Update on 150 Reasons to Go

DSC_7071.JPGI wrote the following blog almost two years ago.  Nothing has changed about the way I feel, but my life continues to be enhanced and made better by the girls and adults that I know through my role as a camp director.  Here are my thoughts on the “job” and an update from this year’s camp.

I hate driving in Baltimore.  Please don’t take offense. It’s not the city itself.  It’s the multitude of one-way streets.  Even when relying on my GPS, I always seem to get twisted around no matter where I’m going.  Give me DC any day with its wagon wheel street design, every spoke emanating out from the beautiful white dome of the Capitol with states going in one direction and letters in the other.  Now that’s a city in which I can find my way around.  Even if I get lost, I know I’m never truly lost and can easily find the way out.  I have a very hard time finding one good reason to drive in Baltimore.  However, tomorrow, I will find 150 reasons.

Tomorrow I will attend the State of Maryland Camp Director’s Training.  Though I’ve been a camp director for nine years now, I have never made it downtown for the training.  This year, however, there are several crucial changes in the healthcare laws, so I must make the trek into the city to learn how to properly construct the necessary forms.  So for the benefit of the one-hundred girls and the fifty staff members that attend Summer Roundup, I will boldly take on the streets of Charm City.

If you have never attended an overnight summer camp or have never volunteered for one, you couldn’t possibly understand the lengths to which I would go for the group of people I consider my second family.  My own daughters and I have been attending Roundup for twelve years now.  My girls have all three progressed from first year campers as Brownies or Daisies to know-it-all Cadettes to Teen Camp Aides, and for the second year in a row, one Adult Staff.  I have watched them go from knowing nothing about camping or rowing or shooting an arrow to teaching younger girls how to pitch a tent, paddle a kayak, or hit a bullseye.  I have seen girls cry their eyes out for four nights straight, and then a few years later, console and tuck into bed a new camper pining for home.  I have staff members who were once Roundup campers themselves and are now attending with their own daughters.

There is something so special about an all-volunteer camp that it’s hard to put it into words. I’m sure that high-priced, fancy summer camps with fully paid staff and college kids making enough money to buy a car are a lot of fun.  But nothing can compare to the heart and soul that is put into a camp by people who are there for no other reason than they love the camp.  There is a feeling that each person, camper and adult alike, takes home from camp that never leaves them.  It is that feeling that leaves all of us counting down until the next year when we will see each other again.

I highly encourage everyone to send your child to an all-volunteer camp.  Don’t do it because they are by far the least expensive camps.  Don’t do it because it’s a way to keep the kids busy for one week of the summer or to get them out of your hair.  Don’t even do it because their friends are going to camp.  Do it because it will be a week they will never forget, a week without phones or television or video games, a week of learning about nature and survival, and a week of learning about themselves.  But before you send them, I ask you to think about this, what are you doing for that week?  It’s just one week.  You’ll survive.  You might even learn something about yourself.  So go ahead, fill out that form for your child, and while you’re at it, fill out one for yourself.  It will be an experience you will never forget and will never regret.

** Update – this year, we have 163 people at camp with plans to possibly admit up to twelve more girls next year.  We’re also going to add an additional night and morning!  This excites me to no end!  Just before sitting down to write this, I visited the “Little Camper Annie” Theater program where Brownie Girl Scouts were performing their own version of life at Summer Roundup – Annie style, as well as the Dr. Seuss program where Daises were creating hot air balloon photo holders while wearing Thing 1 through Thing 9 t-shirts.  They presented me my very own Cat in the Hat chair, decorated and signed by each girl.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Some people spend the hottest days of the summer playing by the pool or heading to the beach. For me, the hottest days of the summer always have me trying to keep over one hundred girls and their counselors hydrated, cool, and having fun. You can take the pool. I’d rather take a walk to the lake to watch a group of girls swimming, kayaking, and playing water volleyball while laughing and smiling the entire time.  There’s no other way I’d want to enjoy my summer.

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 book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Whispering Vines (2016)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Six Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

DSC00972Ken has always given me a hard time on long car rides about having my nose stuck in a book instead of looking around. While I can’t argue his point that there’s so much to see, those long stretches of highway just scream for distraction. However, I’ve always managed to know when to put the book down and take in the beauty around me. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lost on most people today who can’t lift their eyes from their phones for more than thirty seconds. There is so much that they are missing.  Here are just a few of the reasons why everyone needs to put their phones down more often and open their eyes to the world around them.

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Seville, Spain

1. There is so much to see in this world! Don’t sit with your eyes glued to the screen. Reading about places on the Internet will never, ever be the same as seeing them with your own eyes. You will never experience the world on a screen the way you will with all of five of your senses. Take a walk, take a drive, fly to another land. And don’t look at your phone. 

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A spontaneous night of bowling with friends.

2. There’s nothing like real human interaction. Instead of texting friends, go out with them! Turn the phones off, and enjoy your time together. When you have a problem, need a shoulder to lean on, someone to wipe your tears, your phone won’t meet your needs. Only your friends, live and in the flesh, can give you a hug, a pat on the back, a genuine smile and loving touch.

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The 9/11 Museum

3. History can come to life. These days, you can watch a movie on your phone, a YouTube video showing clips of an important event, a news broadcast, and more. But there’s nothing like touching an artifact, There’s nothing like walking on the hallowed ground of a Civil War battlefield or Ground Zero. Instead of an online virtual tour of the White House, call your congressman, and schedule a visit.  It’s easy and it’s free. Rather than watching a documentary about the Civil War, visit Gettysburg, or Antietam, or Fort Sumter.  Someone once asked me how we were able to instill such a love of learning and of history in our children. It was easy, I told them, we didn’t teach them history, we showed them history. We brought it to life before their very lives.

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Morgan playing her favorite game

4. Games are more fun in real life. Our country faces a juvenile obesity problem that is unprecedented, and it can’t be solved by exercising one’s thumbs. Virtual reality games don’t constitute exercise, and no matter how much you walk around looking for Pokemon, you aren’t truly pushing your body, gaining strength and muscle, or sharpening your athletic skills, and nether are your children. 

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It’s always fun and games when the family is together

5. Social skills are important! Whether playing a team sport, or a game of Uno with family, we need to stop looking at our phones for entertainment and start looking around us. Last week, my mother, brother, and I took all of the cousins (8 kids, ages 9 to 20) to Six Flags and were met with disappointment. Just before opening, a bomb threat was called in, and the park wasn’t able to open. We went for ice cream, a stroll on a local boardwalk, and then back to Grandma’s house for an afternoon of board games. And we had a ball.  It wasn’t the thrill of riding a roller coaster, but there were laughs, cheers, and a sense of camaraderie that could not have been had if everyone had simply gone back to the house and played on their phones. It was a no phone zone, and it was wonderful.

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Powderhorn, Colorado

6. Because moments are fleeting. Life passes by in the blink of an eye. Ferris knew what he was talking about when he said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A sunrise may last for as long as thirty minutes, but each minute, even each half minute, is completely different. Colors change, clouds shift, shadows grow and shrink. Each time you blink, the scene transforms. When I photograph a sunrise, I end up with about a hundred shots, each one totally and completely different from the rest. It’s an amazing palette of colors on an ever-changing canvas. To look away for even an instant is to miss the next great work of art. Perhaps God does that on purpose. It’s a reminder that each moment, each tiny piece of time is to be marveled at, revered, appreciated. And take it from someone who has seen a lot of sunrises, there’s nothing like putting down the phone, or even the camera, and gazing at the real thing.

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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 book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Whispering Vines (2016)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and EventsSix Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

No Place Like Home

 

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The Plaza de Espana in Seville

It’s good to be home.  While our family had a wonderful vacation traveling all over Portugal and Spain, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in your own bed.  It’s even better when you’ve spent the previous two weeks sleeping in other people’s beds in other people’s houses.  Yes, I do mean houses, or apartments in most cases.  Rather than staying in hotels, we spent this vacation renting homes through AirBnB.  My sister-in-law suggested them to us a few years ago, but I was never interested in staying in someone else’s home.  This year, to save money, we decided to give it a try.  My feelings are still mixed, and to be honest, I’m not sure I would do it again, but it was part of the adventure, so I’m glad we gave it a try.

 

 

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The central square in Merida, Spain, just a few blocks from our apartment – our favorite of the houses in which we stayed.

AirBnB was created with the idea that people would open up their home to travelers as a bed and breakfast or that they would allow others to rent their home when they, the host family, was away.  In theory, it’s a great idea.  However, as pointed out in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, that’s not quite the reality of the business.  Rather than staying in someone’s personal home, in most cases, guests stay in an apartment that has been purchased by the owner specifically for AirBnB rentals.  While this was fine with us (and slightly less creepy), according to HBR, it’s having devastating effects on the housing market in several US and European cities where “residents” are no longer actually living in the homes, and real estate prices are driving middle income families out of local neighborhoods.  We could certainly see how this was the case as most of the places where we lodged were in residential areas rather than hotel and tourist centers. 

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The shrine and basilica in Fatima, Portugal

All in all, our experiences were good ones.  Our children had never stayed in a B&B, and they were happy that only one of the places we stayed in was in someone’s home.  While they delighted in the scrumptious breakfast we were provided before leaving Fatima, they didn’t like the feeling of staying in the home of a stranger while the owner slept in the room upstairs.  They much preferred the apartments where we were met by the owner, given a tour, and handed a key, before saying goodbye to the never seen again host.  They did love, however, the opportunity to have their own beds, and in some cases, their own rooms, and it was nice to be able to wash all of our clothes halfway through the trip.

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Katie and Morgan took turns reading to each other on the many subway rides.

My advice to anyone considering AirB&B is simple.  Research, read, and review.  If the apartment is “located in the center of Malaga [and] the square is filled with restaurants, tapas bars, pubs and bars, fundamental enclaves within the Malaga night.,” know that this really means “nothing in Malaga closes, or quiets, until close to 3am, and you’re in the thick of it.”  If you’re an early to bed family or a light sleeper, hearing the partying in the streets until 3am and then the trash trucks and recycling trucks until 4am is probably not going to bode well for your next day of sightseeing.  “Close to the train station” may not mean an easy walk with your bags but rather a subway ride in which you’ll have to change trains three times.

While we didn’t have any major issues, and all of the hosts were pleasant and helpful, I really missed the amenities of staying in a hotel – a concierge to consult, a clean room each afternoon, a steady supply of toilet paper (yep, that was an interesting morning), and a pool, game room, etc. the things that most people enjoy while on vacation.  It was good experience, and I don’t think I would have changed anything, but I did learn to read between the lines.  In some cases, if it sounds good to be true, it probably is.

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The Roman ruins in Merida, thankfully not one of the apartments.

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 book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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

Meet Author, Alexa Jacobs

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A dinosaur.That’s what my first book was about. At least, I think. I close my eyes and I vividly remember this paper book in my hands, cut out in the shape of a dinosaur head. Along the back of his head was a line of hole punches with purple yarn holding the entire book together.

I don’t remember what the book was about or what elementary grade I was in when I created it. I know it passed through my hands when I moved out of my childhood home and unearthed the boxes in my grandparents basement. You know the one, full of the things that seem to get held onto for a lifetime. I love boxes like that. Everything that makes us US is represented. I’ve tried so hard to put at least one thing, big or small into a box for my own children every year to have one day. When they grow up, and they move out and they unearth those boxes they will see; this was the best of them. Pieces and parts of personality while they were still forming. Magic, mid-creation.

I had no idea what the dinosaur book was about, my immediate memory was of something completely different than the story. I remembered the typewriter.

I think it belonged to my great-grandparents because I simply cannot imagine my grandmother making use of one. She had the most amazing penmanship I’ve ever seen. I used to stare at the mail, or a check she had written, or even a grocery list and wonder how I could get my handwriting to look anything like hers. Time and practice, she’d say. But that’s a post for another day…she had this typewriter collecting dust in the basement. Black, shiny metal with small round circle buttons standing on skinny tall typing keys. It made this glorious old fashioned sound that my little brain could not get enough of. I loved the click, clack, click as my fingers chose the right letters. I loved the way the words appeared on the crisp white paper in their slightly worn looking patterns. I specifically remember stopping many times and running my fingers along the top where the little metal typebars laid perfectly aligned until a key was selected and it would fly up and hit the ink ribbon in front of the paper.

I think I was the only ten-year-old girl who was thrilled with a stack of clean white paper. I can still feel it in my hands as I carefully rolled it into the platen and sat back for that second before I would begin typing.

Once upon a time…

That’s where my story began; in my grandparents basement writing a multitude of amazingly forgettable stories (which they kept) on an unforgettable piece of machinery (which they did not keep).

I’m still obsessed with the memory of this old typewriter. Recently I was paroozing the isles at TJ Maxx (I know, I wish it was somewhere more bohemian for you, but TJ Maxx is pretty amazing) I came across a silver framed black and white print of an old fashioned Underwood typewriter. It looks exactly like the memory in my mind, so now it hangs in my office and I smile every time I see it. The memory of sentences and sentences, paragraphs and pages of what was no doubt the pure nonsense of a child still lays fresh in my mind.

You never know what is going to introduce you to your passions of life, and you certainly never know when. I look at my oldest child and think that I knew I wanted to be a writer at his age, deep down. It wasn’t loud enough yet, but it was there. I look at my youngest child and think at his age, I had no idea. The magic, for me, happened somewhere in the middle. Everything they get excited about these days, I wonder, is this their passion?

Becoming a writer was one of the most natural experiences in my life. The click, clack, click of the keyboard under my fingers is a lullaby to me. There was nothing hard, nothing challenging. For the first time in my life, I was able to turn that part of my personality all the way up. Becoming an author…now that was hard work.

Enter the plotlines, and formulas, and grammar rules, and genres, and the classes and the marketing, and blogging and the metadata (seriously, what the hell is metadata?) and…oh, for the love of an oxford comma. Sixteen different times I have thought that the book I am currently working on is absolute crap.

But then something amazing happened. I walked into a room of writers who I have spent years admiring. I’ve read some of their book, and can only dream of having stories as richly told as theirs. From the minute I entered the room, I started backpedaling in my own career. I found it very hard to stare a writer in face, a writer who I know has sold hundreds of thousands of books, and say to them that I am a writer too. I’m not a writer, you’re a writer. I’m just….a dreamer.

The amazing part that I mentioned, happened when they admitted that they are just dreamers too. Every single writer I met that night asked me what my book was about, and what I want out of writing. They asked me what my passions were, and were happy to share moments of similarity. I was thrilled beyond belief to hear an award winning novelist admit she had been up all night because the last 2700 words she wrote were absolute trash and she just couldn’t figure out how to get from point A to point B in her plotting wheel, noting she may just kill everyone off in chapter nine and open a bottle of wine.

What I took away that evening, besides an amazingly ugly little stuffed Santa from the “re-gifted” exchange, was to always be a dreamer. Always remember that writing is a passion I chose. Don’t think abut the plotlines, and formulas, and grammar rules. All of that can be worked out. All of that can be learned. What can’t be learned, or faked, is what I hear when I hear the click, clack, click of the keyboard. This is my song.

Sing it loud, sing it proud.

…and the award winning Authors cheered me on. ME. Because they know the words to that song, they hear it too.

My passion is writing, but what’s yours? Do you find yourself in love with an old trunk full of travel stickers? Does it make you want to see the world? Do you find yourself flipping through your grandmother’s tattered and torn recipe book, stopping to study splatter marks from a sauce that boiled over twenty years before you were born? Does it make you want to feed your soul? Do you find yourself seeing the world one captured moment at a time through your camera? Does it make want to freeze time, if only for a second, so you can have THAT feeling forever? Do you dance, do you sing? Do you count your dollar bills over and over, organizing and planning on charts for the future not because you need to but because you love the way the numbers come together?

Sing it loud, sing it proud and remember that we are all dreamers. Think back in your life, and you’ll find it. What would I find if I opened up the childhood box that represents the best of you? I was a child when I first heard my calling…but it took me three decades to listen.

What would you hear if you stopped and listened? What is the click, clack, click sound of your heart?

***

Alexa Jacobs was born and raised in the suburban outskirts of Baltimore, and now lives with her husband and sons in central Maryland. Her debut novel, Rising Ridge, has been hailed by critics as a relatable tale of a young woman’s journey into first love and new adulthood. She is an active member in both the Maryland Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America.

In her second novel, The Dreamer, Jacobs explores Contemporary Romance with Suspense. The Dreamer will be available in September 2016.

Find out the latest updates from: http://www.alexajacobs.com