Working 9 to 5

2015 is flashing by at breakneck speed and lately I have barely had time to draw breath, which explains why I haven’t posted on my blog for a while.

After returning home from our European adventure last year I was determined to do more with my existence. At 54 I knew I was too young to let the third act of my life go by uneventfully sitting quietly at home, so I set out to find something new.

When given an opportunity to return to the workforce I grabbed the chance to use my skills and feel like a contributing member of society. Getting used to the pace and methods of a new workplace was challenging at first but I quickly adjusted on the fly.

So here I am. I’ve gone from not having enough to occupy my days to almost being consumed by the pace of what needs to be done. It has been extremely rewarding to learn new things from others and feel appreciated for my input.

In the workplace I’ve encountered managers who throw childlike tantrums, bad-mannered people, people who use others to get something they need, as well as people who crumble under pressure when things go wrong. But for every person with negative traits I’ve met many kindhearted, welcoming and enthusiastic people who make it a pleasure to consider myself their colleague.

Move out of your comfort zoneI am proud I chose to jump out of my comfort zone to return to work without fear or expectation of failure. When I reflect on where I was a couple of years ago I know I would never have taken such a chance back then.

My current position is a short-term contract due to finish at the end of March. I’m hoping it may lead to further work but if it doesn’t I will happily trek a different path with an open mind to whatever comes my way.

 

 

In a good place

It’s been a while since I’ve written a personal blog post but now feels like the right time to share. I’m not the same person I was two years ago and continue to evolve every day. It is only now when I read my earlier blog posts that I fully comprehend the extent of the insecurity I lived with.

I thought changing my thoughts and attitudes would be easy as long as I was determined to change. I was wrong. Transformation is a slow process making it difficult to know change is taking place. For every step forward there are many backward and sidewards steps that sometimes become unexpected benefits and sometimes they are just setbacks. Some days I felt confused and wished I’d never rocked the boat. I thought I was losing my identity which it turns out was exactly what I was trying to do. For me the glass was always half empty and I’d convinced myself that was all it could ever be.

When I decided to change I wanted to generate a new mindset so I started reading daily blogs and Facebook inspirational pages about happiness, gratitude, positivity and peace. At first they seemed fanciful but I kept on reading them like using flashcards to teach children to read, hoping they would infiltrate my way of thinking. Every day I’d try to incorporate the tone of the messages into my life. At first it felt unnatural but I persisted until the words started making more sense and gradually made way for positive change within.

Any type of life change is difficult. Life is not a fairy tale with everything resolving at the end leaving everyone to live happily ever after. Life is interesting and complicated  with a random mix of joys, obstacles and challenges. I’ve learned that it’s not what happens but how we react and deal with life that makes us who we are. Now I see opportunities where I once saw challenges. Instead of feeling hurt or intimidated by people who are rude and disrespectful I now pity them. I’ve learned to be honest with myself and live happily in my own skin. I trust my heart will guide me.

Anyone determined to make changes to their life should accept it is not easy but understand we are all capable of far more than we imagine.

you-have-to-be-your-own-hero2Whether you think you can or you can’t, you’re right. ~ Henry Ford

The mind is everything. What you think you become ~ Buddha

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Be grateful everyday

Thanksgiving, the American celebration where people acknowledge the good in their lives and share a meal with their family is a worthwhile concept but sometimes I question its sincerity.

Just like Christmastime celebrations in the western world it seems Thanksgiving has been consumed by commercialism, greed and a desire to be better than others which is obscuring the original message of being grateful.

I think Thanksgiving/Gratitude should be part of our daily lives. Forget about  the appointed holidays be grateful and kind to others everyday.
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Special moments

gratful-thankfulSome days pass by unnoticed and others are extraordinary. Last Saturday was extra special making me thankful and happy.

At various stages throughout the day all three of our adult children spent unplanned time with us sharing stories of what’s happening in their lives. At the end of the day my husband and I talked about how happy it made us feel to have a close relationship with each of our children. This is the true definition of happiness for us.

Laura our youngest daughter celebrates her 24th birthday tomorrow. She is an amazing young woman who inspires, loves, creates and spreads joy. I saw this quote by Walt Disney and immediately thought of Laura. I’ve always thought of her as my magical Peter Pan.
Happy birthday Lawna.

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Reflections of a journey

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Flying from Melbourne Australia to Frankfurt airport then driving around Europe for seven weeks is the most daring and exhilarating thing my husband and I have done. As my first time traveling to Europe I loved feeling free while exploring the complete unknown. Our Europe trip awakened my senses, swept the cobwebs from my mind and made me feel alive which surprised me because initially I was reluctant to go. Breaking away from my routine life took courage as I was apprehensive about leaving my loved ones and fearful of uncertainty.

After 22 hours flying plus a three-hour layover in Hong Kong we staggered out of the plane at unimpressive Frankfurt airport. With minimal instruction we collected the car and were on our way. It felt like being in a car rally with wrong turns, dead ends and misinterpreted instructions from the unfamiliar GPS system. Miraculously and triumphantly we found our way to Sankt Goar our first destination.

One of my most vivid travel memories happened on the first day while enjoying a celebratory arrival drink on a balcony overlooking the Rhine River. As I sipped my glass of wine a wave of emotion washed over me with a mixture of exhaustion, bewilderment and exhilaration knowing I’d faced and conquered my trepidation.

Travel is about savoring unique moments that take your breath away. My favourite travel recollections consist of emotions, vulnerabilities, challenges and brief moments of clarity. The aim for tourists I saw visiting the Leaning Tower of Pisa was a posed photo of themselves rather than appreciating the phenomenon of the building which I thought was disappointing. A famous icon I hold dear in my travel recollections is Michelangelo’s David that cast a mysterious spell and captivated my imagination at the Accademia Gallery in Florence. For an instant the world stopped as I stood transfixed and drawn to David’s majesty and light.

Switzerland was my favourite country on our trip as it appeals to my sense of beauty and tranquility. Her snow-topped Alps watching over the valleys, her endless rolling grassy hills, her widespread ordered vineyards,  her picture perfect houses with blooming  flower boxes and the serenity of her lakes make Switzerland a perfect place to relax and enjoy nature. It comforts me to know that whatever else is going on in the world the cows in Switzerland nonchalantly keep munching grass and their cowbells never stop tinkling.

It was in Switzerland I faced physical challenge and proved to myself that a change of attitude can change an outcome. After a long-term knee injury and subsequent operation I’d become tentative about taking part in strenuous exercise. At Grindalwald I decided to hike a 10km mountain trek and resolved to face whatever the terrain presented. The surrounding scenery was spectacular and it’s beauty breathtaking. I was in awe of the imposing Alps standing proud in the sunny blue sky and believed anything was possible in such a magnificent setting. The track was uneven, steep and often precarious but my determination remained strong to the last step. Never did I doubt I would complete the trek. I went on to complete several other strenuous hikes and climbs on our trip but none are as memorable as the first conquest. Grindalwald will always remain my Everest.

Italy remains dear to me for its culture, rugged landscape, history and delicious food. We gained a wide-ranging perspective of Italy by driving and staying in the Lombardy, Piedmont, Liguria, Tuscany and Lazio regions. I loved the vitality of Lake Como, the tranquility of the wine region, the history surrounding the medieval towns, the rarity of the rugged towns carved into rock at Cinque Terre and discovering city life in Como, Florence, Sienna and Rome.

Two waterside towns in Italy remain prominent in my travel highlights. The first is Lake Como where we caught the ferryboat from Cernobbio to Bellagio on a sunny day making the lake sparkle with life. It was a simple and perfect day spent taking in the splendor of the scenery, enjoying a delicious unhurried meal at a table right beside the lake in Bellagio then leisurely strolling through the town and returning on the ferryboat in the late afternoon. My heart swells with happiness knowing we shared this magical day together. The second waterside town I remember tenderly is Portavenere where we spent three glorious days exploring the Mediterranean seaside towns of Cinque Terre.

Traveling to Europe provided the chance to disconnect from regular life and shape an alternate mindset about the world and my life. During our adventures we shared many special moments that bind my husband and I even closer together than when we set out. I loved how traveling made us feel young and vulnerable again.

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Not surprisingly everything on the home front continued to run smoothly while we were away and upon our return it felt like time had stood still. It took some time to settle back into everyday life because I did not come back the same person that walked out the door.

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Our trip 2014

 

Time flies

Europe Trip Day 33-44

What a difference four hours can make. After leaving our remote cottage in Rodello we arrived in sunny seaside Portovenere on the Mediterranean Sea. The change in ambiance was amazing. On our first night we devoured a delicious seafood platter at a local restaurant on the harbour. It was heaven after the lack of restaurants in the countryside.

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On Sunday we took a boat trip to the Cinque Terre, a rugged portion of coast on the Italian Riviera with extraordinary scenic landscapes providing a traditional way of life that has existed for a thousand years. The five tiny, picturesque villages Riomaggiore, Manarola, Corniglia, Vernazza and Monterosso are carved into the rocky coastline of Italy’s Liguria region. It is bizarre and intriguing to contemplate how these buildings were built centuries ago. The colour of the ocean water is astonishing, brilliant blue/green.

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IMG_7551 One of the reasons tourists flock to Cinque Terre is to hike the rugged trails between the five villages. Unfortunately some paths were devastated by the 2011 floods and are currently closed for restoration. Visitors also like to swim in the sea and bask in the sun on the rocky beaches. Hundreds of bodies of all shapes and sizes seek out deck chairs and colourful umbrellas for hire in Monterosso.

On our last day in Potovenere we explored more of the town walking to the headland on the edge of the entrance to the bay to see the Gothic Church of St. Peter and the Doria Castle. Most tourists don’t bother walking up this far but we wanted to see everything. On the way we discovered Byron’s grotto where the waves of the Mediterranean spectacularly crash against the rocks. We continued walking through narrow alleyways and up flights of rocky steps to reach the summit and wondered how people live their lives on such steep slopes. The views over the sea and the town from the top are remarkable.

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After a magical three nights in Portovenere we headed southeast toward Tuscany with a brief stop in Pisa to see the leaning tower and take some snaps with thousands of other tourists. Our next home was in an area known as Crete Senesi in the Tuscan region where the distinctive grey colouration of the soil gives the landscape a lunar appearance. This landscape contradicted my perception of lush green rolling hills gained from the movie ‘Under the Tuscan Sun’. There are some green hills but many more what looks like fields of clay.

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During our stay at Casetta we enjoyed scenic drives to discover several walled medieval hill towns including Siena, San Gimignano, Castellina in Chianti, Montepulciano and Asciano.

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A day trip to the beautiful town of Fiorenze (Florence) was a highlight of our stay in Tuscany.  Florence’s museums, palaces, and churches house some of the greatest artistic treasures in the world. Seeing Michelangelo’s David in the Accademia was a surreal experience for me. The light shines upon the seven-foot tall David and commands attention drawing your eyes to the smooth lines of the marble sculpture created in 1504. We soaked in the grandeur of the Duomo, marveled at the architecture and sheer size of the countless ancient buildings and strolled across the Ponte Vecchio in the late afternoon sunshine. It was a long and exhausting day after walking many kilometres but so rewarding. I am forever grateful for the opportunity to experience the majesty of Firenze (Florence) that is now embedded in my memory.

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P1010570 P1010634 Our last port of call before flying home was three nights in Rome. The drive from Casetta took three hours and as we got closer to Rome the intensity of the traffic became hectic. Drivers have to be forceful to get where they need to go and people park cars anywhere they can squeeze them in. Graffiti is plentiful around Melbourne where I live in Australia but I have never seen such vast amounts of graffiti as there is in Rome. Beggars plead for money from motorists when they stop at traffic lights leading me to believe things are desperate in Rome.

The last two days of our 44 day journey were challenging. Huge crowds of people flock to Rome every day and we added two more people. The major historic sites are several kilometres apart spread across the city so lots of walking is required. Crossing the street is like a life threatening dash between cars, taxis, buses and motorbikes. There is no place for the timid in Rome.IMG_8164 IMG_8157

The Trevi fountain was a priority on my must see list and I was disappointed to discover it closed for renovation.  We saw the Vatican from the outside because the queues to look inside had a four-hour wait time. The magnificence of the coliseum commands attention and dominates the area. With so many historic buildings and statues in Rome, some dating back to 4000BC, it is difficult to take them all in. Illusionists, musicians and singers entertain the crowds in the plazas creating a vivacious atmosphere of fun.

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There is no shortage of places to eat in Rome.  We ate at Sofia Restaurant on via Capo le Case, a lovely Italian restaurant that served delicious food and was a first-rate experience. The second day we had an equally delicious lunch at Il Papalino on Borgo Pio, recommended by my blogger friend Julie Cook. We walked for kilometres between the sites and each night arrived back at the hotel exhausted. It was two days of ups and downs, a perfect example of travel experiences. You learn to make the best of everything that comes your way. That’s life in Roma.

Tomorrow morning we board the long flight home to Australia. So much has happened in the last seven weeks my head is spinning. I’m tired and ready to go home now. When I return home I intend to write a reflection of my feelings about the whole journey.