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An artist's illuminating entrepreneurial career
By Kathleen Callahan
Friday, February 8, 2013
Mary Boone Wellington started her business both accidentally and reluctantly.
A sculptor by education and trade, she was working on an art installation for a private home when she found herself frustrated by not being able to find a material that she could imagine so clearly in her head: vivid and colorful, but also translucent to show the stone wall hidden behind it.
"I wasn't really thinking about inventing an industrial product or an architectural product," said Wellington, who lives on 22 acres in Whitefield. "I was just trying to get the thing I saw in my mind's eye built."
The patented material is notable not just for its luminosity, but because it's practically impossible to scratch, making it ideal for use in high-traffic consumer spaces.
Wellington established the company in Nashua, and in the more than a decade since, it has grown and learned the limitations of its material with each new project that has come down the pipeline…
Despite her success in growing LightBlocks, Wellington began feeling restless. In the early days of the company, there was excitement and electricity in saying "yes" to projects that were beyond the scope of anything they'd done before. But as the company grew more established, the pace slowed and "wasn't as exciting for me," she said. The company needed a businessperson and a manufacturing person who understood all these processes to acquire solid foundations, rather than "tilting at all the windmills in the land," she said.
Or, as she put it, "I like the beginning of things."…
This time around, she has literary ambitions and has just published her first book, which she wrote with longtime friend Tracey Bowman, a midwife with offices in Milford and Peterborough.
The pair met about 22 years ago, when they were neighbors and their children became friends.
The book — "Hope I Don't Die Before I Get Old: How to Survive Old Age, Your Own or Someone You Love" (beforeigetold.com) — chronicles the women's experiences dealing with their aging parents.
"My mother died about four years ago. Then Mary's mother started having heath problems. My father had some health problems, and we commiserated a lot," said Bowman. "We decided there was so much unknown and misinformation, what might we have done better if we had known more?"
They had learned so much dealing with their own parents that they had more than enough material to write a book about it. In alternating chapters, the writers chronicle their own experiences, which are interspersed with practical advice on topics from financial planning for seniors, clearing clutter and managing medications.
"We really want for people to open the door for conversations about the issues we're all going to face, to come up with a plan before it's a crisis situation," said Bowman. While the book was written mainly for baby boomers, an unintended consequence has been that their aged parents are reading and enjoying it as well, said Wellington.
"Our overwhelming idea was -this cannot be another stinking depressing book," said Wellington. "We read a lot of books, many were very impossible to read — too depressing. So we made our book not depressing. We tell the truth, but it's slightly amusing. Bad stuff happens, but then good stuff happens."
If Wellington's LightBlocks track record is anything to go on, it may well turn out that Rose Cottage Press — while started to advance one of her own projects — becomes a bigger undertaking that serves the creative needs of many others.
According to Bowman, Wellington is "full of ideas and solutions to problems, creative ideas, and I think that's why she has been able to create things that are a little different and very successful because they are different. She's willing to take risks."
Click above for a link to this article in the Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
If you’re now in your 60s, says Tracy Bowman, the projections are that you’ll live well into your 80s, perhaps even passing 90. For younger people, life expectancy could be even longer. Many of us need to prepare not only for caregiving of parents, but also for our own old age. As Bowman puts it in the introduction to her new book, “Old: It happens, and then if you are lucky, it lasts a long time.”
The book, which Bowman wrote with her friend Mary Boone Wellington of Wakefield, is titled “Hope I Don’t Die Before I Get Old: How to Survive Old Age; Your Own or Someone You Love.” It was prompted by discussions the two women had as they started to deal with the challenges of helping aging parents.
“We were surprised at how unprepared we were,” says Bowman, 56, who is a certified nurse midwife with a practice in Peterborough. “We kept saying, ‘Why didn’t people tell us that?’ Part of the book is our stories, and we hope it will be a way to open conversations.”
Wellington, 62, is an artist and businesswoman who’s now semiretired, Bowman says. The two women first met when they were neighbors in Wilton more than 20 years ago.
In alternating chapters, they share their personal tales of dealing with aging parents. How an emergency room visit was the first sign of a long decline for Bowman’s mother, who had battled cervical cancer for years. How Wellington drove thousands of miles and made countless phone calls as she cared for her elderly mother in Virginia. How they struggled to find the financial resources to pay for the care their parents needed. How to deal with insurance issues. How to hire an aide. How to find an appropriate place for parents to live when they can no longer stay at home.
Each personal story is followed by a discussion of practical solutions to the issues being raised.
Bowman was surprised to find out about so many alternative living options — not just assisted living facilities and nursing homes, but many varying types of retirement communities.
“They’re jumping up all over,” she says. “You’re seeing many people moving into some type of elder community.”
While much of the book focuses on dealing with the issues of aging parents, Bowman and Wellington devote the last chapter — titled “Attitude Adjustments: Tips for Winning the Extreme Sport of Living Old” — to advice for people dealing with their own issues as they age.
Bowman’s list of tips in the book include practicing yoga, starting a memory book for children, getting papers in order and getting outside every day.
Wellington’s list, which she writes “are all scientifically proven to be of benefit, so you really can’t go wrong,” has its share of humorous, but still practical, suggestions. She starts off with “Drink — It makes you merry — but only one glass” and adds such advice as eat chocolate, laugh, cry, dress snappy and floss.
“We talk about planning for our own futures,” Bowman says. “We write about exercise, weightlifting, how to maintain balance. About 20,000 people a year die from falls. A lot of that could be avoided.”
Bowman’s and Wellington’s goal is to share the hard-won knowledge they gained through their personal experiences.
“We really hope the book will help people gain insight into what they should be thinking about,” Bowman says.
The book is available at the Toadstool Bookshops in Peterborough, Milford and Keene and through the authors’ website, www.BeforeIGetOld.com.