Aging With Freedom® Book Club Review – Keep moving, doing, and living in retirement

On With The Butter! Spread More Living onto Everyday Life is a new retirement book by Heidi Herman. Heidi illustrates many life lessons on how to live. And offers examples from both her own life and her mother’s adventuresome journey. Her mother, Íeda Herman, was born in Iceland. The Viking curiosity that asks, “What’s over the horizon?” runs deep in the family. And is the source of the book’s title. “On with the butter” comes from an Icelandic idiom (Áfram með smjörið). Roughly translated it means “carry on” or “keep moving.” Think of the book as Viking Aging Lessons. On With the Butter! emphasizes choosing new adventures and experiences to keep life fresh and meaningful. The goal is the accumulation of experiences more than things. Dad always said, “It doesn’t get better by sitting still.” He would have endorsed the keep moving (and learning) philosophy.

Helpful Structure

Herman consistently organizes her chapters. Each begins by introducing a principle to follow. Then an illustrative family story. Finally, the chapter concludes with a challenge checklist. The checklist helps the reader convert the principal to action. These are the action steps for Íeda’s Viking aging lessons.

A few sample chapter titles establish the theme. We’ll follow that model for the structure of our Aging With Freedom® review. Only the family example will be our experience that support’s Heidi’s and Íeda’s admonitions. These are just a few of the fifteen chapters.

Just Say Yes

Plan for and make time for spontaneity. “. . . [N]obody is here forever. You have to live for the moment, each and every day.” Simon Elkeles, American author.

  • Say yes when invited. Vikings would pillage when the opportunity presented. I think they skipped the invitation step at Lindisfarne. Party crashers. But you get the idea. Risk having some fun.
  • Don’t just say, “We should do that.” Do it.
  • Pad your schedule with extra time for the unexpected and serendipitous.

One of my favorite serendipitous travel memories? Returning from D.C. we saw an exit sign for the Civil War battlefield Antietam. It wasn’t on our itinerary or schedule. But we stopped anyway. It was late fall after the Visitors’ center was closed. We were the only ones there on a perfect day at the golden hour just before sunset. Felt like we dropped back in time 140 years. We surveyed the ground from the Union center. The landmarks I knew from books were all around. The Cornfield, the Dunker Church, the Sunken Road, and the Burnside Bridge.  It left a haunting, religious impression of the cost of freedom. Plans are necessary. But leave room for the unexpected. It’s often the best part.

Celebrate Family & Heritage

Save memories for the next generation. The process of learning about your own family heritage and passing them along? Both are sources of new adventures and family memories. “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One of these is roots, the other wings.” Hodding S. Carter, American Journalist. Lost or forgotten stories cannot be retold to inspire future wings.

  • Share stories or traditions from your family history with the youngest generation.
  • Research an ancestor and map your family tree. (A shocking number of Americans can’t name any of their great grandparents.)
  • Preserve and share family recipes and share them with the next generation.

Some of our family’s most treasured heirlooms? They are the recipe cards and well-worn cookbooks from Grandma’s kitchen. They promise a taste of home and a renewal of memories.

Take the Scenic Route

This is old advice. But sage and well-proven advice. Since curiosity is the cure for boredom? You should explore beyond the usual shortest time routes. Look for signs of opportunity for new vistas and experiences. “When you’re curious, you find lots of interesting things to do.” Walt Disney – American animator. This Viking aging lesson also explains the Vikings’ history. The Dane’s discovered Iceland, Greenland, and Vineland (Nova Scotia in the Americas — Vínland in Old Norse). All by striking off into the unknown.

We particularly liked this chapter. It fit with our own experience and advice to undertake planned adventures. https://agingwithfreedom.com/2019/03/07/how-to-plan-an-adventure/

On a recent pre-COVID adventure to Florida, we stopped to see The World’s Largest Frying Pan. Or at least one amongst several claimants to the title. And Superman’s official hometown Metropolis (Illinois).

Keep Learning

Keep your mind young and body healthier by pursuing new knowledge. Lifelong learning is essential. “Anyone who stops learning is old. . . Anyone who keeps learning stays young.” Henry Ford – American industrialist. Heidi details several resources for learning as we age. Options range from traditional libraries to many college programs. Both frequently offer discounts to or programs for retirees.

  • Take an online class.
  • Sign-up for a one-day seminar or semester course. Check with your local community college or university. We like the programs offered by the Osher Lifelong Learning Institutes (OLLI). But there are many options. Including free and paid online courses.

Classes, seminars, and conferences are always sources of new learning and insights. Our usual annual educational itinerary includes both FinCon Expo and the LeadingAge annual meeting. This year is an anomaly due to COVID. Most events are now virtual. But we plan to be back in person next year.

Try Something New

This was a particularly fun chapter. It details the ninety-three (93) new things Heidi’s Mom accomplished in her ninety-third year. Despite being vegetable adverse. “To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people just exist, that is all.” Oscar Wilde, Irish poet and playwright. (And a Dan favorite.) We recently tried jicama (Mexican turnip) for the first time. Unlike Íeda, the Viking carnivore, we liked our vegetable experiment.

This challenge checklist is left blank for your response.

Personal Challenge Checklist

Our On With The Butter personal Challenge Checklist now includes:

  • Visit Effigy Mounds National Monument in Harpers Ferry, Iowa. A recent AAA Magazine (MN/IA) caught our eye after reading On With the Butter. So, we made a plan to do. Effigy Mounds is close by on the banks of the Mississippi.

“BEAR-SHAPED MOUNDS

For thousands of years, the Mississippi River played an important part in the lives of the native people living along its banks. By A.D. 350, the Late Woodland (or Effigy Mound) culture had emerged along the upper Mississippi River. At Effigy Mounds National Monument near Marquette, Iowa, you can view 191 prehistoric mounds, 29 of which are shaped like animals.

[The] Woodland people buried their dead in conical mounds. . . they built linear, compound and effigy mounds mostly for ceremonial purposes.

. . .

The four-mile Marching Bear Trail leads to the second-largest effigy group remaining in the United States. It consists of three bird mounds, two linear mounds and a line of 10 bears.

For more details, call (319) 873-3491, or visit the Web site www.nps.gov/efmo.”

Adventure per Month

We’ll be adding more to our On With the Butter! Challenge List. Our goal is an adventure per month. Applying the Viking aging lessons.

Targeted Technology Age?

Another chapter encourages using modern technology innovations. Tech tools find opportunities for or facilitate “on with the butter.” It’s a bit basic for a technology-savvy Boomer. And feels more targeted at Íeda’s peers in their 80’s and 90’s rather than Heidi’s (or ours). But it still has a useful challenge checklist. Most of the book’s advice is useful regardless of your age or stage of retirement.

It’s worth pointing out how technology facilitates discovery and learning. And we still remember when a long-distance telephone call was an expensive luxury at $2.00/minute. Modern smartphone plans make keeping in touch from a distance so much easier. Our connections to both people and information are now essentially cost-free. Or at least not additional added cost beyond your data connection. We’re still on T-Mobile’s Magenta Unlimited 55+ Plan for $45 a line. And love it. It offers unlimited voice, text, and data. https://agingwithfreedom.com/2017/12/07/best-cellphones-plans-for-baby-boomers/

Viking Aging Lessons Conclusion

On With the Butter! cultivates a sense of adventure in retirement by both advice and example. It’s a quick read. The Challenge Checklists are a starting point. The checklists push you to do and not only read about a sense of adventure and openness to new experiences.

The Herman’s Icelandic heritage is an engaging subplot. Íeda was an eighteen-year-old WWII war bride. She came to America along with her then-new U.S. serviceman husband. His Navy wartime posting was the strategic Keflavík Air Base. The American and British allies protected Iceland from Nazi occupation. And from Iceland protected the North Atlantic sea lanes. Iceland was the keystone in the United Kingdom’s lifeline to America’s arsenal of democracy. Aircraft and troops bound for the European theater ferried through Keflavík. And from Iceland, sub-hunting aircraft protected shipping convoys. And pursued the Nazi U-boat wolfpacks. Iceland helped the Allies win the crucial Battle of the Atlantic. The base is now reverted to an exclusively civilian airport for Reykjavík, Iceland’s capital.

Viking Matriarch Íeda Herman is pictured with her daughter and author Heidi Herman. They are wearing Viking period warrior costumes.
Íeda Herman (left) and author Heidi Herman (right) celebrate their Icelandic Viking heritage in costumes appropriate for any number of Nordic cultural festivals.

The Icelandic cultural heritage was especially interesting. And caused me to frame the book as Viking aging lessons. Most of our ancestors come from various points surrounding the North Sea. So, On With the Butter! appeals to our own Viking-influenced heritage.

My new thing for the day? I learned how to use ALT codes in Word to create Icelandic alphabet letters with the appropriate accent marks. See? Invitation to learn accepted. I felt like J.R.R. Tolkien translating Íslendingasögur or the Islanders Sagas.

Head shot of author Heidi Herman who shares Viking aging lessons from her mother, Íeda's Icelandic heritage and life experience.
Heidi Herman, author of On With The Butter! and daughter of Íeda Herman. Íeda’s 94-year story of an adventuresome retirement is the inspiration for the book.

Author Heidi Herman

Heidi Herman’s publisher is Hekla Publishing. Hekla provided us a copy of this book for our review. Heidi is on Twitter @StoriesByHeidi. Heidi’s other books include both fiction and nonfiction. Often with a tie to that Viking heritage. Hekla is the fire giant in Norse mythology. The volcano cloaked in smoke and the gateway to the underworld.