Friday Morning

The sign said Fresh Pretzels and Logs. Interesting enough, but what really got my attention was the wonderful aroma of yeast, sugar and cinnamon, plus a smidgeon of savory sausage and melting cheese!

Behind the glass wall, a young Amish girl rolled out dough, stretching and pulling and then cutting it into fist-sized balls, laying aside the extra as she began to shape one portion at a time. Working quickly, she snipped off a long piece, then rolled again, tied a loose knot and flipped the newly formed pretzel onto a large baking sheet.
Without a pause she darted over to trays of freshly baked pretzels, carefully picked up each one with a tong and dipped it into melted butter. As a lineup of customers waited at the counter, mouths nearly watering, the warm buttery treats landed in a drawer of cinnamon sugar and then into small paper bags.

Three little tables stood tucked in beside the glass window on the customer side, fully occupied. One kindly gentleman had an elderly mother at his side; he spoke loudly and tended to her constantly, picking up her napkin whenever it fell and offering her another cup of coffee.

Several mid-aged ladies looked like they were ready for a casual date wearing colorful sweaters, smart leather shoes, and a touch of jewelry. A few sported freshly done hair, as if they had just come from the salon. They looked fit and healthy too, though were eating warm pretzels dripping with butter and sweetness. Several ladies munched on sandwiches filled with meat and cheese. Everyone was smiling.

Not one young person was among them. On the porch outside, I had seen a handsome- looking older couple on old-fashioned rockers, chatting as if it were perhaps a first opportunity. Could these folks be members of Seniors Meet or for the silver sneaker crowd?

The event was an informal convention of retirees, it seemed. Very likely, in fact. According to data, ten thousand Americans turn sixty-five each day, and they are the healthiest and best educated generation in our nation’s history. They are out and about. Well-tuned representatives of this population were snacking on freshly-baked pretzels and enjoying their Friday morning, right there in the local farmers’ market.

I was on a speed visit to get a few donuts for the weekend, but decided to slow down and take it all in: a stroll through the country furniture aisle, a sample of home-made pickles, people-watching at the gourmet wing counter where at least eight different flavors of chicken wings created some drama, a leisurely visit at the corner shop that sells everything from buckwheat pancake mix to chocolate-covered strawberries.

Of course I remembered the donuts, warm with sticky icing and fresh cream filling, and then made my way to the door, again passing the pretzel and log shop. The tables were still full, customers still smiling. I was tempted to ask them the name of their club but decided to simply come back next Friday and take a place at one of those tables. After all, I’m retired too!

The two men in lane one

moved over a bit as I glided by. They’re perhaps retired, I thought to myself. One had handsome grey hair, the other a soft artificial orange. They chatted while engaging in water exercises. “….already for two years,” I heard. And then from the same man, “Thank goodness I’m still working.” I surmised that perhaps this gentleman’s wife had retired two years ago.

It was 8:30 on a cold snowy morning. The indoor pool offered a wonderful view of the outside world through a large wall of glass. It was magical! As I swam laps, the gentle breast stroke and signature side stroke that amuses my grandchildren, I hugged the lane rope while passing the men and thought about what I had heard.

“Thank goodness I’m still working.” Is he glad to work for financial reasons? Does he enjoy his responsibilities because they give him meaning and purpose? Is he concerned about being replaced?  Is this man grateful to be away from the house because his wife is now at home all day? Any of the above is possible. Perhaps he works part-time and has the luxury of making his own hours, I thought to myself. He lingered in the water after his friend left, sat for a spell in the hot tub, and….maybe he’s still there now.

What I do know is that this gentleman was grateful for his work, and that gratitude is a happy, healthy mindset. It’s contagious, in fact. I returned home after my swim counting the blessings of a wonderful career that I had enjoyed immensely AND feeling exceedingly thankful that I could go about my day freely, doing whatever popped into my imagination. Thank goodness I’m retired!



It’s Tuesday…

at my favorite grocery store. I love shopping on Tuesdays.  The pace is slow, classic hits from the sixties play on the loudspeaker, and friendly folks chat in the baking aisle about new bread recipes. They ask the butcher for special cuts of meat and report news of kids and grandkids. Lines form at the free sample carts where tiny bites of new products await the hungry shoppers. People gather around the showcase in the fresh fish department. They study the piles of shrimp and compare signs to find out which specimens are wild caught and which are farm raised. Some gaze at the donut case in sheer pleasure and finally select one yummy treat to enjoy with their afternoon coffee.

The aisles are full of ladies and gentlemen with beautiful pure white hair, modern dyed hair, and everything in between. Some customers leave  walkers at the door, as the grocery cart is a wonderful “walker in disguise.” You see, older adults get a five percent discount on Tuesdays!

Today I noticed two young college students among the elders. They stood out notably. Each held a large pile of assorted packages in outstretched arms. The colorful boxes and bags reached nearly to their chins. I couldn’t resist speaking to them. “Girls, did you forget to get a shopping cart?” They laughed and responded, “We didn’t plan ahead.” I assured them that they still had room for a few more items on top. Later I saw they had made it successfully to the checkout counter where everything had spilled onto the conveyor belt. They were still smiling, chattering, and laughing.

Who needs to plan ahead? All we need is a joyful spirit and strong arms.

Psalm 118: 24   This is the day which the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

To tap dance or not….

Have you thought recently about your dreams, the wishes that rest in your heart and soul waiting for a burst of courage or time or energy to make them come true? Recently I was delighted to meet up with a former colleague at a gathering in the country. Over savory chili,  cornbread, and salads, I asked her what she has been doing since she retired.  I knew her to be a creative and adventurous person, but her answer surprised me. She said she took tap dance lessons because she had always dreamed of tap dancing on the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum on Thanksgiving Day. In order to fulfill this dream she needed to learn the craft. Interestingly, after several lessons she decided she really didn’t care much for tap dancing. She graciously chose to let go of her dream, knowing she had given it a try. She was at peace with her decision and has moved on to other interesting goals. Ah ha!  We can let go of a dream and there is no need for disappointment. This was a healthy discovery.

The amazing freedom of retirement allows the mind to wander into nooks and crannies where we discover all sorts of things we’ve always wanted to do or be. That list is likely to include far more than anyone could manage in a lifetime. Thanks to my friend for sharing her story and reminding me that effort counts, we should use our time wisely, and flexibility is important. Above all, we should be joyfully courageous and step out there, in tap shoes or not!

Healthy Risk-taking for Boomers and Friends

What does risk-taking for boomers and friends look like? My current risk is this blog. As a digital immigrant I take technology challenges step-by-step and hope for a positive outcome. One such example occurred several months ago. A boomer myself, I signed up for an online grad course at West Chester University, a few miles from my home. With the kind patience of the professor and careful forward movement I discovered that “Share a thread” had nothing to do with embroidery or spools but rather with posting my assignments. This was a good thing to learn! What have you tried recently? Both success stories and failures are welcome, as each is an experience of discovery.