One of the rewards of intensive parenting of young children is that they grow up to be friends. I love spending time with both my adult children and their families.

Daughter Kate and I enjoy a leisurely morning at the Quiet Storm coffee shop in Pittsburgh. Photographer: Sharon Lippincott.

Last week, I enjoyed the luxury of spending five whole days with my daughter Kate. We both are blessed with flexible schedules, so we can be together and keep up with work while also taking time to shop, visit friends, cook, bake, eat out, exercise, watch movies, and visit Pittsburgh cultural attractions such as the Phipps Conservatory.

Kate at Loom fabric shop

Kate loves color. So I snapped a picture at Loom, a fabric shop in strip district of Pittsburgh

We had good fortune while shopping. We found bar stool cover fabric, some clothes on sale at Banana Republic, great ingredients from Whole Foods for our cooking adventures, and we even visited one thrift shop, a tradition.

I’ve hired Kate as my marketing director for my upcoming book, Blush: A Mennonite Girl Meets the Glittering World. Now that the manuscript is in the final editing stage, we get to map out a plan for how to better serve the readers of this blog and the community we are building on my author page on Facebook. We want to provide inspiration and connection to the great folks who have “liked” the page and who keep coming back for conversation there about writing, memoir, and the process of transmuting experience into wisdom.

While in Pittsburgh, I also met up with Sharon Lippincott, a memoir writer friend and blogger who drove into the city so that we could have coffee together. Sharon teaches memoir and has turned her years of experience into a book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing: How to Transform Memories Into Meaningful Stories.  Sharon and I were able to connect immediately around our shared interest in teaching and writing.

Sharon Lippincott and me at Quiet Storm coffee shop on Penn Avenue.

It just so happens that Kate herself is becoming a writer and speaker. While I was visiting, she was interviewed twice. First, by Pittsburgh’s Channel 4 Action News, WTAE and later by two podcast hosts, John and Carl, at Creative Briefs. The questions she answered turned the tables on her own role as an interviewer of young creative professionals on her blog Yinzpiration. She also talked about her networking and coaching group Rock It! at Propelle and what it’s like to host Creative Mornings/Pittsburgh.

Kate is also digital strategist at Plumb Media. She works for and with her husband Nik, one of the founders of this web design company, and with two other employees, Dagen and Ryan. The business is located on Penn Avenue, one of the busiest streets of the city, linking their district of Garfield to many other districts.

Kate and Nik renovated an old building and live two floors above it, renting out the middle floor. They enjoy the “30 Second Commute” back and forth to work and get to play with their cat, Sargent Pepper, during the day.

Since Kate and I tested recipes which will appear in my book, we needed a place to take the fruits of our labors. First, there was rhubarb cake made from a recipe handed down from my Great-grandmother Herr. We gave away as many pieces as possible.

Then we made pickled beets, onions, red beet eggs, and deviled eggs. We took our masterpiece downstairs to Nik, Dagen, and Ryan. Together the five of us scarfed them down. All that was left was a little red juice on the glass dish.

We tested recipes for pickled beets, onions, red beet eggs and deviled eggs. Then we worked to make the plate look beautiful.

The Plumb Media office. Kate being interviewed by Channel 4 Action News reporter.

The Plumb Media office. Kate being interviewed by Channel 4 Action News reporter.









I had a wonderful week, and my book will be better for this time of doing as grown-ups many of the things we enjoyed when Kate was a little girl. Some people think it isn’t wise to work with family members. What do you think?


Shirley Showalter


  1. Barbara Sue Bollinger on April 29, 2013 at 8:26 am

    We have had negative and positive experiences working with family members over the years. First, as children working for a parent, a very challenging experience, and now as parents working with our adult son and his wife for over 15 years, a very rewarding experience. Some keys to a good working relationship are respect, trust and communication.

    • shirleyhs on April 29, 2013 at 8:44 am

      Thanks for this candid comment, Sue. I hope it encourages others to do the same and to think about your three keys.

      You prompt me to put expectations into writing and to discuss what these are in advance. Respect and trust are definitely there. I think communication is key, and it’s always good to keep a record of original agreements and then update as needed.

      Your family business is a lovely model. Proof that it can be done!

  2. Sadie Showalter on April 29, 2013 at 10:38 am

    It definitely seems like there is a very good working relationship in your publishing venture. Enjoy the experience.

  3. shirleyhs on April 29, 2013 at 10:46 am

    Thanks for the good wishes, Sadie. And for being on the wider family team!

  4. Tina Barbour on April 29, 2013 at 12:18 pm

    It sounds like you and your daughter had some great adventures! You two favor each other a lot–so pretty!

    I’ve never worked with family members. I know it would be a disaster if I worked with people from my family of origin. 🙂 But I’m researching and planning to start a freelancing venture, and I want my husband to work with me. He’s so gifted in accounting and business, and our different gifts mesh very well together. And the respect and trust is already there.

    • shirleyhs on April 29, 2013 at 1:03 pm

      Ha, Tina. It’s good to know yourself and your family and not to add business to relationships that already have enough other work to do. It all comes back to the old advice: “know thyself.” Sounds like you do.

      And I think you know your relationship to your husband well enough to evaluate a new kind of partnership. One thing that helps, especially at the beginning, is to plan for a mutual evaluation time fairly soon after the agreement to work together.

      Thanks for your kind words about Kate and me. And all best with your own ventures into shared work and play.

  5. Marian Longenecker Beaman on April 29, 2013 at 12:21 pm

    Like mother, like daughter–what a lovely combination! Kate has inherited your blue eyes and love for communication for sure.

    About your question: Cliff has had his office downstairs in our home for 34 years now. Much of that time I was teaching and helping him with booking shows and bookkeeping; however, then he was also on tour much of the school year, so the office was mostly a launch pad. Now he travels less, and I am home more; we have offices at either end of the downstairs with a family area in between. Fortunately, we like each other! But, seriously, I have to say trust and mutual respect of each other’s space keep the working machine well oiled.

    I’m curious about your friend Sharon: Is she from the famous Lippincott Publishing Company?

    • shirleyhs on April 29, 2013 at 1:08 pm

      Kate’s eyes are much bluer than mine (which a kind of hazel).

      You and Cliff have developed rhythms over time that sound very satisfying. Once you have done that, I think it’s possible to adjust to new circumstances. Keeping separate work spaces is a great idea. Stuart and I also have worked together in various ways over the years. We now have a double home office that works well. Sometimes my mess infringes on his space, but he tolerates me well. 🙂

      I’ve asked Sharon to chime in on your intriguing question.

    • Sharon Lippincott on April 29, 2013 at 4:30 pm

      Marian, I only WISH I were part of the Lippincott Publishing dynasty. As far as we know, all United States Lippincotts are descended from Richard and Abigail, who adopted the Quaker faith at the time it was founded, and fled England around 1660 in search of religious freedom. Only three of their six sons became fathers, founding three branches of the US Lippincotts. That was about a dozen generations ago. My husband’s lineage connects to the publishing branch eight or nine branches back.

      Lippincott Publishers used to have a respected line of elementary readers, and our children were the only ones in their school who had “their own” reading books, a fact quickly noted by classmates, who thought it hardly fair.

      Thanks for asking. I certainly enjoyed meeting Shirley with no electronics involved! And the ease of her working relationship with Kate was obvious. I have not had the opportunity to try working with family. Lucky them!

  6. Richard Gilbert on April 29, 2013 at 2:19 pm

    It all depends! Sounds like you have a winning team, Shirley.

  7. shirleyhs on April 29, 2013 at 2:20 pm

    Thanks, Richard. At least we’re having fun!

  8. Mary Lou Weaver Houser on April 29, 2013 at 6:01 pm

    The thing I appreciate most about my adult children (both trained by you/Stu) is their candid objectivity. They have critiqued, edited, added design elements, helped mount shows, given moral support, and humored me along with my next venture, whatever it is.

    No, Ted does not help weed, but he will haul mulch for the native plant garden at the Wolf Museum!

    We are most fortunate to have the next generations’s perspective, be it on projects or clothing. Love you Amy and Ted!

    • shirleyhs on April 30, 2013 at 9:51 am

      Mary Lou, I loved this comment, and you offer a perspective I wasn’t thinking of when I wrote this post. Children tell the truth in a way that another consultant might hold back or be tempted to sugarcoat. That’s another reason to value their opinions. And we have educated them to evaluate the good, true, and beautiful. Now they can educate us.

      You certainly have two great artists and connection experts in your children, Mary Lou. We loved having the chance to be their teachers. We have lots to learn from them, too.

  9. ShirleyK on April 29, 2013 at 8:13 pm

    On this or that Pittsburgh foray I’ve peeked in that big storefront window on Penn. It’s a sweet place.

    • shirleyhs on April 30, 2013 at 9:53 am

      Shirley! I should have connected with you too when I was there. Next time. And don’t just look in the window. Knock on the door. Use your magic first name. 🙂

  10. Madeline Sharples on May 1, 2013 at 1:45 pm

    What a lovely experience. Thanks for sharing about your family and your work relationship with Kate. You are so fortunate to have her on your team. All best to you both.

  11. shirleyhs on May 1, 2013 at 1:55 pm

    Madeline, how kind of you to say this. I am touched. I am fortunate, and I’m also aware that not all intensive parenting has this kind of happy ending. Your words mean even more because you have helped so many other parents overcome tragedy by writing the story of you and your son described in this review:

  12. shirleyhs on May 2, 2013 at 8:55 am

    In case you are interested in seeing what happened after that TV interview of Kate and her Propelle partners that I watched, here it is. I was really impressed by the reporter/videographer and the editing.

  13. Alan Stransman on May 8, 2013 at 9:09 am

    Shirley, lucky you having your daughter as your marketing director. I don’t have that luxury, but my mother, now 94 proofread my first memoir which was published three years ago and was very helpful in the process.

  14. shirleyhs on May 8, 2013 at 10:45 am

    Hi Alan,

    I smiled when I saw your reference to your mother as proofreader. My mother is also one of my most important readers, but she didn’t proofread. You must have a very sharp mom! Thanks for stopping by.

  15. Barbara McDowell Whitt on July 29, 2014 at 3:39 pm

    Shirley, at the end of Stuart’s and your transcontinental journey promoting Blush, you were able to get on the water in Pittsburgh to celebrate Kate’s and your birthdays with Kate and Nic. In your 2013 post here, I love your photo of the red beets and onions and the pickled red eggs and deviled eggs that you and Kate prepared in one of those dozen-spaces egg plates. We had one in Iowa.

    • shirleyhs on July 29, 2014 at 3:46 pm

      Those plates are wonderful, aren’t they? A good way to connect past and present. Thanks for following our adventures with such interest and perception. And blessings on yours!

  16. Elaine Mansfield on August 1, 2016 at 3:32 pm

    She’s done a great job working with you, Shirley. I’m dependent on one son who runs a computer business and the other who is a social media whiz. The photo of you with newborn Kate is exquisite. They come to us bundled in soul and light.

  17. Shirley Showalter on August 1, 2016 at 7:45 pm

    “They come to us bundled in soul and light.” I love these words. So true. What a joy it is to see them grow up. And it feels good to be taught by our children, too. Glad you enjoy the same blessings.

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