Way back in 2003, Donne (pronounced Donnie) Davis got a special invitation. Her pregnant daughter invited her to be present in the delivery room. When Donne tells the story of seeing her granddaughter emerge into the world from the body of the woman she herself had birthed, her eyes still glisten and her voice trembles.

“All I can say is I went GaGa!” Almost right away she wondered, “What are other grandmothers’ experiences?”

She invited some grandmothers to come to her house, and soon the GaGa Sisterhood began to meet regularly. Now they do monthly meetings online and have two locations, one in Silicon Valley and another in New Jersey, for in-person meetings, when Covid permits. They also have a wide following on Zoom each month for conversations with authors and other experts.

I found Donne and the Sisterhood on Instagram when I was doing research on resources for grandparents.

She was about to interview Bertha Gorman, the grandmother of the amazing Amanda Gorman, poet laureate. I was so impressed by this connection that I signed up to participate in the MeetUp call. After that, I signed up for another, and now I am a full-fledged member of the GaGa Sisterhood.

Amanda Gorman on the left, next to her grandmother in the center and mother on the left.

Amanda Gorman on the right, next to her grandmother in the center and mother on the left.

Recently, I got to talk with Donne, probing her about how grandparenting has changed and what she has learned from listening to so many experts and hundreds of “regular” grandmas all over the country.

I hope you enjoy part or all of this interview. Maybe you will want to join the GaGa Sisterhood yourself. If not, you can participate in one of the purposes of the sisterhood.

Their tagline, after all, is “bond, brag, and benefit.”

If you are reading these words, you likely have already bonded with this blog to at least some degree. But have you bragged lately? About your grandchildren or about other children you care for if you aren’t a grandparent? We readers would benefit, I’m sure. Share something a favorite child in your life has done. You don’t have to be “gaga,” but if you are, we will understand. 🙂


Shirley Showalter


  1. Norah Johnson Wolthuis on January 24, 2022 at 11:13 am

    I only wish. I borrow them.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 24, 2022 at 1:35 pm

      Norah, thanks for speaking up for the role of “borrowing” grandchildren. I’d love if you would say how you do this. I know that children can never have too many adults who give them loving attention!

  2. Norah Johnson Wolthuis on January 24, 2022 at 1:55 pm

    Have become close to a little boy with lots of in-laws and out-laws, steps and step-steps. Over the years we’ve read and cooked and played and traveled together. He has moved, so not as many opportunities, but we love him and he us. Like to think we set a good example and gave him some foundation he may not have had. We try to be friends and supportive of young people in our neighborhood. I pass on books ( The Railroad Children, Harry Potter, Anne of Green Gables, The Dark is Rising, A Wrinkle in Time) etc, done some crafts etc. My husband fishes with kids etc. want to know a secret? You can send them home. 😏

    • Shirley Showalter on January 24, 2022 at 2:02 pm

      Oh Norah, how delightful! When I was growing up in a Mennonite community, our pastor and his wife had no children of their own. Instead, they had all of us, probably 20-30 children under the age of 12. They had a craft club for girls and a camping club for boys. They knew all of us by name and wrote us letters. I will never forget their influence in my life. I am sure the children you interact with are touched also. And, yes, there is no quiet in a house like the quiet after a child has gone home!

      • Norah Johnson Wolthuis on January 24, 2022 at 8:25 pm

        The Boxcar Children

  3. Laurie Buchanan on January 24, 2022 at 2:29 pm

    Shirley — Oh, how I enjoyed listening to the interview between you and Donne Davis.

    You asked your readers to share something that a favorite child in our life has done. Papa Buchanan is teaching our granddaughter Luna (almost three and a half years old) how to play chess. They use “No Stress Chess,” which makes it FUN for both.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 24, 2022 at 4:52 pm

      So glad you enjoyed the interview, Laurie. Donne is a real ball of fire, isn’t she?

      Ooh, and I love the idea of “No Stress Chess.” The best ideas come from other grandparents. I can just imagine how exciting it must be for Luna to do something so grown up. I am off to see how someone took the stress out of chess. Maybe I will even play that game myself. 🙂

      • Shirley Showalter on January 24, 2022 at 4:56 pm

        Just discovered that the game box says it’s for ages 7 and up. Of course, Luna is precocious!

        • Laurie Buchanan on January 26, 2022 at 10:43 am

          Shirley — She is, indeed. And though it says ages seven and up, Len’s teaching it in a way that goes hand-in-hand with the way she learns. And she’s having a blast!

          P.S. I don’t know how to play chess. I’ve never been interested. But they’re making it look so fun and easy that I may give it a whirl!

          • Shirley Showalter on January 26, 2022 at 12:03 pm

            I ordered the game. In a few weeks Lydia will be staying with us for more than a week. We might give it a try then, Neither of us are chess players. Thanks for the story. Donne Davis would approve of grandmas helping each other.

  4. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 24, 2022 at 7:34 pm

    I’m a story teller and when we go to Ontario where four of my grandchildren live there is lots of time to tell stories, especially to the younger ones. We also read books together, the ones they love and want to share with me. They get a kick out of my often horrified reactions at a child turning into a mouse, or a grandmother who is a witch! Covid has kept us apart for two LONG years. That is when I began to WRITE the stories of my own life (up to age 13) and sent them the pages. Two of my granddaughters were especially encouraging and one of them became my “editor” and kept the pages in a ring binder as I wrote them. She kept asking me when the next pages were coming. When it was finally all done (written by hand and illustrated) I decided to make it more professional, typed, with photos (no more drawings) and had copies printed so that now each family has one, but my editor has the “original”!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 24, 2022 at 8:22 pm

      Elfrieda, two LONG years indeed. I take it you haven’t been able to get together yet, but I hope you will soon. I can imagine you reading in different
      voices, surrounded by four excited grandchildren. They are fortunate to have a storytelling grandmother, who also writes and illustrates the stories from her life. The “editor”of your book has a treasure that she will cherish all her life, especially when she can no longer hear you read and tell stories. All your grandchildren will have memories with you that even a long absence cannot erase. Hope you can hold them all soon.

  5. Maren C. Tirabassi on January 25, 2022 at 6:36 am

    My grandsons Leo and Casey (6 and 4) love to give away money to people. If they see someone on an opposite corner asking for assistance of drivers they yell “Turn around, turn around, someone needs help.” And if someone is asking for assistance in a place where they can talk (McDonald’s outdoors is a big one) they love to get to know them. They also keep socks in the car and ask, “Lots of people need socks. Do you want a pair of socks?”

    • Shirley Showalter on January 25, 2022 at 9:48 am

      Maren, I had just seen a headline about violence against the homeless increasing. Then I read what Leo and Casey are doing. I love it. And I love that you (and presumably their parents) approve of their interest in helping those who are in need. You have put your finger on a lovely opportunity for grandparents: the calling to preserve innocence and encourage kindness when the culture will try to teach the opposite. What could be more important?

  6. Stuart Showalter on January 25, 2022 at 9:40 am

    Hi, Shirley.

    This is a test.



    • Shirley Showalter on January 25, 2022 at 9:49 am

      Thank you, dear Stuart. Always a good sport.

    • Melinda DiBernardo on January 30, 2022 at 6:02 pm


  7. Shirley Showalter on January 25, 2022 at 2:40 pm

    From Marian Beaman

    I brag on my grandchildren via Facebook and Instagram, so here I’ll post an homage to my mother’s courage to see her oldest grandsons shortly after their birth.

    Three months after our two oldest grandsons were born in Chicago 7 weeks apart, I arranged for mother Ruth to visit the big city in 2004. She had the courage to fly solo from Philadelphia, my sister helping her board the flight. Then I organized the itinerary so that my flight from Jacksonville would precede her arrival at the airport. Her sky-view of the Chicago skyline was eclipsed only by her early bonding with grandsons Patrick and Curtis, now high school seniors. Of course I blogged about it: https://marianbeaman.com/2016/07/27/mothers-sky-view-the-beautiful-city/

    As I tap these words, another memory has surfaced: When Curtis heard that someone had taken the snow globe Mother bought in Chicago, he volunteered to give her his. It warms my heart to know that he has a tender, generous heart just like his great-grandmother.

  8. Shirley Showalter on January 25, 2022 at 4:30 pm

    I’ll bet your mother was “gaga,” Marian. At least as gaga as a Mennonite woman who’s seldom left home can get! What a journey that must have been for her, and how happy she must have been to have two great grandchildren so close together.

    And yes, Curtis comes to his tender, generous heart honestly. Through all his family lines, I imagine.

    Thanks for persisting while we straightened out the technical glitch!

  9. Melodie M Davis on January 25, 2022 at 8:59 pm

    You betcha I was gaga attending the births of 3 out of 5 of the grandsons we have. It was so fun and emotional and treasured memories–especially since I was not the one doing the pushing although their husbands and I certainly did a lot of work those nights as well! I feel so fortunate to have had that experience and know that not everyone gets to have grandchildren. So we love the moments we can spend with them–too far in between times but phone calls and video chats help! I joked last week in my column that my 3 year old grandson had spurred the idea for my topic and “wrote my column” meaning he gave me the idea and it was one of those pieces that just kind of wrote itself. But now I’m toying with when my “boys” will be ready to write an actual column for me–they are learning so many communication skills so early and love reading. Toying …. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on January 26, 2022 at 10:11 am

      You betcha! Wow. Those must be wonderful memories. My co-author of the forthcoming Mindful Grandparent book also was invited into the birthing room. My daughter had a C-section, but we were there in the hospital. You are so right about how fortunate we are. I am acutely aware as I share grandparent stories that not everyone has grandchildren and not everyone has access to them. On the other hand, some people are legal guardians for their grandchildren and often have many challenges especially as old age and teen age live together.

      I need to go find that column your grandson wrote! And the early love of reading and writing will blossom into something wonderful for those boys, I am certain.

  10. Melinda DiBernardo on January 30, 2022 at 6:03 pm


    • Shirley Showalter on January 31, 2022 at 8:39 am


  11. Janet Givens on February 25, 2022 at 10:42 am

    Hi Shirley. I too enjoyed the interview with Donne. And what a great suggestion she made at the end— to have that expectation conversation up front. I look back over the neatly 20 years I’ve been a grandparent and see how that might well have steered things a bit differently. One topic in grandparenting I’ve not yet found is the idea of needing to share. When I think of my own grandmother, I was her only grandchild and she was my only grandparent. We were of course close. But I’ve been one of 12 grandparents (they’re down to ten now) and I myself have five, plus Woody’s. Ive often found myself quite at sea in how to approach this role without it feeling like a competition. Gifts are an easy example, vacations and trips another. I’d love to hear how other grandparents have negotiated this aspect of grandparenting.

    • Shirley Showalter on February 25, 2022 at 12:54 pm

      Janet, one of the benefits of joining the GaGa Sisterhood is having a place to ask a question like this. My co-author Marilyn has more experience with this subject since she has a blended family and nine grandchildren. She addresses the issue of multiple grandparents and the potential for competition in one of our chapters. We all agree that an upfront conversation about expectations and also about the best ways to support the parents is a great idea. I am sure, Janet, given your creativity and high energy, that you will carve out a special grandmother niche that allows you to offer your best gifts of time, talent, and place. It can’t be the same relationship you had with your grandmother, BUT it can allow you to tell stories about what you and your grandmother did together and see which ones spark fire. Blessings.

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