrin, 'married' him (we weren't really married but told everyone we were...it was the era where savvy couples didn't believe in marriage...ha!), and had two sons. This was a signal to him to make himself absent, which he did as often as possible over the next several years, while I studied, gained a business degree, and started working my way up the career ladder. Thank the stars for my Mother, as she supported me in doing whatever I needed to do to keep my own little family going.
Decade Three...20-30 years
Whilst negotiating a career in first Health and Fitness, then in Catering and Event Management, I continued to try to do my best for my sons. Some of my decisions were misguided, in hindsight, as having been raised with little money, I came to believe that lots of money would solve all. I worked too long and too hard and didn't spend as much time as I would have liked with my boys. I made unwise financial decisions and let my partner fritter much of my hard earned money away on stupid things. It was hard to say no to him as I still adored him. We had another son, born 11 1/2 weeks prematurely, who was diagnosed with Cerebral Palsy, and my partner didn't cope. It was a difficult and dark time, not worth repeating here.
Decade Four...30-40 years
A new chapter, new career, new life. Three sons, two at high school, one with a disability, on my own. A very tough time financially. My brother and his daughter come to live with me after the unexpected passing of his partner. This places extra strain on my own resources as he plunges into a long period of years of depression and cannot work. I learn to spend every cent I have on payday, so that I can honestly say to him that I can't give him any money for cigarettes/a flutter on the horses, as I simply do not have it. My well meaning friends introduce me to a string of ill suited suitors, including one who stalks me for two years (literally), only ceasing to do so when I take legal action.
Half way through this decade, another blind date lead me to a meeting with my now DH. We married three years later, and another change in career followed. I worked for three years as a pathology collector and loved it. However a pregnancy that sadly ends in miscarriage at 19 weeks, means that when we miraculously fall pregnant again when I am 39 years old, the doctor tells me to hang up my career girl shoes. This action, whilst confronting for someone who has always fended for themselves, is rewarded with a daughter, who remains the apple of our eye.
Decade Five....40-50 years
Life is challenging for a career minded girl like me. Being a stay at home Mum is not what I'd planned, and I don't always find the isolation of being a mum to a young daughter and disabled teen son, easy. Our business does well, but I retain my frugal ways, knowing that success in business is based upon many things, some of which are not always under our control. Mum is diagnosed with cancer and passes away just 12 weeks later. The family organises as much DIY in her funeral as law permits, as per her requests. Her casket is handpainted by we daughters, and depicts leaping dolphins all the way around it. Flowers are sourced from our own gardens, and everyone comments on how beautiful it all looks and what a fitting tribute it is to Mum that we can do this as a last loving gesture to her.
DH and I work hard towards an independent life for DS as DS wants to be just like his brothers and move out when he's 20. Years and years and years of lobbyng politicians pays off in the end, with DS moving in to his own place at the age of 19, one year ahead of his goal. Over the early years of her life, DD finds her dancing feet and for seven years we are caught up in a whirlwind of eisteddfods and dance exams. This and DS's needs for equipment and therapy are a huge drain on our finances and leads me to Simple Savings after a Google search on 'how to save money' finds this website.
Decade Six...50 +
So here I am. I've been a child raised on a farm, who became the eldest of a single parent family of seven. I've been a defacto partner, a single parent and a respectable married woman. I've had several 'careers' ranging from managing a gym, to working for Jenny Craig when she first started here in Australia, to managing events for the Miss Australia Awards (which used to be a major source of funds for the Cerebral Palsy League, hence my involvement) and other charities, to office work, to pathology and medical support, and working in the catering industry managing a commercial kitchen. And now I find myself assisting in running a small business. My love of writing is fulfilled by the advent of blogging and my contributions to Simple Savings. My ideas on simple living continue to expand and are fed by the forum members and bloggers who I follow voraciously, absorbing and implementing new strategies to lead us into a comfortable, stress free retirement.
So that's me in a few short paragraphs.
I can't say 'I've done it all'...but gosh when it's all laid out like that, it kinda feels that way ;0)
Thanks for reading!