Retreat…No Surrender

Dictionary.com lists six definitions for the word retreat. Quite possibly the first one that comes to your mind, as it does to mine, is this one: “the forced or strategic withdrawal of an army or an armed force before an enemy.” This definition has a negative connotation, associated with surrender and defeat. But the retreat I want to talk about today is “the act of withdrawing, as into safety or privacy; retirement; seclusion.”

Laurelwood, the exercise and yoga facility at Skyterra (www.skyterrawellness.com)

Last week I spent seven days on a retreat…not the religious kind, though it definitely had its moments of spirituality. This retreat, focusing on health and well-being, took place at the Skyterra Wellness Retreat located near Brevard, North Carolina.

Why, you might ask if you’ve been following my blog, would someone, who is healthy, retired and spending most of her time walking the dog, gardening and reading, need to go on a retreat? I acknowledge that I am very lucky to enjoy good health, but I have noticed lately that I’m not as strong as I used to be and my balance is not what it should be either.

Many people go to Skyterra to lose weight. The program does provide nutritious meals and daily strength-building and yoga classes. But Skyterra’s focus is not weight loss. It’s healthy eating. Not exercising to burn calories, but exercising to build strength and improve mobility. This program is about health and wellness for individuals of any age, but particularly ideal for retirees who want to stay fit, active and able to enjoy our retirement.

I must admit the first day I was terrified that I would hurt myself. Everyone else seemed to be able to stretch and perform the exercises I could not. When it came to modified push-ups on an elevated box, I completed one, but got stuck in the down position on the second one requiring help to get back up. Bending, I could reach just a bit below my knees while everyone else was touching their toes or grasping their ankles. The day we did a class on balance, I had to stand near a wall when standing on one foot in order not to tip over, while others were fully stretched out, leaning forward like soaring eagles standing on one leg.

I wanted to take the whirlpool bathtub home with me.

After Day 1 I was certain I would not be able to get out bed on Day 2, but guess what? I had no aches or pains the next morning. I think the Epsom salt soak in my whirlpool bathtub had a lot to do with that. But I also think the yoga classes in the afternoon helped restore the muscles that got tested in the morning. Skyterra’s unique blend of activities gets you to move outside of your comfort zone, then helps you get back to center.

Yes, Day 1 was a humbling experience, but at no time did I feel embarrassed by my limitations. The people in my group were just lovely and encouraging, and the young instructors at Skyterra are truly amazing. They pay close attention to everyone and work with you on the areas where you are weakest, assuring that you don’t get hurt. Their support and encouragement is truly heartening.

On Day 2, I no longer worried about hurting myself. I did my best. It didn’t matter that everyone was better. By Day 6 I could feel that I was stronger and I could actually stand on one foot longer without tipping over. On Day 7, when we were re-assessed, I’d lost 2 inches off my waist, 1.4 % of body fat and gained 1.1% muscle mass. Not bad for a 65 year old, right? I admit it. I’m quite proud of myself.

Additionally, I feel confident that I can continue to improve because the strength-building and mobility routines we were taught, I can do at home. All participants received an email with links to videos of the many exercises we performed daily.

Skyterra is an amazing program for the body,but it is  much more than just a physical improvement program. The Skyterra approach nurtures body, mind and spirit. The lectures on stress management, improving sleep, goal-setting, menu planning and self-compassion all help nourish you mentally and physically.

Nestled in the beautiful Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, Skyterra is the ideal setting for a retreat. Walking the property, hikes to the surrounding waterfalls, sitting on the dock by the lake all provide opportunities for contemplation and self-reflection…something we rarely do at home with those bills to pay, that closet to clean out, and…well…you know.

Nina and I on a hike to the waterfalls.

One more thing…all of the people at Skyterra, from the Owners to the Instructors to the Chefs, are just so darn nice, you can’t help but feel welcome and at ease. So if you’ve been considering a vacation, or you’ve actually wanted to go on a retreat, I recommend Skyterra. I went with my friend, Nina, who flew into Asheville, NC from New York, but I assure you Skyterra is a place you could travel to by yourself and feel perfectly comfortable.

Yes, aging brings with it some physical limitations, but with a little bit of effort  we can reduce the negative impact of those limitations. If you can, go on a retreat for your body, mind and spirit. Remember…you’re only old once. Don’t surrender.

First Anniversary

One year ago today, July 23, 2015, I moved into my new home in South Carolina. For the first few months I enjoyed the newness of my surroundings, but I did not feel quite at home. Honestly, I felt as if I were on vacation for the longest time (I think the swimming pool in my complex was most responsible for that.) I’m not sure exactly when, but one day, sitting at my kitchen island, I realized I was home and it felt great.

Flower Bed 2015

Flower Bed 2015

Overall it’s been a terrific year. I’m lucky to be near my mother, sister and brother-in-law who’ve wanted me to move here for years. We get to do a lot together that simply was not possible when I was just visiting.

Since I arrived, I’ve also met many wonderful people…my friendly neighbors here in Mauldin, my fellow mystery writers at Sisters in Crime, my writing colleagues at Creative Writers of Greenville, my pinochle pals at the Mauldin Senior Center, and my sister gardeners at the Simpsonville Garden Club. Most recently, I’ve found another group of kindred spirits, The Newcomers Club of Greater Greenville. Isn’t that just the greatest idea…a club for people new to the area?

Same Flower Bed, J2016

Same Flower Bed, 2016

Taking advantage of all the cultural activities Greenville has to offer, my sister and I have attended plays and musicals at almost all of Greenville’s theaters including The Peace Center, The Warehouse Theater, Center Stage and the Little Theater of Greenville. The performances have been top notch and tickets here are sooooo affordable. We even saw wonderful free performances of Julius Caesar and As You Like It put on by the Upstate Shakespeare Festival in Falls Park on the Reedy River in downtown Greenville. Mauldin had a Friday night series of free concerts and dancing that culminated in a special celebration on Saturday, July 2nd ending with a fabulous fireworks display. Two days later we attended the Red, White and Blue Festival in downtown Greenville with another magnificent fireworks display. (We love fireworks.)

As I’ve written about in previous blogs, I’ve been gallivanting with both the Mauldin Senior Center and Lifewise, a Senior Program through St. Francis Hospital. We’ve travelled to Columbia, the state capital, historic Union, nearby Spartanburg, and Athens, GA. We visited historic homes and churches, plantations, and college campuses. We even visited a local farm in Simpsonville where we made bricks out of clay soil and harvested broom weed, making our own brooms.

Best of all this year, I have been blessed to have dear friends and family make the trip to visit me…Jane and Rip Noble, Carl and Phyllis Yaglowski, Patricia Rock and Trish Sutherlan, Joanne and Mike Frehse, Judy Olsen, Joanne Kempton, Nina Augello, Jay Johnson, and Joanne Manse. Every visit was special and I enjoyed showing everybody the sights of Greater Greenville.

Last night I re-read all of my previous blogs working my way backwards. It was a sweet trip down memory lane. One of the best parts of being here and being retired is that I have more time to devote to writing, though I admit I’m not as diligent about it as I’d like to be. Still I have managed to complete the final draft of my cozy mystery, Second Bloom. I’m pleased to report that one of the literary agents I contacted so far asked to see my first three chapters. That’s pretty exciting. The really good news is I’ve started working on a second book which includes the same lead characters as Second Bloom, Holly and Ivy Donnelly, two middle-aged sisters who love to garden and just happen to get involved in solving murder mysteries.

Bet you didn't know okra had such a beautiful flower.

Bet you didn’t know okra had such a beautiful flower.

If you’ve read any of my previous blogs, you know that a love of gardening is something I have in common with my main characters. I have to say the growing season in the South is another one my favorite things (that and the sprinkler system at my condo complex). I had a big job amending the clay soil, but after adding a considerable amount of topsoil, I planted vegetables in April and started harvesting zucchini and cucumbers in June followed by okra, tomatoes and eggplant in early July. Yes, life here is good.

I am pleased that through the wonders of technology and telecommunications I have been able to remain in touch with my dear friends up North. Once a month I Skype into an apartment on East 83rd Street in New York City with my book club of 30 years. Through Facebook, Linked-in, Twitter and this blog I’ve heard from so many people I’ve actually been out of touch with even when I lived in New Jersey. All in all it’s been a fabulous year and I’m looking forward to many more. Thank you so much for reading my ramblings and thanks especially to those of you who take the time to comment. I love hearing from you. So please keep reading and I’ll keep writing.

A selfie with my lettuce crop in April.

A selfie with my lettuce crop in April.

Life is Good

Last week I got an email from a colleague asking if I still taught my writing class for marketers. As you may know, I was a marketing consultant in the construction industry for nearly 30 years, so I sometimes still get these inquiries. I must admit, they are a bit of an ego boost.

A few days after that email, I got an email from a friend who wanted to know if I had some time to talk to her about a re-branding project she’s working on for an engineering firm. Jokingly she asked if I had a few minutes to chat…that is, if I wasn’t too busy “gallivanting” in my retirement. [Great word, gallivant. It means to “go around from one place to another in the pursuit of pleasure or entertainment.”]

It just so happens that I read that e-mail while on a bus in between a tour of the Walnut Grove Plantation in Spartanburg, SC and a visit to Kornerstone Farms, a sustainable, multi-generational farm in Woodruff, SC, where the family’s eight children took us around introducing us to their chickens, milking goats, pigs, dogs and beehives.

In the evening I wrote back to my friend. “Well, as it turns out I was on a day trip today to the Walnut Grove plantation. Does tomorrow around 10:00 am work for you? Lunch with the garden club president at 11:30. Honest…I’m not making this stuff up.”

As soon as I acknowledged that I had, indeed, been “gallivanting” and wrote what I was up to, I realized it sounded… well…a bit make believe. And get this…after I sent the e-mail I went back to reading The Secret of Red Gate Farm, a first edition Nancy Drew mystery that my friend, Nina, sent me for my birthday. Am I having too much fun? Can you have too much fun?

A few weeks ago, when I was walking the dog, I met up with a man whom I see walking my condo complex regularly. We greeted one another and I asked, “How are you today?” His reply: “Living the dream every day.” I’m fairly certain he meant that ironically, but I have to say, that’s how I feel most days. Don’t get me wrong. Even a cock-eyed optimist like me gets the blues some days. But overall I have been blessed with little patience for self-pity and a remarkable ability to snap out of the doldrums, and for that I’m truly grateful.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that I’ve stopped watching the news. I used to be a news junkie, but no more. The media is saturated with murders, robberies, terrorist attacks and car crashes and I just can’t bear to watch a daily summary of all the bad things that happen. I do still read the newspaper, and while the paper reports on the same awful occurrences, I can scan the headlines and move on to the human interest stories I prefer. Somehow I always manage to find some newsworthy gem that really tickles me and restores my faith in humanity.

Last week I was drawn to a brief item with this caption: “Father, Son in Custody After Kidnapping Plot”. A 51-year old father and his 22-year old son lured a woman and her four teenage daughters to a house in Centerville, Utah where they tied them up in the basement. Their plans were thwarted when “they were overpowered by the women they abducted.” The men are now in custody and facing felony charges following the botched kidnapping plot. Now if that story doesn’t brighten your day just a bit, I don’t know what will.

The Pollyanna principle is a subconscious bias towards the positive.

The Pollyanna principle is a subconscious bias towards the positive.

Yesterday I shared on Facebook a little known 9/11 story about how the small town of Gander, Newfoundland helped 53 planeloads of travelers who were re-routed and stranded there for two days after the attacks on the World Trade Center. The townspeople rallied to house, feed and take care of everyone during those horrendous two days when the world stood still. In return, the travelers created a trust fund to provide scholarships for the students of Gander to repay them for their generosity of spirit in a time of need.

Now you can call me a Pollyanna and focus on the “bad” news if you choose to, but I’m going to keep on gallivanting, living the dream, looking for examples of our shared humanity and stories that demonstrate the triumph of the human spirit…proof that life is good. Are you with me?

World and Time Enough

Yesterday, my cousin and friend, Joanne Frehse from Charlotte came to visit and I told her about entering the Flower Show at the South Greenville Fair shortly after I moved to South Carolina last July. I remembered that I had written about the experience, and Joanne encouraged me to post it to my blog.  So today I offer you another variation on my Spring gardening theme and a little slice of southern living. Hope you enjoy it.

                                       ************************************

Throughout my busy life in New Jersey, I often scanned the newspaper’s list of “Things to Do This Weekend” and lingered longingly over events I wanted to attend like concerts, garden shows and community fairs. Then I’d finish my coffee, fold the newspaper and start cleaning, cutting grass, doing laundry or any one of a million other things on my to-do list. No more. Now, I get out my I-phone, bring up the calendar and start adding events. Retired life is good!

South Greenville Fair particpants.

South Greenville Fair particpants.

One of the most genuinely enjoyable events I attended so far has been the 58th Annual South Greenville Fair on Saturday, September 19th. The Fair consisted of various events intended “to educate and inspire community celebration of the science and technology of plant and animal production through youth participation involving the 4-H and FFA organizations”. (I vaguely remember learning about the 4-H club as a youngster in school, but other than that, I only ever heard mention of the FFA in the Dixie Chick’s song, Good-bye Earl).

Anyway, the Fair’s events included Goat, Rabbit, Dairy Cattle, Beef Cattle, Dog and Horse Shows. All-day events included the Antique Engine and Tractor Show, Grandpa’s Farm Show, an Art Show and what brought  me there — the Flower Show.  My sister and I learned about the Flower Show when we attended our first Simpsonville Garden Club meeting at the Rotary Club on East Main Street the Tuesday before the Fair. (It was as down-homey as it sounds. They served iced-tea and water, a cream pie and fruit. )

The topic of the meeting was how to prepare a horticulture entry for judging in the Flower Show competition. Thelma Barnett, Horticulture Entries Consultant, and mother of the current President Christine Barnett, explained requirements for cut specimens. In spite of the fact that my sister and I just walked in off the street, we were invited by club members to partake in the refreshments and strongly encouraged to submit entries .

I immediately thought of the wild ageratum my sister gave me when I moved in to my new condo and how gloriously it had been blooming throughout July and August. Yes, I admit it. I may be retired, but the thrill of competing for a prize made my pulse quicken. Even my non-competitive sister whispered to me, “I could enter my dahlias.”

That night, I went out and watered the ageratum well…just as we were told to. The next morning, I located an old glass olive oil bottle. I went outside and carefully cut a stem from my ageratum and lovingly wrapped it in plastic wrap to secure the stem in the bottle neck, exactly as we were instructed to at the Garden Club meeting. When I completed the tag with the appropriate information — I’d looked up the Latin name, Conoclinium coelestinum, online the night before — I glanced over at one of only two plants I was able to bring South with me when I moved…a salmon-colored angel wing begonia. I remembered  there was a potted plant category. How could I not enter this graceful plant…one of at least half a dozen plants I’d started from cuttings from one mother plant that bloomed constantly in my New Jersey kitchen over the past two winters, making me smile and giving me hope even on the bleakest days in February? Yes, this beauty deserved to be in a Flower Show.

Me and my 2nd Prize Begonia.

Me and my 2nd Prize Begonia.

My sister and I arrived at the Fair around 1:30 on Saturday. In spite of the fact that we were both hungry, we went straight to the Community Building. We giggled like school girls, recounting all the television shows and movies we’d seen about competitions like this one…not completely willing to admit how much we really wanted to win.

When we entered the building, I turned to the right and there was my begonia with a 2nd prize blue sticker on it. I couldn’t stop smiling. We walked down the next row and there sat my ageratum, a 3rd prize red sticker attached. I was starting to feel a little light-headed. As we rounded the last row of exhibits, my sister became discouraged. The day before she nearly backed out of entering saying we didn’t stand a chance of winning.  Just as she said, “My entry must have been disqualified,” I spotted her dahlias on a table apart from the other exhibits. I grabbed her by the arm and pulled her over to the table, where her Crème de Cassis Dahlias proudly bore a 1st place sticker and ribbon! Now we were both positively giddy.

Mary Ellen and her !st Prize Dahlias.

Mary Ellen and her !st Prize Dahlias.

Basking in the afterglow of our success, we strolled through the Art Show, then outside where we got barbecue rib sandwiches from the man who won first prize in the BBQ Cookoff competition. Yum!  After that we had freshly churned, homemade ice cream. We each got a mix of chocolate and vanilla with Reese’s Pieces. Get this…the Reese’s Pieces were actually pieces of Reese Cups chopped up in the ice cream.

We ended the day watching a girl of no more than 10 win a fist full of red ribbons riding her horse with such mastery that it took my breath away, reminding me of every dreamy horse book I read as a girl, from National Velvet to The Black Stallion. Sigh! It was clear to me that the South Greenville Fair fulfilled its mission to provide “a format for the community to see, experience, and help promote the value of our environment and natural resources to preserve our rural heritage”.

Now that I am retired, I have to admit, I sometimes hear “Time’s wingèd chariot hurrying near”. Ironically, I also now have “world and time enough” to enjoy events like the South Greenville Fair. I have a feeling the pure pleasure of it all will keep my heart pumping a good, long while…that and the adrenaline rush of competing in the Flower Show. Just wait until next year…

New Year’s Confessions of a Retiree without Resolutions

This morning (January 7, 2016) I read in The Greenville News that Furman University student, Chris Drose, was named to Forbes’ annual “30 under 30” list.  What did he do to earn that accolade?  Well, Mr. Drose, who’s studying English and Economics, “uses his free time to research companies to determine how much their stock is actually worth.”  He then posts his research results on his blog: BleeckerStreetResearch.com.   His whistle-blowing report on patient deaths at the facilities of a company that provides treatment for substance abuse and behavioral health issues resulted in a 54% drop in their stock.

And then there’s my blog…I don’t think I’ll be making any “70 under 70” lists.  This is only my first post since December 2nd!  I’ve already broken a cardinal rule of blogging by not adding new content on a regular basis.  To my horror, I just checked out an article entitled “The 23 Unwritten Rules of Blogging” by Lily Herman .  This is what she says:

“5.      If you want to keep people engaged and coming back, you should post three or four times per week on your blog (once a day is even better!). Ideally, plan and keep to a regular schedule. This keeps your readers from wondering whether or not you’re coming back.”

Seriously?  Who can do that? And who has time or would even want to read something I wrote daily?  Surely, people have more important things to do than read blogs every day.

Honestly, I sometimes feel that I’m a tortoise in a world, not of hares, but of gnats and hummingbirds.  I confess…it makes me feel…well, old.  But that isn’t quite it because most of the time I feel the same way I did when I was in my twenties, and I can’t believe I’m 64.  It’s something about the digital world and cyberspace.

The attention span of a gnat is about .210005 of a second. Life span: 7 days.

The attention span of a gnat is about .210005 of a second. Life span: 7 days.

I’ve been on Facebook for several years, but it wasn’t until I started blogging and wanted to let people know  I posted something that I started checking my Facebook newsfeed regularly.  At first I found it exhilarating to be in contact with people I hadn’t been in touch with recently…school friends, former business associates, friends and family who have relocated all over the country.  That, of course, has not changed, but recently, I have caught myself losing the odd hour here and there scrolling mindlessly through tons of posts that really don’t have a lot of meaning for me. After encountering the same political statement or inspirational quote posted multiple times,  I had to ask myself if this activity was really serving any useful purpose in my life.

Hummingbirds flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Life span: 5 years

Hummingbirds flap their wings so fast (about 80 times per second) that they make a humming noise. Life span: 5 years

And now for Confession Number 2…since my December 2nd post, I hadn’t written a word until last Saturday, January  2nd.  Shocking admission from a writer wannabe, right?  Okay, in my defense, besides scrolling through Facebook, I cooked Thanksgiving dinner; threw a surprise birthday party one week later for my mother who turned 90 on December 3rd; spent the next week tooling around with my sisters (my sister, Jane, came up from Florida for my mom’s birthday and stayed for a week); did all the Christmas stuff…decorating, shopping, gift-wrapping, etc.; had a dinner for cousins from Connecticut who stopped for a visit on their way to Florida; met with my Cozy Mystery Writers critique group (which is kind of ironic, since I wasn’t writing much);  and did all the other things it takes to make a life…cooked, cleaned, did laundry, walked the dog, yadayadayada.  Confession Number 3: I’m not going to resolve to stop letting life get in the way of my writing because I’m enjoying my life, and I’m not exactly sure how much more of it I’ve got.

The fastest recorded tortoise speed is 5 mph. Life span: 80 to 150 years.

The fastest recorded tortoise speed is 5 mph. Life span: 80 to 150 years.

Confession Number 4: I have been a bit discouraged about my writing lately, but here I am today…blogging again.  I’m also happy to say that since January 2nd, I actually re-wrote the first chapter of my cozy mystery.  I’d gotten de-railed after learning that I violated police procedure in a crime scene I’d written in my first draft. It took me some time to work out a solution in my mind, but finally I did and I’m pleased with the result.

Slowly, I’m getting back on track…but, alas, that brings me to Confession 4. I believe I’m destined to remain a turtle in this fast-paced world of the 21st Century.  But maybe that’s not entirely a bad thing.  I just read that tortoises have one of the longest lifespans in the animal world and are a symbol of longevity in some cultures. There’s a good chance I may outlive the editing process.

Once again, I am encouraged.  Take heart, dear readers and friends, if , like me, you cannot multi-task, and the lighting speed of this brave, new digital world  leaves you breathless.   Let’s not forget the lessons of our youth.  Remember what Aesop said. “Slow and steady wins the race.”

Whether you are a tortoise, a hare, a gnat or a hummingbird, I wish all of you a most wonderful 2016 with abundant time to contemplate, savor and enjoy all that is dear to you.  Happy New Year!

Tortoise & Hare

Ode to a Thimble…how a little piece of plastic inspired me

Because I was busy this week writing for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month), I didn’t get to write a new blog post.  Instead I pulled out this item I wrote a few year’s ago to share with you.  Hope you enjoy it.

Yesterday I invited two friends to lunch on my patio.  It was Monday.  Can you image that?  I’m preparing to close my business at the end of the year, so I no longer feel the need to spend every free minute trying to develop new business.  I am 60 years old, and sometimes when I say that, I can’t believe it’s true.  I don’t feel the way I imagine a 60 year old feels.  Or, perhaps it’s just that I feel no different than I’ve always felt.  In some ways, I feel better, stronger…surely wiser, but I digress…

The yellow thimble sitting in my sewing basket, easy to locate even after a 750 mile relocation.

The yellow thimble sitting in my sewing basket, easy to locate even after a 750 mile relocation.

The real reason I’m writing this is to pay homage to a homely little object…a small, yellow, plastic thimble that has resided in my little sewing box for as long as I can remember.  My sewing experience has been limited to button repair, and the occasional hem.  I never use the thimble when I sew.  I’ve only ever used it when I bake cookies.

That may sound strange, but there is a recipe in my well-worn Joy of Cooking called Jam Tots.  It calls for you to bake the cookies for 5 minutes, then open the oven, and using your thumb (which I don’t recommend because the dough is just too hot), or a thimble, depress a hole in the center of each cookie.  Continue baking for 8 more minutes.  Next you allow the cookies to cool and proceed to fill them with jelly or jam.

I discovered the recipe probably 30 years ago.  My mother, father and two sisters re-located from New Jersey to South Carolina.  I inherited all of the leftovers in their refrigerators, which included 3 or 4 jars of jelly.  I didn’t eat much jelly, so I wondered what to do with it all.  Now, I’m sure you are thinking, “You could have just thrown it out.”  Somehow, in spite of the fact that I was born in 1951, the dead center of the Baby Boom, I was a child of depression era parents.  We didn’t waste anything.  And I went to Catholic school where we actually learned proverbs like “Waste not; want not” in school.  Do they teach children proverbs anymore?  I wonder sometimes, if they teach them anything.  But again, I digress…

So back to the jelly surplus.  One weekend I opened my Joy of Cooking in search of uses for the jelly and discovered the Jam Tot recipe.  I went to my sewing box, which was a Christmas gift from my mother a few years before.  There was a yellow thimble, which I put to use baking my first recipe of Jam Tots.  They were quite a success, and I even remember taking some over to the elderly woman who lived next door.

That was nearly 30 years ago.  Since then I moved to a condominium where I lived for 5 years, and, as a result of the real estate boom in the 80’s, I was able to sell my condominium and buy the house whose upstairs apartment I had lived in when I first discovered the Jam Tot recipe.  Last year a friend of mine gave me a jar of Lemon Raspberry Marmalade.  Once again, I pulled out my Joy of Cooking, sought my thimble and created a very “adult” cookie that was a hit with my book club.  Yesterday, I realized I didn’t have a satisfactory dessert for my patio lunch, and at the last minute decided to bake another batch of Jam Tots with Lemon Raspberry Marmalade…you see I’m still not a big jam/jelly/marmalade consumer.

As I put the cookie dough in the refrigerator to chill, I went to look for the thimble.  And, of course, it was right there in the sewing box, waiting to serve.  As I picked it out of the box, I was struck by how infrequently I used it, but how perfect it was for the job at hand.  What also struck me was the fact that sometimes I can’t locate something I bought last week, but the thimble was exactly where I knew it would be, where it has been for more than 30 years.

This humble little piece of plastic has been with me for most of my adult life, and that I found momentarily awe-inspiring.  In a world where thimbles have become ‘useless’ collectibles, and where I have made three trips to Best Buy to dispose of obsolete and broken electronic and digital equipment that I’ve owned for less than five years, this little yellow thimble survives and has purpose.  As I embrace my 6th decade I am delightfully inspired by a thimble.

My Inspiration!

My Inspiration!

 

Jam/Jelly Tot Recipe

Makes about forty-two 1-1/4 inch cookies

Cream 1/2 cup of white or brown sugar with 1/ 2 cup butter.

Beat in:

  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 eggs
  • 2-1/2 cups sifted all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons double-acting baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

Roll the dough into a ball and chill briefly for easier handling.

Pre-heat oven to 375 degrees.  Pinch off pieces to roll into 1-inch balls.  Roll the balls in sugar, or for a fancier cookie, in 1 slightly beaten egg white, then in 1 cup finely chopped nutmeats.

Place them on a lightly greased and flowered sheet.  Bake 5 minutes.  Depress the center of each cookie with a thimble or your thumb.  Continue baking until done about 8 minutes.  When cool, fill the pit with one of the following:

  • a bit of jelly or jam
  • a preserved strawberry
  • a candied cherry
  • a pecan half
  • a dab of icing.

No Longer Riding on the Merry-Go-Round

Those words just popped into my head the other day, and I wasn’t sure why.  Of course, they seemed a perfect metaphor for retirement.  If you ever stepped off a moving merry-go-round as a kid, you remember the dizzying feeling you experienced.  It took a while to get your footing on solid ground…not unlike the feeling you have when you step off the career carousel.

CarouselThe dizziness you experience is both elation and fear… happy to be off the work merry-go-round… hopeful, yet uncertain, that retirement will turn out as well as you imagined.  All I can tell you is that after flying by the seat of my pantyhose for the last six months, buying and selling property, and relocating 750 miles, it didn’t take long for me to adjust.

Of course, I’m not entirely retired…I am writing a mystery, collaborating with another writer on a Young Adult novel, sampling every writer’s group in the South Carolina upstate, co-organizing a Cozy Mystery Writers/Readers Meetup group, joining a community Garden Club, making a list of local colleges where I can teach English Composition as an adjunct next year because I miss teaching, attending every cultural event I can fit on my calendar, writing a blog…well, you get the picture.

It took some time for me to remember where today’s title words came from, but after a bit, I heard John Lennon’s voice in my head.  After searching my I-tunes I found Watching the Wheels from his Double Fantasy album and played it.  In the song people questioned John’s stepping off the merry-go-round.  By contrast, many of my friends and former colleagues sent me congratulatory messages and a few open admissions of envy after my announcement of retirement last week on Facebook.   Of course, John Lennon was only 40 years old at the time he wrote that song and the lead-off song on the album was Starting Over … don’t you ache for all the songs he didn’t get to write?  Don’t you yearn for someone to express the profound as simply and clearly as he did? But I digress…

In that song, John Lennon said he was enjoying “watching the wheels go round and round”.  For some of us, that’s the image of retirement we fear, but I have good news.  Many of my fellow baby boomers who contacted me said they were “semi”-retired or still consulting.  Whether we continue working for financial reasons, or because we are doing something we love to do, or because we just can’t imagine stopping, we need a new word to describe the period of time now known as retirement. After all, here’s the dictionary.com definition:

  1. 1. the act of retiring, withdrawing, or leaving; the state of being retired.
  2. the act of retiring or of leaving one’s job, career, or occupation permanently, usually because of age

Well, neither of those exactly describe what I’ve done or what many who wrote to me are doing.  Maybe we need more than one word to describe this phase of life.  How about “extended earning” if you’re working for financial reasons?  And “fulfillment” if you’re continuing to work because you love it?  And “renaissance” if you’re doing what I’m doing?

Whether the period “formerly known as retirement” is imminent or a decade or two out there for you, I hope all of you reach the “renaissance” phase.  I think it truly can be the best time of your life…the best shot you have at really doing what you’ve always wanted to do…the thing you’ve never had time to do.  A time for renascence, for starting over…IMAGINE.