Moving Across the Bridge: From Dream to Reality, Christmas to New Year, and Part I and Part II of Our Pittsburgh Adventure

The end of December is like Monet’s Japanese footbridge,

says writer Philip Martin.

Monet's Japanese garden

Monet’s Japanese garden

For us, this time has been a moving experience,

bridging Christmas and New Year,

dreams with reality,

and the first half of our “grannynanny” sojourn with the last half.


Kate and Nik hosted our whole family in Pittsburgh, the city of 446 bridges.

We attended the candlelight service at East Liberty Presbyterian Church,

drove out to the Western Pennsylvania Model Railroad Museum,

and ended our time together at the Phipps Conservatory Winter Flower and Light Show.

Showalters at Phipps Conservatory, Dec. 26, 2017

Showalters at Phipps Conservatory, Dec. 26, 2017: Chelsea, Julia, Anthony, Owen, Stuart, Shirley, Kate, Nik, and Lydia (sleeping in stroller)

We had two enormous feasts. Anthony made his signature dish of paella, complete with fresh lobster and squid.

I made a more traditional meal of ham, mashed potatoes, green beans, cranberry salad, rolls, and (Stuart’s) pumpkin pie.

Anthony's paella.

Anthony’s paella.


The best times, however, were sitting around talking, playing games, singing, and enjoying the newly renovated house, filled with Christmas decorations and Christmas spirit.

The Dream

When Kate was a little girl, her favorite book was Martha’s House.

We saved the book and found it again this Christmas.

Our wondering eyes discovered many similarities between the main character of the book — the house — and the house we were staying in.

For example, Martha’s house has a set of wooden steps visible from the front door.

Little Golden Book: Martha's House

Little Golden Book:
Martha’s House

The colors are warm, there’s a window seat, and brick fireplaces, and every room looks cozy.

Without consciously choosing this house as a model, Kate has brought her own childhood into the space that will always be her daughter Lydia’s first home.

Kate, Nik, and Lydia in front of the staircase.

Kate, Nik, and Lydia in front of the staircase much like Martha’s.

Encouraging a child to dream,

and then seeing some version of their dreams come true,

is surely among the greatest rewards of being a parent or grandparent.

Owen and Julia building

Owen and Julia building

Two other dreamers, Owen and Julia, got to play in our apartment, just up the street from Kate and Nik’s house.

They made forts, bridges, castles, and traps.

Makes you wonder what kinds of houses they will live in some day!

The New Year

Since Anthony’s family left us, we have focused on moving into our final space, the third floor of the new-old house.

Since Lydia was born, we have slept in five different locations as the house was being renovated.

We loved all the spaces, but this one is our favorite.

Our third-floor hideaway club house.

Our third-floor hideaway club house. The Duncan Phyfe table was my grandmother’s.

As I write these words, I am sitting at the table in the above picture.


About the New Year. About how to make the second half of our time here even better than the first.

I’m ready to cross the bridge tonight.

We won’t be going to any parties. In fact, we might enjoy some hot chocolate and popcorn and go to bed early.

Here is a quote I’ll be pondering as we enter 2018:

I am of the opinion that my life belongs to the community, and as long as I live, it is my privilege to do for it whatever I can. I want to be thoroughly used up when I die, for the harder I work, the more I live. Life is no ‘brief candle’ to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for a moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to the future generations. ~ George Bernard Shaw

Choose a splendid torch and cross over the bridge!

Choose a splendid torch and cross over the bridge!

Happy New Year to all.

Would love to know a highlight from your 2017 and your dream for 2018.

Shirley Showalter


  1. Stuart W. Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 7:16 pm

    Shirley and I have been richly blessed by living in a variety of communities, most recently to connect more deeply with children as they become parents to their children — our grandchildren. She has summarized well the most recent chapter of our life journey together as we become acquainted with Lydia Ann and explore the city of Pittsburgh. Onward to the next adventure: Sunday evening popcorn.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 9:17 pm

      Look who found the comment button! Thanks, Stuart, for testing the new website feature and being my partner in adventures great and small. Looking forward to helping make more dreams come true with you in 2018!

  2. Linda Gartz on December 31, 2017 at 7:40 pm

    What heart-warming photos and beautiful sentiments you’ve expressed in this lovely New Year’s message. We had an opportunity for several wonderful trips, one to see the eclipse at nearly the greatest totality in southern Il, with dear friends, and others farther afield. The highlight of 2017, and also the greatest cause of stress and anxiety, has been the final edits for my memoir, “Redlined: A Memoir of Race, Change, and Fractured Community in 1960s Chicago.” She Writes Press is the publisher, and I’m so happy you introduced me to Laurie Buchanan, also a SWP author,who has been an inspiration for her endless energy and helping spirit along the way. Of course you know the drill, having published your wonderful memoir. Redlined will be published April 3rd, and I’m about to go full force in to publicity. It’s really hard, but I know I’m blessed to finally have found my focus among the vast archives of material my parents and grandparents had left to me. I wish you a very Happy 2018. You have everything in place, heart and home, for it to be a wonderful year. I love that space too – and your beautiful grandchildren.

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 9:16 pm

      Linda, thanks for your kind words. Your highlights from 2017 sound wonderful. And congratulations for being this far along on the journey toward publication. You are my third friend to publish with She Writes Press, and I am sure your book will be beautifully done as the others have been. And Laurie will be a great guide to the process. I think she takes the prize for building an audience through building relationships.

      As for publicity, I know you have great contacts in Chicago and have been active online for quite some time. I hope that you find that the publicity part of the process is actually the fun part. I certainly enjoyed it, and my hope for you in 2018 is that all your dreams for this book come true!

  3. Tina Barbour on December 31, 2017 at 9:05 pm

    A lovely post that gives me a lot of food for thought, Shirley. You tend to get me thinking, by the way! 🙂 Your family is beautiful, and I’m so glad that you had time together for the holidays and that you have more to look forward to. 2017 was a difficult year for us–we lost Larry’s mother and had some health issues. But we have much to be thankful for. A big change for me was leaving my FT job in public information for our county to take a PT position with the public library. More time with Larry and the kitties and more time for my true work of writing. I hope to finish several manuscripts in 2018. Blessings to you and your family!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 9:29 pm

      Tina, thanks for stopping by this New Year’s Eve. I can only imagine how much pleasure you must take in your new job and your time with Larry and the kitties. Your love for all of the above has always been obvious to me. And congrats for having several manuscripts near completion. Wow.

      I’m sorry for your losses in 2017. A mother’s love is such a support in life, and when she is not there, the hole in the heart is huge. I hope you are restored to good health and get to enjoy a new year with energy.

      Blessings to you and your family also.

  4. Melanie Springer Mock on December 31, 2017 at 9:12 pm

    Love this post, Shirley! Your daughter’s house looks lovely, and as I cross my own bridge in 2018, when I will turn 50, I appreciate this perspective and the hope you express. (A reminder to face this next part of life with joy!) Also, I did my MVS work at East Liberty Presbyterian, so I can clearly visualize where you are! I loved my year in Pittsburgh, and feel like my time working in the East Liberty high rises (no longer there) helped bridge my life from college into adulthood. Best wishes to you for a wonderful 2018!

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 10:01 pm

      I remember turning 50, Melanie. It is a major milestone, a bridge from from the first to second half of life, if we are fortunate. You probably have read Falling Upward? If not, the timing will be impeccable.

      You must have walked many of the same paths we are walking now. Penn Avenue is our main artery. We took a tour of ELPC several weeks ago. You are probably very familiar with the East Liberty Carnegie Library branch also.

      Same good wishes for 2018. And for a great semester ahead.

  5. Sam Lapp on December 31, 2017 at 10:32 pm

    We are home tonight as well. Thanks for the descriptive and informative missive. We are just off four days with our three (who count you two among their favorite professors) plus spouses and six grand kids at a local camp where we had good food, discussions, debates, games, hiking and other exercise. We are well bonded again with Bev and family who just returned from China – SST. Now we resume the delightful and mundane post holiday schedule that is typical of retirees. Your blog is very interesting. We are pleased to be on the receiving end. Best wishes for 2018.
    Sam (and Helen) Lapp

    • Shirley Showalter on December 31, 2017 at 10:44 pm

      Sam and Helen, great to hear from you. I can only imagine how much fun your family has when you get together. We feel so privileged to know your fine children and some of your grandchildren.

      My last conscious act of 2017 is writing this response to you and wishing you a very Happy New Year!

  6. Marian Beaman on December 31, 2017 at 11:25 pm

    The artwork and stories in Little Golden Books are precious to me as well. Funny how art imitates life in Kate’s case and how lovely you have saved this special book. Your photo of Owen and Julia remind me to pull my big, blue bouncy ball from a shelf in the garage to supplement my Power pump and Pilates classes during the week in the new year – and relieve me of writers’ cramp.

    My dream for 2018? I found this evocative quote from Emily Carr during this year’s most memorable trip, our 50th wedding anniversary excursion to British Columbia: “I think I have gone further this year, have lifted a little. I see things a little more as a whole, a little more complete . . . I don’t want to trickle out. I want to pour till the pail is empty, the last bit going out in a gush, not drops.” Carr’s quote, similar to that of George Bernard Shaw, expresses my own wish for the new year and beyond.

    You write with a full heart after a most eventful year of travel and family time, Shirley. I appreciate all the quotes and connections too. Indeed, “The best is yet to be!”

    • Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2018 at 5:53 pm

      Happy New Year to you and Cliff, Marian. That reference to writer’s cramp jumped out at me. I can’t type at my laptop for more than an hour without feeling the effects in neck, shoulders, elbows, arms, and wrists. One reason I am sticking to short projects in writing is that the physical toll of the last edits of the book was great. Feel for you.

      Thanks for the Emily Carr quote. It is almost a mirror image of the GB Shaw quote. I will write “I see things a little more as a whole” in my journal as both a recognition of my own experience and an aspiration for more.

      Yes, the best is yet to be, Lord willing, the crick don’t rise, no one hits the nuclear button, and we don’t sink into despotism and barbarism.

      Other than those things, life is great!

  7. Joan on January 1, 2018 at 12:19 pm

    Happy New Year to you all! I feel warm in frigid Virginia just reading your words!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2018 at 5:56 pm

      Hi Joan and Bill, keep the home fires burning for us. It’s even colder in Pittsburgh. Heading down to minus 6 degrees here by Friday. Happy New Year!

  8. Laurie Buchanan on January 1, 2018 at 12:42 pm

    Shirley — I thoroughly enjoyed the bridge aspect of this post and the photographs. Oh, the photographs! The George Bernard Shaw quote that you shared isn’t just food for thought, it’s a FEAST for thought. I especially like, “I want to be thoroughly used up when I die.”

    The highlight of 2017 for me was the amount of travel that Len and I did, much of it associated with Note to Self: A Seven-Step Path to Gratitude and Growth. It offered me the opportunity to make connections with people I wouldn’t have otherwise met. And you know I got to end the year at a writing retreat in Joshua Tree, California that I found out about through YOU. Ahhh, but that’s another story…

    2018 is a DREAM year!
    In January I’ll be in Minneapolis, MN speaking with other authors at ModernWell.
    In Feb/Mar I’m taking a deep-dive to continue working on what I started at the retreat in December.
    In April I’m a guest instructor at the Writers’ Institute at UW-Madison.
    In May I’m hosting a writer’s retreat on Eleuthera Island in the Bahamas.
    In June I’m ramping up for a July 10 release of The Business of Being: Soul Purpose In and Out of the Workplace. That includes a signing in San Diego on July 11 and a release party in Boise on July 27.
    In August I’ll be in Crystal Lake, IL (just north of Chicago) for a book signing tour.
    I have no idea what the rest of 2018 has in store, but I’m looking forward to whatever unfolds.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2018 at 6:02 pm

      Wow, Laurie, you are taking the role of author very seriously and doing what every expert advises: writing a lot! I am so impressed by your productivity even as you breathe deeply and walk gently on the earth.

      Your year sounds wonderful. I wish you and Len many adventures, planned and unplanned. Can’t wait to hear about Joshua Tree, and glad when friends with mutual interests and values find each other.

      Happy New Year!

  9. Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2018 at 5:42 pm

    From Elfrieda Schroeder: We are home tonight as well. Both of us are ending the year with colds (not so much fun!). We did have my sister over for supper. She went home early to tend to her “critters” who need to be fed (dog and cat). Hardy has gone to bed and I will go soon. Our youngest daughter, husband and two children want to come over for brunch tomorrow, we’ll see how we feel in the morning! The two kids love to make forts and castles and houses with whatever they can get their hands on, just like yours are doing.
    Love your little apartment on the top floor! It looks so cozy!
    At church this morning we picked a word for the year and mine is “purpose!” Will be pondering that for a while, but it is already whispering to me!


    • Shirley Showalter on January 1, 2018 at 6:07 pm

      Purpose! I just read a NYTimes article saying that we should not search for happiness, but instead search for purpose, (which may likely lead to happiness).

      Hope your colds disappear soon and that your New Years Day was joyful. We had a party here with traditional food — pork and sauerkraut, mashed potatoes, and salad. Yummy! It was fun to spend time with Kate and Nik’s friends.

      Happy New Year to you and Hardy.

  10. June Alspaugh on January 1, 2018 at 9:55 pm

    Happy New Year Shirley and family! It was an early night for me as a day at work awaited me.
    Anthony’s Paella had me salivating! Looks amazing, Ham, potatoes and green beans is my husbands’ favorite dish. Thank you for the quote from George Bernard Shaw, to live, fully live as the way he describes it is how I would like to say I lived my life. Your third floor hideaway looks so tranquille and an amazing space.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2018 at 8:37 pm

      Thank you, June, for entering in to our Christmas and New Year with such gusto. Hope your work is an opportunity to let your “splendid torch” shine.

      All best for 2018!

  11. susan scott on January 2, 2018 at 9:39 am

    Happy New Year to you and your lovely family Shirley! The photos are testament to the love and joy of you all being together – and the food …. 🙂 I loved the quote of GBS and Carr’s …

    We spent a quiet NYE – went for a walk on the beach at low tide in the evening, saw the full moon rising as the set was setting. It was idyllic and gave me pause to give thanks for all that is beautiful. The sun set only at about 7.40 or so …My husband packed a small picnic – olives and a small bottle of champagne. Our sons were gallivanting elsewhere – the elder in Cape Town and the younger at the Victoria Falls in Zimbabwe. We were invited to a party but somehow we just wanted a quiet evening.

    Now I’m having to think about highlights of 2017. I reckon my co-author’s visit with her husband from the US to our home in late August was one of them and the travel that we did. For 2018? For now, I’m not thinking too much about that, though I will – but I do know that it will be an eventful year with much ‘on the cards’ …

    • Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2018 at 8:44 pm

      Susan, your description of the simple picnic and the stroll on the beach under a full moon sounds like a lovely way to say good-bye to 2017. Perfect, in fact. “A loaf of bread, a jug of wine, and thou.”

      Tonight as we looked out the window of our “clubhouse” on the third floor, we too saw the lovely nearly full moon. Don’t you love the way the moon connects us in all places on earth?

      May the cards you are dealt and the cards you deal land well for you and yours in 2018. Thanks for connecting!

  12. Saloma Furlong on January 2, 2018 at 5:04 pm

    Shirley, it’s great to hear from your world. I agree, the photos just emanate with love. So glad you are adapting to new surroundings. As I get older, I find myself less agile at that than I used to be. I gasped when I read that you’ve lived in five (5!) different places since you embarked on the journey of being a “granny-nanny.” And I’m feeling anxiety over being in one temporary home while we search for our next “home.”

    LOVE the story of how Kate has created “Martha’s House” without being conscious of doing so. Don’t you love how reading to your daughter when she was little helped inspire where she is today? So very cool.

    Wishing you and your family God’s Blessings in the coming year.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 2, 2018 at 8:51 pm

      Saloma, you have had your own set of great transitions in 2017. When you move your whole household, changes are much deeper than the kind of moves we have made. I hope you love Harrisonburg and am glad you and David chose it.

      As for us, today we gave our apartment up the street a good “Amish cleaning.” I think it would have passed your inspection. 🙂 As we moved out, a young grad student moved in. Now we are in our final resting place on the third floor. At first we didn’t think we wanted to live in the same house as Nik and Kate, to maintain our privacy and theirs, but this unit is so cozy and so separate-yet-connected that we think it is ideal.

      We just set up our connections to computers and the internet, so Kate is coming up to watch a movie with me. Wish there was one called Martha’s House. This is an adult version of our reading ritual when she was a little girl. So many memories flood back.

      Happy New Year!

  13. Merril Smith on January 4, 2018 at 12:54 pm

    Happy New Year, Shirley!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2018 at 1:52 pm

      Happy New Year to you, too, Merril. Great to see your name and picture here so others can check out YOUR blog.

  14. Melodie Davis on January 4, 2018 at 1:05 pm

    As with another commenter, you had me at the paella picture, reminding me of my long ago days spent in Barcelona as a junior year student. It has been a few years since I even tried to make a wok of this but I need to make the effort again! Truly a “company” meal for willing participants.

    But your children’s book here reminds me of getting to introduce our grandsons to the magic of Mr. Willoby’s Christmas Tree whose top gets chopped off a dozen or more times as each animal recipient shaves a bit off the top down to the smallest mouse in the house. It’s like a Jesus miracle story of sharing. I love that it came from my sister Nancy who raised her children long before we ever had any, and now we get to use it with our grandchildren, and since Michelle scribbled her name in it, will likely also share it with her grandchildren some day. Here’s the book if you’re unfamiliar: A great text and some fun art yours would enjoy as well.
    P.S. I love your new “attic” space: perfect for a nip of a top of shared Christmas tree! Blessings as you enjoy new opportunities in 2018.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2018 at 7:27 pm

      Yea, Melodie. You hung in there until we solved the comment problem!! Thank you so much for your help.

      I immediately ordered the book you recommended. It looks like a perfect addition to the Christmas book collection at our house.

      Sending you love from the attic –where a little ceramic tree gives the place lovely color and spirit.

      Blessings to you in 2018 also!

  15. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 4, 2018 at 7:39 pm

    Enjoying your blog, Shirley

    • Shirley Showalter on January 4, 2018 at 9:30 pm

      Yippee, Elfrieda! Thanks for hanging in there while comments were being fixed!

  16. Elfrieda Neufeld Schroeder on January 4, 2018 at 10:59 pm

    Here’s another hello from me, your favorite commenter!

  17. Carolyn on January 9, 2018 at 9:14 am

    Love the pictures of family celebration which is at the heart of a meaningful holiday season. My favorite part is how Kate’s childhood book is coming alive in the house she now is creating and living in…..all without conscious thought? Dreams and images planted in us as seeds do manifest. Happy New Year!

    • Shirley Showalter on January 23, 2018 at 9:14 pm

      Happy New Year to you too, Carolyn!

      I missed this comment until now, but yes, it is exciting to see the unconscious impressions find a place in our adult daughter’s life.

      It will be fun to see what Lydia loves and see how that desire manifests in her life too. I look forward to seeing pictures of Lydia and Lewis in a few weeks.

  18. Greta Holt on January 23, 2018 at 4:50 pm


    I am taking a Mastermind course from Dan Blank. Isn’t he great! I have read Blush and loved it. Congratulations!

    What I particularly like as I look over your blog posts are the authentic pictures. They add to the site’s welcoming feel.

    • Shirley Showalter on January 23, 2018 at 9:21 pm

      Greta, so glad to have your comment here and to know you’ve found Dan Blank. He is wonderful.

      It seems we have a lot in common. I enjoyed reading about you on your website.

      Let me return the compliment to you about the warm feel of your blog.

      All best in your writing.

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