Melanie Shankle ’93 knows all too well the importance of rediscovering your “spark” after getting stuck in life’s ruts or falling victim to day-to-day routines. Her professional career took her from financial and pharmaceutical sales to the New York Times’ best-sellers list and led her to become a regular contributor to The Pioneer Woman blog. But above all else, she is a mother.  A “Big Mama,” that is. In 2006, Shankle created a daily blog called “Big Mama,” a name inspired by her then three-year-old daughter Caroline, who was learning how to be a “big girl.” 

“I was in the process of convincing her that big girls use the potty and that big girls don’t have pacifiers,” laughed Shankle. “She thought ‘big’ was the highest compliment in the land, so she began referring to me as ‘Big Mama.’ I probably would have chosen a different blog name had I known how popular it would become!” 

Big Mama is a digital scrapbook of Shankle’s life, featuring family stories, “Fashion Friday” tips, book suggestions and “The Big Boo Cast,” a podcast on all things faith, family, friends, football, fashion and food by Shankle and Sophie Hudson, a friend and fellow blogger. 

Shankle earned her bachelor’s degree in speech communication from Texas A&M University as a member of the class of 1993, but graduated in May 1994 after squeezing in one more football and baseball season. “To this day, I love nothing more than watching Aggie football,” she said. Now based in San Antonio, Texas, where she lives with her husband Perry and daughter Caroline, Shankle spends most of her time as a self-proclaimed chauffeur to her family, but still makes time for her two favorite activities: blogging for “Big Mama” and writing books.  

A New York Times best-selling author, Shankle has written three memoirs about motherhood, marriage and female friendship. Her fourth book, “Church of the Small Things,” will hit stands in October.  Shankle’s first memoir, “Sparkly Green Earrings,” is about the crazy, chaotic moments of motherhood—the good, the bad and all of the school projects, car pools and soccer practices in between. “The Antelope in the Living Room” shares her and Perry’s story of marriage, exploring the challenges that come with saying “I do.” Shankle’s third book, “Nobody’s Cuter Than You,” talks about the beauty and importance of cultivating female friendships.  

In 2015, Shankle spoke about the power of female friendship at the annual Women, Wealth & Wisdom (WWW) workshop hosted by the Texas A&M Foundation’s Office of Gift Planning. Each spring, the workshop provides women the resources and knowledge necessary to secure their financial futures. Shankle’s breakout session focused on investing in female friendships, forming a community and standing together.  

“My last book made me realize how my female friendships have shaped me,” said Shankle. “My girlfriends have challenged me, encouraged me and cheered me on. It can be so easy to put friendships on hold while we’re busy with careers, marriages and families, but we will always be happier when we invest in our friendships.” 

According to the National Center for Women and Retirement Research, as many as nine out of 10 women will be solely responsible for their finances at some point in their lives. The WWW workshop aims to prepare women for that moment. This year, speakers include the Texas A&M Women’s Resource Center, life coach Candance Avila, and Dr. Carrie Byington ‘85, a national leader in pediatrics and infectious diseases, among others. 

“An event like this is important because it gives women a chance to spend time with old friends and to make new ones,” said Shankle. “The biggest takeaway is that our female friends remind us of who we were, who we are now and who we want to become. It's easy to get stuck in a rut sometimes, but a conference like this can help you find your spark again.” 

The 2017 Women, Wealth & Wisdom workshop takes place on May 19 at The Stella Hotel in Bryan, Texas. Because breakfast and lunch will be served, registration is required for this free event. To hear from other speakers like Melanie Shankle or to find more information and register, please visit www.txamfoundation.com/www.  

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