I Want to Be a Princess

princess-cinderella-and-katieWhen Katie Ann was a little girl, all she wanted was to be a princess.  She had big dreams of growing up, moving to Disney World, and becoming any one of the famed Disney princesses.  Jasmine was her favorite, but she gladly would have been Cinderella or Snow White.  For her, it was all about the makeup and the dresses.  In her mind, being a Disney princess was the only way to guarantee that she could spend the rest of her life wearing fancy gowns and heavy makeup while making people happy.  Thankfully, she grew out of that phase and is looking at more sustainable career choices.  But who can blame her?  I think almost every little girl goes through a princess phase of some sort.  Luckily for my generation, we had two princesses to emulate who weren’t as superficial as the Disney variety.

There were two princesses in my life, two very different women, who taught me all I needed to know about what kind of princess I could be.  One of them was real, a true royal, whose insecurities and endearing flaws made her loved by people in all nations, the world over.  The other, a fictional princess, was brash, bold, and fearless.  She could hold her own in a duel while wearing nothing but chains and a bikini.  Both women defined the word “princess” for a whole generation, and both were lost to us at much too young an age.

At the age of seven, I sat in a movie theater for two hours, unable to breathe.  A twenty-year-old Carrie Fisher portrayed a princess the likes of which the world had never seen.  She was pretty (in spite of the doughnut hairstyle), witty, clever, and brave.  Her aim with a lightsaber was dead-on, and it was her quick thinking and her bold ideas that led to the defeat of the Empire.  She was a force to be reckoned with.  She was the brains behind the rebellion, the one who never took no for an answer, the one who refused to let her circumstances dictate her attitude or her survival.  Much like Princess Leia, Fisher fought her own battles but never let them get her down.  She struggled, in those early years of fame, with substance abuse; but she overcame her addictions and became a spokesperson for overcoming such demons.  She then let the world know about her battle with depression and bi-polar disorder while continuing to act, direct, produce, and become a best-selling author and screenwriter.  She was an advocate for mental health while fighting an enemy as dark and fierce as Darth Vader.  Judging by her success and how she was thought of by her peers, she was worthy of a medal around her neck in an intergalactic celebration.  Sixty was much too soon for her to give up her crown.

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I will never forget being snuggled up on the couch in the wee hours of the morning, at the age of eleven, to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  For years, we all watched her go through a torturous marriage and a devastating divorce.  We witnessed her as she grew from a shy, unprepared-for-the-world pre-school teacher to an intelligent, revered advocate for human rights.  She was the epitome of grace and charm and held her head up high whether she was representing the Crown or walking through a minefield.  Perhaps she, too, had been a fan of Princess Leia.  When she died at the age of thirty-six, she had proven to the world that she was strong, brave, outspoken, and willing to go far outside of her comfort zone in order to help those in need.

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I know that Disney has started giving its princesses more personality and more admirable character traits than the ability to sew a ballgown or clean up after seven messy dwarves, but I don’t think they’ve come as far as they should have by now.  Don’t get me wrong, being able to sew a ballgown is a huge accomplishment!  The girls who attend the summer camp that I run can’t get enough of sewing, but they also revel in zip lining, wall climbing, and learning survival skills.  It makes me wonder what we are teaching our girls today.  Is there anyone out there to whom they can look as a role model who exudes charm, grace, and proper etiquette, but can shoot a hole in a garbage compartment door with a blaster and convince the rest of her party to take the plunge into the unknown realm of a trash compactor?

I think I’ll take off the rest of the day and spend it with my girls in front of the TV.  I’ll be sipping my tea from my Princess Diana mug while watching Princess Leia choke Jabba the Hutt with the chains that bind her.  Now if that isn’t a great metaphor for the way Carrie Fisher lived her life, I don’t know what is.

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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)

‘Tis the Season

IMG_2675.JPG‘Tis the season… for exhaustion.  And I do it to myself.  I can’t remember the last night I had a good night’s sleep, and it’s my own fault.  Shopping and wrapping are always done early and not a problem.  Even the annual Mother-Daughter Christmas dinner the girls and I host is easy for me.  But there are the other things that I put on myself that tend to keep me up at night.  I love Christmas letters.  I know some people think they’re cheesy, but I love them.  I want to know what’s going on with the military family I grew up with and how many grandchildren our elderly relatives now have.  I love reading about where people have traveled, what their children are majoring in, and how I can pray for them in the coming year.  For years, I wrote my own family Christmas letter and kept copies on the last page of our family albums.  Then a few years ago, I started sending our letter electronically, and somehow that morphed into a slideshow complete with Christmas carols.  The end product is something we all enjoy watching and sharing, but getting to that end, with everything else we have going on, is sometimes a painstaking endeavor.

Add to that the family Christmas story.  Many years ago, when my children and their cousins were very young, I wrote a Christmas story and bound it with a handmade cover.  The kids loved it, and my mother-in-law said it made her Christmas.  As happens so often, the tale took on a life of it’s own, and every year, I reach into the depths of my mind to create a story that is still fun and whimsical but is relatable to everyone as they get older.  It’s no easy task.  Writing the story, creating graphics, and putting it together into a book takes longer than all of the wrapping I do for every occasion all year long.  But the love and laughter that go along with that Christmas day read-aloud is worth it.  As least I think it is.  By the time I’m done with everything that I do to prepare for the holidays, I’m positive that I’ll be too tired to really enjoy any of it.  But then December 22nd rolls around. 

Once we’re at Mom’s and our family is gathered under one roof – the five of us, my parents, my brothers and their families, aunts, uncles, cousins, all of the extended family and closest friends – whatever worries or exhaustion I may have been feeling, just melts away.  Amidst the cooking, the football watching, the game playing, and the picture taking, I find my zen, my foundation, my piece of Heaven on Earth.  I know that Christmas isn’t about presents, or stories, or letters, or baking, or any of the other things that the world would like us to believe it’s about, but it is about self-sacrifice.  It’s about coming into this world to serve others, to put the good of mankind above all, to love your neighbor as yourself, to strive for peace on Earth, and to lay down one’s life for your friends.  It’s about all of the good that still exists in this world and the riches and joys of the world to come.  It’s about seeing the face of Jesus in others and feeling the love of Jesus in our hearts.  I pray that everyone is able to experience the true meaning of Christmas this holiday season.  When you feel run-down, overwhelmed, and too exhausted to go, remember,

“unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a baby wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.”

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,

“Glory to God in the highest,
and on earth peace among those with whom he is pleased!”

Luke 2: 11-14

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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)

Lighting the Way This Christmas

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About ten years ago, I had a public disagreement with someone who was the leader of an organization that I was and still am a part of.  We were planning a trip for a large number of young girls, and we were at odds over the logistics of the trip.  After causing a bit of a scene, this person ended the meeting and then called the “higher ups” to complain about my alleged coup.  A friend, who was at the meeting, asked me, “Does she know about everything you’re going through right now?” After I shook my head to say no, she replied, “You should tell her.  She shouldn’t be treating you like that.”

You see, my grandmother had recently had a debilitating stroke and was going downhill fast; my father had just been diagnosed with cancer, again; one of our daughters was really struggling with bullies at school, and we were in the process of trying to figure out how to send all three girls to the Catholic school where we so desperately wanted them to be anyway.  To make matters worse, Ken had unexpectedly resigned from his job after life in the political limelight became too much for us all; and just when I had decided to stay home and try to get my writing career started, a tumor was discovered on my uterus and would require surgery and a biopsy.  It seemed that my entire world was falling apart before my eyes, but very few people actually knew the whole of what we were facing.  Ken wasn’t sleeping at all at night because he worried about us losing everything if he didn’t find a job.  Our daughter cried uncontrollably every morning when I tried to put her on the bus, and our savings was quickly being depleted with no hope in sight.  But it all taught me some very important lessons. 

First, have faith, always.  I never let my faith waiver.  I knew that, despite both us being out of work, God was going to provide.  I knew that if He wanted our children to change schools, He would make it happen.  I knew that whatever was to come, we could face it together.  The story of how we overcame all of this can be saved for another day, but suffice it to say that God came through in some very miraculous ways.  Yes, faith the size of a mustard seed can indeed move mountains.

Another very important thing I learned was that while I was suffering inside, so, too, might this other person have been suffering.  I knew very little about her.  I had never met her before joining this group, and after this incident drove her to quit the organization, I never saw her again.  I often wonder if things might have turned out differently had I taken the time to get to know her, to talk to her, to ask her if everything was okay.  Perhaps she wasn’t upset with me or our group at all.  Perhaps there was something bigger going on in her life, and she felt things spiraling out of control just as I had.  Maybe planning this trip was too much for her with whatever else was going on.  Sadly, I’ll never know.  In all honesty, I can’t say I’ve gotten better at this, but I do try to be a little more empathetic.

Finally, we all have opportunities to reach out to and help one another.  Not only my faith in God, but my friends and family got me through one of the hardest times in my life.  Though very few people knew the whole story, those who did became my rocks.  They prayed for me, brought my family meals after my surgery, cleaned my house, and took care of my children.  And over the years, I’ve tried to repay them and pay it forward.

We’re in the season of Advent.  It’s a time of preparation but also a time of healing, of sharing, of reaching out to others.  There is so much that we can do, in ways both large and small, to have an impact on the lives of others.  Take your children to drop off gifts at a homeless shelter or a prison.  Support your local organizations that help those in need (look for a St. Vincent de Paul Society near you and ask how you can help).  Bake cookies for the shut-in across the street, and spend time with her when you deliver them.  Call an old friend or family member who you haven’t seen or spoken to in a while.  Let go of old grudges, and forgive.  Open your heart to the relatives you’d rather not spend time with.  Ask them how they are, and let them know you care.

I remember one Christmas, many, many years ago. I might have been seven or eight, but I’m really not sure.  There was a report on the news about a poor family in DC who not only had no presents but no clothes, no food, and no heat.  I think there was a new baby in the house, and the family would be lucky to make it through Christmas.  If my parents looked at each other with sadness as we watched the story, I didn’t notice.  When they discussed it, I don’t know.  How they found out where this family lived, I have no idea.  But one evening, my father came home and loaded us all into his car.  We drove into the city, going to a neighborhood we wouldn’t have entered during the day, not to mention at night.  When the mother opened the door, we all stood on her front step with wrapped presents, bags of clothes, and food.  I’ll never forget her tears or the way she hugged us all.  I’ll never forget the looks on the faces of the little children as they reached for their presents.  Maybe some of these details are a little mixed up.  Maybe I invented half of them with the imagination of a child who witnessed something akin to a miracle, but this is how I remember it.  I couldn’t tell you what I got for Christmas that year.  To be honest, we didn’t have extra money growing up, so it wouldn’t surprise me if some, maybe all, of those wrapped presents were meant for us.  What I do remember is that there never was and never will be another Christmas quite like that one.

So maybe you can’t solve all of the world’s problems this holiday season.  Maybe you can’t supply Christmas for a needy family.  But I bet you can find something to do to brighten someone’s day, to make their holiday a little more joyous.  Look beyond what you see in each person and what you think you know about them, and find a reason to love them anyway.  And let them know it.  When Christmas arrives, you will be more than prepared.  You will be lighting the way.

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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)

How Do You Measure A Year?

DSC08677.JPGOne year ago this week, Ken and I received the news that we were chosen to go to the Holy Land with a group of pilgrims.  As excited as we were, we had no idea how life changing that trip would be.  To see the places about which we’ve only read or heard, to walk in the footsteps of our Lord, to stand on the shores of the Jordan River and inside the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher were things that we never imagined being able to do.  To top it all off, we made new friends, some of whom have become among the closest friends we have.  It’s amazing to me, when I look back over the course of this past year, that one year ago, I had never been to Mount Tabor.  I had never looked down at the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  I didn’t know George or Tammi or either Anne.  I had never met Bianca or Mary Ann or either Michelle.  How different my life was just a year ago.  And that got me thinking…

How different are all of our lives from just a year ago?  In the past twelve months, I’ve attended graduations, weddings, christenings, and funerals.  I’ve seen my girls go from being just “in high school and college” to being Seniors about to graduate and move on.  I’ve traveled to new places and returned to old favorites.  In June, I published my third novel, and within a few weeks, I will be publishing another. 

As the song asks, “how do you measure a year?”  Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days.  That’s how we think about a year: a long, drawn out collection of days.  But 365 is a small number that is gone in the blink of an eye.  It sounds like a lot – five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.  But in less than a year, a baby is conceived and then born, a wedding is planned, a school year is completed and another started, a fine wine ages, a house is built and occupied.  And we look back and say, “where did the year go?”  How does time get away from us so easily?

So as you begin to think about your New Year’s Resolutions, think about the past as well.  Think about all that you did in the past year, the people you met, the places you visited, the things you accomplished.  And think about the minutes that got away from you, the tasks left unfinished, the goals left unmet.  Don’t think of the future as long and drawn out.  Think of it as short and fleeting.  Make the most of every day, every minute.  There’s much to be seen in the world, many new people to meet, and a lot to be accomplished.  And the reality is, there is never enough time in which to do it.  But there is enough time to enjoy life.  I urge you to start today.

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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)