Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Uncategorized

MY SEVEN-DAY BIRTHDAY CELEBRATION!!

How often we dread the turning of the clock as the years tick by and we reach a certain milestone. Denise Mclaughlan shares how she celebrated her coming of age of three score years and ten as a single person! (This was 5 years ago)

In an effort to accept and make sense of this ageing matter, I had this sudden inspiration to embrace the fact that I was turning 70 in that month of May… so, rather than to fear it or make it go away I decided to embrace it…and that after several years of not easily admitting to my 60-plus status!

The fact is that I feel so much younger…. healthy and with more energy and exuberance than a lot of younger people. I realised that there is no getting away from the years… thus why not go big? Hence the week-long festivities, A 7-day celebration for the 7 decades.

I set about it by creating a Powerpoint invitation of several slides in which I set out the plans I had for doing pleasurable activities every day for a week…with whatever friends cared to join in.

I took great pleasure in designing the page and writing the rhyme/verse playing with the words starting with S as in the heading SASSY SENSUOUS AND A SHARP SEVENTY which is how I tend to see myself… never mind the odd grey hair, the slight stiffness when getting up ; at least I had kept up with the modern world of technology and had refrained from getting narrow in outlook!

On the following slides I set out plans like….a morning tea party at my house (for the older folk who are not working ) … a Pyjamas and Popcorn movie evening for my church cell group on the one evening…a movie and coffee outing with three other friends – who share my interest in movies ( and did we enjoy “Far from the Madding Crowd”!

There was also the Sunday with my little family at home with cake and champagne… and the joy of having two of my three grandchildren with me!   However the piece de resistance was a good old-fashioned Soiree (which for those who don’t know) is an elegant get-together at a home with live music and a dinner. This was in the end held at a very close friend’s house and as a gift she provided her lovely dining-room, most of the dinner and the table decorations which had a vintage theme…and her cook who did the delicious meal. To fit in with the soiree theme, I hired a professional saxophone/clarinet/flute player to do the honours. We were 12 people and I must say they did me proud… a real highlight of my festivities!

On my actual birthday and after the six days of enjoyment, seven friends and I went for a very fine breakfast at Nitida Wine farm near Durbanville where I simply loved the view of a dam , the vineyards in their autumn colours , the fynbos and the Boland mountains in the distance.

This was the most blessed and fun-filled birthday and I actually enjoyed reaching this milestone of birthdays…. here is an excerpt from the speech I made at the dinner on the night of the soiree. 

Seventy years of a good life

……….And so now I am seventy and rather than fear old age I shall embrace the years to come. I will work on my bucket list and I will live life to the full with the help of my Lord in heaven. I am grateful for the blessing of good health and a zest for living … so watch this space!!

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel

VARIETY IS THE SPICE OF LIFE

This week Denise Mclaughlan shares other aspects of her life – she has made deliberate choices that have taken her life out of the mundane. …and helps to enhance her festive life.

Variety in my book is stimulating, it means new opportunities, it rules out boredom and rules out being stuck in a rut! What were the things that set me thinking in this direction?

It was when I looked at all the book s waiting for me to read- the variety of which – pleases me immensely. When I go to our wonderful library, I choose fiction, non-fiction, Afrikaans and English and I make a choice of different genres. I enjoy biographies, historical novels but then more specifically about the late 19th century/early 20th century and I adore novels set in the English countryside, or in Italy.

What a pleasure to read widely and to be able to completely immerse yourself in an era of long ago or to read about other ways of life in faraway places!  The library never ceases to excite me – I take my time and browse in the rows of different genres. I can look through the daily newspaper or find a magazine that fascinates me. Other options are DVDs or CDs, not to mention the courses that are on offer and the coffee shop!

Another area of choice and variety  for me are the creative colouring-in books for adults which have become popular in recent times. I love colouring in – and the books range from inspirational, the natural world, fashion and cityscapes. My special favourite- which I shall frame and hang in my home- are the Fashion fantasies – dresses designed out of leaves and flowers or a William Morris pattern book.

One could carry this theme through to many facets of one’s life…. thinking about my friends who are so different and all the more appreciated for their differences. I have single and married friends, some younger and some older – there is something fresh about the young ones and something familiar in older friends. Some are there in my time of need, others inspire me, and I find companionship with all of them.

Thinking of one’s daily way of life, I believe -why live a monotonous life of doing the same things at the same times and in the same ways? Why not a life full of variety and alternatives and choices? Even holidays…. I never wanted to go to the same place year after year. That is why road trips appeal to me and train trips with different stations and landscapes to gaze at. I cannot resist using this old cliché – a change is as good as a holiday.

Even in nature and in the seasons we find the wonderful variety of new buds in Spring, the sunshine of a summer day, the change of colours in Autumn and then the bare trees on a winter’s day . I don’t think life was meant to be the same every day, but then I have always shied away from too much routine and not enough new and different ways of living your life

It is said the only constant is change. Therefore, embrace the changes that you make or that are perhaps forced upon you. Sometimes when you are in the doldrums all you need is a change of scene or a change of mindset.

So, give me the spice and color that variety in any sphere of life brings… Have you perhaps changed anything in your life recently? I hope you also experience it as refreshing and uplifting?

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, Uncategorized

LEARNING TO BE CONTENT WHATEVER THE CIRCUMSTANCES


Reflections on solitary outings and activities, by Denise McLaughlan

Being single again has many challenges and loneliness is one of them.  Denise shares her story with how she has been able to be content within her circumstances. This has been a day by day walk.

These days I am constantly aware of the merits of going -it-alone! Being an extrovert and socially inclined, the prospect of outings and get-togethers used to be paramount. I could even admit to a touch of Fomo- fear of missing out, but lately I have tempered this inclination. Maybe due to the ageing process- which I tend to ignore!

 I am discovering the pleasure of pursuing passions for certain things like country drives – I call it Small-town Hunting, I love weekend getaways or just sitting alone in lovely surroundings. This could be a coffee-shop with atmosphere, a tea-garden – anywhere I can sit, read, or write in my journal, also to take photos of old buildings/landscapes. It seems to me that the only requisites are a pretty, vintage-like or close-to- nature setting, a book, a pen and the money for a coffee or light meal…Sometimes I take my own picnic. I am discovering that much pleasure is to be found in simple things that need not cost much money.

My weekend often includes just one outing or pleasurable activity to keep me content  – to feel less lonely .An example would be my drive one Saturday morning to Franschhoek, a very pretty historical town with a decidedly French atmosphere -mainly to go and listen to a well-known journalist/political commentator at the Huguenot Association of S A where I could also find out more about my Cilliers family research.

Beforehand I enjoyed a coffee milkshake at an open-air cafe, then strolled through a market, where I bought a blackboard and chalk, a new straw hat for the summer and six plants for my new-found interest in my garden, all at a very reasonable price! The trick is to focus on places where you can indulge in your own interests or passions – whatever they may be.

I thoroughly enjoyed mingling with other descendants of the French Huguenots, listening to the topic of the day and actually finding out some vital information about my paternal grandmother!

On the other hand, I have started cherishing time spent in my home and garden. My various activities include reading, knitting, creating little corners of interest or displays such as my travel corner in the entrance hall complete with a globe, vintage suitcase and old-fashioned picnic basket plus travel magazines!  I have also arranged a bookcase with comfy chair and little table for tea as a reading corner with invariably the French doors open for the summer breeze and a view of my little side veranda. To enjoy time alone I find I must create the setting and get the right atmosphere – which could be a simple as a little glass container with a few small flowers from my garden, maybe a candle and the inevitable cup of tea- definitely in a pretty porcelain cup !

Then of course there is my hobby of adult colouring books where I can indulge in my love of color and creativity… I already own ten such books.   When one lives alone (and originally this was not by choice), you can eventually learn to enjoy the companionship of a pet- and my white cat Saphera purrs happily when she tentatively creeps onto  my lap while I knit or write or colour in. Who can resist such closeness?

Another source of stimulation and enjoyment is my creating PowerPoint Collages or cards – often for someone’s birthday using some of my many photographs. If permitted I share them on Facebook – another nice-to-do thing. That is to say if one has embraced new technology- which I would not want to be without now.

I am deeply grateful that I found it in myself to be on my own and not only to keep productively busy but also to be truly satisfied and content with who I am and where I am at. I am striving to have more time quiet time, in my case with my Lord Jesus, but could be spiritual awareness for someone else. I know that my abundance comes from Him.

More and more I am choosing to spend time alone and enjoying the freedom and choices that living alone gives one, therefore still maintaining a festive outlook on living alone!!

Paul said he had learned to be content whatever the circumstances, I think learning was the operative word. It is a process, and Denise has clearly outlined how she went about being content as a single person. What are you doing to learn contentment in your circumstances? We would be really happy to share your thoughts on rebuilding a contented single life.

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

FINDING MEANING IN LIFE AGAIN

Article and Photos by Denise Mclaughlan

Denise continues to share her Festive Journey, how she in turn was inspired by her grandmother. How often we just need the example of someone who has done something before to inspire us on our own journeys. It seems their courage can synthesise and help us get a firm grip to say yes to life.

Highlights of my life in these past 28 years was a month-long visit to Italy with a friend, learning to speak some Italian in preparation, and the wonder of travelling at will with no pre- bookings.  Did I mention that I have an adventurous spirit?

Another venture I particularly enjoyed was my long-distance train trips over a five-year period from Cape Town to Johannesburg – a 1800km distance with one-night sleepover – to visit old school friends and attend some reunions. Despite the fears that many South Africans have about train travel in S A, I took it on wholeheartedly, meeting people of other cultures and feeling like a true adventurer. Of course, the lure was also my memory of childhood train trips since my dad was a railwayman. I had a few interesting encounters on that ShosalozaMeyl train!

To get back to the adventurous spirit, which I think has come not only from my brave grandmother who went overseas alone at the age of 78, but also the fact that I have been blessed with lots of energy and good health. As an extrovert I enjoy new places and faces! I like to be stimulated whether it is by reading all kinds of books, joining a photography group, doing computer courses, or enjoying music theatre and movies. I simply love swimming and am not fussy…river, dam, pool or a cold Atlantic sea!

A very meaningful part throughout my life has been writing – letters, diary keeping and then journaling. I love describing places and experiences, also tried my hand at a spot of poetry and then of course my Quiet times with the Lord is also affirmed in the journal. I usually use different devotional books like the wonderful Streams in the Desert By Mrs LB Cowman,    Come to me Beloved My Beloved by Frances J Roberts,    Joyce Meyer and a more recently I have used a book “ Fear is Never your Friend by Gary L Richardson. When I still get depressed or anxious it helps to write about it and to take stock of where you are in your life. I tend to do a fair amount of introspection.

Now in my 70’s I realised a dream to go back to camping and road trips (in my married years we caravanned and had an old Land rover) I missed the great outdoors and after watching a lot of Youtube videos about camper conversions and solo road trips, I managed to find someone to adapt my relatively small Mazda Soho 1,4 into a tour car. I have a full-length bed, some side cubbyholes for packing and storage under the bed for small tent, camping chair and other camping gear. I did two solo road trips and described the fun I had in some newsletters which I sent out via Facebook and e-mail. I then acquired a blow-up 2-man canoe which my son and I have enjoyed. Unfortunately, I had to undergo shoulder surgery and have been out of action for around 7 weeks.  Yes I am feeling the pitfalls of ageing in that I get stiff when sitting, my knee seems to be playing up, I drink all the usual pills  – but what is keeping me young are my thoughts and attitude- I try to stay positive and adapt to changes. I take stock of all the aspects of my life regularly and am dabbling with the new buzzwords – living mindfully!  I endeavour to stay in the here and now- to notice the small things around me; to forgive and forget, to take the best out of my past and hand over the control of my future to God my Father.

Denise has brought so much meaning into her life by being aware of her thoughts and attitudes, it can be so easy to slump into negative thoughts and attitudes, she has spent a lot of time cultivating the garden of her mind, pulling out the weeds of toxic thinking and replacing them with positive and affirming thoughts, this all manifests in her being able to take on her Festive Journey and enjoy the life she has been given. How about you? Do comment and let us know how you have taken something negative and made something positive out of it.

Divorce, Retirement, Seasons of Life, TRANSFORMATION, Transitions, Travel, TRIALS AND TRIBULATIONS

PICKING UP THE BROKEN PIECES AND DENISE’S FESTIVE JOURNEY BEGINS

Article and photos by Denise McLaughlan

I am a lively and enthusiastic nearly 75-year-old woman who has embraced life despite 28 years on my own. I live in Cape Town South Africa in my 1837 characterful home. I have two grown-up children and three grandchildren, no other close family. I Grew up as an only child and used to feel lonely quite often. The latter has changed somewhat now that I am older and wiser.  Part of my nature has also been to engage with people, to be curious and have many interests. I have a a zest for living , and am not fazed by changes  – in fact I welcome new things- whether it be  learning all about technology, enjoying social media like Facebook trying new activities like PowerPoint collages or simply rearranging and decorating my house in a different way. I can bounce back from bad situations, for which I am thankful.

 Part of my ongoing verve is because since becoming a child of God, I have realised repeatedly that I cannot cope without Him in my life. He has led, guided, protected and provided for me for these 28 years since 1992, when I was only 47 and was broken, divorced, forced to go forward alone, find work (after 12 years at home). It wasn’t easy to get back into the workplace despite being a slightly-out- of -touch teacher and having worked in various fields such as an officer in the S A Army, selling insurance from a call-centre and many temporary jobs. I was fortunate to obtain the bond for my house and after 25 years it has been paid off!  My house has worked for me –providing income.

Over the years I was faced with times of unemployment, my children leaving home and having quite serious problems, depression and anxiety. I always believe there is help out there and one must go and get it. I attended Deryn’s Divorce Recovery workshop, I was active at my church and I resorted to my old-time journaling. Keeping a daily diary from my teenage days evolved into journaling my Quiet time with the Lord plus writing about and working through all the problems of the time. Later I started a blog and more recently some newsletters about my solo road trips in my converted Mazda camper car- more about that later!!

Some of the aftermath of the divorce was the ongoing problem of finances and so I started to take in boarders – or rather –tenants offering a room in my house plus sharing my kitchen, bathroom and at times my living area. So, doing I had extra income and felt safer after my children left home. I must admit I really enjoyed the young vibe and life in my home, which also freed me to pursue another great love of mine – weekend getaways and any form of travel. I would save or work as a showhouse sitter on Sunday afternoons just so I could afford a little trip…at first always looking for a friend to go along but lately I go it alone- if needs must be!

At around 60 years the young and fast call-centre environment got to me and I went back to teaching for two years- at a small Christian school where I had to take on Grade 2 and 3 in one class ( and this while I trained as a high school teacher!) I tackled it but then they realised I would be better with the Grade 5 and 6 class. This episode prepared me well for the next phase of my working life – that of being a part-time au pair for school going children working for one particular family. I was suited for this being a teacher, a mother and grandmother. This I did for 10 years – I mostly enjoyed this but it also had its difficult times. During this time, I started doing House-and –Pet sitting. Besides loving pets, it would give me that most welcome extra money – (always a toss-up with on whether to do maintenance on the house with it or save for a trip!?)

You will have gathered that I was inventive in surviving the working years, but this builds in faith that God will provide, and I never once went without a roof over my head or food to eat. I my next blog I will show you how my adventurous life developed over the years.  Please join me for the journey and I would be happy for you to comment below.