As you read these words, I am heading back north from Sarasota, Florida.

Sunrise on the wing of the airplane on the way to the South.

Sunrise on the wing of the airplane on the way to the south.

I leave behind the palm trees, Gulf breezes, white sands, delicious fresh sea food, key lime pie, beach sunrises and sunsets, — and some wonderful surprises!

Photo by Janet Oberholtzer. I enjoyed speaking to her book club. I met nine new readers of BLUSH and felt like all of them were old friends.

Photo by Janet Oberholtzer. I enjoyed speaking to her book club. I met nine new readers of BLUSH and felt like all of them were old friends.

Two of the surprises had to do with cars.

A 1975 Olds 88 convertible. Friends gave us a memorable ride on Stuart's birthday.

A 1975 Olds 88 convertible. Friends gave us a memorable ride on Stuart's birthday. We didn't even know this beautiful vintage car existed until we took the trip.


Tesla Motors Showroom in Sarasota

Tesla Motors Showroom in Sarasota. Meeting a new vision of the future. We'll take this vision home and ponder it.

Just last week I described my approach to 2015 as “planning more and planning less.”

This week Stuart and I practiced what I preached last week.

We didn’t know we would be visiting a Tesla showroom. We had heard of Tesla, both the original inventor and the car named after him, so when one of our friends mentioned the fact that the new mall included a showroom, we decided to head over there. We were met by an “evangelist.”

If you want to get the flavor of the excitement on the floor, watch this video about the visionary CEO of Tesla Motors, Elon Musk:

When we planned the trip months ago, we had five or six known appointments. Some were book talks. Some were related to Stuart’s work. We knew we would enjoy the weather and reunions with many friends.

What we didn’t know were the “bonuses,” all the sweeter because they were not planned.

There was sadness also. While we were enjoying beautiful cars in Florida, Uncle Ken passed away in Pennsylvania.

If you read Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets a Glittering World, you remember that he and Daddy were best friends and that both of them loved cars. Our joy of discovery became bittersweet with the news of Uncle Ken’s death.

Uncle Ken (left) and Daddy (right) 1946. They shared a love of cars and farming. They were best friends until Daddy's death in 1980.

Uncle Ken (left) and Daddy (right) 1946. They shared a love of cars and farming. They were best friends until Daddy's death in 1980.

What bonuses popped into your life this week? Did any of them have to do with cars? Have you encountered bitter-sweetness in any of your discoveries?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Richard Gilbert on January 14, 2015 at 2:49 pm

    Well, this was one bonus, Shirley, though it made me homesick! A year ago I was enjoying Florida’s warmth at my sister’s beach condo where we grew up. In fact, exactly a year ago yesterday I was watching kids surf, and I wrote an essay about it. That was a bonus, working on that essay and seeing that line: “The pale center of January it was, the 13th.” BUT I missed Florida this year not just because my university cut way back on the length of time between semesters but because our daughter delivered our first grandchild, and we were there for the birth! In Appalachian Virginia, which was pretty cold at times, but beautiful . . . So a bonus season for me all around!

  2. shirleyhs on January 14, 2015 at 3:10 pm

    Thanks for showering us with many bonus memories, Richard, and starting the conversation. No bonus can be better than a grandchild!

    Florida in the winter for us snow birds is like a little miracle, too. The temp was 5 degrees in Harrisonburg on the day we left. Perhaps growing up there made the winter seem less spectacular?

    One of these days you will be enjoying Florida in the winter WITH your granddaughter. Triple memory deluxe.

  3. Marian Beaman on January 14, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    You picked the perfect title for your post, Shirley. There were two Oldsmobiles in our past, a 1975 Cutlass Salon and a 1987 Olds sedan – neither a convertible.

    I have heard of Tesla and Elon Musk, perhaps from a 60 Minutes commentary. What a whiz kid!

    Our days lately have been bittersweet too: Cliff’s father is in Hospice care as we speak. More bittersweet memories of Mother and Daddy appear on a Moments of Discovery blog post today. As Elaine Mansfield says, “Grief and love are a package deal.” Condolences to you on the death of Uncle Ken.

    Maybe we can meet up on your next trip to Florida. In the meantime: It’s Virginia!

    • shirleyhs on January 14, 2015 at 6:38 pm

      It’s Virginia! But briefly. Up to Lancaster for the funeral and then to Ohio/Pittsburgh next week.

      You are again in the place of saying good-bye. You’ve had a very intense year with your mother and now Cliff’s father. Did you see this essay in the NYTimes this week?

      Some day we will drive to Florida. Would love to visit you. Fortunately we have other possible rendezvous places.

  4. Laurie Buchanan on January 14, 2015 at 4:27 pm

    Shirley — I love the photograph of you speaking at the book club — it exudes your vim, vigor, and vitality!

    Clearly you and Stuart had a blast — planning more and planning less — in Sarasota!

    I do, indeed, remember reading about your Uncle Ken in BLUSH. My condolences to you on his passing.

    The bonus in my life this week has been close encounters with deer while out walking with Willa. So much so, that Len’s calling us gals, “Deer Whisperers.” We were within 6-feet of one last night. There was a small rail fence between us. Trust me, we’re not out looking for them — we just accidentally happen upon them. Willa (an Irish Wolfhound) goes absolutely still like a statue and I look where she’s looking. She doesn’t move a muscle or make a sound. I speak ever-so-softly to the deer and we enjoy the encounter for a little while before we move along.

    • shirleyhs on January 14, 2015 at 6:42 pm

      The “deer whisperers” — Laurie and Willa. I can just see you learning how to stand and listen — and the quiet excitement of the bonus –seeing deer really close up! Here’s a poem I think you will love!

      Here’s to learning to be “still like a statue.”

      Thanks for your good wishes and condolences.

      • Laurie Buchanan on January 14, 2015 at 6:57 pm

        Shirley — TWO LOOK AT TWO. Oh, what a lovely, absolutely lovely poem. Thank you so much for sharing it with me.

  5. Leanne Dyck on January 14, 2015 at 4:43 pm

    I do remember meeting your uncle Ken — in your well-written book. Sending your positive healing energy and know that he will always be with you.
    This week… Always on the look-out for venues to share my work, I located an unexpected one this week. And work on my other projects goes well — which is a delightful gift from my muse.

    • shirleyhs on January 14, 2015 at 6:45 pm

      Ta da! Leanne. So glad to hear of delightful gifts from your muse. A new venue, and the flow of words. What great gifts for a writer.

      Thanks for taking time to share your good news here!

  6. melodie davis on January 15, 2015 at 8:24 am

    It was fun to find out the backstory on your Oldsmobile convertible ride. When I saw it on Facebook, I thought, did they rent one for a ride… what a cool thing to do. That someone you know owns it is even better! Those are my stomping grounds (well, you don’t do much stomping as an infant, but I lived there the first couple months of my life). Always good to get back even if only in a blog post.

  7. shirleyhs on January 15, 2015 at 9:54 am

    Isn’t it fun to imagine how differently your life might have turned out if you had been raised in Sarasota instead of the Midwest? I

    I am awed by the way that place pulls the whole spectrum of the Anabaptist “family” in the winter time.

    And as for the car, what a bonus! I was so excited to see that beautiful blue convertible and for the weather to permit us to ride in it. I thought immediately of my father, of Uncle Ken, who restored vintage cars and tractors, and of my own Studebaker Lark.

    Then, later the same day of the ride, Stuart’s birthday, I got the word that Uncle Ken had died that afternoon.

    His wife, Aunt Lois, died the same night our grandson Owen was born.

    And so the great Wheel of Life turns. We come and we go and only God knows when.

    Thanks, Melodie.

  8. Elaine Mansfield on January 17, 2015 at 6:41 pm

    A few bonuses from nature today. First, a glorious sunset. It’s been serious here with injured friends, sick family, and my dog buddy who had surgery in a knee and can’t walk with me for a while. But feeling a little lonely without my dog, four deer came up out of the creek bed and they didn’t run when they saw me. So, the bonus of an injured dog and a $3000+ vet bill is more wildlife. Counting our blessings…

    Remembering the beautiful photo of your dad and uncle. Sending solace to your family.

  9. Barbara Sue Bollinger on January 19, 2015 at 5:29 am

    Shirley, we are enjoying our first planned road trip to Florida, and loving it. We spent a week in Orlando with the whole family (all 16 of us in an 8 bedroom home). While there we experienced the wonderful world of Disney and had a great time. After they left to go home to the cold of Pa we headed further south where Doris and Dave joined us. Yesterday enjoyed 77 degrees at pompano beach. The unexpected was Tom and I took a jet ski out on the Atlantic. We are looking forward to more adventure today as we head out to explore the Everglades and drive to Key West. A note about Uncle Ken and Daddy, we always knew where to find them at family reunions…in the corner discussing farming. Losing Uncle Ken makes me miss our dad even more!

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