The Agony of the College Search

 Katie, my high school junior, and I have spent the past two days touring four different colleges (with Morgan in tow). A couple weeks ago, we visited one school, and this weekend we will visit another. I’m not sure what takes a worse beating, my pounding head, my exhausted body, or my aching feet. Searching for the perfect college is not for the faint of heart.

When I set out to choose a school, over 25 years ago, I had no idea where to begin. My parents had not gone to college (shout out to Mom who never gave up on getting her degree after becoming a busy mom). As a student at a rather large high school, I didn’t find the guidance department particularly helpful. It was all a guessing game, so I did my best to guess what the right fit would be for me. I failed miserably. I did no visits, conducted no research, and made no comparisons. I chose a school from a catalog at school, applied, received a full scholarship, and signed on the dotted line. Within the first month of school, I knew I had made a huge mistake. At the end of the year, I transferred to the school where one of my best friends attended. It was a good experience, and I graduated with honors; but looking back, I’m sure it would not have been my school of choice had I done things the right way.

Fast forward 20 years to when our oldest was beginning the college search. After convincing her to narrow her list of “top choices” from 27 to 9, we began our rounds. My husband didn’t understand why we were spending so much time and money traveling from one college to the next (after all, he pretty much did the same kind of college search I did, and his experience was great). But I knew that Rebecca was a lot like me, and that she needed to find the perfect niche. I also knew that if she ended up transferring, the world would not come to an end. Luckily for all of us, she has never been happier in her life. She made the right choice, and her future looks bright.  

So back to Katie. Five down, and one to go. So far, she has a top choice, a backup, and a reach school. She hopes that this weekend’s visit will produce a solid second choice so that she can start focusing on what matters most to her – meeting the tennis coach and establishing a place on the team. She has made notes – “great food and lots of coffee bars,” “spacious dorm rooms,” “close proximity between dorms and tennis courts.” Once she knew that her major and area of interest were covered, she started concentrating on the logistics of life of campus. Wherever she goes, I just want her to be happy.

At least I feel slightly ahead of the game for the next time around. Morgan, now in 9th grade, has fallen in love with two of the schools we toured. Both have pre-med, so that’s a good start. Maybe if I’m lucky, she will have her school before we get to this point two years from now. And I will be able to add to my resume “Professional College Finder.”

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 now available for pre-order.

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)

An Instrument of Peace

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“Weep not for me; but weep for yourselves and for your children” (Luke 23:28).  Those words have been haunting me for the past 24 hours.  I hear them in the silence.  I see them being said when I close my eyes.  To whom were these words directed?  What do they mean?  Of course, they were being said to the women of Jerusalem who wept for Jesus along the Way of Sorrows; but they were directed, not only to those women, but to all future generations, to all of us.  Many of us worry about our futures, about our children, and about this world.  What will happen?  What can we do?  Those questions lead me to another familiar set of words that are perhaps more important to keep in mind: “Make me a channel of your peace” (Prayer of St. Francis).  I realize it takes more than just one person to make a change in this world as big as the one we need, but didn’t it also take just one person to start the ball rolling towards violence and hate?  Every road to hate begins with just one person, one remark made from a high office, from a protest march, from a political stage, even from an altar.  Once one person begins spewing hate and destruction, isn’t it just one small step for others to jump on the bandwagon?  And no matter how many voices are shouting in hate, it only takes one person to carry it out.  It took one person to assassinate Lincoln, one person to assassinate Kennedy, one person to assassinate Martin Luther King Jr, one person to shoot Ronald Reagan.  So why can’t it take just one person to begin the journey toward peace?

We are raising our children in a world filled with hate.  This hate is not being bred.  People are not born evil; they become evil, often due to the people and circumstances around them.  There is no “evil gene,” no “hate gene.” Every person, event, book, movie, experience that a person has, shapes the person they become.  What are we teaching our children when we talk about others, mock others, put others down?  What are we teaching our children when we turn our backs on those in need?  What are we teaching our children when we act like we are better, know more, deserve more than other people?  In the same vein, what are we teaching our children when we hand them everything and make them work for nothing, when we don’t teach them what it is to value someone or something?  When are we going to realize that everybody around us watches everything we do and listens to everything we say?  When are we going to realize that each one of us has the ability to make an impact on somebody else, both good and bad?

As we enter the holiest time of the year in the Christian calendar, let us all remember that each one of us has the ability to rise above our station.  Each one of us is capable of being a good example, of lending a helping hand, of biting our tongue, of bringing peace and calm to a situation.  Each one of us is made in the image and likeness of God and can move past our human weaknesses if we are open to the Spirit.  Each one of us commits sin and carries his or her own cross but is worthy of forgiveness and the rise to Glory.  So no matter how badly the world is falling apart around you, smile, be kind, offer words of encouragement and love, and bring light to a world that every day seems to be more filled with darkness.

St Francis

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 now available for pre-order.

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)

The 6 Things You Are Doing That Limit Your Happiness

DSC_1859I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right.  If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy.  It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy.  Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy.  That is up to each of us as individuals.  And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day.  Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong.

1.  Allowing others to dictate your mood. Nobody can make you unhappy but you.  I tell my children this all the time.  Others can criticize you, put you down, attempt to take away your self-esteem or lessen your accomplishments; but at the end of the day, you are the one who lives with your choices, your beliefs, the person you are or are becoming.  Only you can determine how you should feel, and only you can take the reins and make your life be what you want it to be.

           After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”*

2.  Letting failure get the best of you.  You’re never going to be perfect.  That role belongs to only one being, and He doesn’t expect you to be perfect; but He does expect you to try to be.  So what if you failed at something.  Are you going to let that be the end of life as you know it?  Stick that chin out, roll up your sleeves, and try again.

Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times while trying to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”*

3.  Not appreciating what you have.  Do you have a roof over your head?  Do you have food on your table, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet?  Then what are you complaining about?  There are many people in the world who are far worse off than you are, but they are able to find happiness.  How?  By appreciating what they have and not what they lack.  We aren’t supposed to get everything we desire in life, or there would never be anything to strive for, hope for , look forward to.  Enjoy what you have without complaining about what you don’t have, and you will find that what you have will increase tenfold.

 

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey**

4.  Letting worries win.  I am willing to bet money that the happiest people you know are the ones who worry the least.  They know that life has a way of working things out.  Personally, I believe that God will do my worrying for me.  Remember the saying, “Live and let God.”  Whether you believe in a divine presence or not, you will be a happier person if you do not dwell on worry. Some things in life are out of our control.  Don’t try to control them.  They will only end up controlling you.

“There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”  Pope Francis***

5.  Not allowing yourself to catch the joy of others.  Embrace other peoples’ happiness.  So you’re not having a good day, or a good experience.  Is that any reason to bring others down or to not try to lift yourself up?  Share in the joy of others.  Allow their joy, their inner peace, to enter your life.  Someday you will regret the time you spent alone nursing your wounds, continuing to make yourself unhappy; but you will never regret the time you spent enjoying life with friends and family and seeking joy.

“To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”  Roger Ebert****

6.  Ignoring the golden rule.  To enjoy true happiness, you must create happiness and share it with others.  Smile, and others will smile back.  Hold the door for someone, and they will hold it for someone else.  Speak kindly to those around you, and they will speak kindly in return.  No further explanation is needed.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Luke 6:31

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:39

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Mahatma Gandhi

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)

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*http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html
**http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/40-inspiring-motivational-quotes-about-gratitude.html
***http://www.aggiecatholicblog.org/2015/01/top-75-pope-francis-quotes/
****http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/joy_3.html

Avoiding the Thorns

DSC08689Recently, I visited the Holy Lands and made the Palm Sunday walk down the Mount of Olives. One of our stops along the route was Dominus Flevit, where Jesus wept for Jerusalem. On that hillside were thorn trees that are believed to have been the same type of thorns used to crown Jesus at the beginning of His passion. The size and thickness of those thorns was staggering, and the vision has not left me. In fact, I have been almost fixated on those thorns for weeks now, and I think I have finally figured out why.

For years, I pictured those thorns the same way most of us probably pictured them, like thorns from a rose bush or a blackberry bush. Those annoying, little thorns that catch on your clothes as you walk by, and prick your finger when you try to cut off a rose or gather a bucket of berries. Never had I imagined the thorns as anything other than small nuisances. Yes, they were sharp, and yes, they would have drawn blood and caused pain, but in comparison to everything else that Jesus went through, were they really all that bad? Was I ever wrong about that! I can barely stomach the thought of those long, thick, sharp-as-a-spear thorns digging into Jesus’ scalp, his forehead, his skull. But that’s not the worst of it, not at all the reason why I can’t let the image go.

You see, I’ve gone through my entire life brushing away the small, annoying thorns. I’d prick my finger, wipe away the blood, and move on. I never looked back to see if, perhaps, the thorns were bigger than I imagined, the damage done, more than I intended. Were those words I said really just insignificant, skin-deep pricks, or punctures that were deep enough to cut into someone’s soul? Were my broken promises like little, thorny sticks cast into the wind, or did they rip through things unseen by me as I moved through my life without looking back to assess what I had left undone? Have I held my friends and loved ones gently, avoiding any hurt I might cause them, or did I grab in haste whatever I wanted without giving thought to others, tearing away the proverbial flesh of the ones I loved the most?

The thorns of the Ziziphus Spina-christi tree will always be a reminder to me that few things in life are as small or insignificant as we imagine them to be. Sometimes, what we think of as the smallest sins are actually the large thorns that tear into our souls and separate us from the Creator. As I watch the news and see the horrible things being said by candidates of both parties, I feel the dig of the thorns. As I listen to the way we all speak to each other with blatant disregard for feelings, I feel the punctures to my heart. As I recount all of the times I haven’t been there for others in need and think about all of those throughout the world in need of food, shelter, and peace who are receiving little or no comfort, I feel the piercing of my soul. Can others see the blood as it runs down the faces of those being cut by the thorns we all crown them with? Are these the images that Jesus sees when He looks down into the world? Does He still weep?

I pray that we all are able to realize just how deep those cuts go. Nothing is insignificant. We must all try to walk through life avoiding the thorns before the damage we do is irreversible, the wounds too deep to heal.

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)

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Why It’s OKAY To Be Friends With Your Kids

DSC08130Yesterday I saw yet another article about why parents should not be friends with their kids.  I see memes all the time warning parents about this, and it seems that every magazine, parenting blog site, and advice column rails against the pitfalls of being your child’s friend.  While I do understand where they are coming from, I have to respectfully disagree.  You see, I am living proof that it’s not only possible but beneficial for parents and children to be friends, even best friends.

Parents are our first playmates.  They teach us to play peek-a-boo and patty cake.  They show us how to build block towers and sand castles.  My mother used to play Barbies with me, color with me, ride bikes with me.  When I was in middle school, we took tennis lessons together, and in high school, we took aerobics.  When my mother went on ladies’ weekends with her girlfriends, she didn’t leave me behind in a house full of men; I went, too.  There was no Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Dyer.  They were Debbie and Shannon.  And I wasn’t “Judy’s daughter.”  I was just one of the gals.  We went to historical sites, shopping outlets, and the beach.  There wasn’t drinking or going to bars.  These were ladies and acted as such, and I saw this and learned from it.

I knew kids in high school whose parents allowed them to have parties with alcohol.  The parents not only condoned it, but some even participated in the drinking and partying.  Those were not parents who were being friends with their children.  They were simply being children themselves.  Nothing like that would have taken place in my house, ever.  We had family game night, family movie night, and family vacations.  We had fun.  But my parents knew where to draw the line.  My mother was my friend.  She was always there.  She was our troop leader, team mom, classroom volunteer (and yes, she worked – part-time when we were young and full-time when we were older).  I knew I could always count on her for advice, comfort, and yes, fun, but I also knew that she was my mom.  There were lines I could not cross, and lines she would not cross.  She was the rule-maker, the game-changer, the one in charge.  There was never any confusion or doubt.  Mom was Mom, but she knew how to be a friend (and credit to Dad, too, who always kept us laughing but was also truly a dad).

Today, my Mom is the first person I call for advice, the first person I call when something good happens, the person I want to talk to when something bad happens.  We tell each other everything, go on trips together, and celebrate every special occasion together, no matter how small.  Throughout my life, friends have come and gone, some I don’t see or talk to for days, even weeks or months.  But my mother has always been there.  I talk to her every day, sometimes several times a day.  It wasn’t a friendship that developed as I grew older.  It was a friendship that my mother nurtured from the day I was born.

In our house, I am the troop leader, the team mom, the classroom volunteer.  I am the shoulder my girls cry on, and even the shoulder that their friends sometimes cry on.  We are the sleepover house, the party house, the snowed-in house.  And everyone who comes here knows that it is a safe place – there will be no drinking, no boy-girl sleepovers, no inappropriate movies or behaviors.  But there will be fun.  Because everyone who lives or comes into this house is family, and we are all friends.  When Katie Ann told me recently that I am her best friend, I knew she didn’t mean that I was a party buddy or someone who would condone every bad move she makes.  I knew that she meant that I was the one she could count on to be there for her, good and bad, and tell her like it is, whether she wants to hear it or not.  When Morgan’s friends marvel that she has no secrets from me, she understands that having no secrets also means that I get to reprimand her when she is wrong and punish her when she does something of which I don’t approve.  As Rebecca recuperates on our couch this week after oral surgery, she knows that I’m going to boss her around and make her follow the doctor’s orders so that she fully recovers because that’s what moms do. And she also knows that no matter how tired I am, I will stay up past my bedtime to watch another movie with her because that’s what friends do.

I will never feel bad for being friends with my girls.  They know when I am Mom and when I can be their friend.  As with my mother, there are lines that are not crossed.  But they also know that I will be there for them, the only true best friend they will ever have, from the day they were born through all eternity.  I should know.  I have my own best friend to prove it.

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)

Events:  April 30, 2016 01:00AM, Wicomico Public Library, Salisbury, MD, US  http://wicomicolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventI… 

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#