The Europeans do things right when it comes to vacations. To them, a vacation isn’t simply a long weekend or a week at the beach with a drink in one and a cell phone in the other. No, their vacations last for an entire month, and the cell phone, email, What’s App, and all other forms of communication are for family business only. In Italy, August is typically the month where everyone–yes, almost the entire country–goes on vacation. Any major projects being tackled on July 31 will have to wait to be completed after August 30. It was something my husband had to get used to when he started working for an Italian company but something I wished we, as Americans, embraced.
When I realized that all of my children were going to be out of college/law school for approximately four weeks over Christmas, I decided that a European vacation was in order for me. So, between December 10 and January 7, my entire focus was on my family, my friends, and my Savior.
Not only was it the best thing I could have done for myself and my family, it taught me some valuable lessons…
Prior planning is key.
My Devotional Alphabet was being released on December 1, I had a book club chat on December 9, and I have an audiobook in production. There was a lot to be done to get ready for those–final editing of the book, uploads to Ingram publishing house, cover design completion, book ordering, travel planning, and audiobook editing. I also had to make sure that I set aside time during my time off to write blogs, enter contests, listen to the audiobook, and keep up with marketing tasks (I know–very unEuropean of me). My month off could only be done with careful planning and foresight.
Prioritize every day.
There were some days when I made myself get up before the girls were up (pretty easy for me at their ages) and complete tasks that I had scheduled to be done on those days. In addition, I had to remind myself what this vacation was all about and make time to do those things. I needed to carve out time for exercise, grocery shopping, and Hallmark movies, but the whole point of giving myself the time off was to celebrate the season with my family and friends. If I was going to be true to myself, I had to make sure my daily schedule put them first. Everything else was just stuff.
Put aside petty grievances and jealousies.
One of the difficult balancing acts that college kids need to perform when home is time spent with family and time spent with friends. When Morgan wanted a sleepover with her bestie for the third night in a row, I had to put my foot down, but I also had to acknowledge that the girls missed their friends. They wanted to see them over their break as much as they could, and I had to be okay with it. Together, we crossed days off the calendar that would be family only, and we highlighted days when friends could be included in family events. We all had to be willing to share the short amount of time we had together.
Take time out for yourself.
We all love our families, but we all know that there is such a thing as too much togetherness. Finding the time to pray, work out, go on a walk, read a book, or watch a movie is important. Those are great ways to take advantage of those times the kids want to be with friends. Everyone needs the time to take a breath, find some peace and quiet, and do something for his or herself.
Make every moment count.
Over the past month, we baked cookies, hosted dinner parties, watched movies (Peanut Butter Falcon was a favorite), played games (lots and lots of games), visited with family and friends, went to the movies (what family with multiple girls doesn’t love Little Women?), went shopping for bridal dresses, and went to Mass every Sunday, Christmas Eve, and New Year’s Day. Morgan and her dad went deer hunting, and the two of them and Rebecca made sausage and snack sticks with the meat. Katie and I attended an awesome Scythian concert. We went out to eat a couple times and just enjoyed the conversation. We all knew that there was limited time before this would end and classes and work would become the priority for us all. We needed to make each thing we did an event, and we did.
Not everyone can afford to take that amount of time off. Not everyone can spend an entire month simply focussing on having fun with their family. But everyone can find a way to put God and family first. We must take back our lives and show our children what really matters.
Our society makes us feel guilty when we aren’t working twenty-four hours a day, answering the phones, checking email, and responding to messages. Technology has created the false sense that we must be plugged in at all times, working our lives away, climbing the corporate ladder, putting families on hold, and shutting the door on our kids. We hear about people who choose careers over babies and evening phone calls, meetings, or sports over family dinners. We are told that we have to work harder, longer, faster, and be available at all times, every day. And it’s killing us. We’re not repopulating the world. We’re not teaching our families the importance of going to church. We’re not retiring and enjoying life. WE are driving up the cost of living by always demanding more and not looking around to see that what we have is enough. And we are teaching our children to do the same.
When my children have families of their own, I hope they look back and see that their parents worked hard to provide a comfortable life for their family. But I pray that what stands out in their memories are all of the times we put work aside and spent time with them. That is how they will truly know that we loved them to the fullest extent and how to spend the Christmas season, and every day of the year, with their own families.
Would you like to read more writings like this?
Amy’s new book, A Devotional Alphabet, is now available! These sixty-second meditations are meant to inspire, encourage, and welcome all women traveling on the road to Heaven.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Make your Own Hallmark Story This Christmas.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled 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, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is the 2019 winner for Best Inspirational Fiction in the RWA Golden Quill Contest, Best Romance in the American Book Awards, and a finalist for the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction. Amy’s 2019 work, The Devil’s Fortune, is based, in part, on her family history and is garnering many five star reviews.
Book Three of the Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, is now available! Purchase your copy today of the “book that was a joy to read!”- Ann on GoodReads.
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), Island of Promise (2018), The Devil’s Fortune (2019), Island of Hope (2019).