“I am your father…”

imagesI’m going to do something today that I never thought I would do.  I have the privilege of aligning myself with one of my greatest idols, master story-teller, George Lucas.  This morning, I re-watched Lucas’ interview with Charlie Rose; and for the second time, I was mesmerized by his story and struck by his priorities.  When asked why Lucas walked away from directing for fifteen years, he said “I wanted to be a dad.”  Wow.  One of the most successful movie makers in the world, and arguably the most successful story-teller of our time, walked away from it all to be a dad; not a politician, not an actor or a rock star, not some other avenue toward greater celebrity, but a dad.

Yes, one could argue that Lucas had no need for more wealth or greater celebrity, but in today’s world, that’s hardly the point.  In a world where everyone’s main objective seems to be to grow richer and more famous, here is a man who had it all, the world at his fingertips, and the only thing he really cared about was being a good dad.

Almost ten years ago, I walked away from a job I loved.  I was a librarian at a local college, and it was the greatest job, with the greatest people, ever.  I was happy to go to work each morning, and I enjoyed every second of my day, except….  Saying goodbye to my girls every morning was hard, very hard.  And they were strong, independent girls who had no problem waving goodbye to Mommy and going to school.  It was Mommy who was always sad.  And then there were the days when one of them was sick, and I had to make the call to work, feeling guilty if I stayed but even guiltier if I went.  Though my girls had wonderful caregivers, I wanted to be the one there with them when they were sick, when they were sad, when they learned to walk and run, and every step in between.  And so I made the decision to leave the job I loved and come home to a life I Ioved more.  And I’ve never regretted it for a minute.

Our society has created a world where mothers are forced to work – sometimes for economic reasons, and sometimes for political or societal ones.  Moms (and Dads) are expected to work crazy hours, be on call 24/7, and keep up a pace that, at times, seems inhuman.  Top that off with the expectation that all mothers should be able to create things like Martha Stewart, cook like Bobby Flay, and clean like a team of Merry Maids.  Is there even time to be a Dad or Mom in today’s world?  Sadly, many young people are deciding that there is not.  The population of the Western World is declining because couples do not have either the time or the money to start a family.  Where are our priorities?

My husband, Ken, works long hours and is on call 24/7, but he makes being a husband and father the most important thing in his life.  In spite of his grueling travel schedule, he is at every field hockey game, swim meet, and tennis match.  He never missed a dance recital or a play performance.  We let our children know every day that they are what matters, they are our world.  A Polish proverb says, “You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.”  It is a rule by which we both try to live.

Am I saying that all good moms are stay-at-home moms?  Absolutely not.  I’ve never actually considered myself a stay-at-home mom. I taught computer classes at our local community center for several years after leaving my full-time job.  That steamrolled into my own business, teaching senior citizens how to use and take care of their own computers in the comfort of their homes.  Both jobs were very rewarding, and I’ve met some fascinating people, many I am happy to now call friends.  And when I was ready, I became a full-time writer.  I may be at home, and I do drop everything to be there for my girls, but I have always been a hard worker.  My mother did the same.  She worked small, part-time jobs here and there, but she was always there for us, no matter what.  She and Dad sacrificed for us so that they could be a part of our lives, and you know what?  We never felt the tightening of the belt or noticed the lack of money, never traveled or took lavish vacations, but as Dolly Parton said, “we were rich as we could be.”

Let me just say, that working moms and dads can be great parents, too.  I look at my aunt who raised two independent women, beautiful on the inside and out, while working full time.  I watched her sacrifice at home and at work to take care of her family. Having been witness to the hard work yet never-faltering attentiveness of their parents, my cousins now have beautiful families and careers of their own.  My aunt always made sure that her family came first.  And that, I believe, is the measure of success.  By putting family first, we can have it all, maybe not in the eyes of society, but in the eyes of the ones that matter the most.

George Lucas told Charlie Rose that Steven Spielberg once told him that he hopes to die on a movie set.  George said he hopes to die in bed watching a Spielberg movie.  Charlie asked, “And how do you want to be remembered?”  Lucas gave the simplest yet most profound answer, “As a good dad.”  After the life he has lived, a man who will be immortalized through the stories he created wants to be remembered simply as “a good dad.”  Is it any wonder that in his greatest story, it was because of the love for his child that the father sacrificed everything he had, everything he worked toward, and his own life to save his son?  In the end, it was not his actions as a villain that most people recount when speaking of Vader, but as a father.  Lucas knew all along that fame, fortune, and power are trivial, and that being a parent is what truly matters.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

DSC09019It’s almost funny, the things we will do to spend just a small amount of special time with the ones we love, and how we truly come to appreciate those times over the years.  Christmas is one of those times.  Christmas in our house was always special, always a wonderful get-together with our large, extended family.  When I was very young, my parents and I would spend the entire Christmas holiday with my grandparents on the Wicomico River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland.  We always attended the Christmas Eve vigil at the church where my parents were married (which was built by my grandfather).  While it was just the five of us there on Christmas morning, throughout the day, family would arrive until the tiny house was bursting at the seams with all of the people, presents, and holiday cheer.  Dinner was a festive event with family from all over Southern Maryland popping in and out to exchange gifts and greetings.

Once my brothers arrived, and there were more cousins on the scene than just my cousin, Terri, and myself, we all stayed home for Christmas.  All of us, that is, except for my grandparents.  They spent Christmas Eve with my Uncle Gene and Aunt Joan, had breakfast on Christmas morning with my Aunt Debbie and Uncle Karl, arrived at our house for lunch and an afternoon of egg nog and present opening, and then traveled to my Uncle Butch and Aunt Pinky’s house for dinner.  We all lived an hour or more apart, and I can only imagine how exhausting that was for them; but I don’t think they would have traded it for the world.  After my grandfather went to his eternal Christmas dinner at the Lord’s table, my grandmother would come to our house, arriving just before Thanksgiving and staying through New Year’s.  My aunts took turns hosting a family dinner on Christmas Day.

After I got married, things changed again.  Ken and I go to Mom and Dad’s and spend Christmas Eve with my parents and my brothers’ families, going to Mass and then enjoying dinner and exchanging gifts.  We return home late that night, and still today, the girls run up to bed while Ken and I visit with Santa.  On Christmas Day, Ken’s family comes here for Christmas dinner and presents.  We take lots of pictures (of course), and enjoy our time with family.

Christmas in our family is kind of like Max’s experience with the Wild Things.  We travel across the river and through the woods to grandmother’s house, just as I did as a child and my grandparents did later.  And in my mind today, as we go, I travel through night and day and in and out of weeks and over a year through all of my memories of Christmases past.  Every year, when the gift exchange begins, it’s definitely like being surrounded by wild things!  Sometimes, amidst all of that togetherness, they even roar their terrible roars and gnash their terrible teeth, but then we remember who the King of all things is, and a hush falls over all of us as we contemplate the true meaning of Christmas.

It’s a lot of work, planning and traveling for Christmas, making sure we have all of the presents, and remembering, while at Mass, to be present for the Lord.  But I wouldn’t change any of it.  After all, at Christmas, we all want to be where someone loves us best of all and where we smell good things to eat, so we give up whatever seemingly important things we are doing to head home.  We sail back over a year, and in and out of weeks, and through a day and into the night of our very own Christmas where we find the comforts of home and family waiting for us, and it’s always worth the trip.

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Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Come to Child’s Pose

1st day of school (4)Everyone who has ever taken a yoga class has heard the words, “Whenever you need a break, come to child’s pose.”  This morning, as we all went into child’s pose, on our knees with our heads bowed, those words really sank in for me.  Typically, my mind goes to, I’ve been doing yoga for three years, I don’t need to go to child’s pose.  I don’t want to take a break.  Inevitably, though, when our instructor tells us to move on to downward dog, there’s a little voice in my head that says, No, it feels good to be in child’s pose!  And today, I had a revelation.  In life, we all need a break sometimes.  We all need to come to child’s pose.

Do you remember your childhood?  The days spent with friends, evenings spent catching fireflies, soaring on the swing set, playing flashlight tag.  What were your worries, your biggest concerns?  Whether or not you finished your homework?  What you were going to wear to school the next day?  Which book to read when this one is done? Life was one big break after another.  And then you hit high school, and the breaks were fewer in number; and then in college, your breaks came two or three times a year; and the next thing you knew, you were an adult who didn’t have time for breaks at all.

Everyone needs some down time, a deep cleansing breath, a chance to close your eyes and be in the moment, releasing the tension in your muscles, and melting into the mat.  We all need to step back, smell the roses, and enjoy the small bit of time we are given here on this earth.  Life is hard, work is never ending, we are pulled in several directions at once.  But how good does it feel when we have those rare and precious moments to let it all go?  Perhaps it’s a day at the beach, a family vacation, or even a quiet hour with a good book.  We all need a chance to relive our childhood, to recapture our youth, to come to child’s pose.

During this hectic holiday season, forget about rushing here and there and pulling your hair out trying to have the perfect Christmas. Perfection doesn’t come to us here on Earth.  The most we can do is live every day to the best of our potential and enjoy it while it lasts.  Making gifts doesn’t have to mean quilting a full-sized bedspread for everyone.  It can be baking someone her favorite cake and handing it to her on a pretty platter.  It’s okay if your tree is leaning a little or if the lights on your house are a little uneven.  It’s the joy you feel on Christmas Day and the love you share with your family and friends that matter.  Let yourself relax and have fun.  If you’re lucky enough to have snow, build a snowman!  And remember that dropping to your knees isn’t just for yoga.  It’s what we should do whenever we seek solace and rest.  It is a meaningful moment, a plea for a break or for help, a searching for peace in your mind, for grace in your soul.  When you need a break, come to child’s pose.

“Let the little children come to me, and do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of heaven belongs.”  Matthew 19:14

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Family Portraits

DSC_1825I know that when it comes to taking pictures, I drive my family crazy. Countless times I have heard the phrase, “Another picture?” or “Haven’t we taken enough?” or “Can I go now?” They can keep complaining. It doesn’t phase me. I will continue to take their pictures, their friends’ pictures, our pets’ pictures, our family pictures, our vacation pictures, our holiday pictures, and any other photos I feel like DSC06333taking because it all boils down to one thing – this event, this memory, this small moment in time will only happen once and only last for an instant, and I want to remember it forever.

It is the norm today for people to snap all kinds of pictures (and let’s admit – they’re mostly selfies) with their phones and leave them there for all eternity, or until their phone dies or breaks, and then the all too familiar cry can be heard “Oh no! All of my pictures are gone!” We’ve all experienced that dreadful moment when we realize that special memory, which we were lucky enough to capture and freeze, has disappeared forever. For me, it was an entire CD with photos from the last Mother’s Day with my grandmother before her stroke. For months, I searched for that CD until I gave up, assuming it was gone forever. Then, a few years later, my grandmother left us for a better place, and I was desperate to find that CD. For those who don’t believe in the power of prayer or the intercession of the saints, let me assure you, I am a true believer. After resuming my search, all the time praying to St. Anthony, I found the CD – in our silverware drawer in the kitchen. The same drawer I open up at least six times a day. It was simply lying in the drawer next to the silverware. Where had it been for the previous three years? I have no idea. 

Mother's Day 1The point is, those pictures meant so much to me because they were all I had left from that day – a day that, at the time, seemed totally unimportant, just another Mother’s Day – but turned out to be the last day that most of our family saw my grandmother the way we would all want to remember her. My girls are much older now, but they remain little in that photo, snuggled next to Granny on the couch, and my Gram remains the woman I loved and looked up to.

This past Saturday, we celebrated Ken’s parents’ 50th wedding anniversary. Leading up to the party, my children, Ken’s sister, and I photo-8spent a lot of time combing through old photo albums and digital photographs. We pulled together almost 200 pictures of my in-laws from the last 50 years – including photos from their high school prom, their wedding, the births of their children, the births of their grandchildren, and every important, and not so important, event in between. The slideshow that ran throughout the night told a story of 50 years of love and happiness, a story brought to life in pictures. 

DSC07592That night, we took even more pictures. The party came and went; some of those faces we’ll see again, and some we won’t, but everyone will live on in our minds and hearts and in those photographs. Our family will always be together in the family photo we took that night just as my family will always be together in the photos we took with my parents on Thanksgiving. And you can bet that I will take many, many more photos on Christmas. It’s what I do, and someday my complaining children will thank me. After all, there will come a time when they will look at one of our family portraits and think “That’s just the way I remember my Mom.” And though it sounds sad, it’s not. Those smiling faces will remind them of times when we were all together, and they will remember just how happy we were in that frozen moment of time.

It’s All About the Giving

12294857_409592349244777_826596147234890410_nI am usually finished Christmas shopping by the first of November, except for a few stocking stuffers and perhaps an extra gift here or there.  That’s good because this month, we have incurred several unexpected expenses, and Ken asked me to tone down the gift giving.  “No problem,” I told him, “I’m pretty much done shopping.”  Then I went to my gift closet and pulled out everything I’ve bought in my travels over the past year, and guess what.  I haven’t bought nearly as many presents as I thought I had.  As Charlie Brown would say, “Good grief.”

I went through my list, checked it twice, noted that everyone on it had been nice, so what was I going to do?  I had a few small things here and a couple of unique items there, but nothing that added up to anything special for anyone.  The girls are easy.  They get one nice present, an outfit, and small stocking stuffers.  Luckily, those things were already ordered or stashed away.  But what about our parents, our siblings, and our many nephews and niece?  How can I go almost empty handed to our Christmas celebrations?

And that is where my mother and daughter saved the day.  Over Thanksgiving, all of the children were busy making crafts that my mother supplied (as is our day before Thanksgiving tradition). Rebecca decided to make a Christmas gift for her boyfriend’s mother.  Everyone was so impressed with what she made, that the whole family asked for one for themselves for Christmas.  The sparks ignited.  Rebecca and I combed through Pinterest and then spent the afternoon on Saturday scouring the stores for just what we needed to make Christmas presents for everyone in the family.  Ken, Katie, and Morgan all got into the excitement and offered suggestions, and that’s when it hit me.  I was so busy thinking about what to buy, that I had forgotten about what to give.

The only Christmas gift that matters was already given to us over 2,000 years ago.  The gift of self.  Yes, there is certainly a lot more to the story, but that’s what it really boils down to.  God gave us Himself.  It’s not about the toys or the clothes or money spent.  It’s about replicating that wonderful first gift – the giving of oneself to those we love.  So while we may be handing out boxes and bags of things we’ve created, what we’re really going to be giving out is the gift of ourselves – our time, our talent, and mostly, our love.

I’ve learned that sometimes it’s the unexpected detours in life that force us back onto the right road to our destination.  But no matter which road we are on, we are all called to love, to serve, to give.  So whether it’s something handmade or homemade, a visit, a hug, or a helping hand, give the gift of yourself this Christmas.  It’s really the only thing anyone really wants to begin with.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Just Thinking About Tomorrow

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When I was a little girl, I attended my first major Broadway musical and spent the following few weeks memorizing every word to every song.  I’ve never stopped singing those songs and enjoyed watching Rebecca and then Katie play roles in school and community productions of the same play.  As a child, I’m not sure I realized how many lessons I was learning cast-001from the little orphan girl who took in a stray dog and softened the heart of a grouchy, old millionaire, but I have always remembered and adhered to her words “the sun will come out tomorrow.”

As I watched the morning news on Saturday, I saw updates on the terror attacks in Mali, new terror threats to Brussels, and sparring politicians across this great nation.  But here is the thing that struck me the most – the people of Paris gathered in the streets this past weekend for a public street party to show the world that they will not stay home, that life goes on.  Almost fifteen years after 9/11, we can all attest to that.  Things change, people are lost, the world is shaken, but the sun still rises, and human beings continue living, striving for the best, reaching for the stars, and living the good life as best they can.

For every eight people who leave this world, there are nineteen babies born.

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There are approximately 13,000 terror attacks somewhere in the world each year, but 2.3 million weddings per year take place in the US alone.

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Somewhere in the world today, a child is having a birthday party,

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a school is welcoming grandparents,

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multi-generational families are giving thanks,

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a group of friends are worshiping together,

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a family is taking home a new pet,

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a farmer is tending to his field,DSC02490-001

and a concert is being attended.

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People are still climbing to new heights,

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steering toward the goals,

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breaking new strides,

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and celebrating their achievements.

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And every single night, we go to bed with the knowledge that no matter what happens in the world, the sun will come up tomorrow.

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What is the Answer?

DSCN6495Let me begin by saying that this is not a political commentary. I think of it as a public introspection, a searching for answers where, perhaps, there is no real answer. I have always tried to act compassionately, to put others needs before myself. I am a passionate defender of the unborn, a believer in the dignity of all human life, and volunteer for social and humanitarian causes; yet today, I find myself at a crossroads. My heart and head are at odds, and I don’t know that there is anyone out there who can help me find the right answers to my questions.

First, I am a student of history and a firm believer in the adage that those who do not learn from the past are doomed to repeat it. I also believe that we are currently embroiled in the Third World War. While it is a war of weapons, it is also a war of ideology, not unlike the Cold War during which I was raised. It is a war of name calling, of hatred spewing, and of closed hearts and minds as much as it is a war of physical mass destruction. We are witnessing what our grandfathers and great-grandfathers witnessed with the aggression of Hitler, yet we have no single name to attach to this threat, just an ideology. How do we fight against an aggressive ideology in which nobody knows who the real enemy is?  For I do not believe that the enemy is all Muslims.

I’ve known people of Muslim descent and practicing Muslims, and I know that they are not bad people. They are peaceful people who do not subscribe to the beliefs of those such as ISIS; so I wonder, as we’ve all heard others say many times, why do they not speak out? I’m not talking about those in war-ravaged countries or those who are under constant threat or surveillance, but those who are free to stand up and say “this is not right, this is not what we believe.”  There are few places like Jordan, where all religions are welcome and where many of the current refugees have been able to flee; so where are the rest of the Muslim countries and their leaders?

During WWII, we brought in refugees from Europe, but we chose those who came. We did not open our doors to every person in Europe who wanted to flee the war. Was that right?  I don’t know.  But I do know that, on the contrary, we made sure that their homeland was safe for people to continue living secure, healthy, fulfilling lives. Those who say that was different and that we shouldn’t interfere with what’s going on in Syria or Iraq or any of the ISIS controlled countries, please tell me how is it different? How were the victims of WWII any different than those being persecuted today? Why wouldn’t we want, for our sake as well as theirs, to contain the threats in their lands and make their homeland safe for all people?  Even MSNBC’s Chris Matthews, just yesterday, questioned why we are bringing people here who could be fighting for their homes.  Because they have families?  So did our Pop.

And what are our leaders here and throughout the West supposed to do?  How can we help these refugees when we have those here at home who we are unwilling or unable to help – our poor, our homeless, our Veterans? We have approximately 50,000 homeless Veterans in our country. How do we look at them and say, we cannot give you food and shelter, but we can give it to people from the region where you put your very life at risk?

Pope Francis recently said that “refugees are more than statistics; they are children of God, each with his or her own inherent dignity.” My heart breaks over this, for I believe it to be true to the bottom of my soul. So where does that leave us? Where are we to find the resources to care for these people when we cannot care for our own? For it is not simply a matter of security. It is a matter of human dignity.  Does that mean that we are to take care of everyone (Whatsoever you do to the least of my people… Mat 25:45), or do we help them to help themselves (let him labor, doing honest work with his own hands, so that he may have something to share with anyone in need. Eph 4:28)?  What is the right thing to do?

As far as security, our country has the strictest vetting process of any country in the world, yet our own intelligence officials have said that we can’t even come close to a guarantee that the process works. The attacks that have taken place on our own soil were, for the most part, homegrown terrorists (Boston, Oklahoma City, the first World Trade Center bombing). The perpetrators of 9/11 were here legally, so how well does the system work? Threats to our nation and our citizens can come from anywhere. Three of the Paris terrorists were French Nationals. How do we ever know if we are safe?

So again I ask, what is the answer? Where do we go from here? All sides will never agree. The only thing I know for sure is that leaders around the world need to take their heads out of the sand and recognize what the real problem is, the root of everything that is going on.  There is an ideology (again, I won’t call it a religion – this isn’t the religion of Muhammed that we are fighting), but an ideology that hates the West and is determined to spread their hate throughout the world, destroying everything its path.  Unless we strike at the root of the problem, nothing will be solved, no questions truly answers, no lives left to uphold with dignity.  Which leads me back to the question of humanity.  The questions swirl around and around in a vicious circle that truly never ends.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.