Adventures into subdivision #3

If you’ve been following along, you already know that we’ve been hokey-pokeying about subdividing our principal home property. I told you a little about it here. And a little more about it here.

It’s a slow old process. It’s already given us dozens of should we/shouldn’t we conversations and shiploads of stress-induced insomnia. And we haven’t even begun.

This week we chose our path. We signed an agreement to get this project moving along.

subdivision Geelong, downsizing, empty nest, being fifty something, boomer, midlife

We (officially) have a subdivision consultant, Adam.

We have an architect, Charles, creating a plan for our new abode.

And we have a detailed estimate of subdivision costs.

Yes, Adam and Charles are brothers. We like that. Between them, they have a deep pool of knowledge and creativity … and a star-studded network of contacts.

Adam’s costings have given us a realistic insight into what this sort of project can cost. We had people telling us we could do this subdivision for $30-$40K. A ridiculous figure when you consider what needs doing.

At this stage, our estimated costs are $108K. That includes the demolition of our existing triple garage and part of our house (gulp), reconstruction of our laundry area and house wall, fencing, landscaping, engineering report, plumbing and drainage (big-time), architect fees, legal, driveway crossing, connection of services, permits, and so on … and on.

It’s not for the faint-hearted. It’s damn scary. And those costs will just get us to the point of having two separate titles, one with our existing home and the other with approved plans for a townhouse.

At that point, there’ll be another fork in the road to consider. We could opt to sell the block with plans, or the existing home, or both. We could engage a builder, further develop the plans and build the townhouse, either to live in, or to sell. Lots of options, wrong-way-go-backs and pull-out points ahead.

subdivision Geelong, downsizing, empty nest, being fifty something, boomer, midlife

For now, we’re sitting tight. Waiting for the fun to get started.

And, I’m trying to remember when it was we started to talk about costings in terms of Ks. It’s now our vernacular. Somewhere along the line, we realised that if it wasn’t a K (or multiples thereof) then it wasn’t worth talking about. At this end of the project, everything gets rounded up. Thinking in Ks is counter-intuitive for someone deep into a second year of buying nothing new. I’m looking forward to using that other, more natural part of my brain that likes to bargain down the dollars (and sometimes the cents) instead of measuring (and spending) in Ks.

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For now, our reality is this: a subdivision schedule stretching 34 weeks and 108K ahead.

All being well.

If all the ducks line up.

Let the wild rumpus start!

Lake Elizabeth, deep in the Otways

“It’s dusk. You’re canoe-gliding across a remote forest-fringed lake, the air bristling with birdcalls and eucalyptus aromas. From the water, skeletal grey tree trunks claw for the sky. Your guide gestures towards a ripple and (at last) you’ve got what you came for … a platypus encounter in the wild.”

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It’s months since I wrote those words for the Great Ocean Road 2015 Travel Planner. And I haven’t stopped thinking about that eerie, other-worldly lake that Bruce Jackson, the playtypus tour operator, described to me across my dining table as we sipped on cappuccinos I’d whipped up with my new coffee machine.

Bruce told me he had the best job in the world, introducing visitors from far and wide to Lake Elizabeth, hidden deep in the Otways in south west Victoria. His canoe tours of the lake serve up a platypus sighting more often than not. Much more often.

Inspired by Bruce, we’ve come to see Lake Elizabeth for ourselves. We haven’t come at dusk. We’ve come mid-morning after spending the night with friends sharing a bottle of wine and a crackling fire in our rented digs in the nearby town of Forrest.

Although we’ve come without Bruce, we’re secretly hoping to glimpse a platypus. It’s how they roll in these parts where the wildlife is both elusive and very spottable. You might not spy the legendary Otways Black Panther or an extinct-or-not spotted tiger quoll, but kangaroos, koalas and a legion of birds are on the cards. In fact, on the super-scenic seven kilometre rainforest drive from Forrest to Lake Elizabeth car park, we have to brake to a crawl to give way to a kangaroo casually making its way across the road.

In the car park I’m struck by the towering, straight-as-light-poles trees. I wonder whether they’re Mountain Ash, but I’m not sure.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

We take the path to the lake, winding along the river’s edge, past solemn reflection pools, ferny walls, and lush new growth. It’s been raining overnight, so it’s muddy in spots and the path narrows and widens to accommodate hefty tree trunks. There are a couple of steep patches but the walk engenders a real sense of journeying into the forest.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

And then it opens out onto the space of Lake Elizabeth, and we arrive.

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

Gnarly ghost trees grope skywards from the still water, fringed at every edge by looming forest. We find Bruce’s canoes chained to a timber boardwalk at the shoreline. There are signed walks that take in Lake Elizabeth beach and loop right around the waterway.
We decide to pause at the boardwalk, take in the scenery and keep an eagle eye out for any movement on the water’s mirror surface. We’ve come for the vista, not the wildlife, but it doesn’t hurt to surveil (just in case).

Lake Elizabeth, Otways, Visit Victoria, Great Ocean Road, Visit Forrest, rainforest walks

We learn (from an interpretive signage panel) that Lake Elizabeth formed in 1952 when heavy rainfall caused a landslide to dam the river, creating a lake within the valley. The ghost trees are remnants of the valley forest.

I wonder when the platypus arrived. Before or after the damming?

We have no luck with a wildlife sighting, but we’re entranced by the renowned scenery … it’s beautiful, still and evocative.

Eventually, we drag ourselves away from the vista and wander slowly back along the path, through the lush forest and ferns to the carpark.

Lake Elizabeth, you’ve been quite an experience. We got what we came for.

And we’ll be back. Maybe next time with Bruce. At dusk.


The Ultimate Bucket List for Over 50s

Being fifty-something naturally boosts bucket list cogitation up the dinner party conversation agenda, even though it’s not everyone’s cup of tea.

To do, or not to do a bucket list? Are you on the yay or nay team?

I’m far better at listing than ticking off. For me, the process of listing (even if only in my head) is a positive one. It helps me prioritise what’s important and discount what’s not. It’s a framework, a rough-around-the-edges planning tool to help me visualise what’s ahead. And gives me some convo fodder for when the subject inevitably comes up around the dinner table.

Curious about what other fifty-somethings are adding to their bucket lists or seeking some inspiration for your own list (or conversation mastery)? Check out this Ultimate Bucket List infographic from Key Retirement. It’s based on UK data; I figure being fifty-something in this age of global citizenship is a universal human condition.

How does your bucket list shape up?

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Where there’s a will …

NB: This is sponsored content.

For a variety of reasons, people might feel they have not been reasonably provided for when someone dies, whether it’s a family member or someone who they share a close relationship with.

If that’s you and you have no legal background, chances are you’ll have no idea where to begin exploring your options to contest a will. You’ll be stressed and emotional. You’ll be anxious about the potential costs and uncertain outcomes.

Challenging a will is not an everyday life skill you simply pick up from your parents or via osmosis during high school. There’s no “Contest A Will 101” offered at the local TAFE college either. In fact, I can’t name a single soul in my circle who has challenged a will.

But, if you do feel you’ve been unfairly treated, I imagine the compulsion to right the wrong is powerful and not likely to fade until you confirm your rights.

It’s a complex process and you’re going to need professional help to understand your entitlements and the potential of going after what you feel you deserve.

This is where specialist lawyers can assist.

Challenge A Will lawyers can help you to contest a will. They can establish whether or not you are an eligible person to claim a provision from an estate and guide you through the process.

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Let me tell you a story …

When my sister Gay passed away, it was sudden and unexpected. She was only forty-seven. As a family, we were unprepared. Fortunately, Gay had been super organised in her personal affairs. Just three days before she died, I’d popped in with her to see her solicitor to finalise her will. It was a fluke – it was my birthday and we were wandering into the city for a celebratory shopping expedition and happened by her solicitor’s office. Gay twigged she had papers waiting for her signature and we popped in and got the job done. Not because she had any inkling of what was coming (none of us did) but because she was due to travel overseas within the week. We were living in a post 9/11 world that told us anything could happen, so she was keen to make her wishes clear. Tying up the loose ends.

Then, the inexplicable happened. While we lurched around in the darkness of shock and sadness, we at least knew what Gay wished for, how she wanted her affairs and estate handled. For us, it was black and white.

It’s not always that way. For many families there are grey areas – out of date wills, blended family units, divorces, new relationships, brothers and sisters by other mothers or fathers, family squabbles, and the list goes on. All families wax and wane, lose touch with one another and reconnect at different times. Relationships change and evolve. As do responsibilities and expectations.

Although a will is all about contingency for a future event, its provisions reflect the here and now, the current status quo, the will-maker’s current state of mind. And not everyone is as organised as Gay was in updating their will, to mirror the here and now as it changes.

It makes sense, logically and morally, that our legal system allows those who feel the need to take action to contest or challenge a will. And it makes sense that specialist lawyers guide the journey.

Client meetings at the midlife

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“Good morning. I have an eleven o’clock with Ronan.”

“Ronan’s on a Skype call for another fifteen. Can you take a seat?” she purrs at me, pushing a visitor pass and clipboard across the shiny white desk.


Fuck. I should have insisted on Skyping. From my office cocoon. With poor light. In my PJs. Behind a smear of lipgloss.

The waiting room is perfectly formed. Beyond is the capacious glassed-in boardroom – even slicker and shinier.

I plant myself in a white and chrome Eames-style chair, the low-slung type that’s wider than your average chair but narrower than a two-seater.

“Sheryl, we don’t seem to have a Women’s Weekly or … er … anything … er … like that. Perhaps a décor magazine?”

She stands and shuffles towards me and the glossy magazine pile.

An impossibly tight high-waisted pencil skirt encases her from shoulder to ankle.

She’s one of those mummified cats I saw at MONA. All head and face. Body and legs bound in slim conical forms, like elongated ice cream cones. Two thousand year old sacred pets embalmed for eternity.

Only she’s wearing giant Minnie Mouse shoes.

And she’s deployed an over-white Cheshire cat grin.

“I’m fine. Thanks. I have messages to catch up on,” I fudge.

I forage through my oversized earth-mother bag for my phone and settle in for some Instagram stalking.

Thirty minutes later Ronan jolts me awake.

“Sheryl. Sheryl? Come through to the back office.”

Back office, front office. Back bottom, front bottom.

I follow him past the boardroom into a lightless hallway. Towering archive boxes narrow the way but I push through.

His office is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

He is dank and musty with cigarette smoke.

“Oh, hang on.” He drags a plastic garden chair in from a tiny balcony.

“There you go.”

A dark inked shape bleeds up his neck. A vibrant full sleeve tattoo begs for attention through the flimsy fabric of his business shirt.

“Remind me what we’re doing today, Sheryl.”

“You wanted to discuss your comm’s.”

“My comm’s?”

“Your communications.”

“Yes, yes. I want you to do a media release. I need to tell the world my story, that I’m a reformed drug addict, that I’ve beaten substance abuse and made a success of myself. I’m a survivor. You know my background, don’t you?”

“Yes. Yes, I do. But I’m not sure that’s the right message to share in your industry. As a financial advisor your reputation is everything. It’s about trust and confidence.”

“No, it’s about authenticity. Keeping it real. Being vulnerable. That’s what business today is about. Just throw some ideas around and cobble a draft together, will you?”

“OK. If you’re sure.”

“Never surer.”

He stands.

I stand.

He hands me his business card: neon orange with “financial guru” plastered across it.

Fuck. Is that Comic Sans?

My toes curl inside my ballet flats. He eyes off my earth-mother bag and my pudgy bulges amateurishly mummified in black stretchknit.

“Just one thing,” he modulates. “Don’t tackify my brand.”

I smile.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

I retreat into the stygian hallway and push past the boxes into the glare of reception.

A pair of lean young girls is propped side by side on a single Eames-style chair, their gangly insect legs crossed in formation, their praying mantis heads bent, nodding at their phones.

“Lucinda and Georgia, good morning! Come on through to the boardroom,” booms Ronan from behind me.

I grapple the lanyard over my head and push my visitor pass towards the mummified cat.

“Can I re-schedule for you?” she miaows.

Must escape.

Before she can unfold her spindly, bound legs enough to stand, my phone rings in the bowels of my bag. Our eyes lock as she recognises the Highway to Hell ringtone. For a nanosecond, the teen spirit within me salutes the teen spirit within her parents.

Don’t need reason. Don’t need rhyme.

I scrounge around, check the screen, recognise the caller and insist: ”I must take this! I’ll Skype back in next week.”

I poke the virtual red button.

“Hello, this is Sheryl,” I trill, flashing a knowing smirk at the mummy.

“Yes, yes,” I say importantly (to no one), heading out the giant shiny glass door. She totters after me, zombie apocalypse style.

Two doors up the street I risk a backward glance. She’s peering at me from within the doorway; her head’s a bizarre gargoyle suspended at neck height. I suspect she couldn’t make it down the steps.

My writing cave beckons. I wave farewell, deploying an overdone Cheshire cat grin.

Sometimes you’ve got nothing to hide behind but your teeth.

The fifty-something dagwood (and the changing shape of families)

Disclosure: This is a sponsored post.

Being fifty-something, I read plenty about baby boomers being the “sandwich” generation, sandwiched between stay-at-home adult children and caring for long-lived, elderly parents.

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I think, there are more dimensions to the midlife meal than that. Many more. It’s a multi-layered “dagwood” sandwich that caters for modern-day appetites. For example, we’ve added another string to our “care” bow, lovingly supporting those around us (family, friends, even ourselves) through major social, emotional and financial implications of separation and divorce. And doing so without judgement because we genuinely care. And it still takes a village, right?

I’m part of a generation that grew up alongside fast-changing attitudes to divorce, marriage, parenting and child support.

More than ever, today’s fifty-somethings might be called on to help adult children negotiate shared parental responsibilities, seek advice on family law matters, take on a custody role themselves or search for information on child maintenance order.

Grandparents have rights (and responsibilities), too. And thanks to the focus on family wellbeing, today’s fifty-somethings surrounded by specialists and support services that help ensure children, in particular, are looked after physically, emotionally and financially. Through the magic of the internet, we can connect with all the resources and advice we need to help support, advise or advocate for those around us.

I’m not complaining and I’m not necessarily talking about my own experience. It’s more what I see around me and how it influences the people I love most. It’s a part of modern living and I’m so grateful that my kids live in a world where people are no longer forced to stay in marriages that aren’t working. And I love that attitudes have changed. Instead of focussing on who to blame, we now concentrate on planning the best future for families, especially the affected children.

In Australia, the principle of no-fault divorce was established in 1975, the year I turned sixteen. A flurry of divorce actions followed, with numbers peaking in 2001 and since then, decreased year-on-year.

Currently, one in three marriages ends in divorce. What our parents considered unusual (and their parents rarely discussed) is now commonplace (I say that without, in any way, diminishing the personal trauma of those who experience relationship breakdown). It’s a rare fifty-something sandwich that doesn’t include at least one layer of relationship breakdown. The shape of families has changed; we’re living in a world of co-parenting, re-partnering, blended families and step families. It’s about flexibility, creativity and acceptance.

Family and household arrangements, though brimming with love and care, are complex. From into slotting parenting schedules managed across multiple households, to mediating pick-ups and drop-offs or helping fill out the child support paperwork, fifty-somethings are very much a part of the support networks that help modern families get through their busy weeks.

And how do we do it? One bite of that towering dagwood sandwich at a time. And we wouldn’t have it any other way.