6 Ways Friends are Like Wine

DSC04828I have had many friends over the course of my life, some loyal and true, others only after their own gain.  I’ve learned the hard way whom to trust and how to make friendships that last.  I’ve watched my three daughters go through ups and downs with friends as they progress through the various stages of life, each stage with its own set of criteria for relationships.  I’ve made mistakes in choosing friends and in properly being a friend, and I try to impart whatever wisdom I have gained on my children and their own circle of companions.

Over the past year, while doing research for my upcoming novel, Whispering Vines (Summer, 2016), I have had the great pleasure of learning about wine.  I have been a lover of wine since childhood when my grandfather, an amateur vintner, allowed me the first taste of each bottle he opened (ooops, sorry Mom!).  Even in my youth, I could tell a good wine from a bad one.  I’ve not always been that smart with friendships.  However, much like my taste in wine, my knowledge about friendship has matured.  Here is what I have learned.

1.  All good things are carefully cultivated.

A good wine is cultivated and harvested by hand.  There are many reasons for this.  It ensures that each grape is perfect, is at just the right stage of ripeness, and will not spoil the rest of the batch.  Have you noticed lately that wines are getting harder to drink?  Headaches come more frequently, and the alcohol goes to your head much faster.  No, it’s not age, it’s the wine content.  Wine has become such a huge industry that giant producers bottle more wine than they can sell.  In order to not lose money, they add sulfates and sulfites and even more alcohol.  This preserves the wine longer and causes you, the unsuspecting imbiber, to drink more wine.  After all, once the alcohol hits you, you crave more.  This is why I seek imported, lesser known vintages where the harvest and cultivation is done by hand and based on quality, not quantity.

Friends should be chosen the same way.  Quality is much more important than quantity.  Does the most popular person in the room truly have loyal and trustworthy confidants?  Have they been chosen wisely?  One bad friend can spoil the entire bunch.  Harvest your friendships and cultivate them.  Attend to them with care, striving for the best friends, not the most friends.

2. Time Matters

It has always been said that wine is better with age.  However, that is not really true.  The best wines are the freshest wines.  Leaving a bottle in your cellar to age doesn’t improve the wine.  It actually causes it to become heavy and bitter, soiled with deposits that lie at the bottom and then end up in your glass when you pour.  No, the aging of wine is part of the process.  Wines that are meant for aging are chosen by the vintner, not the consumer.  They are aged in barrels, not in bottles, and they are sold when the time is right for drinking.

Good friends are like good, aged wine.  They are kept in a special place, perhaps in your heart, held onto and cherished, and brought out when you need them most.  They are not neglected nor forgotten.  On the contrary, you always know they are there, and they know the same about you.  I am very blessed to have a friend who has been there for me since the 2nd grade.  We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we treat it as something special.  Our friendship has aged, and we know that when the time is right, we can pour out ourselves for each other.  Cheers to you, Cindy!

3. The perfect vintage doesn’t happen often

Everyone has heard someone remark about a certain wine, “That was a good year,” or “That was a good vintage.”  There are simply some years that are better than others.  This is due to a combination of reasons, mostly climate-related, that create the perfect harvest – grapes that have just the right amount of sugar, water, and plumpness.  Those are the years that truly matter when it comes to wine making.

There are times in our lives when we are blessed with better friendships.  College friends tend to be better than middle or high school friends.  Friends made during child-bearing years can last for the rest of your life.  I’ve found that friends made during spiritual highs can become the friends who will last a lifetime.  There are stages in our lives when we have the ability to meet just the right people.  When that happens, I call it divine intervention. The friendships I developed as a young wife and mother are the strongest ones I have.  I raise a glass to you, Anne and Debbie.  And the friendships I have made through my faith journey are the ones that ground me.  Those are the people I go to for prayer, guidance, support.  There are too many to name, my Bible study group and my fellow pilgrims among them.  God has brought you all into my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

4. Blends are Best

I am partial to Italian wines, particularly to Amarone, a blend of red grapes which make the wine dry and robust.  Three different varieties of grapes are used to make this award winning wine, and the prize is well deserved.  Those who produce this variety of wine know that it takes more than one kind of grape to make a good wine.

Thus it takes more than one kind of friend to make a good friendship.  Every person I count as a friend is different.  They are from various backgrounds, live in a myriad of cities around the country (even around the world).  They have their own interests and even contrasting lives.  Yet they all blend together to make me who I am.  Each has touched me in some way that has made me, I hope, a better person.

5. Taste changes with age.

In my younger years, I was partial to any wine that was sweet and fruity.  Strawberry and plum were favorites, perhaps a throwback to Granddad’s homemade varieties.  I loved any wine that was pink.  Over the years, my tastes leaned toward less fruity, dryer whites, a good German Riesling or an Italian Pino Grigio.  Today, I prefer Amarone or Chianti, rich and very dry reds.  As I have matured, so has my taste in wine.

The same can be said when it comes to making friends.  For most young people, the goal is to be friends with the “in” crowd.  As we age, we realize that we are much more discerning about whom we allow into our inner circle.  When young, we have many friends and almost no acquaintances.  They’re a friend, or they’re not.  I have found that middle school girls are pros when it comes to distinguishing between “friends” and “non-friends,” though their criteria for making these determinations is far from perfect.  As an adult, I have come to realize that I have many friends, but my reasons for seeking out certain individuals has changed greatly. Again, as I have matured, so has my ability to choose friends.

6. How it makes you feel is what counts.

So what’s the best way to choose a wine or decide what your preference is?  By taking a step back and seeing how that wine makes you feel.  Does the very bouquet make your head spin when you take that first sniff?  Do your toes curl as it slides down your throat?  Does it make your food taste better?  And how do you feel after a glass or two, or in the morning when you wake up?  Choose your wine based on what makes you feel good, what it adds to your life.

Do the same with your friends.  Choose wisely.  Do you happily anticipate seeing them, talking to them, spending time with them?  Do they make whatever you’re doing even better just by their presence?  Do you still feel the same about them the next day?  Do they add something good to your life, make you feel better about yourself, encourage you, support you, build you up?  Would you pair them with your family, your favorite movie, your husband?

And remember, a good friend should enhance your life just as a good glass of wine should enhance your meal.  Make good friends, but more importantly, be a good friend. Be the friend you want to have.  Your own kindness, compassion, loyalty, and attentiveness will come back to you.  And it’s never too late to start.  At Cana, the headwaiter remarked, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Be the good wine for others.  Your life will be sweeter in the long run.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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.

Amy’s books:   Crabbing With Granddad (2013),  A Place to Call Home (2014),  Picture Me (2015)

Amy Schisler, shares her secrets for writing a 5 star novel – April 30, 2016 01:00AM Wicomico Public Library, Wicomico, MD, US http://wicomicolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventI… 

Carroll County Public Library Author Panel  – May 01, 2016 02:00AM  Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 50 East Main Street, Westminster, MD, US http://library.carr.org/about/westminster.asp# 

Taming My Inner Raccoon

DSC08240Earlier today, I saw something that said “Keeping your mouth shut is the hardest thing in the world when you know something needs to be said.”  I could have this tattooed on my arm and still not pay any attention to it.  All of my life I have felt compelled to speak up when I shouldn’t.  Does it really matter if someone is wrong when they are never going to see the truth for themselves?  Will it truly help me or anyone in my family if I speak up when the best course of action is standing down?  Do I really think I can win an argument with someone who has no common sense or will never see the forest for the trees?  Somehow, in my mind, the answer always seems to be yes.

For Lent, one of the things I am working on is letting God dictate all of my words, or lack thereof; but that is so, so hard.  A few weeks ago, I watched helplessly as our four-year-old mutt, Rosie, tried to reason with a rabid raccoon.  No matter how hard I screamed or how many things I threw at them in an effort to distract them, neither animal would accept the fact that the other was not going to back down.  I’m pretty sure that I’ve witnessed that fight more times than I’d like to admit, and I’m the one who was ignoring that voice screaming at me to let it go and back away before I or someone I love gets hurt.  Side note here – it has been 4 weeks, and so far so good for Rosie.

I’m not sure how many times I’ve had to remove a Facebook post or apologize for something said when I should have just smiled and moved on.  I blame my father.  That’s not to say that he did anything wrong or taught me to be disrespectful.  On the contrary, he taught me to stand up for myself and for what I believe.  Sometimes, I just go a little too far in espousing my beliefs or convictions (he tried to teach me when to let go, too, but I didn’t learn that lesson).  For the most part, I’m pretty good at letting things slide, but when it comes to my family, oh my, I’m much more like that raccoon than I like to admit.  Isn’t there an old saying about coming between a mother bear and her cubs?  Mother bear could take lessons from me, and to be honest, that’s not something I’m proud of.

So I’m trying my best to sit back and let things go for the next 40 days or so.  If I’m lucky, my Lenten practice will become my norm.  On the other hand, I might end up with a lot of pent up arguments that will be bursting to be set free.  I think it’s going to be a long 40 days….

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Strangers in a Strange Land

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Our Group of Pilgrims
It was early when we gathered, strangers in a strange land, having flown through the night and disembarked bleary-eyed, yet ready for adventure. A few people spoke; many smiled and nodded in acknowledgement. We shared a purpose, the same excitement and expectations, but were strangers nonetheless. With suitcases in hand, we boarded our assigned buses, most of us now having met three or four others. What would this week bring? How would we get along? How would this land of Moses change us?

It changed us in ways none of us could quite guess as of yet. We met our guides and watched eagerly as they pointed to landmarks on the landscape. Galilee is green. Did you know that? It is fertile and pleasant, even in the month of February. A cautious camaraderie formed during the first lunch, each person feeling out the others. Thank Heaven for Facebook, the genius of modern communication that allowed us to identify our fellow travelers and make small talk.

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Ken and I renewing our vows
Each day brought new things to see and places to go. Our first major site was the Church of the Annunciation, and we all left with high hopes and renewed zeal for the coming days.  “How can it get any better than this?” We thought when Father Darryl reminded us that “the Word was made flesh, here.”  But it did. That afternoon, we visited Cana where many of us renewed our wedding vows. While there was not a dry eye in the church, there were many laughs accompanied by food and dance at the “reception” that evening.

 

 

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The Sea of Galilee
In Mark 4: 35-41, the winds whipped across the Sea of Galilee. For us, they were calm when day two ushered in a boat ride for the one-hundred pilgrims who were talking, praying, and taking pictures with traveling companions. A moment of raw emotion took me by surprise when a fellow pilgrim stopped me to tell me that, in my smile, she had seen the face of her dear friend, who had recently passed. That is a moment I will never forget. A connection was made, and, I hope, perhaps a healing had begun. Later that day, we walked through the Valley of the Doves, literally following the footsteps of Jesus. It was unforgettable.

 

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The holy place of Peter’s Primacy
Ken was moved to tears at the Church of the Transfiguration, and we continued on our journey toward Jerusalem, stopping at Jericho for lunch. The sound of the call to prayer filled the Muslim dominated town as we ate and talked, each person learning more about our new friends. A visit to the seashore to recall the Lord’s command to Peter to shepherd His flock, left us all hearing the question, “Do you love me? Feed my sheep.”

 

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The star marking the spot of Jesus’ birth
The next morning found us in Bethlehem where the true purpose of our trip began to
settle in. Though under construction, the Church of the Nativity loomed large and glorious before us. Kneeling before the place, where once laid a newborn King, was humbling for all of us. In Shepherd’s Field, we imagined what it must have been like when the light of a mystical star shone overhead, beckoning the shepherds from the cave to be greeted by a heavenly host of angels.

 

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Garden of Gethsemane
On Friday, we stood in the chapel at Pater Noster and held hands as we prayed the words the Lord prayed on the ground where the Apostles first learned the prayer. To describe my emotions would be inadequate as mere words cannot express what that felt like. It was as if the Lord stood in our midst. But the best was yet to come as that day gave way to one emotional moment after another. Walking the Palm Sunday path, we found ourselves descending the Mount of Olives and entering the Garden of Gethsemane. Our guide shared with us his personal belief that Jesus’ prayer that this cup be passed was not a moment of weakness and fear of the coming pain of crucifixion, but of the coming pain of the kiss, the betrayal by one He loved. Never again will I think of that Biblical scene without recalling that thought.

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Strangers no more
From there, we entered the Upper Room, the approximation of where the Lord and His disciples shared the Last Supper. It was during Mass on this hallowed ground that I watched, during the handshake of peace, as each person in the room hugged, kissed, and greeted each other by name, all pretenses gone. No more strangers. At that moment, we all felt it. We were among true friends.

 

 

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The tomb of Christ
The culmination of the trip took place at sunrise on Saturday morning. As the glow of the candles danced on the marble, and the Franciscan Monks sang the High Mass, Father Darryl celebrated the most unforgettable Mass of my life. To stand before the tomb of the risen Lord and partake in His meal of everlasting life, while doves sat in the church’s recesses above our heads, was too surreal to imagine. I tried to sing, tried to utter the prayers I had been hearing and saying all of my life, but the conflicting combination of sadness and joy were overwhelming. To lay my head on the Lord’s tomb, and then to kneel at Calvary, was almost too much to take in all at once. As Jesus did, we wept.

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Along the Via Delarosa
I will never forget the Via Delarosa, the walk through the streets of Jerusalem while praying the Stations of the Cross. As tourists and other pilgrims watched our group, and those used to such events went on with their daily lives, we traced the steps of our Lord from Pilate’s Praetorian to Calvary. The day was filed with more emotion than I’m sure any of us knew we were capable of.  Before heading to the airport on Sunday, Ken and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to walk back down to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher once again. This time, we were alone, no crowd of one-hundred, whispering and waiting their turn to spend just a few seconds at the empty tomb. With just ten people in front of us, we waited in line until it was time to say our final prayers at the site of the Resurrection. We savored the moment, knowing that this might be the one and only time in our lives that we would be able to visit this land of holiness and turmoil.

 

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A group of friends at our farewell dinner
When we finished our last dinner together, later that evening, the tears began to flow. Our lives had been changed forever. We were now fishers of men, charged with the task of returning to our homes and loved ones and sharing with them all that we had seen and heard. Unlike the first time we gathered at the airport, this time there was laughter, a final toast, sharing of memories, and plans to see each other again. No longer strangers in a strange land, I believe we all felt as if we had come home, and in doing so, met the family we never knew we had.

 

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is due out in the summer of 2016.

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.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Reflections

 

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This evening, I had the pleasure of witnessing the reflection of the setting sun on the Sea of Galilee. It was a dream come true for me, and as I watched the sun sinking deeper toward the water, I thought about the reflection it was casting and the reflection that I cast in my daily life. Each of us has two reflections. We all see the reflection that greets us when we stand in front of a mirror, looking both our best and our worst, always trying to fix this piece of hair or that streak of makeup. But there is a reflection that we cast which is only seen by the outside world. I can’t help but wonder what I would see if I saw my reflection the way others do.

If I were to gaze upon my own self, through the eyes of another, would I see the person I see in my mirror, or someone I wouldn’t recognize at all?  Do I treat others the way I treat myself in the mirror?  Do I smile at them? Am I caring and compassionate? Do I always try to put the needs of others before my own? Do others see my flaws and recognize that I’m trying to fix them, or do they see those things I’m trying to hide – the me that is far from perfect, my impatience, the way I sometimes cast my own judgement on others, my arrogance?

To be honest, I don’t spend a lot of time in front of my mirror. I don’t wear makeup, and my hair does what it does. It’s pretty hopeless to spend more than a few minutes on it. So I don’t think, too often, about what my reflection looks like. I wonder if that’s because I should be thinking more about that other reflection. What do I really want the world to see? Am I more concerned with the image I want to project or the image I should be showing? It’s something I plan on thinking about more.

The sun casts a reflection on the water, and what we see is the picture on the surface. But under the surface, the rays of the sun reach into the depths, the light creating beams and shadows, helping to create life and dispel darkness as far as they can extend. I need to be more like the sun, showing a reflection that’s more than skin deep, that reaches out to others, sustains life and hope, and dispels darkness and despair. I will never walk on water like Christ did on the Sea of Galilee, but I can be a reflection of Him if I am only willing to try.

Amy Schisler is an author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages who lives with husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. 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.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)