Unmasked

3 Apr 9, 2013 1-12 PMHalloween is upon us.  That time of year when everyone dons a mask and tries to be someone they’re not.  But let’s be honest here, don’t you sometimes feel like every day is Halloween?  Everywhere I look, I see people trying to fit in with those around them.  Whether it’s high school girls with lots of makeup and matching outfits trying to look and act like the “popular crowd” or middle-aged men and women trying to look or act like teenagers, I often wonder why everyone always tries to be someone they aren’t.

How many times have we seen movies where, at some point, the male lead takes off the glasses of the female lead, lets her hair down, and tells her she’s beautiful?  Do we all swoon because he’s finally seeing how beautiful she is without her glasses?  No!  We swoon because he finally recognizes how someone so different from everyone else, someone not trying to conform, is the most beautiful girl of all.  He sees her for who she is, inside and out, and he realizes that in spite of her being a nerd, or shy, or even crossed-eyed, she’s the one he’s in love with!  Let’s face it, it’s not every girl’s fantasy to be loved because she is just like everyone else.  We want to be loved because we are who we are, and that’s good enough, in fact, better than good enough – it’s perfect. Look at one of the most popular entertainment genres out there – the musical.  Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Footloose, Flashdance, Frozen, Matilda, even The Sound of Music – they all have one message in common – Be who you are, embrace it, show it to the world, and live the life you were born to live.

I was ridiculed a lot in high school by my peers for standing out, for dressing my own way, for being a little too loud and a little too peppy.  I had gone through all those years of elementary and middle school hiding behind the popular girls, and I was determined not to do that in high school.  No matter what, I was going to be myself, popularity be damned.  Here’s what I learned: yes, there were girls who hated me and boys who were annoyed by me, but I didn’t care, and in the end, it didn’t matter.  I was never “in” the popular crowd, but I was friends with them, along with every other group in school.  I never felt the need to fit in with anyone, and it turned out that I fit in with everyone.  And really, that’s the way it should be.  After all, as everyone under the age of 50 understands, “each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”  It’s when we stop hiding all of the facets of who we are that we are able to show the real person who lies beneath the mask.

There’s an old adage that the least popular kids in high school are the most eligible ones twenty years down the line.  So here’s my advice to the world, for what it’s worth.  Be yourself now.  Why wait?  Don’t worry about what others will say or think, just be the best you that you can be.  Take off your mask, and be proud of who you are.  Life is too short to live in someone else’s shoes, or their costume.

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.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

Unbound

DSC05175Standing in the Academia Museum in Florence, Italy, in all his glory, is Michelangelo’s David.  Said to be the perfect depiction of the human body, this sculpture is visited by approximately 3 million people each year.  But just around the corner from the statue of the perfect body stand Michelangelo’s non-finito sculptures, the Slaves.  For many years, it was thought that these four pieces of marble were simply unfinished works, but many scholars now believe that the great master purposely left them the way they are to portray man’s struggle to break free of his bondage – perhaps his own internal or perceived shortcomings. slaves-bearded-atlas-760x6422

The other day, as I was getting into the shower, I caught a glimpse of myself in the mirror.  As usual, I started thinking about how inadequate my body is with its scars and rolls, far from the perfection sought by the great masters or by society.  Then it hit me.  The scar that runs along my lower abdomen represents the 3 beautiful children I brought into this world.  Without that scar, there would not be Rebecca, Katie, or Morgan.  Those rolls, that I work so hard to get rid of, are a result of a combined twenty-seven months of carrying my children.  The lines and shadows on my face trace the many joys and tears of a good life.

slaves-awakening-young-760x628I worry about my girls and how they see themselves in this world
where girls are expected to be pencil thin and have perfect, unblemished bodies.  I’m pretty sure that when the Bible said that God created us in His image, it didn’t mean that God looks like Channing Tatum or Naomi Campbell, so why are those the types of bodies that we all worship? Do three million people stand agape in front of the David because they recognize the bodily perfection or because they are seeking it and can’t find it in the real world?  Is there truly a “perfect” body?

What have we done to our youth?  Most girls and young women don’t have childbirth scars, wrinkles, and the like, yet everyone expects them to have absolute perfect bodies no matter their genetic makeup or body type.  We actually had a doctor prescribe dieting and extra workouts for a child who is a year-round athlete and eats nothing but healthy food.  I don’t know whether to worry about her becoming overweight or spiraling into bulimia.  The idea that all girls should look like a Kardashian is ridiculous.  And we mothers, grandmothers, big sisters, and aunts – in fact, all women –  need to stop contributing to that fallacy.  Being healthy is good, being overly conscious about our weight and bodies is not.  Stop talking about being “fat,” and posting memes on Facebook with complaints about your body, and most of all, stop putting down other women for the way they look.  Let’s rejoice in who we are and we have to offer this world.  slaves-bearded-atlas-760x642

When I look at my friends who have multiple children, I see true beauty, inside and out.  When I look at my friend who suffered from anorexia, I see someone who is brave and strong and can do anything she puts her mind to.  When I see girls trying their hardest on the field or in the classroom, I see young women learning where and how they belong in this world.  When I see girls scantily dressed, showing off body parts that should only be seen in the shower, I wonder what they will do someday when faced with body fat, wrinkles, age spots.  How will they adapt?  Do they not know that their bodies will only look like that for a short time and that there is so much more that they can and should be proud of?

So I ask each of you females to make a pledge today to become unbound.  Stop complaining about the way you look.  You are beautiful.  And if you don’t like it, change it, but do it right. Let your daughters or those other young women in your life who look up to you see that you like yourself and that you are living a healthy lifestyle, looking out for your body’s best interests but not trying to be something that society says you have to be.  Do it for you, not because you think someone else believes that you should look a certain way.  And point out the good in the women you know, not their flaws.

slaves-awakening-young-760x6282I ask each of you males – husbands, boyfriends, fathers – tell the females in your life that you love them just the way they are.  Don’t just tell them that they are beautiful because beauty is fleeting and subjective, and eventually, they won’t believe you anymore.  Find the very best things in them and help to make those parts shine for the world to see.  We must get past the superficial and start appreciating each other for who we are and what we have to give.

There are very few Davids in this world, but there are many Slaves.  We are all slaves to our bodies, to the demands of society, to the inner voice that tells us we aren’t good enough, pretty enough, sexy enough.  It’s time to break out of the marble that encases us and be slaves no more to the warped idea of perfection.  It’s okay to aim for perfection, but know that we are human, and humanity is far from perfect, unless of course, it’s carved in stone.  And I don’t know about you, but I’d much rather lie in bed next to a warm, soft, imperfect body than a cold, hard, perfectly chiseled piece of marble.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

Raising Adults

DSC07028No offense to any new moms out there, but you have it easy!  Those first few years of parenthood are both wonderful and exhausting.  Sleepless nights, changing diapers, choosing a preschool, putting them on the bus, teaching them to make friends, watching them make the wrong friends, helping with homework, cheering on the sidelines, cleaning scraped knees and wiping snotty noses and tear-stained faces are just some of the painful joys of parenthood.  But I have to be honest with you, looking back, it was actually quite easy to raise children.  It’s once they hit high school that everything changes because that’s when you realize that you are no longer raising children; you are raising adults.

I liked raising children so much better than raising adults.  I have such a hard time letting go.  It just seems so much easier for me to fill out forms, contact teachers, cry to (and about) coaches, and make the tough decisions for them.  I want so badly for them to advocate for themselves, but I can’t help myself!  I am always fighting the urge to step in, and I often lose the battle.  If you think that watching your child fall off a bike is hard, try watching them fall in love, fall into the wrong crowd, or fall on their faces literally and figuratively.  Being able to pick them up, cradle them in your lap, and kiss the hurt away is infinitely easier than mending a broken heart or being on the other side of the slammed door.  Being a guide and mentor would be easy if I didn’t want so much to be at the reins, controlling everything that happens in their lives.  As if I could have stopped that bike from falling…

Raising adults is a lot like raising puppies.  You discipline as best you can, hoping they understand that it’s out of love, you scold and yell to stop them from doing something harmful, you keep them on a short leash for as long as you can; but then you realize that there comes a day when you have to trust them, leave them alone, let them wander, and pray that when you or they return, nothing has been damaged beyond repair.  There will be accidents and incidents, and no matter how old they are, they will try your patience and make you so angry you see red, but deep down, you know that all they really want from you is your love and attention.

I still have a lot of learning and letting go to do.  It’s not an easy road, and there are many bends, dead ends, yields, and U-turns, but I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  My mother and I don’t always agree, and we had our share of arguments when I was becoming an adult, but there’s nobody in the world whom I love, respect, and enjoy spending time with more than her.  I can only hope and pray that I can be as lucky with my three girls.  Correction, my three young adults.  Loving them while letting them go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know that someday we will all reap the rewards.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

Be Not Afraid

My SSPP GirlsYesterday, some friends and I were talking about how hard it is raising children in today’s world.  As mothers, we all worry about our children.  Will they make the right decisions, meet the right people, find the right job, make it to school or work and back safely, be safe at school or work, survive to be an adult, a parent, a grandparent.  It’s a constant state of worry.  Worry like that can be crippling, immobilizing, even life-threatening.  So what’s a mother to do?

We all came to the same conclusion.  It’s not a perfect one, but it’s all we can do.  We have to hope for the best, put our trust in God, and love our children fiercely every day.  We can’t lock our children in a tower (that never works in Fairy Tales), and we can’t live our lives in constant fear, nor do we want to teach our children to live their lives in constant fear.  We want them and ourselves actually LIVING!  So we have no other choice but to teach them right and wrong, instill in them a solid set of values and morals, and pray for them every day.

Looking back, every single bad decision I’ve ever made in my life, whether as a child, a teen, or an adult, was made out of fear.  What if they don’t like me?  What if he won’t love me?  What if I don’t do that, say that, try that?  The question was always based in fear, and the decision was always disastrous, if not then, than later down the road.  However, every decision I ever made with confidence that it was the right thing to do, was made with complete trust – trust in friends, my loved ones, my husband, God.  And those decisions have never come back to haunt me.

Years ago, Ken and I were at a crossroads in our lives.  Our children were attending a school that they hated.  I had to forcibly put Katie on the bus every day and jump off as the bus driver closed the door while Katie cried and pounded on the windows.  She was eight years old, not a young child, and the knowledge that she was so unhappy was heart-breaking.  It was my first year staying at home and attempting to become a published author when Ken decided to leave his job.  The position had created so much stress for him that I feared for his health, but what would we do?  After a few months, our small savings was almost gone and we had three children to feed.  While we were talking over the situation one night, my husband had the craziest idea, and I mean crazy.  He said to me, “You’ve always wanted them in Catholic school, so maybe it’s time.”  I looked at him like he had lost his mind.  “We have no money, no jobs, and no way of knowing what our future holds, but you want to put all three girls into a private school thirty minutes from our home?”  He said yes.  But how?

We went to the school the very next day and talked over our situation with the principal.  She had known us for years from church and was thrilled that we wanted the girls there.  She was willing to take our applications and hold spots for them until we figured out what we were going to do.  It was March, so we had several months before school started, but we needed a plan, or even a sign.  When and how would we know what was the right decision?  We talked some more and decided that the best route to take was the one shown to us by God.  Ken had several interviews set up, so we said to God, “It’s all in your hands.”  If Ken was offered a job with a salary the same or lower than what he was making at his previous job, the girls would stay put, and we would somehow find a way to manage the situation.  If, however, Ken was making anything at all above his last salary, we would take that proverbial leap of faith.

I will never forget the day the call came.  It was May, school was almost out, our applications were on hold, and the girls were wondering where they would be that fall.  I was hanging clothes on the line in the backyard.  Drying inside the house was expensive and hot, so the air conditioning stayed off, and the clothes hung outside.  I had thrown our portable phone in the basket and had to dig through the wet clothes to find it when it started ringing.  “Call the school,” Ken announced with joy.  I was stunned.  He was in Boston, on his way to the airport after a job interview, and I had been waiting to hear how it went.  “They offered me my dream job.  We can stay in Maryland, and I can work at home.”  “And?” I asked.  “And the pay is what I was making plus to the penny, to the penny,” he emphasized, “exactly what we need to pay the tuition.”  I was overjoyed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls the good news.

We’ve been at Saints Peter and Paul for almost ten years now.  Rebecca graduated with honors and went on to a wonderful college.  Katie and Morgan have many friends and are receiving an outstanding education.  But even more important is that they are all happy.  Correction, we are all happy.  Who knows what would have happened if we had not taken that leap of faith and trusted in God.  “Be not afraid,” appears more times than any other phrase in the Bible.  The message is simple.  Whether or not we hear it can make all the difference in the world.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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