“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.