Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Blogging, Books, Writing and Age

As longtime readers know, in my other other life (you know, the one apart from being mom to five adult kids, working full time and worrying about my finances if and when I ever get to retire) I love to read. Even more than that, I love to write, and I occasionally find a market for my science fiction short stories--not that I'm giving up my day job any time soon.

But my dream is to one day have a novel published. Over the years, that dream has gotten pushed farther and farther back, until now it is on my To Do list in retirement.

Which brings me to this list of late-blooming authors. For the longest time, I held onto Ursula Le Guin as a role model since she didn't start publishing science fiction until she was 37. But as my thirties (and forties) slipped by, I latched onto Harriet Doerr--not only was "Stones for Ibarra" a wonderful book, but the lady was 73 when it was published! Go Harriet!

It's not that I'm doing nothing right now to further that novel-writing dream. I've attended a monthly professional science fiction workshop for the past 30 years. I do write, albeit at an excruciatingly slow pace. I keep my hand in until life gives me some clear blocks of time to actively pursue this particular dream.

Oh, and I am constantly seduced by journals, blank books and the other accoutrements of writing. Which is probably why I like these blogs: "Notebook Stories" and "Make A Book A Day." (With regard to the latter, I am unfortunately NOT a crafty person. But I admire many of this blogger's products. Wouldn't it be fun to fill some of these blank books up with stories?)

Dreams are good. Keeping Harriet in mind, I've got another 11 years to achieve the reality.

Thursday, January 12, 2012

Sometimes You Just Have to Hold Your Breath & Jump

I mentioned back in November that a friend of mine was moving her family to the Pacific NW from California and would be living with me while she looked for work and housing.

It worked out very well for both of us. She now has a job in her field, a house in my neighborhood, and a new lease on life. She's been working for the past month, and will move to the rental this coming week-end.

I bring up my friend's case because she has been talking about moving here for years. It took the loss of a job she'd held for more than twenty years in California to give her the impetus to finally move. In doing so, she left the city she'd been in for quarter of a century, the state where she was born and her family still lives, and her home which was underwater (and being short-saled). She brought with her two children who were not at all sure about their mother's new "whim."

But here they are, two months later, and everything is different.

After suffering a massive ego-tromping when she got fired, my friend wasn't even sure she'd be employable in her field. But this isn't California. People with her credentials and experience are harder to find here, and it helped that she was used to commuting in California traffic, such that a 20 minute drive to her new job didn't phase her. In fact, her new job, which was offered to her the same day she handed them her resume, makes even better use of her skills than the position she held for some twenty years. She's still learning the ropes, but she can already tell that this employment is less stressful and more fulfilling than her previous job.

She hasn't quite adjusted to the weather, though I keep telling her that one does get used to the rain. I haven't the heart to let her know that so far, this has been an especially dry winter.

But she's found the neighborhoods and schools more integrated (her children are African-American) and much safer than those she left behind. Even rent (which I consider outrageous) appears reasonable to her, based upon similar housing in California.

Right now, she trying out the local churches to see where her family fits in, and expanding her circle of friends beyond those two or three (including myself) she knew before she got here.

It took courage and a lot of planning to make such a drastic change in her life. It probably would not have happened had her job situation not been so traumatic.

But the real point of this story is that not every financial setback is a tragedy--with the right attitude and a willingness to take risks, it can be the start of something much brighter.

Monday, January 9, 2012

Fifteen Good Years?

I read this post from Super Saver with some consternation. Not to mention some recognition.

My father had a heart attack at age 58 and died from a stroke at 68. My mother died during heart bypass surgery at age 78. This does not bode well for Grace.

While I do think I take better care of my personal health than my parents did at this age, genetics can be a bummer.

Thanks Dad! Mom!

So thinking about the next fifteen years, maybe I should consider the possibility that they are the remaining 'good' years I have left.

Does that make a difference in my future financial plans? Right now, the plan is to get everything (residence, car, credit cards) paid off by (or, more likely, during) age 65, then spend four years saving for fun stuff like travel, and then retiring at age 69.

But would it make more sense to spend now for the things I want to do that will require relatively good health? I'd like to take a major car trip across the US--not so much to be outdoors (I don't like sunburns or mosquitos) but to spend time in all the cities I've missed: San Diego, Taos, Chicago, Philadelphia, Boston, New Orleans, to name just a few. Can I put that off for another 7 years or is the time to do it now?

If there's just 15 'good' years left, do I really want to spend half of them paying down debt or saving money? Would I really have to? If my last years of retirement are likely to be sedentary, and given that TV and the internet are not all that expensive, wouldn't that be the time to concentrate on debt reduction?

But I have no track record as a seer. I could get hit by a car tomorrow, or live into my '90's' (I'd say 'hundreds,' but I think that's pushing it!)

What I do have is anxiety. Letting my debt follow me into retirement produces more anxiety than I'm willing to have, particularly if those retirement daysare going to be among the best of my life.

I guess I'm stuck with just plugging away.

And pushing out the boundaries of that 'fifteen good years.'

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

If You Could Hit the Reset Button

Bob Lowery, over at "Satisfying Retirement," has a most provocative post. What if you could do some parts of your life over? Would your choices be different the second time? Do you regret some of the decisions you made the first time around?

This particular exercise is only for those of us over fifty, because only then do we have the distance and experience to see the consequences of our earlier decisions.

Personally, I have often felt that I didn't so much make decisions as allow life to carry me along. I regret not taking charge a bit more.

But hey! Let's go way back. My first big regret is not paying closer attention to Tommy S. I took him to my 9th grade Sadie Hawkins Dance and he took me to the Sophomore prom. We were both losers who felt sorry for each other. Who knew he'd grow another foot and a half, clear up the acne, and start riding motorcycles in college?

I regret not working harder at writing science fiction--I've been in the same writer's workshop for thirty years. I've sold maybe twenty stories over that time while many of my fellow workshoppers have written books and some even make their living as writers. I keep thinking that I will write more NEXT year without realizing that NOW was the time.

I would love to go back and redo aspects of my parenting. I feel like my first two daughters had to grow up along with their mother. By child #5, I had a much better sense of what I was doing.

I wonder what my life might have been if I'd remained in New York City to practice my profession instead of returning to my hometown. I don't regret that choice so much as speculate about what might have been.

Then there's always the question of marriage. Would my life be more financially secure if I had married? Or would a divorce have cut even deeper into my finances? (Never mind that I cannot think of one person I've met with whom I'd really want to spend my life!)

Enough of my regrets.