I came to Pittsburgh this week for two reasons: to spend some good face-to-face time with my daughter Kate and to get some help with my 2015 planning.

Kate at her work station in the co-working space on the first floor

Kate at her work station in the co-working space on the first floor

Yesterday was a “work” day for my four-day visit. We launched the work day at Whole Foods and then returned to the “sunny urban” AirBnB unit on the second floor.

I purchased two hours of time from Kate and her business partner Emily who are co-founders of a company called Propelle. They gave me the VIP treatment.

Kate prepared lunch, using her signature style -- sunny colors -- as snow fell outside.

Kate prepared lunch, using her signature style -- sunny colors -- as snow fell outside.

We looked at the long list of weekly activities I am now doing. Emily and Kate responded with some great suggestions to my request that we find a way to simplify website, newsletter, blog, and social media presence to give me more time for that project I announced way back in September 2014 — the box in the basement.

We talked for two hours, reviewing options. I was awed by the enthusiasm and quick minds and fingers of these two young women as they whizzed through the analytics on WordPress and MailChimp and explained how easy it would be to do XY and Z.


Emily and Kate, ready to serve up the challenges and suggest solutions.

Emily and Kate, ready to serve up the challenges and suggest solutions.

I picked their brains for two hours. Then we enjoyed a lovely lunch.

Later that same day, I got a summary of the suggestions. Now all I have to do is put them in practice. More about that in future posts.

In the meantime, I’m back to hanging out with just Kate.

Lucky me.

Kate in relaxed mode. She saw this pic and said, "I look like a mermaid!"

Kate in relaxed mode. Chillin' like a pink mermaid.

Does your weekly to-do list have too much on it? Have you ever hired a family member to help you? How did that go for you?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Elfrieda Schroeder on January 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    It looks to me that you and Kate have an awesome mother/daughter relationship. Good for you. I have three daughters and my approach to each of these lovely women is just a bit different because of their different personalities.
    One thing we like to do is send each other our weekly activity schedules and that helps us to be in the know about each other.

    • shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 2:55 pm

      What a good idea — sharing activities schedules. We try to talk to each other once/week, but we both have weekends where we are either traveling or otherwise engaged.

      How wise to recognize the unique individuality of each daughter. I’m sure you have lots of good times together also.

      Thanks for starting the conversation again. You often do that.

  2. Kathleen Pooler on January 21, 2015 at 2:46 pm

    Shirley, it sounds like you have the best of both worlds–an awesome daughter and business consultant–all wrapped into one. To reap the benefit of the bright young mind you helped to mold must be exhilarating. And we are striving for the same–to streamline and simplify. Best wishes as you move forward.

    • shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 3:00 pm

      It does seem like the best, Kathy. I enjoy watching growth in young people and hoping that they will become my own teachers. A life lived in school, as mine has been, reaps its best rewards at this stage. Former students become [one’s own] ministers, doctors, lawyers, and IT consultants. Thrilling to see that happen.

      And with children the same feeling is doubled or tripled.

      Especially when we can also nap, play with the cat, and have heart-to-heart chats.

  3. Laurie Buchanan on January 21, 2015 at 3:30 pm

    Shirley — Clearly you got tremendous “bang for your buck” in hiring both Kate and Emily. Smart cookie, you, for taking that action step in the first place — brilliant! And now you’ve got a summary of phenomenal suggestions to help you continue that forward motion, only this time even more streamlined and efficient.

    I try to keep my weekly ta-dah list clean and simple. One of the ways I do this is to keep blog posts to one per week, and I cut back (way back) on Facebook. Not because it’s not great — it is. But in retracing my tracks, I discovered that I was spending time there, as opposed to investing it.

  4. shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 3:36 pm

    Ta-da, Laurie. I love the way you frame and re-frame your own reality. You have been a wonderful teacher to me. I’ve noticed your generosity, availability, and yet focus. I too want to invest my time, not spend it, and on the things that matter most and last longest.

    And time with Kate comes way up to the top of that list!

    Thanks for your wise words.

  5. melodie davis on January 21, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    It is always great to be with kids in their work setting–and when you have so many intersections–that’s extra special. I once had my oldest daughter as an intern for a magazine we worked on–unpaid. But helpful for both of us and just plain fun. I’ll be looking forward to seeing the updates on your blog and delving into THE BOX.

    • shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 9:49 pm

      You know the joys of seeing your children grow up and become like you in some ways and unlike you in others. To share creative work together is a real treat.

      I’m eager to get to that box myself. Sure is taking long. Travel will continue for the next two months, so the progress will have to be by bits and pieces.

      Thanks for your interest!

  6. Marian Beaman on January 21, 2015 at 5:06 pm

    It’s fascinating to see how the talents/interests of the parent are magnified or adapted by the child. Case in point, you and Kate. I subscribe to her avid use of color; I too just eat it up!

    My own daughter is my teacher in simplifying and prioritizing. Sometimes I listen to her advice!

    • shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 9:52 pm

      It’s a delight to see traits continue (such as the love of color) all the way from early childhood. And also to see skills deepen and develop over time: speaking, leading a group, offering counsel.

      Ha! Sometimes I take my daughter’s advice too. Maybe that’s a good reason to hire her. As a client, I get to pick and choose. 🙂

  7. Dolores Nice-Siegenthaler on January 21, 2015 at 8:50 pm

    I love the way you find family time.

    The family that plans together, stands together.

    • shirleyhs on January 21, 2015 at 9:54 pm

      Love it, Dolores. It takes a mom to know a mom.

      I really loved this visit, and I’m grateful to share deeply in the lives of children and grandchildren.

  8. Emily on January 22, 2015 at 8:49 am

    It was such an honor to work with you and spend some time getting to know you (and Kate!) better. I am so excited about what’s in store for you and cannot wait to watch as this year and journey unfolds for you.


  9. shirleyhs on January 22, 2015 at 10:14 am

    Emily, after following you online for some time now, I really enjoyed meeting you in person. There’s so much alignment between your “real” and “virtual” selves. I can’t imagine a better business partner for Kate, and I think the women who choose to work with you are just plain lucky!

    Thanks for showing up here in the comments and all best for your own terrific 2015.

  10. Sherrey Meyer on January 27, 2015 at 12:49 am

    Shirley, I envy your mother/daughter time with Kate. With no daughter in the picture here, and no one else loving technology and organizing as much as I do, I’m pretty much on my own to prioritize and organize. Currently, this is what I’m doing:

    My class I dropped out of pre-surgery begins again the first of April. I want to accomplish two things before then. First, clean my house thoroughly since I’ll be in class for “spring cleaning.” The other priority is to organize my writing life by simplifying it, just as you and others have mentioned. You’ll note I have a number of guest posts in January and February as well as book reviews. This is helping me get some extra time for my organizing and paring down efforts. Beginning in March, I’ll be posting once a week with perhaps a guest sprinkled here and there. I’ve been working with an editorial calendar which is helping the blog posting from getting out of hand.

    The housework gets scattered throughout my day when I need to get up and exercise in some fashion. Today it was cleaning and mopping floors. Tomorrow it will be cleaning out drawers in my work room to make space for writing filing rather than so many quilt patterns. I have an old pattern cabinet I’ve used for sewing storage for years, and in my dazed awakening the other morning I realized it would be perfect for writing storage now.

    Well, I did go on and on with this response, but I’m excited about what I’m accomplishing now that I feel like a whole person, renewed and refreshed.

    So glad you had time with Kate both on business and as mother/daughter.

    • shirleyhs on January 27, 2015 at 6:55 am

      Wow, Sherrey, I feel some huge post-op energy coming through this post. Thanks for taking time to list your own strategies for simplifying in the new year. They sound great to me.

      Sewing and writing. They have a lot in common beside that file cabinet, don’t they?

      My daughter suggested an editorial calendar for me, also. Haven’t gone there yet, but I do have a plan for Feb. 18- April 11 that I will be describing here Feb. 11.

      Wishing you all the best and hoping to check in on your great blog often enough to stay in touch! Thanks for doing the same. Always love hearing from you.

  11. Barbara McDowell Whitt on January 27, 2015 at 1:27 pm

    Shirley, what a beautiful time you are having with Kate after she and her business partner Emily gave you internet advice as you plan for 2015.

    You have inspired me to approach my half brother who will be 20 on February 21, 2015, the day Bill’s and my oldest daughter Allison will be 36. I remember the happy day in 1995 when my father called me to say Ian was born ON Allison’s 16th birthday.

    My parents had four daughters – no sons. My mother died in November 1985. Before Ian’s birth, my father, John Calvin McDowell had remarried – a woman from our Iowa rural area who used to come with her first son to ride my dad’s horses. Ian’s mother Glenda is younger than my youngest sister Ann.

    We have a 35th year reunion of descendants of Merl Hassler McDowell coming July 3-6, 2015 at Crooked Creek Christian Camp, a Mennonite Camp in Washington County Iowa. After having our first two reunions in or at homes of those who still live in Washington County, we have gone to CCCCamp every five Julys since 1990. The grounds and facilities are perfect for our group of relatives which has grown (with marriages and births) to around 200 in 2015, from around 140 in 2010.

    The Iowa relatives still return to their homes overnight, and most host overnight relatives to leave room at Crooked Creek Camp for our growing family. My father was the oldest child of Merl and Elda McDowell. He had eight siblings.

    Ian John McDowell is studying computer science and information technology at Iowa State University. Motivated by your doing so with Kate and Emily, I want to offer to pay him for two hours of blog and website enhancement training at the time of our 2015 reunion. Thank you, Shirley, for planting the idea in my head.

  12. shirleyhs on January 27, 2015 at 1:47 pm

    What fun to see all these connections between you and members of your family and me and mine. Glad to know I planted a seed. Hope it sprouts!

    I hope you and Ian will be able to have a profitable time together. I wouldn’t be blogging at all without the help of my children and other younger consultants.

    And that family reunion at Crooked Creek Camp sounds wonderful. I’ve never been there myself, but I do have more connections to Iowa now than I had before.

    I’ll be blogging about one of those in a future post.

Leave a Comment