A Role Model Shows Up in the Inbox: Plus, A Book Giveaway

All my life I have looked ahead to someone older to help show me the path ahead. Role models, we sometimes call these people. I started early, looking up to my neighbor Shirley Clark. She was a member of the safety patrol. I became a member also.

From Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World

Last week someone who just might qualify as a role model contacted me. Let me introduce you to her. She has inspired me to continue writing and also to look for classes in some long-deferred interests: painting, calligraphy, and photography.

Nadine Block retired in 2011. Since then, she has written three books and has been selected as an artist in a juried competition to paint a public utility box. She has traveled to 65 countries, and has had a one-woman art show called “Travel Images”  The painting below was featured in that show:

At the Istanbul Fruit Market

At the Istanbul Fruit Market

Nadine has been a teacher and school psychologist, but she grew up on a Wisconsin dairy farm. Her latest book is a memoir called Remembering Rosie: Memories of a Wisconsin Farm Girl.

Nadine has agreed to do a book giveaway of her memoir to a randomly-selected writer who comments at the end of her post below. And now, here’s 84-year-old Nadine, and here is her question!

Nadine Block

Nadine Block, author, painter, and octogenarian.

Why would an octogenarian want to start a blog?

Aren’t you over-the-hill at eighty?

Maybe looking into a new recliner or figuring out the new TV remote is a better use of time for an octogenarian.  I am 84 years old and have been discussing with myself whether to start a blog.  I have a blog tab on my website but I use it to post news.  I would like a conversational blog in which I can have an exchange of ideas.  What would I exchange ideas about? I’d like to talk about how to create a joyful and productive old age and see what other people are doing to achieve that.

Maybe the question amuses  you.  I smirked when my 95-year old mother asked me if it was possible to find a man friend online at her age. I thought, “Hey Mom, are you kidding,”  You might wonder if my question has some genetic ties

I retired at 74 years and have since published three books. My most recent book is Remembering Rosie: Memories of a Wisconsin Farm Girl. In it I look back fondly at my 1950’s childhood on a Wisconsin dairy farm, a place I couldn’t wait to leave.

The farm Nadine could not wait to leave!

I have marketing work to do on the book.  I also began painting when I retired and exhibit my work.  But I am afraid I will get bored. My mother lived to be 101.  That could happen to me.  I have a few creative juices that are looking for a project.

Is it wise and useful for an octogenarian or even a septuagenarian to start a blog?  If you are a senior, a restless retiree, or an elder who wants to have a conversation with peers, have you thought about starting a blog?  What would  you write about?  Where would you go for advice on how to do this? Should I go ahead with my blog?

Okay, readers, here is your chance to give advice, explain what you appreciate about blogging (whether or not you are a blogger), and what interests you most about Nadine? Do you identify with her dilemma? Has she landed on the right subject? Would you be more interested in something else she apparently knows about?

Shirley Showalter

46 Comments

  1. Nancy Myers on April 28, 2021 at 10:31 am

    By all means she should start a blog. She has nothing to lose except her expectations, both of herself and of other people. The beauty of blogging is absolute flexibility. If you decide you are going to write every day, or on a certain topic, you can. But you can also change your mind. You can experiment, see what works both for yourself and the audience you want to have. As for that audience, if you expect them immediately to enter into a “conversation” you may be disappointed. You may find the conversation is sporadic and happens around certain posts you didn’t expect to stir a reaction. You may find your audience is very small and you may learn to appreciate those responses or likes regardless of their number. And if you take a break, don’t apologize when you come back because most people won’t have noticed you were gone. However, you should arrange to have someone put out a notice if you pass away. That’s all the advice I have as thepracticalmystic.org. Cheers!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2021 at 12:59 pm

      Nancy, I love this line: “She has nothing to lose except her expectations, both of herself and of other people.” I love the point you make about flexibility also. I have experienced that myself. Sometimes I blogged daily. This winter I had a six-month hiatus. But now that I am ready to blog again, all the tools are there at my disposal. You give great advice, I hope Nadine comes to visit your blog. In fact, it’s been a long while since I have been there. Going now!

    • nadine block on April 28, 2021 at 3:41 pm

      I like your advice about lowering expectations if I am expecting lot of response from a blog. I may keep the blog for a small group of trusted friends for a period of time until I get my feet on the ground. A couple of folks have counseled me to have a set day for the blog and to always have something to say, even if it is brief. The blessing of old age is we have learned to lower our expectations and we don’t have to do things a certain way! Thank you, Nancy, for your encouragement. Nadine

  2. Maren Tirabassi on April 28, 2021 at 10:46 am

    I am thrilled to learn about Nadine. I would be interested in following a blog that had a miscellaneous focus — somewhat of a scatter-shot from her many gifts. (no surprise there — since the blog I started at 60 ad continue at 70 is “Gifts in Open Hands.) I would love a photo of a painting and an excerpt from a book and a reflection on current events or natural beauty, a memory from the ’50″s, and ongoing news about what it’s like to paint a public utility box. I agree with Nancy above that conversation is rarer than the give and give of social media on a blog and, yes, always about the unexpected post. I use “guest posts” occasionally to get the other voices in — something someone has said or written shared by me, because I think my voice gets tedious after a while. I would enjoy, indeed, reading Nadine’s.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2021 at 1:52 pm

      Maren, what lovely encouragement you give to Nadine. I hope she will check out your beautiful and profound blog, brimming with poetry. Sounds like you are suggesting that Nadine claim the eclectic nature of her creative interests and also the many decades of life she draws on. I hope she comes to visit you at your blog. It does take a while to get a good conversation going. But eventually, the audience grows.

    • nadine block on April 28, 2021 at 3:32 pm

      I like the idea of “guest posts” to bring new people into a group. I have lots of interests: travel, art, health, writing. I am trying to fit that all together and starting to get some ideas. Thank you, Maren, for your encouragement. Nadine

  3. Marlena Fiol on April 28, 2021 at 11:46 am

    What a clever way to hook us in, Shirley. I love it.
    Nadine, such blogs are desperately needed, especially in our society – for at least two reasons.

    First, our elders have so much to tell us all and each other about life. But we don’t have good vehicles for those voices – a blog and then a YouTube channel (because audio and visual cues are very important) are great ways to begin making some good trouble.

    Second, elders need ideas about how to create a joyful and productive life — all the way to the end of what God gives us. Way to go! Not only do I encourage you to blog, but I’d love for you to be as outrageous as possible in your blogging. As my teacher Fr. Richard Rohr said in today’s meditation: “To change people’s consciousness, we have to find a way to reach their unconscious. That’s where our hearts and our real agendas lie, where our mother wounds, father wounds, and cultural wounds reside.”

    So, please touch our unconscious minds with outrageous truth-telling. We’re hungry for it!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2021 at 2:23 pm

      Wow, Marlene. You have me rising out of my chair to shout, “amen!”

      Figuratively, at least. 🙂

      I thought of you last night while listening to a podcast from Fresh Air: Terry Gross interviewing Stephen Colbert, whose father was a doctor passionately interested in leprosy. He died in a plane crash, but had he lived, he and his wife might have spent their retirement living in a leper colony. https://www.npr.org/transcripts/991149701

      Maybe Stephen would find your memoir interesting? Here’s an outrageous challenge for you: find a way to get your book into his hands. 🙂

    • nadine block on April 28, 2021 at 3:58 pm

      I chuckled when I read about making “good trouble.” That is a wonderful idea, Marlena. I like making people laugh and I don’t mind being
      outrageous at times. I like the idea of helping people create a joyful and productive life…I think that happens with intentionality, by focusing on what is fun and healthy and joyful. Thank you for encouraging me. Nadine

  4. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on April 28, 2021 at 1:02 pm

    At the encouragement of a writer friend of mine I began blogging in 2012, and post once a month. I was 69 years old when I began and I love doing it. I feel somewhat overwhelmed when I think about writing a book, but I love to write short pieces—essays, poems, short stories, so blogging is a right fit for me. I gather ideas through my reading and life experience and as the days go by they gradually jell into a main idea. I always look forward to comments from my readers, many of them by email, but some also on the blog post. I call my blog “In Transit” because I have been a world traveller for a great part of my life. You might want to emphasize a certain aspect of your life experience. I notice that you are a world traveller, like me. As a traveller, an artist and a published writer your blog posts will be amazing! Go for it! I look forward to reading them!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2021 at 2:26 pm

      Elfrieda, the advantage of having a place to go with our short pieces, flashes of insight, single memories, inspirations, etc., cannot be overlooked when considering whether or not to blog. Thanks for encouraging Nadine. She should check out “In Transit” to further understand how you use your voice.

    • nadine block on April 28, 2021 at 4:08 pm

      Thank you Elfrieda for encouraging me. I will take a look at “In Transit.” I love travel and found I could combine it with being an artist and writer. I privately published little books for my grandchildren. I wrote stories like “Corey the Camel in Timbuktu” and “Casey the Cat in Kathmandu.” I iillustrated the stories and put some of my travel photos in the stories. I thought that was a good way to get them to look at my travel photos and to encourage their curiousity about the world. I used travel photos for my paintings. The joy of painting them is that I get to experience again the feelings and thoughts I had about that travel adventure. We’d have fun talking about travel. Nadine

      • Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on April 28, 2021 at 4:42 pm

        Nadine, I too have been writing for my grandchildren, the stories are autobiographical beginning when I was born and I hope to get to about age 12 or 14. I’ve been writing them by hand with illustrations (very simple/mediocre pencil crayon artwork). Then I send them out by email. One of the granddaughters prints them and keeps them in a ring binder. We have fun with it!

  5. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on April 28, 2021 at 1:07 pm

    Oh yes, don’t let an elder voice fall silent. Especially one that has connection to ground, soil, Earth!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 28, 2021 at 2:28 pm

      Dolores, thank you for this ringing endorsement of the elder voice. I wonder if Nadine has connected her childhood on the Wisconsin farm to her vision for the future of the earth. That certainly would be a good subject!

  6. Christy on April 28, 2021 at 8:03 pm

    As a 35 year old from central IL who grew up in a farming community, I cherished my grandparents’ stories and sure miss hearing them. I wish they were documented somewhere I could go back and read. I think your blog of encouragement for your generation is a wonderful idea.

    Personally, I don’t follow blogs. With young children and a busy life, it’s hard to find time to read anything. I’d love to listen to a podcast or follow an Instagram page though :). Best wishes!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:22 am

      Christy, thank you so much for adding your voice to this conversation and identifying yourself by age! Writing and reading blog posts can be very time consuming. That’s great if you are retired and more difficult if you are in the intensive parenting stage of life. I love podcasts too. I use Instagram but probably date myself by saying Facebook seems more natural to me.

      The thing that connects us to Nadine and to others commenting is an interest in lifelong learning and an appreciation for stories from the past. I am eager to read Nadine’s memoir. I hope you get yourself a copy too, although reading is difficult. I wonder if Nadine made an audible book???

      Blessings on your day. Your elders appreciate you.

  7. Carolyn Yoder on April 28, 2021 at 8:57 pm

    I personally find it absolutely inspiring that Nadine may start a blog at age 84. And that she worked until 74, and wrote three books after age 71. YES! I’ll be 71 next month, and I have several stories I’d like to write for my four grandchildren about my parents and grandparents. Nadine’s experience makes me feel it’s not too late. I’m still working and when people ask when I’m going to retire, the only answer I have is that I’ll know when the time comes, but it’s not right now. And husband keeps urging me to start a blog. All are things I want to do, as long as it feels energizing not like an obligation. Nadine, you are a great role model of sharing your gifts “while life and thought and being last.” Thank you.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:31 am

      Carolyn, you are a role model too, though you are younger than I am. 🙂 You have “promises to keep and miles to go” before you sleep. I think what you say about energy and obligation is a very good guide. I have been blogging since 2008, but never in exactly the same way. As others have said, blogs are so malleable to new themes and goals that they survive like living beings — through evolution.

      Love that phrase “while life and thought and being last.”

    • nadine block on May 1, 2021 at 6:45 am

      Go Girl! You have stories to tell and small children who will learn from you.

  8. Sue McF. on April 28, 2021 at 9:07 pm

    I would readanything Nadine would love to blog about! As a painter and ex-blogger it’s all very possible and up for grabs! If the activity grips you in the moment who’s to say it’s not valid? God bless Shirley and Nadine!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:44 am

      Sue, great to hear from you again. I thought of you when I was deciding on which books to keep before we downsize and move. Art books made the cut!

      You make a point worth emphasizing. Blogging is like having access to a printing press. If you have multiple interests, and you feel that familiar tug of curiosity, a surge of energy, or a gnawing question, the blog might be the right place to express the idea initially. Then it can rise or fall depending on its strength. Others can help determine its fate. Thank you for the blessing. I return one to you!

  9. Melodie M Davis on April 28, 2021 at 9:08 pm

    Ok, I’ll bite. I wanted to start a blog for years … but I kept waiting for the right time at work, because “they” kept saying, oh, we’re going to start an office blog (we already multiple websites of course), and we will get some training etc. etc. You know how that goes, I kept waiting. Finally in 2013, I decided to just jump in and turns out I had enough website work in the past that I was able to launch my blog myself, just using WordPress. I retired in 2019 and am glad I didn’t wait until now to start one, so there’s no time like the present to jump in. I have had fun, met a lot of people online, have a small following and a place to post my weekly newspaper column (a week after papers use it), recipes related to the last book I wrote (2011), and now, a place to write about the “work memoir” I’m working on. Shirley is a great mentor for blogs and memoir writing of course! Nice to meet you here. Hope we see more!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:38 am

      Thanks for biting, Melodie. 🙂 I am intrigued by the idea of a work memoir. Great idea. You have had wonderful opportunities in your career and have made the best of them. The advice to take the plunge is a good one for Nadine to consider.

      Today I listened to Bill Siemering, one of the founders of NPR, and the founder of “All Things Considered.” (Terry Gross interviewed him yesterday. Highly recommended.) He listed the reasons he is still working (at a think tank). The one I remember is the IT department! You did well to use WordPress on your own. I had to hire tech assistance. But it has been worth it.

  10. Gerry Fix on April 28, 2021 at 9:49 pm

    I would love reading her blog. I’d love hearing her advice on so many things, for one, hearing about books she reads. I’d love hearing about books sh read as a child, plus present day children’s books she recommends. I love children’s book authors and illustrators. I’m sure you would share much needed advice.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:48 am

      Gerry, thank you. I am sure that Nadine enjoys children’s literature and has written and illustrated stories for her own grandchildren. Maybe that’s a subject she could start with, since the books are already made. I have a book about grandparenting due to be published a year from now. I think all grandparents would love examples of how to combine travel with writing and illustrating books for the children.

  11. June on April 29, 2021 at 12:08 am

    Hi Shirley, thank you for introducing me to Nadine. Her painting you posted is so full of live and colour. It is very vibrant. I have a feeling that Nadine be like that as well. As I watch others that are more chronological mature than I am, I have learned to never stop learning. Never stop creating. I think about the blog that Nadine is about to venture out on, the wisdom and knowledge that can be gleaned from this lady. I will use an old adage here, that Nadine is like fine wine, which gets better with age..

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:50 am

      June, I have the same feeling about Nadine even though I’ve never met her in person. You are here because you have never stopped learning. I hope you get to read more from Nadine. I would think she might be encouraged by now to get started with her blog. 🙂

  12. Marian Beaman on April 29, 2021 at 1:06 am

    Nadine, you have a beautiful face, which also expresses joy because you have purpose. By all means, begin a blog, a wonderful place to make connections with other writers, who will enjoy your art work and stories. I had to smile when you said, “My mother lived to be 101. That could happen to me.” Blogging can also be a way to market your books. Why not?

    After a career in education, I retired at 67, began a blog at 72, and published a memoir at age 78. I too will become an octogenarian this summer and have another work in progress with my husband, the artist in our family. Your zest for life inspires me to persevere even when energy flags.

    Shirley, thank you for featuring this inspiring woman and cleverly posing a question that drew me in. Even If I don’t win Nadine’s book, I will buy it anyway. Incidentally, I like the age-range of commenters here, including a 35-year-old with suggestions for reaching a diverse audience. People with a youthful mindset age without getting old in spirit.

    By the way, I have just read author Judith Viorst’s Unexpectedly Eighty, a poetry collection with illustrations and also her latest, Nearly Ninety. Now having reaching that milestone, she is probably at work on a centennial edition. Cheers to life!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 6:57 am

      Marian, I was hoping you would share your story with Nadine. I think she would enjoy your book also!

      You too are a role model. Glad to know that you and Cliff are working on a book together. What a good team you make.

      Judith Viorst is a great guide to living zestfully at any age. I gave her Suddenly Seventy book to my brother. I didn’t know she has published Nearly Ninety. I guess she is hedging her bets. 🙂 I hope she gets to write about 100. Silly Centenarian?? I’m sure she’ll do better than that one.

      Happy 80th in advance!

  13. Laurie Buchanan on April 29, 2021 at 8:50 am

    Nadine — Start blogging at the age of 84? Yes! Not only did your mom prove it, but humanity as a whole is living longer. Octogenarians and nonagenarians are relevant, so roar—let your voice be heard. It WILL be listened to.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 12:25 pm

      Laurie, you are as succinct with words as you are pared down to the essentials in almost everything you own and do. Nadine will lead the Gray Panther blogger brigade after reading this. 🙂

  14. Tina Barbour on April 29, 2021 at 10:49 am

    Nadine, if the only thing keeping you from blogging is wondering if you should, then I would say do it! I would love to hear about your writing and art and your travel stories. And as I age toward the far side of middle age (I’m 57), I’m particularly inspired by people who show that they never stop learning, never stop creating.

    I am a former blogger. My only regret is that I went too far on the side of “write about only one thing” and focused too narrowly on one part of my life. I enjoyed it a lot more when I ventured out and wrote about other things going on in my life, or other things I was pondering. It’s all connected, right?

    Thank you, Shirley, for introducing us to Nadine. I’ve been thinking about you and your daughter and family.

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 12:30 pm

      Tina, thank you for your big heart. We here are all grateful for good health and good friends. And thanks for sharing your blogging story. You give Nadine more to ponder. Your interest in her life and activities as well as your own regret that you didn’t take the opportunity to branch out more in your blog, are all useful.

      And it’s never to late to start up blogging again! I took off six months and felt a little rusty in my first posts, but the rhythm has returned now.

  15. Dora Dueck on April 29, 2021 at 11:33 am

    I very much enjoyed your post, Shirley, as well as Nadine’s words, and all the wisdom in your replies, and the wisdom in the comments! Blogging doesn’t have quite the cachet it had maybe a decade or so ago. (I jumped in myself in 2009.) The media landscape has shifted, and it’s the shorter forms like Twitter, Facebook, Instagram, that seem to draw the biggest engagement now. But that shouldn’t be the determining factor. Nadine should definitely start a blog if she is being tugged in that direction. I’m down to posting about once a month now, but just so glad to have a place to “publish” what gathers in my mind and seems to want out., a place only I determine, a place where friends show up to read what I have to say. I used to post often, now I’m down to about once a month, but that rhythm too is at my discretion. I’m inspired by you, Shirley, and you, Nadine!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 29, 2021 at 12:36 pm

      Well, Dora, I am inspired by you! I try not to miss your posts, because whatever you care enough to write about almost always finds a home in me also. You have been through several major life transitions in recent years, and it helps me to know how you are handling them. I will think about “making” as a form of grief therapy the next time I am grieving. And now that I am leaving a beloved place and people, I could go back to your posts about moving and be challenged and comforted at the same time.

      Nadine is going through some life changes too right now. I know she would enjoy, and benefit from, your posts.

  16. Jacquelinehendrickson on April 30, 2021 at 6:58 am

    Absolutely I am 74, semi-retired family therapist and a choral singer in hiatus. I have a dozen books or book chapters, professional journal articles and more…occasional poetry writer. Life inspires me to write. Dora inspires me. Recently I changed my mantra from what if I live to be 94 to what if I live to be 104, a healthy semi independent life, not in panic mode but self-preserving. Conclusion our culture needs positive role models for the final third of life. Let’s do it!

    • Shirley Showalter on April 30, 2021 at 8:24 am

      What if I live to be 104? What a good question for a septuagenarian. Thank you for joining this conversation, Jacqueline. We are both Dora fans. I am sure you are eagerly awaiting the day when singers can at last rejoin their choirs and perform for audiences. I am glad you aspire to be a role model for the culture. And that you found encouragement here.

  17. nadine block on May 1, 2021 at 7:24 am

    Shirley, you have such thoughtful, friendly and kind readers. I am so impressed by them. They are obviously a reflection of you.

    They inspire me to write a blog in my own way…maybe not once a week, but when I get an idea I have to share…maybe not on one topic but a combination of topics…reading, painting, writing, and travel. Starting with a flexibility of format and goals increases my desire to do it. One of the nice things about old age is that we can just be ourselves! Learning and communicating can help us retain the best of ourselves.

    When my 100 year-old mom moved into an assisted living facility, I asked the director if she was the oldest person there. The director said, “There are 80 year olds who are older than your mom.” That’s the kind of person I want to be.

    • Shirley Showalter on May 1, 2021 at 10:05 am

      I too am impressed by my readers. And very blessed to know them at whatever level they have come into my life. Some are friends of more than 50 years. Others have come into this conversation for the first time. That’s another joy of blogging. You accumulate friends over time. As your subject matter changes, you may gain some and lose some. But that’s okay.

      Love the story of your young-old mom. My goal also!

      I think it’s time to put names in the hat and draw one of them! Let me know who it is, and I can get the address to send the book to.

  18. Shirley Showalter on May 1, 2021 at 8:31 pm

    Congratulations to Marlena Fiol, winner of the book giveaway. Thanks to all for your comments.

    • Marlena Fiol on May 1, 2021 at 9:15 pm

      I NEVER win in a contest. How can this be? Thank you!

  19. Jeannie D'Aurora on May 3, 2021 at 4:04 pm

    Absolutely you should go ahead with your blog!!! Why not??? What’s stopping you? What have you got to lose? time? money? friends? face? standing? What could you gain? confidence, self-knowledge, growth, new experiences, new knowledge…… Yes, your blog would be useful to me, and likely you as well. From my perspective as a 76-year-old, I seek out information re: the experiences of 70-somethings, 80-somethings, 90-somethings, etc. Growth, aging, creativity, relationships, etc. are of interest to me. I thought about starting a blog but lack the confidence, time, energy to do so. Write about anything that is interesting or perplexing or concerning or amusing, etc. to you–likely others will be able to relate . Advice is overrated–and waiting for advice is worse. JUST DO IT AND LEARN ON THE JOB–that’s how the vast majority of us learned about parenting, homemaking, gardening, home repair, sex, etc. Good luck! How do I read the first posting?

    • Shirley Showalter on May 3, 2021 at 4:57 pm

      Jeannie, you are a great cheerleader! That’s a great point about learning on the job, something I have done all my life and something blogs allow. We learn by getting feedback. We bloggers are always looking for the sweet spot between what we know and care about and what someone else wants to know about with us. As you can tell from reading all these wonderful comments, the greatest teachers are our readers.

      Now, I like your feistiness in saying advice is overrated. I agree, though I seek it anyway from trusted sources. But I challenge you to look at your reasons for not starting a blog yourself. Time and energy I understand, but confidence?? I see much evidence of a real and distinctive voice in your comments. Don’t sell yourself short! That’s my advice to you.

      I hope Nadine will come back and tell us when she starts a blog.

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