{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.

{My Story} “I am the primary caregiver for my father . . . and I’m lucky.”

When FOF Liz Vogel’s father got Alzheimer’s, she became his caretaker. Most would be devastated, here’s why she feels “lucky.”



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

I have come to realize I am one of the lucky ones. I am the primary caregiver for my father. He lives two miles away in an independent living community, but I see him, or am in touch with him, every day. We lost my Mom three years ago, and since that time I’ve had the true pleasure of getting to know my Dad.

He has navigated his way, with amazing grace, from Mild Cognitive Impairment/Dementia to Alzheimer’s over the last three years. When he needed help writing checks, because his handwriting was getting worse, he asked for it. When his balance was declining and I felt his safety was at risk, he was gracious about letting me get a walker for him. When I thought a safety pendant for emergencies was prudent, he agreed. When I told him he had been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, he looked at me, winked, smiled and said, “It is what it is, right? The good news is I probably won’t remember tomorrow!”

Not everyone has this experience. Dementia and Alzheimer’s can rob us of the person we once knew and replace him or her with a stranger. The man I have come to know in these last few years is filled with compassion, wonderfully dry humor, curiosity, sincere interest in participating with his community, and a deep appreciation for the beauty of the natural world. I suspect I may be seeing the essence of the man versus the father.

As a physician, my father spent his life caring for others. In fact, I think the last three years have been an opportunity for him to take a well deserved rest. But, perhaps because he provided so much to others for years, he understands the role of caregiver and provides me with the freedom to help him when he needs it.​​

I am learning: I don’t know what it is like to be 86, but I suspect it’s not that much different than being any other age. You want a life filled with opportunities and choices and to be treated as an equal. Every day, my father teaches me how to live and behave with grace, and I hope I do him proud as I wander through these next years.

Liz Vogel is President & CEO of Dots, Inc., and on-line service that connects the dots between the people, communities and information involved in healthy aging and caregiving.  See more at www.trustdots.com.

{My Story} A widow for four years

One FOF describes the singular and universal experience of losing the love of your life.

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Rosemarie Sussex, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your idea to geri@faboverfifty.com.]
I lay on my side of the bed, still unable to move move to the center. I’ve tried but I can’t.

I thought this feeling was unique to me, but I’ve learned from talking to other women who have lost their husbands that this is not unusual. One friend, also a widow, confided in me: “I don’t flush the toilet at night.” I was so shocked since I did the same thing.  We were both afraid that the toilet would overflow in the middle of the night. Then what do you do?

My husband Paul died in 2008. The first three months afterward were the easiest. People were there; the phone rang; I could wallow in the grief and no one expected anything from me. It was winter so it was easy not to go anywhere except work and home.

Then the spring came.

Friends and family wanted to get on with their lives and be happy again. Not that they were forgetting him, just moving on. Well, that was great for them because they had someplace to move too. I didn’t. My life, I learned, was going to stay the same.  No one to eat with at night, to discuss the day’s events, watch television, to sleep with or love with.

Before Paul died, I had a time line after work: Get groceries, come home, cook, set the table, eat dinner etc.  Now I had no clock to follow. I found myself going to the mall after work and walking until I was exhausted; then I would come home and just go to bed. Except for going to work on time, the rest of the day was not accounted for. If I was standing in line at a store, I didn’t care if I had to wait. Where was I going? Who is waiting for me?

Weekends are the worst time of the week. Everyone else seems so excited about Friday coming. For me the days just loom ahead with chores that also seem senseless now. Before, the weekends held promise of fun, family and friends or even just tacking a project in the house. Being together, sometimes even in silence, but together.

Filling out paperwork at the doctor’s office brings on a whole gambit of emotions.Those horrible little boxes: Married, Single, Widowed (and sometime Other–what does that mean!). Changing your “next of kin” to your kids. Taking his name off charges and utilities. It took me three years to put the car insurance in my name. I’m not even sure it was legal not too. I just couldn’t do it.

The first time I was faced with a repair in the house was numbing.  My dryer and hot water heater went at the same time. When the delivery man came to bring the dryer, I burst into tears because I just realized that the gas would have to be shut off to take out the dryer.  Luckily the man was so nice, he disconnected it and reconnected the dryer without a problem. But in my head I just kept thinking “You’re alone-handle it.”

My family is wonderful and I am blessed with 6 grandchildren, but they do not fill the space that the love of my life left. We were married for 38 years and together for 42. We went through so many trying times together. Our last battle was his pancreatic cancer. He handled it like he did life–with strength, humor and song. He had the most beautiful voice and sang with a group. Often he would come right from chemo and go onto a stage and sing lead for hours. I would watch him and want to shout to the audience: “This man has pancreatic cancer and just had chemo!!!!”

It will be 4 years soon, and slowly I’m crawling out of the deep hole that has been my life. What I’ve learned through most of this is that the grief one goes through, although one’s own, is also universal and shared. It is my hope that I can help someone else make this journey.

{My Story} Resolutions of a newly-minted (FOF) bartender

[Editor’s note: The essay below, by FOF Cheryl Rich Heisler, is part of a series of personal blogs from our readers. Have your own story to tell? Email your “What I Know Now” idea to geri@faboverfifty.com.]

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By profession, I am the president and founder of a career consulting business for attorneys frustrated by their traditional career options. By formal education, I am one of those self-same attorneys.  But, by avocation, I am what I perhaps should have always been—a mixologist.

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As a career consultant, I get a great deal of satisfaction helping people uncover their passions. But this past year, I decided I hadn’t realized one of my own lifelong passions–becoming an expert at making cocktails. I have poignant memories of heart-to-heart talks with my Dad over the tops of chilled martini glasses, and I get a wicked kick out of mixing and matching libations of all flavors and colors to create something new, different and kind-of clever.

However, giving up my day job to pursue this passion wasn’t a sacrifice I was willing to make. As an FOF, I realized you can have your cocktail and drink it too. While I continued my career consulting business–meeting clients in the mornings and in the afternoons–I studied for my mixology license. I love the reaction I get when I tell people I passed a second “Bar” exam. It was one of my major highlights of 2011.

But now it is 2012: how will each of us expand our horizons over the year ahead?

The lawyer in me suggests prudence:  plan better, save more.

The career coach in me says add more play, uncover a new passion, take those horseback riding lessons I’ve been thinking about.

And the bartender in me? She says lighten up, life is short.  Have a drink.  Toast to health and happiness and all the unpredictable, wonderful surprises that a New Year can bring.

Start the New Year off right with this refreshingly sweet n’ spicy cocktail shot: