Learning From the Past; Preserving the Future

img_3618Over the past month, our family has spent a lot of time looking at pictures. My father-in-law, once an avid traveler and adventurer, now finds pleasure in perusing old family photo albums. Seeing all of the photos from the past, while at the same time putting together our family’s 2017 album, leads me to wonder about all of the pictures that people take today. I hear countless people talk about the thousands of photos on their phones. I cringe at the tales of those who have lost thousands of photos because of a phone failure. I recall all of the pictures my grandfather took throughout his life, so meticulously placed in albums and labeled with tender loving care. And I think about the albums I have put together every year since 1992 that my children still love to pull out and go through, laughing at their childhood antics and fondly recalling those who are no longer with us. How will it be for future generations when there are no longer any photos to see, no albums to leaf through, no tangible proof that any of us were here? I get that people are taking lots of pictures, but what do they do with those photos? Where do those memories go?

IMG_3023I wonder how many people have never created a photo album or even own printed photos, other than a few framed prints around their house. We all know people who have boxes of developed but undocumented photos stashed away somewhere or laptops filled with pictures with no idea as to whom or what are in them. We live in a world where most pictures depict someone’s face, with their forehead cut off or their tongue sticking out, that is here one instant and self-destructs the next.

My oldest daughter disagrees with me about this being a problem. She says that her generation takes more photos than any other, and they print and enjoy looking at them with their friends. She believes that the digital age has allowed the taking of photos to become more popular than ever. But that isn’t my point. The Professional Photographers Association claims that 42% of people no longer print photos. Some claim that this isn’t an issue because digital drives can be handed down from generation to generation. Yep, those old floppy disks full of pictures sure are valuable today, aren’t they? Or those flash drives that hold all of your family memories? How will those be accessed in twenty years? No problem, you say, because Instagram and Facebook hold a treasure-trove of photographic memories. Not true, my dear, not true. I noticed recently that even those photos only date back a few years. Facebook is deleting your memories, and I bet you didn’t even know it. Go ahead, check for yourself. All those pictures you shared several years ago are gone.

Things looks pretty dim for future generations when it comes to remembering what great-grandma looked like or how much someone resembles his grandfather.

Cameras are being sold at record low numbers. Everyone depends upon their phones for pictures, but once a digital image disappears, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. I recently read Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, a novel about a photographer who specializes in recovering newly discovered film from years gone by. Working with anthropologists, historians, and families, she’s able to identify POWs, MIAs, and other people whose pictures have survived the years, locked inside a roll of film in a forgotten camera. Will there come a time when there are no cameras, no never-before-seen film or even SD cards to help unlock secrets of the past? Adding to the problem is that most people who do print photos use cheap printers with ink that fades and have no idea how to actually go about properly preserving photos.

12-7-28Judging by what I’m seeing and hearing, Ancestry.com is exploding with people looking for answers to their past. DNA tests are becoming commonplace among people from ages twenty to fifty. We are yearning for a connection to the past, a window to tell us who we are and from where we came. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we no longer have as many photographs to help us find that missing link. No more photos of common things like preparing a meal or families enjoying a simple day at home. All photos are either staged for Instagram perfection or are filtered before being dispersed to cyberspace for a quick laugh and instant destruction.

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Gram looking outI hope I’m wrong and that younger generations do realize what a gift they have with all of this modern technology and and will use it in a way that allows them to pass down cherished images to their children and grandchildren. I hope more people will begin taking and saving photos in some way or another instead of continuing down the road of only taking selfies that have no meaning and no lasting significance. I hope my daughter is right and that her generation of twenty-somethings are saving their photos in a way that will let their children and grandchildren see them. I hope everyone strives to preserve pictures of the past and of those important people who should never be forgotten but will not show up in any history book. Otherwise we are not only losing the Greatest Generation but our link to all generations since then.

What I was writing about this time last year:  I Want to Be a Princess

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

Seeing Jesus

Every time I have tried to write this post, I have been brought to a standstill. I intended to write on the meaning of Christmas, but I can’t seem to move past the events taking place in my family. Several days ago, radio host, Gus Lloyd, posed the question, if there was a survey in which people had to look at a picture of Santa and a picture of Jesus and choose which one has to do with Christmas, which picture would the majority of people pick? He contended that most would choose Santa, and he’s probably correct. I had a whole blog written in my head on that very topic, but somehow, I find myself unable to actually write it.

While it might be true that nowadays, many people associate Santa with Christmas, the Easter Bunny with Easter, and Jesus with ancient stories that have no relevance today, I have been blessed to witness Jesus over and over this Christmas season.

You may know that my father-in-law is very sick and will not be with us much longer. Those words are very difficult to write. For over twenty-four years, he has been a second father to me. Recently someone commented to me that it was asking a lot of me to take care of man who isn’t even my own dad. But, from day one, Dad has always treated me like his daughter. I can’t let him down. But I do.

I have learned that I am not a caregiver. I think I did all right as a mother. My girls all seemed to have turned out okay. But when I take my turns with Dad, I find myself at a loss for what to say, what to do, how to comfort him. I try, but words fail me. I want to be kind and loving when he’s hurting. I want to be stern and commanding when he’s doing something he’s been told not to do. I want to let him know that I am there for him and talk to him about my girls, the weather, or the news. Instead, I often find myself not sure how to talk to a man who used to love talking to everyone, telling stories, and hearing tales but can no longer speak or interact. I want to help feed him, attend his personal needs, and care for his failing body, but I stumble on my own insecurities.

And then I watch my sister-in-law, Chrissy, who so loving and uncomplainingly writes to Dad over and over on his white board and coaxes him to write back. I observe my husband, Ken, as he gently guides his father to the bathroom, helps him comb his hair, and changes his clothes, all with an unwavering devotion and patience. I wipe away a tear as my Rebecca gives up a weekend of studying for her last first-semester law school exam to visit her grandfather and to lay a wreath on his father’s grave. I marvel at my sixteen-year-old, Morgan, really just a child, who has become one of Dad’s most frequent and attentive caregivers. She skipped her school’s Christmas party this morning to wake up at the crack of dawn and feed her grandfather, help the hospice nurse change and shave him, and spend her first day of the break tending to his every need so that her grandmother could attend an important event and doctor’s appointments. I look at these people, and countless others – my daughter Katie who runs countless errands so she can help us out, the hospice nurses who gently wash Dad, Morgan’s teachers who allow her to leave school early to help feed her grandfather when I fear I will do something wrong.; I look at them, and I see Jesus.

I don’t know when society began turning away from God or when Christmas became more about Santa than about Jesus, but I do know that Jesus exists, here and now. He told us, “Love each other as I have loved you” (John 15:12). Sometimes the most difficult and painful times in life provide us with the opportunity to show the greatest amount of love. So, during this Christmas season, I’d like to remind everyone of the real reason for the season, but I’d also like to point out that Jesus doesn’t come to us at Christmas time only. He is here every day, in the loving hands of those who tend to the sick and dying, in the eyes of a child who finds peace in bringing happiness and comfort to others, in the arms of a loved one, providing care and comfort for the weary. He is there in a million things we do each day. We just need to open our eyes and see Him, and then point Him out to others so that they, too, can know He is here.

Merry Christmas to you all. May you encounter Jesus at the celebration of His birth and every day throughout the year.

1503911_10200877328958367_1431887920_nMy dear precious Jesus, I did not mean to take your place,
I only bring toys and things and you bring love and grace.
People give me lists of wishes and hope that they came true;
But you hear prayers of the heart and promise your will to do.
Children try to be good and not to cry when I am coming to town;
But you love them unconditionally and that love will abound.
I leave only a bag of toys and temporary joy for a season;
But you leave a heart of love, full of purpose and reasons.
I have a lot of believers and what one might call fame;
But I never healed the blind or tried to help the lame.
I have rosy cheeks and a voice full of laughter;
But no nail—scarred hands or a promise of the hereafter.
You may find several of me in town or at a mall;
But there is only one omnipotent you, to answer a sinner’s call.
And so, my dear precious Jesus, I kneel here to pray;
To worship and adore you on this, your holy birthday. – Author Unknown

What I was writing about this time last year:  Tis The Season

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

All I Want for Christmas…

Our alarm clock sounded at 4am Monday morning. For the third day in a row, in a string of many days to come, my husband rose early to go to his parents’ house to be there before his father woke up. Needing round the clock care now, his father can’t be left alone, and Ken’s mother can’t do it by herself. There’s only so much time his sister can take off, and his brother lives in another state. So, I set the clock Sunday night, kissed Ken goodbye Monday morning, and watched him leave the room, his shoulders slumped, his heart heavy.

A few hours later, I was on the way home from the gym when I heard the news that a bomb had been detonated on or near a New Jersey transit train at a station in NYC. I immediately stopped the car and texted my dear friend, George, a daily traveler on the NJT into NYC. Thank Heaven, the train was at another station, and he was safe. To say I was relieved is an understatement. I don’t think I can take more bad news. Between our family’s daily struggles, a number of sick and dying parents among the friends in our group this holiday season, a  cousin’s house burning down over the weekend, the never-ending news cycle of lying, corruption, and perverseness, as well as the threats to peace on earth, I’ve had enough of bad news. Haven’t we all?

hallmark_channel_christmas-620x412A little while later, when I sat down to work, an article in the Washington Post caught my eye. Titled, We can’t take any more of 2017, so we’ve turned to the Hallmark Channel in desperation, the article had me hooked. Though we don’t have cable, I’ve been stalking YouTube for Hallmark Christmas movies. I’ve been through every sweet Christmas movie on Amazon and Netflix, and I can’t get enough to satisfy my craving. I admit, I’ve always been a sweet movie fanatic, a Hallmark fan to the end. I tried paying for Hallmark Movies Now but found it a waste of money at Christmas time because it contains only a handful of holiday movies, and they’re all old. Not fair, Hallmark, not fair. I’d pay good money to have access to what’s on their channel without having to have cable. Do you hear that, Hallmark?

Anyway, back to the article. I think I speak for the masses when I say, we are ready for good news, sweet romance, and happy endings. And though these movies aren’t usually Christ-centered, they do offer those three things (my good friend and fellow blogger, Anne Kennedy, wrote a great blog that pretty much sums up the standard Hallmark Christmas movie plot).

Sweet RomanceWe all need hope and goodness in our lives.  Luckily, there are many of us out there, aside from Hallmark, working very hard to provide just that. There’s a whole category of fiction that is Clean and Wholesome Romance, or as it’s more commonly known, Sweet Romance. Sex, if any, is behind closed doors, foul language is kept to a minimum or nonexistent, and deaths, even murders, are not graphically depicted; yet the couple still finds their way to happily ever after.

I find it no coincidence that, just twelve days before Christmas, today’s Gospel reading is from Matthew 11:28-30:

Jesus said to the crowds:
“Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened,
and I will give you rest.
Take my yoke upon you and learn from me,
for I am meek and humble of heart;
and you will find rest for yourselves.
For my yoke is easy, and my burden light.”

It’s crunch time. We’re all trying to keep our heads above water, and we all have things going on in our lives, but then we have this great reminder that no matter what’s going on, Jesus is there. He is not only the reason for the season, He is our hope, our counsel, our way to peace. Whether He’s acknowledged by the Hallmark Channel or not, He is there.

So, the next time you’ve had it with the news, or even with your own personal life, know that there is a place to where you can escape. And when you’ve run out of movies to watch on Hallmark, look for a clean and wholesome romance novel. And above all, look toward Heaven. There may never be a time without troubles or peace on Earth, but there is peace to come – a real-life happily ever after. I know a happy ending is all our family wants for Christmas this year. I’m pretty sure we’re not alone.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Lighting the Way This Christmas

9780692946176Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

 

Summer in December

My book, Summer’s Squall, is being featured on several blogs this week. Here’s what the bloggers are sharing with their readers.

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Do you like winter? There are a lot of people who don’t. Just remember, summer is coming. Yes, it’s about seven months away, but we can still celebrate it. And today, Amy Schliser is on the blog telling us all about her new book, Summer’s Squall.

About the Book

9780692946176Summer’s Squall, begins in Baltimore where Baltimore City Police Detective, Abe (Lank) Lankton, assumes he’ll be helping his cousin solve a minor problem when she calls and asks him to fly west. When he learns that he’s been called out there to aid in capturing an elusive stalker, his first instinct is go straight back to Maryland. However, when he meets the alluring victim, Summer Cooper, all bets are off. With his future, and his own life, in jeopardy, Lank must choose between going back to the life he knows in America’s Charm City or staying out west to help Summer. But Lank’s not sure that Summer is all that she claims to be or that the stalker even exists. One thing he knows for sure, Summer is guilty… of stealing his heart. Summer’s Squall is published by Chesapeake Sunrise Publishing and will be available in local book stores. It may be ordered through Amazon, Barnes and Noble, iBooks, and most other online sellers.

About the Author

Picture2Award-winning author, Amy MacWilliams Schisler, grew up in Maryland, not far from Washington, DC. She graduated from Salisbury University with a Bachelor’s Degree in History and Political Science and from the University of Maryland with a Masters of Library and Information Science. Amy began writing as a child and spent fifteen years working as a librarian, a job she dearly loved, before becoming a full-time author. Her debut book was the beloved children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, an autobiographical book about spending the day with her grandfather that is used throughout the state of Maryland as part of its Maryland history unit. Amy’s first novel, A Place to Call Home, was published in 2014 by Sarah Book Publishing. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, received 2016 and 2017 Illumination Book Awards, which recognize the best Christian themed books published both in the traditional book form as well as the ebook industry. Whispering Vines received a 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. She followed up her success with the acclaimed, Island of Miracles in 2017. Amy’s weekly blog currently has over 1000 subscribers, and topics vary from current events to her home life with her husband, Ken, and their three daughters, Rebecca, Katie, and Morgan as well as their two dogs, Rosie and Misty.

Schisler delights in speaking to groups, and more information may be found at her website: http://www.amyschislerauthor.com.

You may follow Amy online at the following places:

http://amyschislerauthor.com

https://amyschisler.wordpress.com

http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor

https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler

https://www.bookbub.com/authors/amy-schisler

Twitter @AmySchislerAuth

Giveaway

Picture3Amy is generously giving one lucky person two signed paperbacks. One copy is for you and the other for your friend. You can enter here: http://www.rafflecopter.com/rafl/display/9912248026/

Tour Schedule

December 4

Bookish Orchestrations – Intro Post

December 5

Lisa Swinton – Queen of Random – Book Spotlight

Letters from Annie Douglass Lima – Book Spotlight

Rachel Rossano’s Words – Book Spotlight

December 6

Rebekah Lyn Books – Book Spotlight

Amy Schisler, Author – Book Spotlight

December 7

Among the Reads – Book Spotlight

December 8

Adventures in Publishing – Book Spotlight

December 9

Bookish Orchestrations – Giveaway winner

Excerpt

Lank stood at the back door and watched the lightning. The mountains were invisible, shrouded in black from the ground to the heavens. Each bolt of lightning illuminated the sky with an iridescent glow that gave clear understanding of the term, electric blue.

“This is spectacular,” Lank said.

“It is pretty incredible,” Summer agreed. It was the first time they had been seen each other in forty-eight hours, and Lank couldn’t help but see the irony of them being together during a lightning storm. Every time he thought about her lately, he felt like he’d been hit by a bolt out of the blue.

Another strike hit a distant mountain with offshoots of light emanating from the bolt like the long, spindly branches of a tall, pine tree.

“The lightning is seriously intense,” Lank said, feeling like a kid mesmerized by his first storm.

“And dangerous. One strike to a dry, dead tree can start a fire that would spread for miles and lay waste to everything in its path.”

Lank marveled once again with his new appreciation for nature. “I guess that’s something I’ve never given a thought to. Forest fires are pretty non-existent on the east coast.”

“And pretty common out here. We had one about seven or eight years ago that spread all the way up to the base of the San Juan’s. You could see the haze and smell the smoke even with the doors and windows closed.”

Lank was speechless. He’d never seen such a beautiful storm, and it was hard to reconcile that with the destruction that he knew a forest fire could create. He turned to Summer.

“Why do you stay up here? So far from civilization? With bears and mountain lions and lightning that could burn down your house? Why, with everything you’ve gone through over the past couple months, do you stay in this house, on this mountain, alone?”

Summer looked at Lank and then turned back to the light show. She fiddled with the cross dangling below her throat as she watched the light flash across the sky. When she finally spoke, her voice was low, and her gaze was fixed on the black horizon with its intermittent blue light.

“Once, when I was younger, my parents took us to Disney World. It was a dream come true for me. Even Johnny, who acted like it was a stupid trip for his baby sister, had the time of his life. We went to all the parks, rode all the rides, watched the shows, and had our pictures taken with every Disney character imaginable.”

Lank watched her as she spoke. Her red hair hung loose around her shoulders, and the occasional flash of light made her eyes even greener than usual. She was the most beautiful sight he had seen since he’d arrived in Colorado. He watched her lips curve into a smile as she remembered her family trip.

“One night, we went to see Fantasmic, the light and water show. Have you seen it?” She turned and looked at Lank who shook his head, too awestruck by her to speak.

“It was this amazing show of lights and lasers and water spouts. But as I watched it, all I could think about was that it was made up. It was a technological wonder of grand proportions, but it was a show.” She turned back to Mother Nature’s show outside the window. “This,” she said as she gestured to the sky, “this is the real deal. This is a light show of epic proportions that Walt Disney could only dream of portraying with his fancy lights and music.”

Summer turned to Lank and smiled. “I wake up every morning with a heavenly masterpiece painted across the sky outside my window. I drive to work amid the majesty of the most beautiful mountains in the world. I see God’s version of a magical light show every time we have a storm. If I’m lucky, Black and I can spot a bobcat or a mother bear and cubs up on one of our rides. I walked through Cinderella’s castle, rode the Matterhorn, watched Fantasmic, and met creatures of all kinds in their costumes and wigs, but I never once saw anything that compares to what I have on top of this mountain.”

Without thinking, Lank reached up and tucked the stray lock of hair behind her ear. He felt Summer catch her breath at his touch. His hand lingered near her face before he gently touched her cheek and let his finger trail down her face.

“I’ve never seen anything as beautiful as what’s standing in front of me at this moment,” Lank said quietly as he lightly caressed her cheek with the back of his fingers.

“Lank, I,” Summer began to speak, but Lank put his finger on her lips.

“Shh,” he whispered. “You don’t have to say anything. I think you know how I feel, but I don’t think you know how you feel. Not yet.” He felt her shiver and saw the relief in her eyes. It was all he could do not to take her into his arms.

“As far as I’m concerned, I’m here on business. God help me, I might not sleep a wink waiting for you to decide what you want, but once you can see clearly and choose me for who I am and not what I can do to save you; once you’re no longer the damsel in distress but the strong woman I believe you to be, then I’ll be here.”

Lank leaned down and placed a soft, gentle kiss on her lips before backing away and heading upstairs to the room next door to hers. He had made up his mind, right or wrong. Summer was the only woman who had ever made him feel this way – focused yet confused, secure yet unsteady, manly yet like a child in need. He was too far gone to turn back now.

What I was writing about one year ago this week:

How Do You Measure A Year?

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 books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschislerand 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), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)