two friends retire

Inga and Ellie’s Story: Two Friends Retire

We had been friends for some thirty-five years when we retired
simultaneously – Ellie as the Dean of Students and Inga as an
Instructor of writing and literature. Our husbands had retired
some time earlier and were encouraging us to follow their lead.
As we did, we knew that we were giving up careers that had
been deeply satisfying, had served to identify us as
professionals, and had lent purpose to our lives.

Together we explored our losses – salary, social contacts,
and intellectual stimulation. Gradually, we came to realize
that it was up to us to transform all three losses into gains
if we were to reach the level of contentment in retirement
that we had experienced in our careers.

It is difficult to give up a salary, not only because it
literally feeds us but also because our culture identifies us
by the money we make. Instead we focused on the value of
Time. No longer under contract to play a role in the market
place, we had coins of time to spend as we chose, to engage
in the world and to seek new creative forms of living.

Social contacts were still important to us. We realized
this was no longer the “given” we had come to expect in
our work lives, where interaction with colleagues and
students was not only a privilege but also a necessity.
With our coins of time, we now had the collateral that
allowed us to seek out new relationships and renew old
friendships. We were keenly aware of how much the demands
of family and careers had left little time for an active
social life.

Among many other things, we both liked to read and to cook.
So Ellie joined a reading group that Inga has led for the
past twenty years. And Inga began to devote more time and
attention to the texts as well as to new and longstanding
members of the group. Dinner parties with old friends and
new acquaintances stimulate discussions and companionship,
illustrating the original meaning of that word “cum pane,”
with bread.

Engaging in activities we have not tried before is yet another
way to spark our dendrites and keep our brain cells active.
We took a Spanish class together, in preparation for trips
to Mexico and South America. Ellie is experimenting with
painting watercolors, and Inga has learned to hand quilt.
Playing bridge and doing crossword puzzles are other ways
to stimulate ourselves mentally and have fun.

Our most daunting and risky, yet satisfying, enterprise
has been the book we wrote and published. It is based on
our discussions about both our current stage of life and
our common vision for the future. “When Professional
Women Retire: Food for Thought and Palate” celebrates
women’s ways of knowing how to live the good life in
retirement. We posit the examined life as a basis for
the good life. As we accord our stomachs and our minds
equal importance and function, we also offer recipes
we have cooked, shared, and cherished throughout all
our years of friendship.

Salmon Pate

7 oz. cooked salmon (or halibut)
8 oz. cream cheese
1 T lemon juice
1 T grated onion
1 tsp. prepared horseradish
1/4 tsp. liquid smoke
1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
3 T chopped parsley

Combine salmon, cream cheese, lemon juice, onion,
horseradish, and liquid smoke in food processor or
blender. Process until smooth. Stir in chopped nuts
and parsley and transfer to a crock. Refrigerate until
ready to serve. Serve with crackers, baguette slices,
or Swedish knackerbrod.

Inga Wiehl and Ellie Heffernan


Stepping Stones: Create Your Own Recipe for Mid-Life

Now let us offer you our guidelines for creating a recipe for
the next chapter of your own life:

CLEAR the counter and your head, in preparation. In the past,
when you tried a new recipe, did you feel excited to take a risk,
not knowing the outcome? Or were you more skeptical, wanting to
stay with the old familiar, tried and true? Now is the time to
give yourself permission to experiment.

START with a big bowl – a treasured one that has meaning from
your past or a new, funky one that fits your present lifestyle.
Be sure it is large enough to hold all the elements of your
wisdom, passions and friendships.

COMBINE all of the Friendships that have sustained and supported
you through the years with the new ones you are nurturing now.

MIX in the Experience and Wisdom that you have acquired over
the decades.

ADD your Passions – what is most meaningful for you – the parts
of your life that make you feel most creative and engaged.

In another bowl, SEPARATE what you are letting go of from whom
you are deep inside, and reserve the flavor that remains –
your core Identity.

BLEND your Identity and your desires for Meaning and Purpose,
to give your batter richness and texture.

SEASON with Risks “to taste,” as it suits your fancy – use
just a pinch or a generous handful.

BAKE slowly. As your mixture rises and grows in the warmth,
be aware of its transformation and potential.

ENJOY the special and unique flavor of your own mid-life
creation and share it with those who mean the most to you.



Inga and Ellie offer a mix of recipes and wisdom in their
delectable book, “When Professional Women Retire: Food for
Thought and Palate.” Included in the appendix are references
to books, magazines and websites about retirement. They also
provide information about activities and organizations you can
explore as you bring structure to your new life. Inga and Ellie
describe “chautauquas,” gatherings that are an especially
entertaining way for women to join together and share ideas.

Civic Ventures, founded in the late 1990s by John Gardner
and Marc Freedman, has been redefining the second half of life
as a source of social and individual renewal. Now, it
brings together older adults with a passion for service. In these ways,
it is helping America realize an experience dividend.

You will find this website helpful as you discover new ways to
use your work and life experience productively in retirement.


Our Invitation to You

Do you have your own transition story? We invite you to
share it with our readers for the benefit of women who
themselves may be dealing with similar changes. The skills you
used may be Stepping Stones for others. If you are interested,
please e-mail us.

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