Stretched Thin

Do you remember Stretch Armstrong?  He was the superhero doll from the 70s who could be pulled and stretched to three times his size just for the fun of it.  I’m not sure why many children from my generation spent so much wasted time stretching this otherwise useless toy to his limits just to see him warp back into himself again.  Sometimes I think we did it just to see how far we could pull until he broke and that gross, gooey, syrupy stuff came oozing out of him.  Looking back, I think whoever made that silly toy must have had a vision of the future. Somehow he knew that GenX was going to live the life of poor Stretch Armstrong every single day.

Let’s take a look at just this week in my life.  On Monday, Ken left for a business trip at 4am, I had yoga at 8 (scratch that – girls were running late, so I had to make do with a yoga video at home), then I wrote the next chapter in the novel I’m currently writing.  Off to take Morgan to the orthodontist at 2:30, then Katie to tennis at 3:30 so she could warm up for her match at 4.  Somehow I managed to do a couple of loads of laundry and wash the dishes.  That was a slow day.  Tuesday saw us leaving on time for school, me on the resistance bike by 8:30, another chapter down, tennis practice at 3:30, and team dinner at 6.  I finished my day folding more laundry.  Today, yoga, blog, tennis match at 4, Morgan’s tennis lesson at 5:30, and then dinner (something, somewhere, somehow, with someone – maybe all of us if we can manage it).  Tomorrow, girls to school, meeting in Annapolis for a board I’m on, at school by 1:30 to set up the desserts for the end of the year Awards Banquet, take Katie to tennis at 3:30, rush home to change for the banquet, pick up Katie, wait at the Y while she changes, be at the school by 5:30 and home by 10.  Friday, well you get the picture.  And guess what, this is an easy week!  It’s the end of the school year, and activities are winding down!

Some days I feel like I have been stretched to my limits, like one more pull and that gross, gooey syrupy stuff will start flowing out of me.  Other days, I feel like I’m already drowning in the gooey stuff.  But here’s the thing, I already have one daughter in college (if you think my days are busy now – try imagining all of this with an extra child thrown into the mix).  In just two years, Katie will be off as well.  And it will go by so quickly!  I can already feel the moments slipping away.  So while I may be stretched to my limits, and my insides may be starting to feel syrupy and out of shape, I know that I wouldn’t trade a single thing I do or have done.  Someday I will actually be able to write multiple chapters in a day, and I’ll wonder how I managed to survive all of those years spent driving children from one location to another while serving on boards and committees, and writing books and blogs, and cheering at games and crying at awards ceremonies. And you know what? It will have been worth every single stretch mark.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site

Chocolate Memories

IMG_0532A few years ago, Ken and I realized, truthfully almost too late, that our girls were growing up quickly.  We recognized that as we trudged, sports chairs in tow, from one athletic event to another, raced to this awards banquet and that school fundraiser, and squeezed in piano, tennis, and dance lessons, time was flying by.  The precious minutes we had with our children were increasingly only had while on the run with “have fun” and “good luck” shouted out the window as we sped off to pick up another child or make it to another event.  That’s when we decided that we needed to set aside one day every month for some meaningful togetherness – whether the girls wanted to or not.

To our pleasant surprise, our girls were all for our new plan to spend one entire day each month together without it being a school or church event or our two week summer vacation.  They liked the idea of doing something fun and out of the ordinary together as a family.  So we began to think about what we could do, and believe me, the list was long!  Some of the ideas were do-able, and others weren’t, but the goal was to come up with a day that everyone would enjoy.

Over the past few years, we have had some wonderful family days together.  We have gone skiing, visited battlegrounds and museums, and attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade (and a host of other activities to fill the day) in Washington, D.C.  We’ve gone to Arlington National Cemetery and paid our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the National Book Festival, and even New York City (okay, that did require an extra day and night).  The point was never what we were doing but that we were doing it together.  We’ve even allowed a boyfriend or friend to tag along if we were also combining the celebration of a birthday or other special event, but for the most part, these days have just been the five of us.  Even with Rebecca off at college, we have continued our family day activities.  Whenever she can join us. Rebecca will come meet us, or we will pick her up on our way to our destination (which usually includes a snowy weather activity as she goes to school in the mountains).

This past Saturday, we took family day to a whole new level when we went to Hershey Park for the day with Ken’s parents, his sister and her boyfriend, and our nephew.  This time, it was actually Ken’s mother who made the plan for the entire family to get together to have a whole day of fun and togetherness.  As we made our way through Chocolate World, just before leaving the park, we stopped to take pictures to remember our day.  While most of the world thinks of Hershey as just a brand of chocolate, I will forever think of it as a another way to make a memory that our family will never forget.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site

Blossoming Love

gazebo-of-prayer-thomasLet me start with a disclaimer – I am not a gardener.  Truth be told, I hate gardening.  My parents have the most beautiful gardens, and I always dreamed of having a yard resembling a Thomas Kincaide painting.  Of course, that would require countless hours of planning, planting, weeding, and scolding children and dogs.  I would much rather be reading a book!  But I do have to admit that I love flower gardens.  I love the romance of a vast collection of fragrant blossoms bowing in the breeze.  A fully in-bloom rose trellis makes me practically giddy, and there’s nothing quite as beautiful as a lilac bush bursting with little flowers that tickle one’s nose with their sweetness.  If only I had the patience, skill, and desire to create such a masterpiece.

A couple years ago, just before Mother’s Day, my husband dug out, cobblestoned around, and filled with topsoil two brand new gardens in our front yard.  I kept my mouth shut as I watched him labor all week and wondered who was going to tend them all summer.  That Saturday, Ken proudly pulled down the driveway with the bed of his truck overflowing with flowers, bushes, and plants.  He beamed from ear to ear as he led me out to see his treasure trove of shining greenery and flowering gems.

“Happy Mother’s Day,” he exclaimed.  “I’ve bought you all of your favorite flowers and bushes so that you can plant them and have them in the yard and the house all summer.”

All I could think of was how much money I was going to watch wither away in the dry heat of our Mid-Atlantic summer and how many hours I was going to have to spend weeding around every one of those plants.  With a smile on my face, I helped Ken anIMG_0486d the girls unload the plants, and we spent the rest of the day (okay, the next several days) adding the plants to the gardens, mulching around them, and giving them water.

When we were done, my husband asked me if I liked them.  I forced a smile and said they were beautiful.

I then asked, “Who is going to take care of them?”  I saw the confusion pass over Ken’s face as he looked at me trying to decide whether or not I was kidding.

“You are,” he said.  “I know how much you love gardening.”  Now was the moment of truth.  Did I dare?

I took a deep breath and said “I love gardens, not gardening.”

Ken’s face fell, and he was speechless.  I quickly smiled and grabbed his hand.  “But I’m sure we will all enjoy tending these together.”  It wasn’t a complete save, but he was okay with it, and I avoided having to weed by myself all summer long.

Two years later, our yard is beginning to awaken.  The  forsythia is in full bloom, and the tulips and daffodils that we planted last year and added to this year are beginning to fade; but the rose bushes look promising, and the liriope, day lilies, hydrangea, and irises are filling out nicely.  Soon, the Black-Eyed Susans will begin to emerge.  In tIMG_0484he center of those two gardens are my favorite bushes, lilacs, which were my present last Mother’s Day.  I even planted them myself.  I will never be a world class gardener like my father, and my girls, who take after me, will continue to complain every year when we bring home a new load of mulch and annuals; but someday, I know our yard will be as pretty as a picture.  After all, Ken works hard on them, as do our girls, and I know it’s all done as a labor of love.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site

Nobody’s Perfect

Many years ago, a very wise man told me something that I have never forgotten.  After I graduated from college, I moved back home to find a job and save some money until my next great adventure came along.  The first weekend I was home, I attended Mass with my family at our church.  Our pastor, Father Paul (now Monsignor Dudziak), welcomed me home and asked me how it felt to be a college graduate.  I told him that it felt good but not great because I had graduated magna cum laude and not summa cum laude and had missed the higher honor by less than a tenth of a percentage point.  Father Paul nodded without comment and then asked me to follow him.  When we reached the altar he pointed to the floor and asked me “Do you see this carpet?” I nodded, unsure of why he was asking, and he continued.  “This carpet has handmade by Persian monks.  It took months, maybe years, because it was intricately planned and woven by hand.  They are experts at making rugs and create the finest works of art.  However, in every rug they make, they always weave into it a mistake.”  He looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”  I shook my head, and he replied, “Only God is perfect.”  Humbled, I blushed and nodded.

Do I still strive for perfection?  Every. Single.  Day.  And every day I am reminded, in some way, that I will never achieve perfection.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  The French playwright, Pierre Corneille, once said “we never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate successes are mixed with sadness.”  While we all try to be perfect and live a perfect life, don’t we all feel much more accomplished and successful when we’ve faced failureDSC00481 and risen above it?  And who is to say what a perfect life is?  Many would have said that Robin Williams had the perfect life, but alas, he did not think it true.

As Father Paul pointed out to me those many years ago, humans are not perfect, and we never will be.  Michelangelo said “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”  A perfect sunset?  Yes.  The perfect novel?  Probably not.  While we all should try to attain perfection in our lives so as to be worthy of the life God has given to us, we will all fail over and over again.  That is how we learn and grow and become the person we are meant to be.  So I will continue to work towards perfection as I journey through life, but I will remember that I will, and must, make mistakes along the way.  For as the great novelist Margaret Atwood so truthfully said “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site

Raising Teenage Daughters

I recently read an article in the New York Times about parenting teenage daughters.  I had such mixed feelings about the woman’s story!  I couldn’t quite grasp whether she was complaining, venting, musing, or just rambling.  She seemed to be saying that teenage girls are horrible beasts almost all of the time, but that every now and then, she saw a spark of the girl they used to be.  I was confused and almost irritated by this.  Ever since reading it, I’ve asked myself, is this the way it’s supposed to be?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something in my child-rearing skills?  Do my children have to hate me, treat me with disgust and disrespect, and talk horribly about me behind my back in order for them to grow into mature women?  Should I try to turn back the hands of time and make this happen?

You see, that has not been my experience at all, and I’ve been raising teenage girls for quite some time now.  My three daughters and I taDSC09582lk about everything, spend quality time together, and honestly like each other.  My girls are the ones who come home talking about how horribly other girls talk bout their mothers, and they always tell me that they say “My mom is my best friend.  I tell her everything.”  In fact, another teen was recently spending the weekend with us (hoards of teenage girls are always spending the weekend with us), and upon hearing Katie declare this, she said “I know.  I tell your mom everything, too.”  But there is that worrisome guilt again.  Should she be telling me everything?  Shouldn’t she be telling her own mother?  Where does that line get crossed?

Okay, to tell the truth, things aren’t always so happy-go-lucky between my daughters and me.  Sometimes they tell me things I wish I didn’t know.  That’s when the “good mother” in me comes out, the one who lectures and admonishes.  But then I have to remind myself that I raised them to have their own opinions and think for themselves.  Sometimes they tell me they don’t want me to join them, and that’s okay.  It’s important for them to go their own way and do their own things.  We are not joined at the hip, nor should we be.  Sometimes they talk about going far away to college (though my oldest ended up less than three hours away) or moving to another state one day, and I have to smile and encourage them even though I think to myself, what if you get sick?  What if you get hurt?  What about our monthly family days?  How will you join us?  What about birthdays, and holidays, and days we just want to go shopping?  What am I supposed to do without you?  So I have to remind myself that Ken and I have worked hard to nurture their roots but to also give them wings.

And then I look at them, these beautiful young women who come to me with their problems, who text or call me just to tell me they aced a test, or didn’t, who smile when they get out of school and grudgingly answer the questions they claim to be so tired of me asking.  I look at these young women and I know, they are my daughters, my lifelines, and my friends.  So while I’ve always been told, “be their parent, not their friend,” I will continue to listen to their idle chatter, and dry their heartbreaking tears, and sing with them at the top of our lungs as we drive to school.  And I will lay down the law when necessary.  Perhaps I will look back and think about what a better mother I could have been if I had been stricter with them and drawn more of a line between mother and friend, but my girls seem to be happy, healthy, and excelling in school and life, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. You may follow Amy at on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site