Some of you already saw this picture on Facebook. I posted it with the caption below.


Status Photo / Video Life Event Friends Shirley Showalter 11 mins · Just moved from #1(Minnesota) to #32 (Virginia) but spent six years in #2 (Michigan) and 28 years in #16 (Indiana). Rankings seem about right. What do you think? Thanks, Susan Blackwell Ramsey, for the post. Every State, Ranked by How Miserable Its Winters Are Somehow Alaska isn't No. 1.|By Kevin Alexander and Matt Lynch Like CommentShare Comments Shirley Showalter Shirley Showalter Jessica Coblentz, Brendan McInerny, enjoy your famous winter! Like · Reply · 1 · 11 mins Jessica Coblentz Jessica Coblentz ???? Like · Reply · 9 mins Shirley Showalter Write a reply... Shirley Showalter Write a comment... Henry Hershey shared a video to your Timeline. 10 hrs · Familiar story, well told. -1:42 2,339,753 Views I am a Woman of God added a new video. December 20, 2016 at 9:13pm · I never knew the founder of Hershey went through so many trials and hardships! His success will motivate you to never give up! Like CommentShare 1 Shirley Showalter Comments Shirley Showalter Shirley Showalter The part they leave out is sadder. Lost the wife he cherished. And was broken-hearted that workers participated in a strike. He felt he had given his life for them. Like · Reply · 1 hr Shirley Showalter Shirley Showalter Pennsylvania chocolate workers' strike, 1937 - Wikipedia Hershey, Pennsylvania witnessed a six-day sit-down strike of workers at the Hershey Chocolate Corporation in 1937. The strike ended in violence, as dairy workers and loyal Hershey employees stormed the factory to force out strikers. Eventually, Hershey Corporation workers signed an agreement with th... Like · Reply · Remove Preview · 56 mins Shirley Showalter Write a reply... Shirley Showalter Write a comment... Shirley Showalter updated her cover photo. 23 hrs · Replacing last year's Christmas picture with this year's. Image may contain: 8 people, people smiling, people standing, tree, beard, sky, outdoor and nature Like CommentShare 101 Walter Schmucker, Roman J. Miller and 99 others Comments View 3 more comments Marsha Bennett Marsha Bennett y Like · Reply · 20 hrs Kimberlee Williams Urbon Kimberlee Williams Urbon Nice pic of your beautiful family, Shirley. Like · Reply · 19 hrs Ursula Green Ursula Green Beautiful family. Blessings ! Like · Reply · 16 hrs Christopher Meesaalu Christopher Meesaalu Beautiful photograph of beautiful people. Like · Reply · 16 hrs Shirley Showalter Write a comment... Shirley Showalter with Owen Showalter and Julia Showalter in Harrisonburg, Virginia. January 2 at 10:28am · Learning to read. From primary sources. Forget the primer.

Learning to read. From primary sources. Forget the primer.

Owen, age 5 and 3/4, as he likes to say, has lost two baby teeth already and has three wiggly incisors getting ready for the tooth fairy.

He’s in kindergarten, where, these days, children learn the connection between letters and sounds.

So, he can sound out lots of words and recognizes many more from sight.

No one is coaxing him. He just enjoys the thrill of discovery.

Like millions of other children over the last century, Owen (and Julia too, at age 4) enjoys “reading” the colorful comic pages.

They are learning with the help of teachers and parents.

They have four grandparents, and all of us are providing lap learning.

As a lifelong learner and teacher, I am fascinated by the connection between youth and age.

I first wrote about this when serving as Owen’s “granny nanny.”

On Sunday, Stuart and I said good-bye to Owen and Julia after a delightful 5-day sleepover at our house.

Next week, I will be teaching a class at Eastern Mennonite University, my alma mater, located one mile away.

The comic pages from last Sunday and the draft syllabus for next week are co-mingling in front of me.

The topic for the class?

Honrs 401A Honors Worldview Seminar

This class is a capstone class required of students in the honors program. It is the “bookend” course that most students take in their senior year and picks up on the question they first encountered in their first year:

“Why do you believe what you believe?”

In the class I teach, the focus will be on vocation.

“What is your calling and how will you take it into a rapidly changing world?”

If you’ve been following the theme of Jubilación here, you know that I’m excited about the idea that vocation is seeded at birth and continues past jobs and careers into the elder stages of life.

I’m hoping that my bright, accomplished honors students will be or become as excited about this idea as I am.

I am holding them prayerfully in my thoughts as I design the syllabus, carefully placing structure around our time but also leaving space for students to bring their most important questions into the class.

The threshold they are about to cross out of college into the larger world comes during a turbulent time.

All the more reason to feel confident about a purpose larger than self.

Beyond this class, I look forward to again becoming a “grannynanny” starting next fall.

This time Stuart and I will live in Pittsburgh, close to Kate and Nik and a little one expected in June.

I feel very blessed to continue following my vocation to teach and to learn. And to continue to do both at the same time all my life!

I learned from 4- and 5-year-olds last week.

Next week I’ll be meeting my 22-year-old teachers and I’ll be sharing the books, blogs, talks, films, etc. that I’ve been reading in the last two years on the subject of vocation. What could be better?

What are you learning and loving and looking forward to in this new year?

Shirley Showalter


  1. Laurie Buchanan on January 4, 2017 at 3:09 pm

    Shirley — The photo of you, Owen, and Julia is a true smile inducer! And I love the term “lap learning” (I just texted it to my sister and her daughter—mother of almost two-year-old Milo).

    The question you’re going to pose — “What is your calling and how will you take it into a rapidly changing world?” — is a powerful thought-provoker. I’ve handwritten it into the list of Internal Inventory questions in my copy of Note to Self.

    And while I’m much too large to be a lap learner, I’m a lap-top learner who continues to draw and learn from your well of wisdom as you research and share Jubilación.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 4:51 pm

      A lap-top learner is a great complement to lap learner, Laurie. You are always deft with finding and making up fun phrases. Thanks for your comments and sharing about various ways to learn across the entire life span.

      Also, I think your idea of limiting your social media time to one day/week is brilliant. All best as you give yourself the chance to draft a new manuscript in the shortest amount of time. I’ll be following eagerly.

  2. Lisa Enqvist on January 4, 2017 at 3:19 pm

    I’m exploring my TCK life story together with
    and also finding a deeper meaning in Grace with
    as well as learning what “self to lose – self to find” really is about with
    Without having to travel across the world anymore, I am finding ways to sift through the multiple, and sometimes chaotic, experiences of my life. What will come of it, I do not yet know. Some kind of patchwork, I guess.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 5:22 pm

      Lisa, Third Culture Kid experiences are truly amazing. I am also impressed at the way you have collected online resources to help you.

      That image of patchwork may be one to work with. Do you quilt? Do you have clothing from many different countries? How are your stories like patchwork?

      Just some questions to ponder in case they help you.

      • Lisa Enqvist on January 7, 2017 at 6:57 am

        There is an expression that has stuck in my mind for decades: “Don’t throw away the pieces, Mommy likes the pattern.” I don’t know the source, but it gives me hope that even the shattered and the torn ‘pieces’ of life can be used to create something beautiful. My hands are crippled by RA (Rheumatoid Arthritis) so I can’t do needlework of any kind. I still can write!
        I found an interesting aspect of God using the ‘broken’ pieces we bring to him:

        “God made my life complete
        when I placed all the PIECES before him.

        I feel put back together,
        and I’m watching my step.
        God rewrote the text of my life
        when I opened the book of my heart to his eyes.”
        2 Samuel 22:21-25The Message (MSG)

        I need to relax and watch Him work and follow His pattern!

        • Shirley Showalter on January 9, 2017 at 11:22 am


  3. Melodie Davis on January 4, 2017 at 5:06 pm

    Sounds exciting and stretching yet again. And I’m glad to hear of your next hoped-for adventure as granny nanny–that’s where I first starting following your blogging (with Owen)–although of course not where I first learned of you!

    I don’t think it will be long before my grands will be “reading” like this too.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 5:27 pm

      I love seeing you with your quiverful of grands, Melodie. 🙂 And they do appear to be getting close to reading. I don’t usually have colored comics in the house, but our neighbor asked us to pick up her Washington Post, and that created the opportunity. Maybe you get the Sunday edition? Something about comics and kids . . .

      Wow, you have followed along for nearly six years now. Can it be? I’m thinking about how to do grannynannydiaries again. I used Posterous originally and then they were bought up by another company and I lost my platform. 🙁

  4. Richard Gilbert on January 4, 2017 at 8:48 pm

    Great news all around, Shirley. We’ve got grandbaby number two due in June ourselves. And . . . I’m working on syllabi myself. Your honors class sounds like it will be fun, which is key. Kind of like being a grandparent, offering a gift of your experience and passion and receiving a huge one in return.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 8:56 pm

      Oh joy, Richard. We will be able to compare notes as we reap the rewards of our own parenting and enjoy the Wordsworthian trance that new babies bring into our lives.

      All best to you in your teaching also. May 2017 be good to you.

  5. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 4, 2017 at 9:01 pm

    Shirley, I wish I would have had you as my prof when I was studying. I love that you call your students your “teachers.” In this new year, I’m looking forward to taking a memoir-writing class and then getting to work on my own story!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 9:19 pm

      I’m sure it would be a joy to have you as a student, Elfrieda, because then you would be my teacher also!

      • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2017 at 9:20 pm

        And congrats on taking the class. Good way to keep focus. All best with the manuscript!

  6. Marian Beaman on January 4, 2017 at 9:49 pm

    You jump from comic strips to syllabi, from youth to age in this post and I’m with you all the way. On my desk is a placard with my name on it and the imprint “Learning Never Ends,” from the Division of Continuing Education at UNF. Like you, I am a sponge, soaking up interesting tidbits – like wisdom from my window washer today, for example.

    I look forward to Sunday when I will be introducing 2-year-olds to snow in Florida. Okay, it will be fake snow coming to life as I pour water onto flakes in a tub and watch them expand. Then I expect to observe eyes filled with wonder and hear giggles as these little people dive in with their fingers.

    I also look forward to your posting on the knowledge you glean from your 22-year-old student/teachers. During my career, I enjoyed learning as much from developmental-type students as I did from the advanced. How interesting that you will hop from college teaching to granny/nannying again, good for body, soul, and both hemispheres of the brain, I should think. Brava to all your exhilarating experiences ahead.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 9:15 am

      I know, Marian, life is quite a dance, and it seems to only get wilder as time goes on. Or, to use your word, exhilarating.

      I’ve got to ask: what did you learn from your window washer today?

      And tell everyone what you are up to in 2017. They should go read your post on FOCUS.

      • Marian Beaman on January 5, 2017 at 10:17 am

        You will find out what I learned from my window washer next week. Patience, my dear 🙂

        Thank you for inviting me to broadcast my goal for 2017, a kind gesture:

        Your posts are always so rich with others’ comments and your astute replies. I enjoyed your conversation with Merril Smith. It may be that I introduced you to her. She is as delightful in person as she is online. Let’s just say: Still waters run deep.

        • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 10:26 am

          You did introduce me to Merril and to a number of other readers who show up here regularly. Thank you!

  7. Merril Smith on January 5, 2017 at 7:44 am

    Shirley, I love your blend of wisdom and learning from grandchildren to college seniors (and everything in between). I saw that photo on FB, but I have to say again how wonderful it is, this moment between you and your grandchildren caught in a photo.

    I have two book projects on rape that I am behind on, but which are supposed to be completed this year. So I am reading and learning much on that horrible topic.
    But I like to think that I learn new things every day–a new form of poetry, a new word, a new fact about the universe. I also try to observe the world around me whether its last night’s beautiful moon, the cats playing in the kitchen, or person sitting near me in a theater–all inspiration. Last night I had a dream that Lin Manuel Miranda said in an interview that someone had a “curvy name.” I have no idea what that means, but I’m going to think about it. 🙂

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 9:24 am

      Love your dream! Hope it comes out in a poem.

      I see you as a person who holds the macro and micro levels of life in balance, Merril. What a useful skill! I have known people who can drive toward a goal like a horse with blinders on. And others who can wander in the fields, endlessly fascinated. You are doing both, which I applaud. Since you are a poet, I’ll send you one of my favorites. Not too much revery in it, but a lovely description of work itself. From the Poetry Foundation website.

      To be of use

      By Marge Piercy

      The people I love the best
      jump into work head first
      without dallying in the shallows
      and swim off with sure strokes almost out of sight.
      They seem to become natives of that element,
      the black sleek heads of seals
      bouncing like half-submerged balls.

      I love people who harness themselves, an ox to a heavy cart,
      who pull like water buffalo, with massive patience,
      who strain in the mud and the muck to move things forward,
      who do what has to be done, again and again.

      I want to be with people who submerge
      in the task, who go into the fields to harvest
      and work in a row and pass the bags along,
      who are not parlor generals and field deserters
      but move in a common rhythm
      when the food must come in or the fire be put out.

      The work of the world is common as mud.
      Botched, it smears the hands, crumbles to dust.
      But the thing worth doing well done
      has a shape that satisfies, clean and evident.
      Greek amphoras for wine or oil,
      Hopi vases that held corn, are put in museums
      but you know they were made to be used.
      The pitcher cries for water to carry
      and a person for work that is real.

      And here’s the opposite side, from Emily Dickinson:

      To make a prairie (1755)

      Emily Dickinson, 1830 – 1886

      To make a prairie it takes a clover and one bee,
      One clover, and a bee.
      And revery.
      The revery alone will do,
      If bees are few.

      • Merril Smith on January 5, 2017 at 12:56 pm

        Thank you for the poets, Shirley. They are both wonderful. I am going to have to make note of them. I think the world needs workers and dreamers, and also those who are both.

        And I need to comment on the comments between you and Marian. She did indeed introduce us, and she is also a delight. And, I might add that her “still waters” remark would also apply to her. 😉

        • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 6:06 pm

          🙂 So true.

  8. Audrey Denecke on January 5, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    I too love the photo of you, Owen and Julia. I think of the memories or felt sense they will have of reading with you.
    Now, you return to sit with University students again. What a fantastic course and learning/discerning guide they will have in you.
    In Catholic H.S.’s and some colleges, there is a Kairos retreat before graduation. I believe you once wrote of it. It too is a time of growing in one’s relationship with God as well as growing within the container of community present.
    As a leader coach, I at times, find clients who sense a need for, and come to value encouraged reflection time, related to their work-related purpose or desired legacy for that time and place.
    At this beginning days of the year, I too have intentionally set “spaces of time” for meditation, reflection, and new learning.
    I am, thanks to your earlier encouragement, taking advantage of my alumni privileges and obtaining a University library card and immersing myself in focused research (for a future article or whatever may emerge). I may also set up a couple of appointments with on-campus professors. I look forward to my explorations. Yes, each stage of life brings new learning exploration opportunities. It animates our being.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 9:51 pm

      Audrey, thanks for this rich set of reflections. I’m glad you got to see Owen and Julia on the lap. That’s how we read the delightful book your brother wrote.

      It so happens that the word Kairos, God’s time, came up when I ate lunch with the faculty member who will teach this course next year. Thanks to her, I have an exercise for the first class that I’m excited about sharing with the students.

      “Learning animates our being.” That is a lovely sentence.

      So glad you are taking advantage of your local resources. Colleges and universities have so much to offer to us at every stage of life. All best to you as you explore.

  9. Carol Bodensteiner on January 5, 2017 at 7:52 pm

    How wonderful that you had a five-day sleepover with your grandchildren, Shirley. I can imagine that you will need five days of recovery. 😉

    For the moment, I’ve put down my writing and picked up my paint brushes and charcoal. I’m taking two art classes this spring – one on drawing and the other using pastels. I’m quite excited to explore this new form of creative expression.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 9:56 pm

      Amazingly, we recovered rather rapidly from our five days. The kids were so well behaved. We are finding a few stray objects, like a football in the flower bed and deck chair cushions in the rain, that are little reminders of our visitors. Tonight I looked in the back seat and saw two empty car seats and felt sad.

      I envy you the art classes. One of these days I will follow suit. I hope you will show us some of your projects. And I imagine the change will inspire new stories for writing when the time is right. Good for you for taking a break from one art form to another.

  10. Tina Barbour on January 5, 2017 at 8:31 pm

    I love this photo, Shirley, and the expressions on all of your faces. Such a treasure! I wish I could take your class. I hope you share nuggets with us here. Congrats on the new grandbaby coming. 🙂

    I am planning on taking the 12×12 Challenge, which is a program that challenges you to write 12 picture book manuscripts in 12 months. Lots of support and critiques offered, which I need. I am also revising and trying to get better at my writing. I am participating in Storystorm also, where you are challenged to come up with at least 30 ideas for picture books in January. Hopefully some of the ideas will end up as manuscripts. And I hope to learn more about animal welfare issues so I can be a more effective advocate. And I’m still blogging about kitties.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 10:03 pm

      Thanks, Tina, for your kind words and good wishes.

      You have so much energy in your voice as you describe your ambitious set of projects. Wow. 12 manuscripts in 12 months! Your calling clearly centers on our furry fellow creatures. May you learn and grow and produce abundantly this year!

  11. Sherrey Meyer on January 5, 2017 at 8:42 pm

    Shirley, I love that you combine ALL of life’s experiences from childhood to now in your post today. A firm believer in learning never ending, I am learning to put my arms around setting the pace for my days. I’ve never been one to walk slowly through life, and 2016 taught me what it was to HAVE TO slow down. The Creator gave me time to ponder a lot of worthy thoughts during that time. One that came pushing through. Among them was the concept that there are only 24 hours in a day, and no matter how fast I tried to work on this or that I still had only 24 hours. Good question: Why not slow the pace a bit and enjoy my creative work? God replied, “You have the answer. Now put it into practice.” Sometimes practicing is harder than finding the answer.

    Enjoy your time with your students/teachers as you did with Owen and Julia. I know you will. I can’t imagine you not enjoying what you’ve devoted your life to doing.


    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 10:16 pm

      Sherrey, I am sorry that your learning in the last year has forced you to slow down, but I am delighted that you are a lifelong learner and therefore have one of the greatest tools of resilience — the ability to name what you have learned. You are in dialog with your Creator and are embracing what you can’t change. What wisdom.

      Thanks for your good wishes. I am indeed looking forward to this class!

  12. Elaine S Good on January 5, 2017 at 10:29 pm

    I heard via the family grapevine 😉 that you were the best prof and the one who garnered the most respect.

    I’m spending the coming week with my grandchildren in that family as their mother gets some medical treatment out of town. Really looking forward to it! And they are both beginning to read also.

    What wonderful news from Pittsburgh!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 5, 2017 at 10:51 pm

      That grapevine is making me blush, Elaine. 🙂 You have some excellent students in your family, so I am doubly honored.

      I wish you a wonderful week with your grandchildren. And I hope their mother will be strengthened permanently by the treatment.

      Thanks for sharing the joys of grandmotherhood. They are many and deep.

  13. Elaine Mansfield on January 10, 2017 at 6:20 pm

    Such a beautiful photo, Shirley. My grandparents read me the “Funny” papers when I was a kid. I had four grandparents until I was nine and loved spending time with them. It’s so important to spend time with them and make those strong bonds. I love the sense of continuity and connection in this blog–from your Mennonite roots to a new grandchild on the way.

    Along with continuing to sort, discard, and label possessions (old family photos take forever!) and continuing with various writing projects and hospice work, my son and his partner move from SF to rural NY in April. The long-term goal is they will live in what is now my house and I’ll build a small place for myself on the land, but there are many steps to travel from here to there. I have permission from them to write about this on my blog, but decided to wait until they arrive. The moving sale is happening in San Francisco this weekend and she’s given notice to her work, so it seems to be a go. They’ll rent a place or housesit or maybe even try a travel trailer. If after some months or a year, they decide it works for them to be here on this land and they’re committed to being here together, we’ll move forward with the small (not quite tiny) place for me. One way or other, this will bring change to my quiet life. It feels like a grand experiment with the possibility of a growing family and staying on on this land I love. If it doesn’t work out, there will be another plan. For 2017, I feel uncertainty in the international and national arena and uncertainty and wonderful possibility at home. Sending you blessings for a Peaceful and Productive 2017.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 10, 2017 at 6:46 pm

      Oh Elaine, I love this idea. I do hope it works out for all of you. What a lovely win-win-win if it does. Since you mention my Mennonite heritage, let me tell you about the tradition of the doddy house, still practiced among the Amish and more conservative Mennonites, but also an echo in the GrannyNanny idea. I looked up doddy house and found this Pinterest post. Very cool! Just a little bigger than the usual tiny house.

      Thanks for your blessing. I offer you the same. We close out each others’ comment section often. I like that.

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