It all started with a gift and a milestone birthday.

Anthony's gift. Inscribed in a leather-bound journal.

Anthony's gift. Inscribed in a leather-bound journal.

I was sixty. My tech-savvy son Anthony was approaching age thirty-two. I cashed in his “gift certificate” in the next month and started blogging — without having a clue. No pictures. Just a few random words. But I at least had a subject. The blog was called 100 Memoirs. I would read and write, and sometimes review, memoir.

And so I did. For six years. This post is number 500!

I decided to ask my Facebook friends for help in visualizing milestones. They were so creative! I got a kindergarten graduation picture, a mountain peak picture and lots of stories. I chose this picture of an actual, historic milestone to share with you. My friend Lynn Miller traveled the Camino Portuguese de Santiago and took this photo:

Milestone from the Camino Portuguese de Santiago.

Milestone from the Camino Portuguese de Santiago. Credit: Lynn Miller

The inscription reads: “MILESTONE Vilar-Guiza-Louredo. To indicate distances the Romans used poles that derive their names from the unit they measured: MILIA PASSUM (miles passed). This milestone formed the Via XIX that united the cities of Braga and Astorga, passing Lugo. It was possibly raised during the tenure of the Emperor Trajan in the beginning of the second century AD. ”

Wow. Second century. That puts six years into perspective, doesn’t it?

Here’s another offering, from photographer friend Marilyn Nolt. Can you tell what the “milestone” is?

A symbolic milestone from eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania

A symbolic milestone from eastern Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Credit: Marilyn Nolt

Marilyn describes this figure as an old solo silo in the middle of a field.

Wow. Milestones can represent much more than miles.

When I started out on this blogging journey, I didn’t know when it would end. I still don’t!

Your turn: Did either of these photos resonate with you? How and why? What milestones have you passed recently? Which ones would you like to pass?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Tracy Lee Karner on August 27, 2014 at 9:31 am

    What a great son you have! Such a thoughtful gift…

    I haven’t given much thought to milestones or commemorating them. I’ve been very future-focussed for quite some time, that I haven’t taken the opportunity to pay attention to (or even notice) how far I’ve come.

    Thank you for giving me something to think about. And I will. 🙂

    • shirleyhs on August 27, 2014 at 9:37 am

      I do have a great son. His ability to sense my need to write and to give me different ways to do it touched me deeply. I’m so glad the post has given you pause today, Tracy. Please come back if you decide you have more to share. Celebrate the movement, change, growth. I can already feel your gratitude for your own milestones.

  2. Elfrieda Schroeder on August 27, 2014 at 11:04 am

    I was nine years old when my parents decided to emigrate to Canada from Paraguay, where they fled as refugees and lived for five years. We were on a LONG train trip from Montreal to Alberta where our relatives lived. When I asked my father how much longer the trip would be, he said “it will soon be over when you see the grain elevators” and he described what they would look like. We had no idea of the vastness of the prairies. The grain elevators began in Manitoba and didn’t end until three days later in Alberta. They were milestones on a journey that took me to many other places where I sometimes sighed and wondered “when will this trip be over. It’s much longer than I thought it would be.”

    • shirleyhs on August 27, 2014 at 5:49 pm

      Grain elevators would make excellent milestones, especially with a skilled photographer like Marilyn Nolt taking the photo.

      However, I am sure that little-girl Elfrieda was less than impressed with three whole days of seeing nothing but elevators.

      You have moved from milestone to milestone. The hardest ones seem to last the longest, but perhaps they prepare us to feel lighter later or to help bear someone else’s burden for a little while along the way.

      Like my mother, I’m always searching for the silver lining. Even when my present existence seems like drudgery. Can you relate?

  3. Megan A. on August 27, 2014 at 2:19 pm

    I loved this post and the story about your son. I set my mom up with a blog a couple of years ago and once in a while, I will sneak in and update all of her photos, etc. 🙂

    I recently completed the first two books in a YA trilogy in less than six months. That’s huge for me. I take forever to start projects and hardly finish them.

    I love this milestone post. Thank you and congrats on 500!!

    • shirleyhs on August 27, 2014 at 6:31 pm

      Megan, did you just say you wrote out two YA book manuscripts in under six months??!! If so, that’s a HUGE milestone.

      Good for you for helping your mom with her blog set up and photo updates. We oldsters need our children now more than ever.

      I love your own blog and your reporting in the DNR. Let’s stay in touch.

  4. Richard Gilbert on August 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    Congratulations and happy blog birthday, Shirley. Our blogs have each entered their seventh year. I still can’t believe it regarding mine—or yours, which I have read almost since its inception. Since I had no real plan when I started, either, it will be interesting to see what happens. My impression is that five years is very old and quite unusual. But I like making sentences. Don’t you? Maybe the key is to let the blog change and evolve, go where and how it will. Or end, if it’s time—but mine has brought me such unexpected pleasure that I hope my own will just evolve. And I hope yours keeps on too!

    • shirleyhs on August 27, 2014 at 6:39 pm

      Richard, I’ve learned so much from your blog, and I am constantly pointing other memoir writers toward it. Honestly, your posts, taken end to end, would serve as an MFA. You are so careful in both reading and the making of sentences.

      Thanks for the encouragement to keep evolving. I’ve certainly done that. The first two years I did short book reviews and “memoir in the news” kinds of stories. Then the focus shifted to the memoir writing process after I got a book contract. Then to preparing for the launch and then to reporting the kinds of issues and observations I encountered through the responses of readers as I traveled around the country. I still have a few more post ideas left over from this summer’s trip and upcoming events this fall. But I’m feeling that a change is in the offing. Stay tuned! And thanks so much for your faithful presence here. As long as you blog, I’m reading!

  5. Laurie Buchanan on August 27, 2014 at 5:56 pm

    Shirley – The gift from your son Anthony turned out to be not only for you, but for the rest of us — your readers — as well. I have benefited in oh-so-many ways!

    CONGRATULATIONS on your 500th post; that’s a huge milestone!

    You asked, “Did either of these photos resonate with you? How and why? What milestones have you passed recently?”

    The first photograph resonated strongly. If you ever walk across Scotland along the Caledonian Canal (211 miles from the North Sea to the Atlantic Ocean) you’ll encounter similar milestones along the way.

    My most recent milestone was having reader number 5,000 subscribe to my blog.

  6. shirleyhs on August 27, 2014 at 6:43 pm

    Laurie, let’s begin with that number of subscribers — 5,000. Now THAT’s a milestone! You have so many faithful followers because you can take ONE intriguing image and make it SPEAK to your readers with just a few well-chosen words. You have taught me so much. I’m proud to be among the 5,000.

    And how did you know that Ireland and Scotland are high on the Showalter Bucket List? I was unaware of the Caledonian Canal walk, but now I want to walk it! Two summers ago I walked the last leg of the Pilgrim’s Way to Canterbury. Thrilling.

  7. Sharon Lippincott on August 28, 2014 at 9:56 am

    I add my congratulations to the growing list, Shirley. What a lovely idea, celebrating blog milestones. I think I did that for the first year or two of mine. Your post spurred me to look back at my blog, My first post went up on Feb. 8, 2006 — eight-and-a-half years ago. The numbers went up more rapidly at first, but I now have 627 posts. I wrote most of them, but guest posts are sprinkled throughout for wider perspective.

    Unlike you and Richard, I had a specific focus: building platform for what was then my forthcoming book, The Heart and Craft of Lifestory Writing. It has evolved from a book promotion focus to a much wider one supporting all forms of lifewriting.

    Now I’m inspired by you to write a post of my own about the evolution of the blog. Maybe right away, maybe next Feb. 8. Most of all, I’m inspired to envision some new mileposts for the blog. THANK YOU for the energizing idea.

    • shirleyhs on August 28, 2014 at 10:49 am

      Thanks, Sharon. You are the Mother of Us All. What a great milestone. I know you will find a creative way to celebrate it. And I love how your blog has evolved. Thanks for your great example, your generosity in sharing this post online, and your mentorship of many, many other writers and aspiring writers.

  8. Mary K. Mishler on September 1, 2014 at 9:09 pm

    I look forward with anticipation for the words you share with us. A beautiful and inspiring gift! Mary K. Mishler

    • shirleyhs on September 2, 2014 at 11:21 am

      So glad to know when readers are there. Comments like this one are a gift to me, also. Thank you, Mary.

  9. Elaine Mansfield on September 3, 2014 at 10:43 pm

    I love the photos and the idea and image of a milestone. I’m honored to have you leading the way. I’m just a blogging babe in the woods with 2 1/2 years behind me. From the previous email, I saw how your community comes out to support you. You earned that. Thanks, Shirley.

  10. John Yoder on October 23, 2014 at 5:01 pm

    Congratulations on this milestone, Shirley. I’ve been writing a blog about cycling for most of the last two years — just a beginner — first for Goshen Commons and now for the Elkhart Truth. The milestone I remember was the day I realized that I was really enjoying making the piece as clear and interesting as possible, and it was no longer the weekly “assignment” it felt like at the beginning. I celebrated with chocolate.

    • shirleyhs on October 23, 2014 at 8:51 pm

      Thanks, John. I followed your link to the blog about teaching children bike safety on the trail. Excellent! Two years is a milestone too! I left you a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

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