Not a Thing Could Come Between Them

img_0909Growing up, I was always jealous of my friends who had sisters. They had a built-in best friend, confidant, support system, and roommate. My closest childhood friends, two sisters who lived down the street, shared a room from the time my friend, Cindy, was born until the older sister, Jane, graduated from college. Even when they could have separated themselves from each other, they chose to live together on campus. Of course, I remember many times when they were at war and once when Cindy and I taped a line down the middle of their room; but even today, they are the best of friends.

img_0907My mother and her sister, Debbie, are also best friends, talking often, getting together for dinner, day trips, and visits with family. My Aunt Debbie was the closest thing I ever had to a sister since she and I are just fifteen years apart. It’s a cherished relationship, but it’s not quite the same as having that sisterly bond. I grew up longing to be a sibling to Laura, Mary, and Carrie Ingalls, or one of the Walton girls, or a member of the March clan.  After all, I was named after Amy March.  Why did she get sisters, and I didn’t?  Oh to have two or three sisters, that was a dream that I couldn’t get enough of. And I’ll be darned if God doesn’t work in funny and sometimes frustrating ways.

I’ve spent the last 18 years witnessing  firsthand the phenomenon that is sisterly love. I’ve been told by many people that having three girls, not two and not four, but three is the roughest scenario. Two are always on one side, and the third is always on another. Throughout their lives, my girls have been able to go from the best of friends to the worst of enemies in less than ten seconds. Our youngest, Morgan, laments almost daily that she doesn’t know what she will do without Katie next year when our middle daughter goes off to college.

Those same days, she can be heard telling Katie, “I can’t wait until you’re gone!”  Really?  I shake my head and ask myself if this is really what I imagined all those years ago. I don’t remember the Ingalls girls, or Mary Ellen, Erin, and Elizabeth Walton, or Jo and her March sisters having the same daily arguments and struggles with their sisters that my girls have. Okay, maybe the March sisters, but Jo and Amy did have very strong personalities.

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And that, I believe, is the monster I deal with. I have two daughters who are very strong-willed and have quite similar overbearing personalities. I’ve often wondered if Katie feels crushed between them as the middle child. How different her life will be next year when she is on her own. And how quiet it will be here. There won’t be any more morning img_0914arguments because Katie is running late for school. Again. There won’t be any accusations that someone wore someone else’s sweater without asking or, God forbid, that they came down wearing almost matching outfits. There won’t be fights over who didn’t clean up her mess or left the cap off the toothpaste.  On the other hand, there won’t be those moments when one cries on the other’s shoulder; when one runs into the house, past me at lightening speed, because she has to share big news with her sister, or when the beautiful sound laughter wakes me late at night during a spontaneous sister slumber party.

Irving Berlin’s words sure ring true in our house:

Sisters
Sisters
Sisters
There were never such devoted sisters

Never had to have a chaperone “No, sir”
I’m there to keep my eye on her

Caring
Sharing
Every little thing that we are wearing

When a certain gentleman arrived from Rome
She wore the dress and I stayed home

All kinds of weather
We stick together
The same in the rain or sun
Two diff’rent faces
But in tight places
We think and we act as one

Those who’ve
Seen us
Know that not a thing could come between us

Many men have tried to split us up but no one can
Lord help the mister
Who comes between me and my sister
And Lord help the sister
Who comes between me and my man

As the song says, sisters should be devoted to each other, share, care, and let nothing come between them.  They are there for each other to celebrate milestones. They comfort one another in sadness. They have fun together, and they care deeply about each other. No matter what happens, they know that they are there for each other.

I don’t think I will ever fully understand the relationship between my three girls. It rips my heart out when I hear them tell one another that they hate each other, and it brings me to tears when I see them cuddled together on the couch, sharing a bowl of popcorn while they watch a favorite show. God does work in mysterious ways. He never gave me the sister I longed for, but he made me the mother of sisters; and somehow, I think that’s even better.

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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 inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and at 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), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

A Treasury of Memories

img_3610I have spent the last few days working on digitizing our family photo albums.  It’s a tedious task but one done with love.  For the first fifteen years of my marriage, I meticulously recorded every event in our lives by hand–cutting, pasting, and decorating page by page until each scrapbook was perfect.  By 2009, I had graduated to a digital camera and started creating all of my albums on my computer.  It’s a mandatory family tradition that we all five gather, just after New Year’s, to “watch” the album on our big screen TV to critique, correct, and finalize the year of memories before I send the pages away to be made into a book.  

downloadsAs I’m going through each non-digital album, scanning in page after page, I’m reliving every little moment of the lives of my girls thus far (though to be honest, I have so many albums with so many memories, that I haven’t even begun to scan the “Katie and Morgan years”).  It’s hard to believe that Rebecca, who turned twenty-one this past Sunday, was ever so small. Everything was recorded from her birth to her first laugh, her first crawl, and her first best friend.

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Every year, my scrapbooks grew larger as I filled the pages with childhood milestones, family get-togethers, vacations, and, later, school memories.  It is not an exaggeration to say that our albums fill an entire bookcase in our house.  And the best part is that the girls really do love pulling them out and looking through them.  Katie can see her Baptism, the first time she held her own bottle, the first time she lifted her head, ate spaghetti, and laughed at our beloved Granny.

downloads2Morgan’s early pictures from her birth to her first steps and first Halloween reveal her orneriness and her deep, genuine love for her best friend and big sister, Katie.  As I look back at all of the fun times and cherished memories, I think of their closeness, and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I’ve never known two sisters who are closer than they are. Not that Rebecca isn’t greatly loved by her sisters, but a deep, unwavering bond exists between Morgan and Katie that I pray will always remain, and that is where the sadness comes in.  

rebeccas-21st-birthdayFor you see, our albums are changing as the years go by.  There are fewer photos of Rebecca as she leads a life away from home, and next year, my Katie will leave on her own new adventure.  The Schisler Family Album for 2017 will portray senior portraits, law school and college acceptances, two graduations, and a world that consists of Mom, Dad, and Morgan, without Rebecca or Katie. It’s an unfamiliar landscape that is sure to bring ups and downs, highs and lows, and the promise of change around every corner.  

 

At least I know one thing for sure.  No matter where my children go, I will always have them tucked safely away inside my heart and on my bookshelf.  

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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 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)

 

Longing for Laura’s Little House

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The Ingalls homesite outside of DeSmet, SD

Yesterday, February 7, most people went about their day as usual. Some discussed politics, others avoided it.  Many went to school and work and attended sporting events, meetings, or other things in between. While some families ate their evening meal together, others raced to a game, meeting, or  get-together.  Most of us went to bed in a warm, cozy bed with heat flowing throughout out two-story houses.  Most people probably didn’t note the date or the significance of the year.  But perhaps a few, like myself, actually noticed the social media “trending items,” and found themselves taken back to a place and time in American history that had a profound impact on our lives and brings to mind a nostalgic warm and comforting feeling, one that recalls someone few of us ever met but is as familiar to many as a dear old friend.

Few book or television series have captured the hearts of America like the one that took place in the woods of Wisconsin, then the prairies of Kansas, and later, the plains of Minnesota and Dakota.  As a child, my mother and I spent hours reading together, and I never missed my Monday night date with the young girl I loved as dearly as my closest friends and family.  Yesterday was her 150th birthday, and I have to wonder how she could possibly have aged when, in my mind, she will always be a young, energetic half-pint with braids.  

Much has been learned about Laura Ingalls Wilder since her death.  We know that her family did not live in isolation and were not wholly self-sufficient.  They were often surrounded by other pioneers and townsfolk.  We know that Laura’s family had a grave mistrust of the government and that Laura was an introvert, often hiding away from the public due to her extreme shyness and fear of being around people.  Quite the opposite of her mother, it was Laura’s daughter, Rose, who convinced her mother to write the stories of her life at a time when the family was starving and on the verge of losing what little they had.  I like to think that it was Laura’s pioneering spirit that inspired her to become an author at the age of 65 rather than falling into despair and giving up after a long, hard life fraught with illness, poverty, and, no doubt, despair.  How ironic that it was all of the those attributes of her childhood that endeared her and her family to so many generations of people.  

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My girls and others learning about school in the late 1800s in Laura’s one room schoolhouse

Times have changed, the West was won, women moved beyond the classroom to the boardroom, and families today are often too busy to eat a meal together.  Never mind spending a winter trapped inside their home, with little to eat and a small fire to keep them warm, as a blizzard rages outside of their home on the wide-open prairie with few people around other than each other.  Mothers are no longer tied to their stoves, laundry, and sewing 24 hours a day with no relief.  Fathers no longer have to hunt to put food on the table.  Most children don’t walk to school and then return home to work the farm and read the Bible by candlelight at night.  These are the things that our great-grandparents, grandparents, and parents worked so hard to move away from, but I have to wonder…

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Morgan, Rebecca, and Katie doing laundry like Ma at the Ingalls homesite

Had Laura and her sisters not suffered so many illnesses that left childbearing hard to impossible;  had she and Almonzo been able to have a big family; had Rose married and had children…. would their children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren appreciate how much we have gained but how much we have lost as the generations have rolled by?   Would they embrace the rat race that so many of us run each day, or would they yearn for the harder yet simpler lives that Laura, Mary, and Carrie had with Pa and Ma and baby, Grace?  Would they have a greater appreciation for how far our nation has come and sadness for how far we’ve slipped behind?

This has been a very mild winter here in the Mid-Atlantic, and I yearn for just one winter like the one that Laura’s family braved during The Long Winter.  I long for just a few days trapped in the house with my girls, perhaps without electricity, without contact with the outside world, without the demands of our normal, every day lives.  How I miss the days of my own childhood when nothing mattered more than the number of lightning bugs we could catch as we ran through the woods and the farm fields surrounding my grandparent’s house.  How I cherish the memories of snuggling with my mother while we read together and later, with my own girls as I read to them.  Perhaps, if Laura were here to celebrate her birthday now, she would marvel at the lives we live today.  Or perhaps, she would long to return to the days when her family had little more than love in their Little House on the Prairie.

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)

The American Way

 

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Photo taken from the top of the St. Clement’s Island Lighthouse, overlooking the waters on which my ancestors traveled to the New World.

I worked very hard on a blog for today that I have decided to save for another time.  I think it’s time that someone try to speak out with a level head and calm voice and put some perspective into all that is going on in our country today.  I am so tired of the shouting, the threats, the divisiveness.  We are supposed to hold ourselves to a higher standard.  We are Americans.  Aren’t we?

 

In 1634, my mother’s family  landed on St. Clement’s Island, off the shores of what is today St. Mary’s County, Maryland.  They, and their fellow refugees, sailed aboard the Ark and the Dove, having left England four months earlier in search of a new land where they were promised religious freedom.  When they arrived, the first thing they did was celebrate Mass in thanksgiving for their safe arrival.  

I can’t begin to imagine how they must have felt.  Undoubtedly, every emotion ran through them on that four month journey that must have felt like a lifetime. They dealt with stormy seas, sickness, and death.  I envision nights of pitch blackness and days of unrelenting sun while mothers and children huddled in fear with little to eat, scarce medicine, and squalid living quarters.  But I also envision hope, the celebrating of Mass below decks, the promise of freedom, the songs of a group of people on their way to a new life.  

This vision brings to mind my friend, Antonio, who left Mexico at the age of thirteen to find a better way of life in America, worked hard, and eventually managed to bring his brothers here so that they, too, could prosper in the land of the American Dream.  I think of my friend, Meredith, whose husband came here from Iran, joined the US Army, fought for our country, and became a US citizen amid growing animosity toward people from the Middle East.  I think of my cousin, Ivan, who left the mountains of Guatemala to live in the land of freedom and opportunity.  How are these people any different from my ancestors who crossed the ocean almost 400 years ago?  How are their hopes and dreams any different?  Why do their lives, and the lives of others like them, matter less?

Not long after my mother’s family arrived in the Colonies, my father’s family came here from Scotland and Ireland and also settled in St. Mary’s County.  For many years, the Irish and Scottish were unwelcome intruders in this land.  They were treated as second class citizens relegated to working as servants for the “already established Americans.”  The working class Americans resented the Irish, who were seen as people who would work for a dime and were taking jobs away from Americans.  It took many years for these “newcomers” to be accepted into American life and politics.  It was a Boston Kennedy, grandfather to JFK, among a handful of others, who finally broke the stereotype and became a trusted citizen and politician.  How hard it must have been for my family and the other Irish families along the Eastern seaboard to face resentment and scorn, to be treated as less than human, to be degraded and relegated to a lesser class.

I have many friends who have come here from foreign lands — Mirta’s parents and our friend, Millie, from Cuba; Michelle’s family from Mexico; Libby’s family and Bianca’s grandparents from Italy; Jenny and Joonkie from Korea.  They all came here for one reason – to find and live out the American Dream.  Does that make them any less American or less welcome here than my family just because my ancestors came here so long ago?  Is my family less American or less welcome than the Native Americans who were here before us?

Over the past 400 years, my family has grown to include Native Americans, Polish Americans, Ukrainian Americans, German Americans, and Latino Americans.  My husband and I have decided to see what other Nationalities are hiding within our DNA and are anxious to receive the results.  I strongly believe that every American needs to investigate where they came from and what secrets their DNA holds.  We might all find that we are all more, and less, American than we thought.

So what to do about the current situation in America?  The bottom line is that we all want what’s best for our country, but getting there isn’t easy.  It never has been.  Even the fathers of our country were all over the place when it came to the issues facing them at the time.  Ironically, they are almost identical to the issues we face today.  They worried about being inclusive but not losing our American identity.  They wanted to welcome those people looking for freedom but not endanger national security.  They knew that their decisions would matter for years, decades, hopefully centuries to come.

Hailed by many today as a liberal icon, Alexander Hamilton believed, “the United States have already felt the evils of incorporating a large number of foreigners into their national mass; by promoting in different classes different predilections in favor of particular foreign nations, and antipathies against others, it has served very much to divide the community and to distract our councils. It has been often likely to compromise the interests of our own country in favor of another.”

George Washington contended, “The bosom of America is open to receive not only the opulent and respected stranger, but the oppressed and persecuted of all nations and religions; whom we shall welcome to a participation of all our rights and privileges…”

I suspect that both of these arguments sound familiar to anyone listening to political debate today.  And there’s more:

“The United States should be an asylum for the persecuted lovers of civil and religious liberty.”   -Thomas Paine

Immigrants “will bring with them the principles of the governments they leave, imbibed in their early youth; or, if able to throw off, it will be in exchange for an unbounded licentiousness, passing, as is usual, from one extreme to another. It would be a miracle were they to stop precisely at the point of temperate liberty.”   -Thomas Jefferson

I could go on and on.

My point is that the Founding Fathers disagreed on these and many other issues, but they did one thing that Americans seem unwilling to do today.  They talked.  They debated. They listened.  They reasoned.  And they worked together to come up with the documents that are the cornerstone of our nation. So, I propose that in this time of widespread disagreement, let’s put away our propensity to argue about who is right or wrong.  Erase the lines drawn down the middle between liberals and conservatives, women and men, parents and children, whites and blacks, Muslims and Christians, and everyone else who represents US and THEM.  Let’s show the world what it truly means to be Americans.  We should demand that our elected officials see to it that America continues in the spirit in which it was founded, the spirit of the American Dream, welcoming and encompassing all.  We need to demand that the government find a way to work together to help our country as well as the world.  It’s what America has always done.  How can she stop now?

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)