{My Story} “I’m recording my first solo album…at 53.”

As a teen, FOF Sheri Nadelman wished she could become a rock star. Most people would say, “dream on.” She did, and, in her 50s, turned that dream into a rockin’ reality.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Sheri Nadelman, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to geri@faboverfifty.com.]

Before the days of American Idol and YouTube, there was little hope that I, a chubby-but-nice-Jewish-girl-from-Brooklyn, would make it as a singer. My dad wanted me to go to college, and my mom wanted me to marry a doctor. My dream was to become a rock star.

When I was 12, my dad got me a guitar, which I learned to play by ear. I sang for anyone who would listen. For the longest time I thought my middle name was “shut up.” No one ever took me seriously, but the truth is that I had a good voice.

At age 19, I mustered up the courage to sing for renowned vocal coach Marty Lawrence, a close family friend. “You’ve definitely got something,” he said–in true Simon Cowell fashion. I started lessons, which eventually lead to a recording contract. The financing fell through, and the album never came to fruition. I was devastated.

I was faced with the choice of pursuing my music career or marrying my boyfriend. I could not do both because his med school training would require us to move frequently–not an ideal situation for a musician trying to make it big.

We married and moved to Hawaii and started a family. When I was three months pregnant, my mom died of a stroke–she was only 46. My daughter was born six months later.

Years later, we settled in Florida and tragedy struck once again, I lost both my dad and my brother. My dad lost a bitter battle to emphysema. My brother died at the age of 40 after complications from gastric bypass surgery. Adding to my grief was the demise of my marriage. It was such an emotional roller coaster, I couldn’t bring myself to pick up the guitar for years.

At 45, I got divorced–I felt unhappy and unfulfilled. My daughter was getting ready to leave for college, and I worried I’d miss her terribly. A girlfriend and my daughter encouraged me to do an open mic night. I got involved in the local music scene and began performing solo at first and then with other musicians in an acoustic band. I never thought I’d marry again, but later that same year, I was swept away by a businessman with an extensive background in music.  He believed in me like no one had before.

At 53 years old, when most women my age are winding down, I am just beginning! I am in the midst of recording my long overdue solo album. I sing lead and play guitar in a popular Tampa Bay area cover band called soulRcoaster. Not only do I get to live my dream–singing everything from Etta James to Lady GaGa–I get to share it with my husband, who is now our soundman! “You can hear Sheri’s passion captured in every single note she sings,” Bud Snyder, a sound engineer for the Allman Brothers, once told me.  I guess I’m just a late bloomer.
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For the record (pun intended) I just wrapped up my album “Fate Steps In,” which will be be available on iTunes soon. You can visit her website for more information.

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{Careers} No experience? No degree? No problem!

These 5 FOFs started profitable second-act careers without going back to school or working their way up the ladder. Our FOF career gurus say you can, too…

B&B Proprietor

“My client Melanie, 54, was an executive with a major airline for over 20 years, but she always had a passion for cooking–especially breakfast pastries,” says FOF Career Guru Jane Angelich. “Her dream was to open a small B&B where she could live, earn an income, and enjoy baking for her guests.”

How she made it work: “Before Melanie made the leap, she spent a few days shadowing a B&B owner using this site: www.vocationvacations.com. Then, confident she’d enjoy B&B ownership, she sold her home (she was in the middle of a divorce), and rented while looking for an existing B&B for sale. By purchasing a property that was already active, she could build upon the prior owner’s customer base. She also didn’t have to worry about getting the zoning permits from scratch because that work was already done. Melanie is now making a comfortable living and having a blast creating new and exciting recipes for her guests.”

How you can, too: First, find a B&B you like and ask to shadow the proprietor for a few days. Even consider offering to work there a few weekends doing odd jobs. Then, salivate over all the fab inns for sale at www.bnb4sale.com. You’re on your way….

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“Workshopper” in a Retirement Community

“Anna, another client, was a bank executive who spent several years visiting her elderly aunt in a retirement community. She also hobbied as an actress in community theater. She loved listening to her aunt’s stories and decided she wanted to create a documentary to capture them. She created a series of workshops, using the documentary as a tool to help residents tell their stories. Since then she’s booked her workshops across the country and is paid as a workshop leader.”

How she made it work: “Anna landed her first ‘gig’ by trying out her material for free at her aunt’s retirement community to refine her delivery and material. She asked for testimonials and used them to build her marketing material. She attended a trade show geared for retirement community/assisted living providers and networked like crazy so she could follow-up after the show.”

How you can, too: What knowledge would you love to share? Consider your passions–history, gardening, art, shopping(!)–and offer to teach a seminar or run a workshop at your local assisted-living facility. Search for one in your community, here: http://www.alfa.org/

FOF Career Guru Jane Angelich is a serial entrepreneur. She’s been a business coach for over 30 years, helping women find their career zen. Today she is the CEO of Bright IP Concepts, manufacturer of the supercollar® and the author of two books about in laws, http://www.inlawexpert.com.
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Professional Downsizer

“My client Susan was a stay at home mom for many years before her kids left for school and her marriage fell apart,” says FOF Guru Kathi Elster. “She found her calling when she artfully downsized from a 4,000-square-foot home to a 1,000-square-foot apartment, sanity intact. Today, Susan helps families downsize when their kids move out, when someone moves to a retirement home or when divorce comes late in life.”

How she made it work: “Susan got her first client by visiting the newest Adult Living Facility in her community, describing her services, and offering a finder’s fee for any clients they recommended. She did the same with several local moving companies and quickly got clients. Then she started getting referrals.”

How you can, too: If you’re willing to pay a few hundred dollars, you can take organizing courses and get certified by NAPO, the National Association of Professional Organizers (classes average $40 for members and $140 for non-members). Alternately, offer to help a friend downsize for free, and learn while you do.

FOF Guru Kathi Elster, founder of k2 Enterprises, is an executive coach and nationally recognized business strategist.
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Home “Redecorator”

“An over-50 attorney I know loved home decorating and had a natural eye for it,” says Lauri Ward, president and founder of Use What You Have Interiors. “She watched HGTV and read decorating magazines religiously. Her friends always oohed and ahhed when they came to her home and begged her to help them with theirs. She knew this is what she wanted to do as her second-act career.”

How she did it: “She took a week off from her practice and completed my Redecorator Training in New York City. By the end of the week she had learned everything she needed to help clients re-do their rooms using what they already had on hand. This allowed her to jump right in, without having to create relationships with suppliers and designer showrooms. In addition to the practical redecorating skills, she learned best-business practices, pricing, marketing and even got some hands-on experience shadowing a re-decorator on the job. Plus, she was able to start off slow. She accepted clients on nights and weekends and only closed down her practice when she felt financially comfortable.”

How you can, too: Lauri Ward’s New York City Redesign training programs are offered 3-4 times per year. The $3,500 cost includes your tuition and lunch for the week. If you can’t make it to New York, Lauri offers an online training program (which provides the same certification as the live class) that you can complete at your own pace (typically 2-4 weeks) for $2,000. Once you get your business off the ground you can expect to earn a minimum of $250 per room (each room typically takes a couple of hours to complete).

Lauri Ward, president and founder of Use What You Have Interiors, an interior design business that helps people use what they already have in their home as the foundation to create a fresher, updated, more elegant look, without spending a lot of money.
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Dessert Caterer

“Andrea, a music industry exec was burnt out from her high-stress job and baking was the only thing that relaxed her,” says FOF career image specialist Lisa Johnson Mandell. “She recently started a dessert catering business. She makes treats for showers, teas, engagement parties and sets up dessert tables for kids parties. She plans to quit her day job when she can make enough from the business to keep up with her payments.”

How she made it work: “Andrea rents out a local kitchen for just $15 per hour and bakes on the weekends and by moonlight.  So far, it’s been a  minimum financial investment but it takes a toll on her, it’s physically draining and an enormous sacrifice of time. But, she thinks eventually she’ll be able to profit doing what she loves. She hopes to have her cake and eat it too.”

How you can, too: Many bakeries offer reasonable “cupcake camps” or workshops in cake decorating and baking. See if your local sweet shop has a class schedule. If not, ask if you can “stodge” (work in exchange for experience) at your local patisserie or shadow a pastry chef in your area. If your baking style is more homestyle than haute, market yourself that way! ‘Mrs. Fields’ never attended LeCourdon Bleu, and you needn’t either. When you’ve built up enough cooking confidence, check out this directory of commercial kitchens for rent and get baking!

FOF Lisa Johnson Mandell is a Career Image Specialist, an award-winning multimedia journalist, host and author of Career Comeback—Repackage yourself to get the job you want.

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{Giveaway} The next generation of “business cards!”

FOF is giving away three brilliant alternatives to old-school business cards. To enter, answer this question in the comments below: Do you prefer networking in person or online?

Thank you for entering. This contest is now closed.

Has the desktop Rolodex gone the way of the dodo? And if it has, where are we supposed to keep all those business cards?! Business card swapping, once an in-person business ritual, has migrated to the web. Discover a whole new generation of contact management, below:

Virtual business cards: About.Me connects your physical business cards to your online networking profiles. When you create an About.Me online profile, you receive business cards (printed by Moo.com) with a special barcode. When potential customers or business associates scan the code with their smartphones, they’re taken to your About.me profile page which includes links to your website, Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles. You can track who visited your “virtual business card” and where they are coming from.
*Win: A pack of 50 About.me business cards printed by Moo.com (a $21.99 value)

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The ultimate contact management app: Connected helps you reference all your contacts in one place. It builds a single online contact book using your e-mail, LinkedIn, Facebook and other online networks. Among other fab features, it sends you reminders when one of your contacts has a birthday or changes jobs.
*Win: A 3-month subscription to Connected (normally $9.99 per month)

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Business card scanner app: Take a photo of a physical business card with your  iPhone or Droid, and the ScanBizCards app will recognize and store all the contact information in your phone. It also creates a virtual library of business cards and contact information that you can access from your desktop.
*Win: Unlimited version of the ScanBizCards app (normally $5.99)

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*Enter to win one of these 3 fab networking tools: a stack of business cards from About.Me and Moo.com, a Connected contact management app or the ScanBizCards app. 3 FOFs will win. Answer this question in the comments below: Do you prefer to network in person or online?

(See all our past winners. See official rules. Three winners are chosen at random from all those commenters who answer the question. Contest closes June 9, 2011.)