Finding The Way

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Several times in the past month, El Camino de Santiago has come up in conversation among my friends.  For those who are unfamiliar with it, El Camino is a pilgrimage route in Spain.  The Way of Saint James is a series of routes, predominantly taken on foot, along the Pyrenees and Asturias Mountains (though one can also take a route from Seville) leading to the Cathedral of Santiago de Compostela, the burial place of St. James the Apostle.  Every year, tens of thousands of pilgrims walk El Camino.  A few years ago, Martin Sheen and Emilio Estevez brought El Camino to the big Screen in the movie, The Way.  Ever since I first heard about it and subsequently saw the movie, I have wanted to walk it. 

Pilgrims must be in good shape and able to walk many miles with little food and no guarantee of shelter.  Though it started as a religious pilgrimage almost two-thousand years ago, El Camino is often traveled by adventure enthusiasts, nature lovers, and those seeking a respite from the hectic pace of today’s technology-infused world.  I can’t help but wonder whether or not snapchat fans would follow Adrian Ballinger and Cory Richards if they chose to make El Camino their next endeavor.  Perhaps some wouldn’t find it quite as exciting as a trip to the top of Everest without oxygen, but I would be glued to my phone watching them document their route across the French and Spanish border to Compostela.

I often say that there is only one thing on my bucket list.  There are many places in this world I would like to see and many things I still want to accomplish, but there is only one thing that I feel I must do before I am called to my eternal home.  Morgan will be in high school for three more years, and then we will have one in law school and two in college.  Ken wants to travel to Alaska when we become empty nesters, and I will happily go with him, but I know that will be just a pre-curser to my ultimate travel experience.  I am determined to follow The Way.

For those who can’t make it to Spain, two Dominican priests are planning on replicating the pilgrimage in the United States.  The route will take pilgrims from New Orleans to Memphis with stops at many churches along the path.  While I am intrigued by this and would happily join them, I would treat it as practice, a pilgrimage before The Pilgrimage, a way to prepare for what is to come.  For preparation is the key.  Stamina and good health must be taken into account, but I believe that there is much more to the preparation than the physical.  If I walk The Way, it will be for spiritual reasons.  It takes about a month to complete the trip, but I suspect it takes a lifetime to complete the journey.  Where am I on that journey?  Only God knows, but I’m pretty sure I have a long way to go, and The Way is just a step on that journey.

According to the web site for the movie, El Camino, “by its nature, serves as the ultimate metaphor for life.”  The well-trodden path serves as a guide, but we must make the journey our own.  We must find our own way.  As for me, I hope to someday find myself along El Camino.  I pray that it is just one of “the ways” by which I will make my final journey.

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)

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A Season for Changes

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.     Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

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We’ve all read the verses or at least heard the song.  Every school choir seems to sing it at some point.  It has been featured in movies and in books.  Many reflections have been written about the words attributed to Solomon (although the author is not actually identified).  But I believe there is a line that is missing, something that each of us experiences over and over throughout our lives – a time for change.

One could argue that every line in the passage is about change, and that is very true.  Birth and death bring change as do tearing down and building up.  Scattering and gathering can be catalysts for change as can seeking, losing, keeping, casting, rending, sewing, speaking, loving, etc.  We are faced with changes, both large and small, time and time again, every day.  I am reminded of this more and more each spring as graduation time is thrust upon us, whether we are ready or not.

My oldest, Rebecca, returned home from school yesterday after an emotional farewell to her roommates and her boyfriend who are graduating.  They are moving on to the next stage of their lives, catapulting change not only on themselves but those around them.  What will the future bring for them and for their loved ones?  We can only guess.  Jobs, graduate school, families, mortgages, and all that comes with moving into adulthood will now become reality for the Class of 2016.  At every level – high school, college, and beyond, commencement brings change.  Leaving home for the first time, leaving the comfort and safety of your school and friends, entering “the real world,” and saying goodbye are experienced by some for the very first time.  For parents, whether it is your first child or your last, letting go is often accompanied by great heartache.

Though Rebecca has another year to go in college, the reality of change has really hit me this week.  She will be entering her senior year at Mount St. Mary’s the same time that her sister, Katie, enters her senior year of high school.  While one is looking at colleges, the other is looking at her future and trying to decide what it will hold.  Both are eagerly planning and thinking about the next step while I hold my breath and close my eyes and still hear them cooing in their cribs, see them taking their first steps, feel them curled in my arms, so small and delicate and new.  How has time passed so quickly?  When did they get so big?  

I think journalist Sydney Harris summed it up best when he said, “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”  We know that change is good and that with each change, we grow as a person and experience life more deeply, but we long for things to stay the same or to return to a time in the past.  At least, I know I do.  I have loved every minute of being a mom.  I have laughed and cried at every stage of my daughters’ lives, and I know I will continue to do so as they leave home, go to school, get jobs, marry, have children, and become the people God intended them to be.  But there will always be a part of me who wants to turn back the hands of time and just enjoy those moments that I see now were so fleeting.  

Change is inevitable, and the only thing we can really do is embrace it.  Let change help us to grow, at every age and at every stage.  There is always something to reach for.  Even changes that are bad, ones that rip us apart, can lead us to a new understanding, perhaps a new friend, a new way to look at life.  No matter how hard the next few years will be for me as a parent, I ask that I have the courage to both accept and embrace the changes that are coming and to see each change as a blessing, a chance to learn and grow, and a new season to be welcomed. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

–Alexander Pope

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)

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The Family that Travels Together…

Explore. dream, discoverVacation planning time is upon us.  Tis the season when families are cementing their summer plans and dreaming about visiting exotic locales.  Growing up, our vacations always consisted of borrowing a friend’s condo at the beach for a week or traveling with my father on business to places like Dover, New Hampshire or Long Island, New York.  We didn’t go far, but we always had fun.  I’ll never forget the time we stayed at a motel outside of Williamsburg.  I still remember thinking that it had to be the grandest hotel in the world with its strawberry shaped pool and vending machines right in our hallway.  In my mind, it was truly a magical vacation that included stops in Colonial Williamsburg and the now extinct pottery factory, a must-see place for all travelers at the time.

When I was about nine, we traveled to New Hampshire where we toured the Budweiser Factory.  What I remember most was the visit to the stables where the famed clydesdales lived.  I can still picture one of those beautiful creatures as it leaned out of its stall to take a carrot from my little hand.  Again, it was magical for that horse-loving girl from the DC vacationsuburbs.  Another time, we spent a week at Bethany Beach with no plans other than to enjoy the sun and the surf.  Of course, it rained all day, every day, all week.  We played a lot of cards and went to the movies at least once.  We left without suntans, but I think we had more fun on that trip than any other trip we ever took as a family.

Ken and I have tried to give our girls plenty of unforgettable vacations.  IMG_2254We’ve done Disney, several times, and even took my parents there when our girls were very young.  My father had no interest in going and complained non-stop leading up to the trip that he had managed to avoid that mousetrap his entire life and couldn’t understand why he had to go now.  Of course, Dad will do anything for Mom, so he went.  About two days into the trip, we were laughing at the girls as they danced along with the Lion King, wearing their matching Alice in Wonderland dresses that I had hand-sewn.  My Dad turned to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “You know, this really is the happiest place on earth.”  I smiled back with the knowledge that it wasn’t Disney World that produced all of that happiness.  It was all of us being there together.  Yes, you know it: magical.

As we begin planning our summer vacation, it makes my heart soar that our three girls, two in high school and one about to graduate from college (next year, deep breaths…) still look forward to taking family trips together every year.  We have been so very blessed to be able to take trips ranging from weekend camping trips, where we huddled in a tent in the pouring down IMG_2258rain, to trips to Europe.  One of our favorite memories was spending the night in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota on the land that once belonged to Charles Ingalls and which Laura wrote about in Little Town on the Prairie.

We’ve all heard it said that you will never look back on life and wish you had spent more time at work, but most people look back and wish they had spent more time with their family.  So I urge you, this summer, to make the time to take a vacation with your family.  It doesn’t have to be grand and exotic; it can even be at home.  It just has to be time that you spend together, playing, walking, exploring, learning.  Don’t sit in the house and watch TV.  Go out, find an adventure, and do it together.  Whether you travel to a faraway land or to a museum an hour away, make it magical.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

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)

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The Smell of Sunshine

DSCN7699Memories are funny things, elusive little pieces of time that slip in and out of the mind on the tails of the spirits of the past.  This time of year, those spirits conjure up so many memories for me.  Mother’s Day always reminds me of my grandmother who I loved so much and miss every day.  The smell of lilacs in the spring brings to mind carefree days reading books in the backyard of my childhood home.  The anticipation of summer reminds me of all of the time I spent in a little town in St. Mary’s County called Bushwood.  How I loved spending long, lazy days at my grandparents’ home in the country.  I crabbed with my grandfather in the Wicomico River in the mornings and walked the tobacco fields next to the house in the afternoons.  I can still close my eyes and remember the sweet scent of the leaves that were so large I could sit under them and shield myself from the sun’s scorching rays.

One of my fondest memories was helping Gram with the wash.  It amazed me that every morning, before most of the world was awake, the first load of the day was already in the washer.  When I wasn’t crabbing with Granddad, I enjoyed wonderful country breakfasts of fresh eggs, scrapple, and sliced peaches in cream while Gram sat with me and said her morning prayers.  Then we would load the laundry into the baskets and take it into the backyard to hang on the clothesline.

Long before anyone spoke about global warming or carbon footprints, Gram knew that a dryer was only to be used when necessary.  Hanging out clothes and linens was much more economical.  It kept the house cooler, used less energy, lowered the utility bills, and best of all in my mind, just made everything smell better, sweeter, and cleaner.

I’ll never forget the feeling of slipping beneath those cool, crisp, line-dried sheets at night.  I would fall asleep to the sounds of the crickets and tree frogs outside of my window and the feel and smell of the country air on my skin.  Even now, there is nothing quite like enveloping myself in a freshly made bed with sheets that smell of country air and sunshine.  If you don’t believe that sunshine has a smell, then you’ve never had the pleasure of laying your head on a pillowcase that has been warmed by sunlight and dried by the gentle breeze of God’s waving hand.

I now live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in a little town that is similar in many ways to the beloved Bushwood of my youth.  We crab in Grace Creek, take walks through our woods, and enjoy the quiet, country life.  And every sunny day from April through October, you can find our family’s laundry on the clotheslines that are strung up in our backyard.  On breezy days, when the wind gently blows the clothes against my cheek as I hang them, I smile and look up, knowing that Gram has just whispered “hello.”  Always on my mind and in my prayers, I whisper back, “I love you and miss you.”  And I think of her that night when I lay my head on my crisp, clean sheets.

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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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events