Time to get rolling, ready or not

“I am a work in progress.” *Thinking* that has begun to feel more and more natural – normal, maybe – over the past several months. I can say it out loud to friends, but writing it feels different, and a little scary. There’s something far larger than a small part of me that feels like, at age 53 (really, almost 54), that shouldn’t be the case though. Guilt? I’m the breadwinner. Shouldn’t I be an expert in *something* by now?

The truth is that I’m good at a few things (being fairly organized; annoying the crap out of my husband when he doesn’t clean up after himself or work consistently enough on a project; advocating for my parents; breaking inertia; cooking; deluding myself into thinking I can carry a tune; self-effacing humor; pricing real estate so that it actually sells). I know I’m really good at handling crises well, not that I want to do that for a living, thank you. So I decided to do a blog, inspired, in part, by a guest blog that a friend asked if I’d like to do last month (you can read that here: https://meetmaple.com/2019/01/18/a-love-letter-from-the-universe/)

When people who haven’t seen me in a while ask me what I’m doing, I’ve been saying that I’m “semi-retired,” because, in reality, that’s what I am. I can’t, nor do I have any desire to, pursue another “job” at this point. I need too much flexibility in my life so I can help my parents, both of whom, it can now be officially said, have dementia. Gratefully, we do have a caretaker helping during weekdays, but coordinating the calendar; scheduling and sitting in on every doctor’s apppointment; taking care of the bills; dropping everything to get there when there’s a fall, a dead battery in something, a leaky faucet or stuck toilet; gathering all the paperwork for annual tax preparation. . . That all adds up to at least a part-time job, and the job is mine.

Meanwhile, I’m working on a book chronicling (I don’t think I’ve ever typed that word before – it looks weird, doesn’t it?) the experience of surviving our genuinely daunting, 8+-year home renovation (which still isn’t done, but damn, we’re close), and, probably as close as I’m going to get to doing anything professional again, trying to help a very cool business whose main presence is now in the midwest, expand here in the northeast. Oh yeah, and continuing to hone my investing skills. And selling off a few pieces of family real estate.

The book has been writing itself in little snippets in my head all along the way (since around 2010), but the process of getting it down “on paper” has been more daunting than I’d ever imagined. For now, I’ve been focusing on just nailing down the chronology and as many of the crazy stories as I can remember (some are impossible to forget!!), as I’m sure once an editor gets their hands on it, we’ll end up totally reorganizing it. I’ll probably share parts of it in this blog, though.

So I talked in my first post about coming up with some sort of schedule, and here’s what I’m thinking:

  1. Mom & Dad Monday – here I’ll share stories of caretaking, things I’ve seen, heard, and am learning along the way;
  2. Hump-Day House Stuff – bits of the book, lessons and resources for energy-efficient building, how to not kill your spouse during a renovation, etc;
  3. Food Friday – my passion. This will probably include everything from recipe and party ideas to musings on the latest studies on the links between health (or disease) and nutrition.

I’m probably NOT going to do 3 posts a week, but for now, I’m trying to get some content together and teed up so there’s at least a fairly regular progression of stuff in all the categories. I hope it will be a place where you find equal parts of fun and helpful info, and maybe this will even become a place where we can all share our stories and learn from each other.

Cheers for now!

Just when I thought. . .

Back in the dark ages (about 8 years ago), I started a blog when my husband and I launched what we stupidly thought was going to be a 2 – 3 year renovation of our house to turn it from a cute little New England reproduction to a magnificently energy-efficient, “Shingle Style” home. (For clarity’s sake, *he* thought 2 years. I thought 3. ;-))

That endeavor will be one of the topics of this blog. Where the focus of my long-ago (and long-abandoned) blog was simply to chronicle the renovation (which I ended up shifting to Facebook instead), my purpose in including the renovation as a topic this time around has a couple of angles: 1) the obvious one: to share how we did what we did. We followed, as closely as we could, the standards to achieve a “Passive House” level of energy efficiency. We also about doubled the size of the house. That’s a lot of work (!), and a lot of lessons (!!). Did I mention that my husband was the builder, so it was mostly his labor, talent, and neuroses, plus a little project management by me, that got the job done? I aim to provide information, support, and guidance to people who might be considering doing renovation work. 2) Given the duration of this effort, there was a certain level of . . . Zen . . . and, as it turned out, mega-doses of humor and humility, that were required in order to survive the journey. There were also countless lessons in patience, compromise, negotiation, and just plain letting go, and I think (and friends have told me) that I have value to offer in sharing those (even if you aren’t embarking on a renovation!).

Those 8 years have also ushered in an evolution in my life in which I know I’m not alone, and which therefore will be another subject of this blog: I turned 50; my parents’ health declined precipitously; I found myself having to choose between the businessperson/breadwinner I thought I was supposed to be (and which had defined me more than I’d realized) and jumping into the fire of self-directed “breadwinnerdom” (and parent-care) instead. Just when I thought we were done with the house and I was where I wanted to be in my career and looking at my retirement horizon, everything changed. In short, my life has evolved as much as my house has, and where I am right now is exactly NOTHING like where I was 8 years ago.

I’m here to tell you that it’s good, and if you’re in a similar place, or wondering if maybe the wrong things are defining you, I’m going make this a place to hopefully inspire you, as well as give you a bunch of practical stuff to help guide you through your own fires, from taking that terrifying career leap to taking care of your parents.

Last, but not the least topic of this blog: food. Or maybe I should make that “Food” (with a capital “F”). It’s a passion for me, and not just because I like to eat and love to cook. Food is one of the things we have *some* control over in terms of what we put into our bodies (the air we breathe and what we drink being the other 2 significant ones – along with what we put *on* our bodies, which might get touched upon at some point here, too). Food is a major factor in our individual health and well-being. Aside from obvious, immediate allergic reactions when we consume something that disagrees with us, the health impacts of poor food choices lay largely silent over years, and by the time the effects show up in the form of ailments and disease, it’s hard to point at any one thing as the cause (which we love to do in this culture), but the correlations are strong, consistent and clear. When you aggregate consumption of Food, and its necessary precursor, production, over the several billion of us on this planet, Food is also a major factor in public health and environmental health. So I’m going to write and share content about that.

If you like all of the above topics, yippee!! You can tune in to every post! Otherwise, I’m going to work out a rotating schedule so that I’ll have a topic pattern for my posts: house-related stuff on certain days, parent-care stuff on different days, food-related stuff on other days, and hopefully inspiration and laughs to support your journey throughout. I’m going to tap my own experiences, the experience of experts, and that of “fellow fire-walkers.” I’m also planning a vlog to go along with this sometime soon (so I can give you tours, record interviews with experts, and give you a break from reading sometimes).

Finally, a little bit about the name, “Fire Over Fifty.” I wanted to convey a passion for life, especially life in “reboot” mode, and a sense of excitement, rather than dread, when life throws us its curve balls & change-ups (as so many are experiencing at a point where we thought we had the rest of our lives kinda figured out). I also have to admit to my own fantasy/superhero vision of walking through the fire and coming out, unscathed, on the other side (in some kind of cool costume, with the skin elasticity and muscle tone I had 20 years ago. . . Superhero name: “The Fire.” LOL). There’s also little inside story to the word “Fire” for me. My current coach was a former colleague with whom I worked incredibly closely for many years. During one very hot streak in our office’s growth, she told me, half jokingly, that she was going to start calling me “Firemica” instead of “Formica.” She did, and it stuck. Then it got shortened to “Fire,” usually used with an exclamation point when she called or emailed me, e.g.: “Fire! When do we have that call?” So the name has a bit of a layered meaning for me, and I hope this blog comes to be a place that has meaning for you, too.

In-Flight Sunrise: My Fire Over Fifty Metaphor