Knitwear & Whiskey | Life Lessons from my Late Father by Michelle McDines | Inspiring Story #31 - Daily Inspired Life

Knitwear & Whiskey | Life Lessons from my Late Father by Michelle McDines | Inspiring Story #31


When Michelle's father passes away, she makes a shocking discovery that teaches her a powerful life lesson about waiting for the perfect moment ...

Whenever I was stuck for an idea of what to buy my Dad for his birthday or Christmas, I’d  fall back on one of two items that always seemed to go down well; a sweater or a bottle of whiskey.

My Dad had been a great wearer - and indeed a maker of sweaters. Ever eager to try the latest gadget, back in the 1970s, he’d bought a knitting machine for my Mum. When she didn’t show interest in knitting, he took it upon himself to make us kids the most awful sweaters in hideous colors.

It felt only right and proper to return the favor.

My father also claimed to enjoy a ‘nice drop of whiskey’. Over the years, he'd acquired several bottles from clients and suppliers in the run-up to Christmas. So, when illness brought his career to a premature end, it seemed only natural that I become his surrogate supplier of the amber nectar.  

I would seek out rare bottles, single malts, aged for thirty years or more. I hoped those bottles would do something to fill his void after involuntarily leaving the workforce.

The trouble was, I never saw him wearing any of those sweaters, and I never saw him enjoying a whiskey. I often asked him why. His answer was always the same ...

"I'm saving them for a special occasion."

Then one day he was gone.

Powerful Life Lessons

In the days that followed my father's death, when I wasn’t busy organizing the funeral or trying to make sense of the paperwork that surrounds someone’s passing, I found myself wandering my parents’ house in search of him.

I saw his glasses and a folded newspaper by his chair, left there as if he had just gone into the next room for something.


I found a coat hanging on the end of the banister from the last time he’d ventured out into the garden. I decided to take it upstairs to his wardrobe.

As I opened the wardrobe door, I was shocked to discover all the sweaters I’d bought him. Most of them still in their cellophane wrapping, nearly all of them never worn.  

I returned downstairs and went to what was known in the family as ‘Dad’s Cupboard’ and there was every bottle of whiskey I’d ever bought him. All unopened.

A wave of mixed emotions swept over me. Sadness, anger, and frustration to name but a few. 

What a waste. He’d sacrificed the enjoyment of my gifts, all because of some notion that they needed to be kept for best;  for a special occasion.  

Now there were no more occasions - special or otherwise.

Saved "for best" ...

I realized that I was in danger of heading down the same path as my Father. Having got married a few years earlier, my husband and I now had a large gold-rimmed china dinner service and a sizable collection of crystal glasses - all of it neatly packed away in tissue paper and bubble wrap, being saved ‘for best’.


That evening, I went home, got out every item, unwrapped it, and started using them in place of my everyday tableware. Just being alive each day was special occasion enough to eat off the best china and drink from crystal glasses.

Just being alive each day was special occasion enough to eat off the best china and drink from crystal glasses.

Thief of Your Dreams

Now, many years later, I find I am once again drifting down the path of saving "for best". This time it’s clothes - and while I’m not hoarding sweaters like my Dad, I am guilty. 

You see, working from home, and living in the countryside, I spend most of my time in comfortable clothes: sweatpants, t-shirts, hoodies, slippers, and wellies.  

Meanwhile, my wardrobe has become a prison cell for so many fabulous outfits and shoes - all being held at my pleasure for special occasions that never seem to come.


My Dad died long before he should have done. 

He had put off so many things, never realizing there were so few grains of sand left in his timer.  

None of us know how long we have left. When it comes to living the life you want, procrastination can be the thief of dreams.

My wardrobe has become a prison cell for so many fabulous outfits and shoes - all being held at my pleasure for special occasions that never seem to come...

With my Dad’s passing, I have learned a great lesson in life; the cost of waiting for the perfect time, that special occasion that never comes.  

So, with that in mind, eighteen months ago, I decided to become a house-sitter so that I could fulfill my dream of living a more nomadic life and visiting lots of new places. When homeowners, and particularly pet owners, want to travel a house-sitter comes to stay at their home to keep the house secure and take care of the pets. 

In return, the house-sitter stays for free and gets to experience the place as a resident, rather than a tourist.  As well as a fun way to see the world, it’s also very rewarding as the pets in your care really enjoy your company.  It’s a wonderful way to meet new people too.  

Most homeowners introduce me to one or two friends and neighbors before they leave, and I am accepted into a community rather than just being a stranger passing through.

Making My Every Day a Special Occasion

There are so many motivational gurus who urge us to ‘live every day as if it’s your last’. While they are right that one day it will be our last, I think this approach brings undue pressure. 

We feel as if we have to spend every day doing amazing things or it has been a waste of our time... That having a lazy day doing nothing is just not trying hard enough and really letting the side down. I, for one, am a great fan of lazy days. It is often when we slow down or stop that we notice, we listen, and we truly savor life's special moments. 

I have come to believe that each day is a special occasion, and we can approach it with a sense of celebration. So, wear your best clothes, eat the finest food off your best china, and raise a crystal glass each day to simply being alive.


Connect with Michelle ... 

As a left-handed, red-haired, green-eyed woman who can't curl her tongue, Michelle is literally one in a billion.  

Michelle describes herself as a wild woman with a head for business. Equally at home walking the red carpet or the green hills. She loves fast cars and slow boats, crowded places and open spaces, vibrant conversation, and communing in silence. Deeply spiritual but non-religious. Outwardly confident, inwardly shy. Incurably romantic, eminently practical. Young at heart, yet wise beyond her years.

As well as developing websites and managing social media for clients, Michelle is the founder of "The Happy Housesitter" where she writes about her travels, teaches others how to become a house-sitter, and recommends useful products and services.  

She’s also designed a range of fun house-sitting-related t-shirts and sweatshirts which are featured on the site. If you think being a house-sitter could be of interest to you - or are interested in Michelle coming to house-sit for you - you can find out more at

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  • […] is beautiful, isn’t it? The way it teaches you lessons.⠀My new love and I had a wonderful time in Cabo. The sites, the scenes were all so special. We […]

  • Janet says:

    This is such a sweet and endearing post. Very relatable. Thank you for sharing.

  • What a beautiful tribute, and a much-needed reminder to live each day for itself. Thank you for sharing!

  • Carla Natali says:

    Oh, Michelle, that was spirit-lifting, heart-breaking and gut-wrenching all at the same time.
    I always prefer to read posts that allow me to take a peek into the writer´s life and your personal experience just did the trick for me.
    Thanks for sharing!

  • Hailey says:

    I love this post so much! It truly is about living in the moment because no matter at what age you pass it’s never long enough.

  • Kate Findley says:

    I love this! It reminds me of what Derek Rydall says and what I try to live by — not to wait for the right timing or the right conditions to express your gifts, because life moves so quickly. I used to always be that way, waiting until I had more time, money, etc., but now more and more I’m diving into what I want to do even if it feels scary. I can also relate to having a wardrobe full of nice clothes and just lounging around in sweatpants!

    • Thanks Kate. I agree – in a constantly changing world, there is no perfect moment. If you wait until you are ready the world has moved on and (in business) what you wanted to do is no longer relevant. Find how to express yourself each day – and celebrate who and where you are right now.

  • Dani says:

    I enjoy every word of this article. It is captivating and it is just on point. When I fully embraced mindfulness and minimalism, I stopped waiting for special occasions too. Every single second is the best moment of our lives that needs to be celebrated indeed. Being fully present is the best thing I decided on doing. 🙂

    • Thanks Dani. I am getting there with minimalism as a result of becoming a nomad. Someone gave me an expensive bar of soap as a Christmas present. Previously I’d have kept it in its lovely wrapping for years thinking it was a shame to spoil it. But I’ve been using it every day on my latest trip enjoying its lovely scent – soap is made to be used not displayed!

  • Marguerite says:

    It’s reminded me of how I keep clothes /dinner set/cutlery ‘just for special occasions’. … every day is a special occasion when we reach the ‘age of enlightenment’ .. thank you for sharing

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