About Duckie

Author, Coach, Celebrant, Life Transition Adviser.

Sold the Family Home

It ended up being a brief process that was easier than I expected.  I handled the sale on behalf of the family and we elected not to bother with an agent but to make it a sale by vendor.

Front-2

This is the house that Dad built

My first preference was to auction the property, as the land size was highly desirable and the house itself was unusual.  There were not many comparable sales around so establishing a value was not easy.  Auctioneers who I approached to act on our behalf declined to do so, saying that they had to work for licensed agents for insurance reasons.  That being the case, I decided to call for expressions of interest instead, with offers over $550k to be received in writing on the designated form by a specified date.  We had already received a valuation at that price shortly after our father’s death and so that was our base price, allowing for some capital growth since that time.

Before commencing the advertising program, I engaged a conveyancer to prepare the forms that needed to be provided to a purchaser, and a blank contract as well so that I could seal the deal as soon as agreement was reached.  I designed a sign board and commissioned that, organised paper advertising (Mainstream and the local Chinese Property News) and advertised on line as well.  That just left the open inspections.

The interest invoked by the property was good and within a day we had an offer of $600k.  There was a little negotiating with different parties but 8 days after our initial open inspection, on behalf of the family I shortened the sale period and accepted an offer of $612k.  I felt that it was a very good offer and that the purchasers were so intent on buying something – if not our property then something else – that I should take it and not risk losing them.

It sounds easy but there was sadness too.  I grew up in that house.  Here were people pacing around the back yard and working out how many smaller homes they could fit on the block (they could fit three) and asking if there were any problems in chopping down the trees.  In the middle of the yard is a huge olive tree.  It has kept the family supplied with olive oil for years.  It was our playground as kids as we climbed its branches and acted out various games.  That was the first tree that everyone wanted to remove.

I made a conscious effort to dissociate myself from the emotional ties and to treat it all as an arm’s length transaction.  We still told our stories though at the open inspections – about how our father designed and built the house; why he came up with such an innovative and unusual design, the environmental features and what we remembered growing up in what was once an outer suburb.  People enjoyed the stories and appreciated being able to ask us detailed questions that perhaps an agent would not have been able to answer.

There is still another month until settlement day.  I’ll be relieved with it is all over, but there will still be a little part of me that is left in that house and up the olive tree, the ghost of childhood past.  It’s the end of an era.

Digging up Mother

My parent’s house will shortly be put on the market.  Father died in February 2013 and clearing out the house has taken much longer than I would have anticipated.  We are almost there (my sisters and I) with some garden rubbish to be disposed of and a few shed items as well.

We will probably manage the sale ourselves and if we can find a willing auctioneer, will sell it via auction.  What this means then is it is time to dig up Mother.  That was the decision I came to this Saturday as I surveyed the house and considered what needed doing next.  I knew that she was under a rose bush and was confident I knew which rose bush.  My sister disagreed however and was sure that it was the adjacent bush.  Perhaps it was.

We have had what seems like weeks of rain and as a result, the clay-based soil in the front garden is damp and heavy.  Cutting through it was hard work.  I circled the rose bush that I favoured, levering out forkfuls of soil as I went.  I repeated the process and then resorted to the shovel to dig out the loosened soil.  Thus I dug a circular trench around the rose, exposing the roots and freeing them from the clay.  Eventually I pulled the bush out, severing some roots in the process but leaving a large bowl-shaped excavation that I continued to work on.

After a while, the soil changed consistency and I reached a layer of greasy clay that looked as though it would have been brilliant for making clay bricks.  It was also incredibly resistant to either fork or spade.  I now had a large and quite deep hole but had not found Mother.  I conceded that perhaps my sister was right and turned my attention to the second bush.  It was only about 12 degrees but even so by this stage, I felt the need to remove my jacket.

I started on the second bush, a bit peeved I had been chatting to the wrong shrub.  There had been those occasions when visiting dad that I had felt the need for a discussion with Mother and had slipped out into the front garden to commune with that rose, filling her in on the events of the day or just having a general chat.  The knowledge that I had misdirected my attention made me feel a bit silly.  I repeated the excavation process I had followed with the first bush and soon had that plant released from the ground as well.  I dug deeper and wider until the second hole was about the same depth as was the first.  I still didn’t find Mother.

I turned my attention to a third bush and divested myself of my jumper, leaving just a thin T-shirt on.  I was puzzled by this stage as my memory of the day on which we buried her did not support the location of the third bush at all but she had to be somewhere and I was starting to doubt the integrity of my recollections.  I repeated the process followed with the first two holes and dug the third hole and removed the bush.  Mother wasn’t there either and by this stage daylight was fading and I was exhausted.  I walked out of the garden 10 centimetres taller from all the claggy clay stuck to the bottom of my shoes, a bit cranky and perplexed by it all.

Today being Sunday, I was back at the house again, tackling some of the fun pre-sale jobs such as cleaning the oven.  My brother-in-law joined us early afternoon and somewhat in mirth when I advised that I could not find Mother, undertook to dig up further roses while at that time I supervised and cut back some rampant vegetation.  He dug up a fourth rose leaving a small neat hole that did not disclose mother.

I thought he needed a broader hole but no matter, he launched himself at another rosebush and dug that one up too.  This was now rose number five.  By this stage, he was feeling the heat and his jacket came off.  I noted a fair amount of huffing and puffing as he struggled with the sticky clay.  With that hole finally excavated, there was still another option (the sixth) and he tackled that rose bush as well.  Somewhat slowly by now and with frequent rests in between.

There was some talk of perhaps leaving her in situ and that maybe we would never find her.  I heard what they were saying but really did not want to leave my mother behind.  When the sixth hole did not yield a result except for yet another bare-rooted rose looking somewhat shocked, I suggested a cup of tea and a bit of a break.  We all needed it by then.

Suitably refreshed, we emerged to widen the last three holes, giving a greater area to investigate. My nephew had also arrived and he manned the digging implements for a while as well.  I watched them using a stabbing motion with a narrow-bladed implement as they chipped at the bottom of their holes – holes that I still didn’t really believe would yield success.

It made me think again about the first hole that I had dug and I asked my B-I-L to use that digger to chip away at the bottom of the first hole.  Chip, chip, chunk, chunk.  He chipped away and then I scrapped out the loose clay with the shovel.  Suddenly there was a flash of colour.  I directed him to it and then I could see that we had found her.  Just 5 cms below the first hole that I dug, she was waiting all along.  It was a relief to know that I had been speaking to the right bush after all.

Mother has now been extracted from the garden, the clay washed off the cream plastic brick, and she is now sitting alongside father in one of the bedrooms.  I am not sure if that is what they would have wanted but for now it will do.  The next resting place is a decision for another day.

It looked like wombats had attacked the front garden.

It looked like wombats had attacked the front garden.

At last, we found Mother.

At last, we found Mother

Fabulous Friday

With the beginning of this financial year (July 2014) I have dropped back from five to four days in my paid job.  Friday was my day of choice to spend at home, but if there is something crucial that comes up at work, I have indicated that I am prepared to vary the day off.

My colleagues have assumed that this is the first step towards retirement as I am the oldest by far in my section and indeed one of the oldest women in the company.  Work it seems is the domain of the 40-year old.  They are right in that I am desperate to ‘retire’ from this soulless and patronising environment.  I hadn’t appreciated when I was 35-40 that this was as good as it got.  At that age I was at my peak as far as workplace relevance goes and since then the opportunities that have been open to me have decreased, with the general assumption that a younger person will be sharper, more edgy, more hungry, and more deserving.  I suspect it is a little different for men of a similar age – they have a longer use-by date but even they report after a while that they start to be sidelined as well.

This is in fact the first step towards the rest of my life, which is going to be more satisfying, more challenging and more rewarding.  I am working towards self-employment and so am doing some study, am honing my writing skills and repertoire, am using the time for lots of research and am planning future travels.  The diminished income is a bit of a fright but I have done my sums and I know that I can manage.  It also makes the week much more tolerable as well and by Thursday I am positively delighted, knowing that the next day will be all mine.

Today -yay it’s Friday – is part work and part pleasure.  To start with I am setting up a separate blog for my author identity.  I have recently published a novel under the pseudonym of Emily Hussey (more of that in another post) and have been most remiss in not establishing the relevant blog.  Looking around my office, there is a bit of filing and sorting that needs to be done as well.

Then will come the haircut in a new salon that I am trialling and late afternoon I will join a group of friends for afternoon tea that will incorporate champers and chocolate and a discussion on my novel.  This will be at the home of a 95 year old who is a wonderful woman.  She has such a questing mind and is so supportive or my writing and all endeavours really.  If you can get her talking about her life, she has had some fascinating experiences as well, and looking at the paintings and items around her home gives some indication of the journey that she has travelled.  We all appreciate the pleasures of these rare afternoons, very conscious that with Lorna’s age and declining health, there will not be so many of them.

Afternoon tea - plus a few strawberries and chocolate

Afternoon tea – plus a few strawberries and chocolate

When I think of my day, why would I be doing anything else?  What do you do with your Fridays?

Six Word Saturday

I am a little confused about the mechanics of this but have agreed to link to Cate and the 6-word Saturday task.  OK, it’s Sunday now now Saturday but I have only just found out about the link-up.  My six words are more of a reflection of what is going on in my life right this minute, rather than describing my Saturday, which was quite a different experience.

Cleaning, thinking, too many ants.  Damn!

If you want to read more about the Six Word Saturday, there is more of an explanation here.

Travel Writing Workshop

There has to be some sort of reward for surviving a week of above 40 degree temperatures here in Adelaide, and today it was attending a travel writing workshop.  I don’t necessarily see myself taking up a new travel writing career (it pays too poorly for a start) but as always I have come away from the day impassioned and full of ideas for different writing projects.  The last workshop that I did was writing for radio and that was enthusiasm-generating as well.  Oh for the time to do it all.  Those brain storms and possibilities are all documented and at some point I will return to them and follow some up.

Not that I haven’t been writing.  My manuscript ‘The Red Heart’ is with the publisher and supposedly is undergoing an editing process as we write and the cover is also being designed.  The release date was 14 February but that date is drawing alarmingly close and I haven’t had confirmation that it will actually be made available on that date.  Hopefully soon.  In the meantime, I need to do some more work on the sequel.  I have the general plot idea but as I am just working on the first chapter there is much to be done.

I have a short story to submit to an anthology as well.  The publisher is seeking submissions on love stories, and I have just the thing in my bottom drawer, written about some of my observations from my occasional work as a marriage celebrant.  It will need some minor adaptation to suit the submission guidelines but other than that it is ready to go.

Time is one of the most precious commodities in my life, and I have come to the decision that in the middle of the year, I will reduce my working days to four per week.  This will of course mean a reduction in income but in part I will be pulling the belt tighter and in part will be developing alternative sources.  I have started a program of study that will be the springboard for the next career change – one that will ultimately allow me to be self-employed again.  More on that later.

In the meantime, young Donald and I are travelling to Japan in a couple of months and this will be an ideal time to put some travel writing ideas into practice.  We are going to attend the wedding of a young friend and are very much looking forward to the cultural experience – as well as the food, the sights, and the adventure.  I will be writing about it here of course, but will think about other avenues in the coming weeks.  It will be such an antidote to recent drab working experiences – I can hardly wait.

Random Compliments

Late today, I was walking down North Tce in the city, after enduring a whole day in a team planning session;  the sort of day in which you examine team values and make pledges about future behaviour and how as a united team, you are going on to bigger and greater successes.  I loathe these events and rarely fully participate with all the group hug activities, etc.   It is a day to be endured.  Consequently, I was relieved that the tedium was over and to be outside in the fresh air and sunshine but was still mulling over the events and processes of the day.  A woman passed me, turned briefly and said,

“I like your outfit!”

before spearing off  in a different direction and crossing the street.   I was really chuffed.  I wasn’t wearing anything special; it is an outfit that I have worn to work many times, but I was delighted all the same.  I called out a ‘Thank you’ and smiled to myself.  It quite lifted my mood and the frustrations of the day.  What a nice thing she did.

Last weekend, I was at the Central Market, doing the weekly shopping – buying  500gm of turkey mince to be exact.   As he casually weighed out my order, the man behind the counter looked over and said,

“I like your hair”.

I was astonished in a nice way.  There was nothing particularly special about my hair that morning; I hadn’t just washed it or come from the hairdresser’s.  It was just my ordinary hair.  I was not expecting a compliment and it gave me a lovely emotional lift.  I smiled and thanked him, and probably had a spring in my step as I continued with my shopping.

Then there was another occasion.  Not long ago, I was walking through the city, and at a set of traffic lights, a man turned to look at me and said,

“That’s a really lovely broach that you’re wearing.”  I have to agree that it was.  Vintage and antique jewellery is one of my passions and this was a lovely American piece, probably from the thirties.  My black jacket was a great foil for the delicate colouring.  I was impressed that this man noticed it and made the comment.

Since today’s interaction, I have been turning over the issue of random and spontaneous compliments.  Are they better when they come from strangers who have no vested interest in your reaction or is it better to receive them from nearest and dearest?  Those random comments have the benefit of being totally unexpected and also convey greater sincerity.  It seems that they do anyway.

Sometimes I give random compliments as well.  I may see someone wearing something that I admire or doing something that impresses me and I will tell them so.  I have not expected to be on the receiving end however and I like it.  It is such an affirmative action, far more so than my team building session of the day.

Do you give random compliments and have you ever received unexpected  compliments yourself?  How did it happen? I would be fascinated to hear.  Did receiving a compliment make you feel like passing it on to others?

Stupidity

I have had a  week to contemplate this.  A week in which I have howled when trying to dress myself and whimpered when rolling over in bed.  If I can’t get my son to pull me out of a chair, I have to take a couple of breaths before I tackle it for myself.

As for getting into and out of the car – do you have any idea what that twisting motion can do it you?  I rode to work on a scooter for a couple of days, as sitting upright as though riding a kitchen chair was preferable to the slouched position in the car – once you had actually levered yourself into it.

Wearing trousers is a problem, and even threading feet into knickers is a challenge.  I just throw food at the cats now – I can’t bend over to nicely dollop food in the bowls.  They seem to cope.

It’s frustrating when I thought that I was going to do so much this weekend.  Finish the weeding for a start and perhaps plant some tomatoes.  I can crawl around on my knees, but how will I get up afterwards?  I had to drive up to the Barossa Valley today to conduct a wedding ceremony.  At least I do that standing up but unwinding myself after an hour travelling in the car was not a pretty sight.  Didn’t feel good either.

Putting the lawnmower into the boot of my car was probably not the smartest thing, but trying to lift it on my own with a convoluted lift and twist action defied not smart.  It feels as though my sacroiliac joint will never be the same again.  Yeah I know.  Stupidity.

Blog Spam

Aren’t you sick of it?  Isn’t it just so infuriating? Every time that I upload a new post to my blog, the ‘likes’ start to flow into my in-box.  The message from Word Press says:

     Fred liked your post. 

     He thought the post was pretty awesome.

     You should go see what they’re up to. Maybe you’ll like their blog as much as they liked yours!  

That’s nice, I think to myself.  Somebody likes my post.  I should return the favour and look at theirs.  Perhaps we’ll have something in common.

We don’t, and that’s not surprising because when I look at my blog stats, I can see that none of those likes have actually read my blog.  All the spammer has done is gone fishing to gain my response so that I will increase the visitation levels on their blog.

And that’s not all.  Their blog is likely part of an on-line multi-level marketing scheme, focussed on making money from signing bloggers up for a fee to learn more about money-making ventures via affiliate relationships, and through signing up others to the scheme.  Information is provided by hyper linked videos which show cool-looking dudes in their early twenties who spruik the perfect money-making ventures, if only you will sign up.

I have no objections to anyone making money from blogging, from affiliate associations, advertising, or any other means.  What I do object to is being spammed with the empty likes and trying to entice me to read the spammer’s blog without the courtesy of having read mine.  It makes me feel used and I don’t like it.

Am I alone here?  Have others felt the same way about these spam bloggers and their likes?

The Journey

My son has returned home.  He got a big hug rather than a fatted calf and it was good to have him with me again, however briefly that might be.

When he left aged 18 to seek work and fortune interstate, it was a wrenching moment, but one that I knew he had to make.  Think ‘The Epic of Gilgamesh’, or ‘The Journey’ by John Marsden or all those classic stories relating to The Journey that you may have read.  It is a time when a young person leaves the safety and security of home to seek the learning and experience that life outside of the home has to offer them.  There is the call to adventure, entering the labyrinth, fighting the demons, achieving, reaching an understanding, etc. as described by Joseph Campbell in ‘The Hero’s Journey’.

Journey

Young Donald had reached a crossroads in his life.  He had realised that his relationship with Daisy was destructive and based on the web of lies that she continually spun.  (Donald and Daisy are discussed in earlier posts.)  He was played for the sucker.  He had dropped out of school and had no prospects, beyond the casual pub job that he had.  He was bored at home and I was forever on his back about helping around the house and just doing something.

I was fed up with the piles of dirty dishes around the house and other things just dumped anywhere and had made the decision at work that day that when I got home, we would have a serious talk.  Either he needed to leave home, or he needed to start paying board.  He got in first.  He said that he had been thinking and perhaps he would go to Perth and look for work.  I was both stunned and relieved.

Perth was not such a big deal in that my sister lives in that city and his donor father is also there, although Donald and his father hardly knew each other.  They certainly did not have a father/son relationship.  Still it was far away and it meant that Donald was going to have to find accommodation, a job, and to make a new life for himself.

While away, he did labouring work, did some TAFE study in the mining sector and got a job at the remote Woodie Woodie mine site in the Pilbara region.  He had to work with characters who Donald described as racist, sexist and homophobic.  (I was relieved that he recognised these people for what they were.  It meant that I had done something right.)  He found himself somewhere to live and made new friends.  Those were the social skills.

On the practical side, he learnt self-resilience, how to budget on minimal income, how to shop economically, and how to keep himself healthy with wise food choices.  He can drive a 4-Wheel Drive and change a spark plug.  He has a range of technical skills that surprise me.  He also has a new confidence in himself that I welcome.

OK – there are not total miracles here.  There are still dirty plates hibernating in his room but not as many and he is better at washing up and domestic chores and cooking dinner for us both too.  Importantly, it was a teenager who left and it is a young man who has come back.  It is so good to have him home again.  I didn’t realise how much I had missed that kiss goodnight before he went to bed or he went out with his friends.  It’s great to have someone with whom I can discuss issues and share decisions.  At some stage, Donald will move on and make his own life elsewhere, but for now I like the feeling of company and understanding.

I realised when he left that this was a move that he needed to make but it is only now that I have understood that it was a version of the epic Journey.  Thinking back, it is very similar to a journey of self-discovery that I made decades before, and that was important to my self-learning as well.  It is a pity that all young people are not able to make this trip of discovery though many of them do.

Did you make a journey?  What changes did it make for you?

Walking with my shoes, talking with my heart

It really is time for a parting or the ways.  There is little sole left between us anymore, but I still hold on to the memories.  We are moulded together, you and I and have that comfortable relationship that doesn’t evolve over night.

It is approaching ten years since my mother died.  Breast Cancer.  We knew it was aggressive; we knew what the outcome would be but there was still the shocked disbelief when it happened so quickly.  I found myself wandering around wearing the purple floppy hat that she used to wear while hanging out the washing in the summer sun, clinging to that vestige of contact with her.  I even used to ring her mobile to listen to her stating her name, clearly and precisely.  I was never sure whether to talk to her during those calls or not.  Would she get my message?  I was desperate for those connections not to disappear.

The clean-up of clothes and possessions was one of those tasks to be endured.  Lots of stuff went to the local charity shop, and other bits and pieces were claimed by family members.  Other things, we simply didn’t know what to do with – too good to throw away but perhaps too old, too out of style or just simply not needed.  A conundrum that is no doubt being addressed by so many right at this moment.

It was during one of these sessions that I encountered you.  You were not really my type, with me favouring options that were more open and less restrained, but probably still seeking that connection with mother I gave you a try.  Oh how comfortable.  To my surprise, the fit was good.  I rocked backwards and forwards, testing the cushioning and support  and after a few tentative steps, we walked out together.  It was the beginning of a dependent relationship and I soon fell in love with a pair of black Rockport walking shoes.

***

Mother had done the hard work for me, with her feet moulding the soft leather and creating a comfortable cocoon across the toes.  The back was softened too, so that it embraced and shielded rather than abraded my heel.  I was so delighted that I even wrote a poem entitled ‘Walking in my mother’s shoes’.  I liked the support that they gave me and the ability to walk and walk and walk. I guess that is why they were called walkers. 

I wore them to work and on field trips – even times when I should have been wearing a steel-capped variety.  Regular polishing maintained the soft leather and I took pride in their gleaming presentation.  I am not sure how long mother wore those shoes, but as the years of my custodianship passed, the soles took a battering and in time began to separate from the uppers.  I flopped and flapped around for a while, walking with a strange strut because of it but finally presented them for inspection at the shoe repair booth.  There was a lot of umming and ahhing, but eventually I was told that they could be re-soled.

This involved slicing off the old sole and gluing a replacement in place.  It worked – for a while and then either left or right would become loose again and I would carefully reglue.  The gaps between gluing became shorter and shorter resulting in more flipping and flapping.  In the end I had to accept that the re-soling had not been a success.  They were retired to the shoe rack in my cupboard.  I was not ready to let them go, even if they were not wearable any more.

It has got me thinking about shoes and the connotations that we bestow upon them.  I have tarty shoes and practical shoes; dancing shoes and running shoes; working shoes and playing shoes.  Each pair creates a mood and ambiance with which I have a co-dependant relationship.  I both create it and assume it on wearing the shoes.  They don’t quite have a life of their own like the red shoes of Hans Christian Anderson but they each have a personality none-the-less.

***

A couple of weeks ago, I had a bit of a clean-out.  It is part of the de-clutter program that I wrote about here.  You smiled at me gummily from the rack, with your soles clearly separating around the toes.  I knew that I had to act quickly before you talked me out of my resolve.  I felt such a traitor and kept my eyes averted from your lolling tongue.  I hope you understand but it was time.  I had to do it.   The lid slapped down with finality, not just on you but yet another link with my mother.