Starting Today…

women_march_211.jpgIt must stop, and it must stop starting today.  Over the past few days, I’ve seen friends and family members argue, name call, and even bring each other to tears. I’ve watched as the media has poked and prodded and tried to stir up hatred and resentment. I’ve read article after article, blog after blog about who is “right” or “wrong” and who is to blame. After a lot of time in thought, prayer, and discussion, I’ve come to realize that we are making enemies of the wrong people and fighting fights in the wrong places.

Hear me out. I applaud the women who marched on Saturday for women’s rights, for the environment, for access to healthcare. I commend those who peacefully used their right to free speech without spewing hatred and disrespect. Our freedom of speech and freedom of assembly are great things but can only be effective when directed at the right people, institutions, and causes and done so with respect and a willingness to have an open dialogue.

In the United States of America, women are already equal to men in the eyes of the law. They can vote and hold office; become police officers, military personnel, and CEOs; have the same access to healthcare as men; can obtain driver’s licenses and the same levels of education; are equally protected by the law; and can worship, shop, walk the streets, and do anything else allowed under the law as they please, the same as men. Now before you argue with me, let me reiterate, they can do all of these things in the eyes of the law. That doesn’t mean that they are able to do these things in the eyes of society.

People are comparing Saturday’s march with the marches started by Martin Luther King, Jr. They herald it as the next Civil Rights movement. I would respectfully disagree. You see, when King marched, he did so because the laws were unjust and unequal. That is not the case today. The fight today is not with the government; it’s not even with the President or Congress or the Supreme Court. Sure, there are areas for which the people in those positions can be lobbied, but that won’t change what’s really happening in our culture.

So who is to blame? We are. Society is to blame. That includes our schools that teach that boys are better at certain subjects than girls. It includes the companies that refuse to promote women and refuse to pay them the same rate as their male counterparts. It includes those people who raise their voices in anger asking to be heard but won’t listen to their neighbors. We have become a nation that demands that the government fix everything without really asking ourselves who or what is actually responsible for the problems.

Let me share a story with you. When our youngest was in middle school, she took a test in an effort to advance to a higher level of math. When she learned that she had been denied, we asked why, only to find out that her male teacher didn’t think she could handle it. We pleaded with the principal, arguing that her test and class grades proved otherwise. They would not budge. The teacher had the final say. Throughout 9th grade, Morgan’s female teacher repeatedly told her that she was in the wrong class and needed to see if she could advance. When she learned that she could take an independent math class that would propel her ahead, she was told no even though she met all of the requirements for being able to do so. The reason? Her guidance counselor told Morgan, third in her class, that she was “not smart enough.” My blood still boils when I think about it. We appealed the decision, and with the blessing of the entire math department, Morgan took the class. Not only did Morgan pass the class, she passed with an 86%, no small feat considering the counselor told her she could ask for no help and seek no outside resources. At the same time, a boy in Morgan’s class had already been given permission and was allowed to seek help if needed. I’m quite certain that Morgan’s situation was not unique. The laws are in place ensuring Morgan an equal education. The government played no role in her being allowed to take the class or not. It was Morgan and her parents who took the fight to the next level and ensured that she got what she rightfully deserved.

Here’s another example. I have a good friend who works for a global corporation. Her department is the only one in the entire company that even hires women in high-level positions. She looks around at all of the companies with which they do work, and she sees no women in leadership positions. She is amazed that the mentality still exists today that the corporate world is for men only. The laws provide my friend with equal opportunity employment, but the corporations deny women the access to the jobs and deny the pay that they deserve.

How many times have you heard that men can buy cars for a cheaper price than women? That mechanics charge women more for car repairs than they do men? That service providers look to the man to make the decisions, pay the bill, or be the one “in charge”? Why is it the government’s job to fix this? Why don’t we demand better for ourselves? Why don’t women speak up when the man is the one who is being addressed? Why don’t we ask point blank why prices are lower for our husbands and higher for ourselves? Here’s why – it’s easier to blame the government and argue with each other than to do something to make a real change, to stand up for ourselves to the boss, to appeal to a higher authority, to take the measure to court. Last week, I wrote about the courageous and inspiring women in the movie, Hidden Figures, based on a true story. Those women stood up for themselves, pointed out what was unfair and unjust, sought work at higher levels, challenged the education system, and reaped the rewards for their efforts. And they did it while respecting each other and the other women with whom they worked. And those other women came to respect them as well.

So starting today, I implore you to take a look at your own situation, your daughter’s future, our society, and the world. Honestly, who is it that is to blame for whatever injustice you may be facing in your life? Starting today, figure out who it is you need to talk to, write to, or lobby to ensure that change happens. Starting today, stop asking “what your country can do for you but what you can do for your country” and your fellow citizens. Starting today, find out what really needs to be done to make life better for your daughters and all generations to come. And starting today, put aside hatred, resentment, disrespect, name calling, and fighting with other women. Starting today, put your best foot forward and show the world that women can achieve everything they want and deserve, and they don’t have to wear hats depicting female genitalia to do it, nor do they have to tear down other women, scream profanities, or threaten to burn down the White House. If you really want to make a change, take a lesson from Civil Rights heroine, Rosa Parks. Take a stand (or a seat) and challenge the right people and the right institutions in the right ways. If we do things the right way, we can achieve anything. We are women. Hear us roar.

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 book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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), Island of Miracles (2017)

Hidden Figures and Orbiting the Stars

DSC07225.JPGOver the weekend, my husband and I saw the new movie, Hidden Figures. When we left the movie, I was filled with regret. Regret that we had not taken our daughters with us. Regret that the world is filled with people who only see the color of skin. Regret that not all people are valued for who they are and what they have to offer rather than how they look.

But in addition to all of the regret, I felt an enormous amount of love for my neighbor, awe for those who possess abilities which I do not, and respect for all people. What those three women, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, contributed to our country was far greater than their work on the space program. They proved to the world that genius is not dependent upon economic status, ethnicity, or skin color. Unfortunately, they had to wait over 50 years for the general public to know their names or even care about whom they are. Why weren’t their accomplishments celebrated along with John Glenn’s or Alan Shepherd’s?  Why did their talents have to be “hidden”? The more I think about it, the angrier I become.

In spite of the problems in our country today between people of different colors, we have come a long way. I feel very fortunate to live in a time when my children don’t feel more capable or deserving because of the color of their skin. I feel sad and angry that there are still children who are taught and believe the opposite. Why should the fact that someone is of another race matter in the grand scheme of life?  Why should men, even today, have more opportunities than women?  God doesn’t care what color you are, what gender you are, where you live, or how much money you have. He only cares that you’re a good person.  Why can’t we all see each other through His eyes?

I urge everyone to go see Hidden Figures. And then I implore them to think about where we are in our society and where each of us is in how we think about others. When we speak of other people, do we refer to them by their skin color? Most people will say, yes. And I ask why? Why is that what we see when we look at someone? Why can’t we see past color and see into the soul?

When our oldest, Rebecca, was little, she could be heard saying, “See that black man…” or “See that purple girl…” or “That red boy…” Ken and I always corrected her by saying, “the man in the black shirt,” “the girl in the purple shirt,” etc.  In hindsight, I wish we hadn’t. Of course, we were afraid that others, overhearing the way she referenced people, would be offended. But we were wrong. I would so much rather everyone refer to people by the color of their clothes and not the color of their skin. It’s one of the many lessons I’ve learned from my children. It just proves the ages old adage that children really are colorblind when it comes to seeing other people. If only everyone could see others the way young children do. Perhaps our world would have far fewer hidden figures and many more people breaking barriers and orbiting the stars.

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, a 2017 Illumination Award winner, is now 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)

Through the Eyes of a Child

img_4551As I’m finishing up our 2016 photo album, I’ve been looking back over the past year and thinking about all that we did and saw.  There were many life-changing events, but the things that make me smile the most are the things, large and small, that bring to mind the phrase, ‘wonder and awe.’  I still remember being in 8th grade, preparing for Confirmation, and learning about the Gift of the Spirits.  Sr. Janet told us that the most important gift was wonder and awe, which she described as always seeing life through the eyes of a child, unjaded and full of amazement at all that God does, creates, and gives.  Her words have always stuck with me, and I have been reminded of them many times throughout my life.

Over the past year, I was humbled as I knelt before the tomb of our Lord.  I cried as I walked through the 9/11 Museum.  I laughed at the antics of my girls while we were in Spain.  All of these things brought me to a new understanding of whom I am and where I am in my life.  But nothing makes me smile like the simple memories – Katie’s eyes as they lit up watching Aladdin’s magic carpet rise above the Broadway stage; the joy on the faces of my children and their friends when they summited a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado; my mother’s exclamation of pure amazement when she looked through the kids’ Christmas-light 3-D glasses.  These small things bring me great joy, and they exemplify the truth in the saying that money doesn’t buy happiness.

So many people spend their lives searching for more: more wealth, more stuff, more power, more friends, more time.  You name it, everyone wants more of it.  Morgan and I recently listened to a Ted Talk about happiness.  It talked about the correlation between having more stuff and feeling less satisfaction.  Having more doesn’t mean feeling more unless that feeling is that of being overwhelmed, burdened, disorganized, and dissatisfied.  When will people, particularly in the Western World, realize that all we need to feel happy is to be content with what we already have?  It’s not about keeping up with the neighbors.  It’s about finding joy within yourself and radiating it out to others.  It’s not what others give to you but what you give to them that will bring true satisfaction with what you have and who you are.

In 2017, I implore you to look past the stuff and see the simple joys that surround you every day.  Laugh at the kids building a snowman in your yard or next door.  Delight in the smell of the flowers in your garden this spring.  Close your eyes and revel in the feel of the warm sun on your face.  Breathe in the crisp, cool fall air.  Don’t let a minute of the next year go by without noticing all of the amazing things in this world.  Find your sense of wonder of awe, and cherish it.  Never stop looking at life through the eyes of a child. 

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 now 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)

Resolving to Succeed in 2017

miracleisland_v4-001You know how sometimes, in a movie, there will be a freeze frame where the main character sees everyone and everything around him or her completely frozen in time?  It usually happens at a crucial time in the person’s life when she is faced with a life-altering decision, and the action doesn’t pick up until the person decides where to go or what to do.  In that instance, her life has come to a screeching halt, and whatever decision she makes will determine the rest of her life.  This is exactly what happens to the main character in my next book, Island of Miracles.  Facing a devastating revelation about her marriage, stuck in a dead-end career, and realizing that her life is going nowhere, Kathryn Middleton throws caution to the wind and sets out to create for herself a brand new life.

How many times have you fantasized about doing the same?  Perhaps you don’t want a whole new life.  Maybe it’s a change of careers, the desire to pursue a degree, or the need to make changes within yourself.  Do you have the courage to make the leap? 

This is the first week of 2017.  According to statistics, 45% of those of you reading this have made some kind of New Year’s resolution.  75% will be successful in keeping the resolution for the first week., but only 8% will see it through to completion or make it a permanent lifestyle change.  Why is that?  Are we truly incapable of sticking to a promise, or do we tend to set our goals too high?  47% of people who made resolutions in 2016 wanted to improve themselves internally in some way.  38% wanted to lose weight.  Yet only 46% are able to keep up their efforts longer than six months.  There seem to be an awful lot of people just setting themselves up for failure. But why?

According to Joseph Shrand, M.D., an instructor of psychiatry at Harvard Medical School, our brain delights in seeing us give in to simple pleasures.  No matter how much we say we aren’t going to eat that piece of chocolate, our brain tempts us with the knowledge that for just a moment, we can enjoy the experience of eating the forbidden food even when we know we will come to regret it later.  He suggests outsmarting our brains with proven techniques that allow people to stick their promises.  The first is to strengthen your willpower as if it’s a muscle.  Tell yourself every day that you can and will do what you’ve set out to do, and simply do it.  It sounds too easy to be true, but he says that the more you use your willpower, the stronger it will become.  But just like with any exercise, don’t overdo it.  This leads to step two: make one change at a time.  If what you’re trying to achieve is too lofty a goal, start out small, and resolve to keep it up every day, building to your goal little by little.  If you want to lose weight, it isn’t enough to eat less.  You have to shop differently, cook differently, learn new recipes, change your lifestyle, join a gym, etc.  Doing all of that at once can be overwhelming, but doing it one piece at a time can be empowering. 

Think about your goals, what you need to do to achieve them, and break them into steps (step three).  This week, find some healthy recipes you’d like to try, and modify your shopping list.  Clean out your pantry, and restock it with healthy snacks.  Start one snack or one meal at a time.  Next week, park father away from the store or your office.  Take the stairs instead of the elevator.  Change your habits one habit at a time.

Relax and have fun.  Shrand says that step four is to watch a funny movie, or perhaps, read a funny book.  Research shows that watching something that makes you laugh makes it easier for you to reach your goals. And when you feel your willpower slipping, move to step five: instead of reaching for candy, reach for a glass of orange juice.  The glucose will recharge your energy and your willpower.  Step six, don’t use superlatives.  Giving up “all sugar” or vowing to “only use cash” will make things much harder.  Make realistic goals, and rely on step seven: congratulate yourself for what you’ve done right.  When you hit that plateau and can’t seem to lose another pound, remind yourself that you’ve already lost five.  Make a list of the things you have accomplished that year or throughout your life.  Remind yourself that you are capable of achievement if you stick to it. 

I love step eight.  Increase your feeling of inner power by doing something good for someone else.  By treating others with kindness, you reward yourself by feeling better about yourself.  And the golden rule is always a good one to live by, do unto others as you would want done unto you.  Step nine is something that most of us probably have done at one time or another – post a picture of your end goal.  It might be an old photo of a thinner you, or a picture of a vacation you want to save for, or, as in my case, the cover you envision for your first novel.  That photo hung on my wall for years before it became a reality, but I never gave up on the idea that, one day, I would be a published author.

Finally, when you know that you’re hungry or tired or your resistance is wearing thin, take a break.  Take a walk or a drive or a run.  Remove yourself from the temptation.  Do something that makes you feel good about yourself, and the craving will be replaced with the desire to succeed. 

Whatever you’re trying to accomplish in 2017, I wish you luck.  It’s not easy making a change, but it’s often worth it.  To see how Kathryn manages to escape her life and recreate herself, read Island of Miracles, in bookstores and online later this month. 

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 now 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)