One thing I learned at an early age is that life is not all about work, and work is not all about the absence of fun.
This past weekend, my parents were visiting for Father’s Day. Mom and I spent a little bit of time in town–we live right outside of the Maritime tourist destination, St. Michaels–and visited my girls at work, Morgan at the Chesapeake Bay Maritime Museum and Katie at Simpatico, a fabulous Italian market. We all went crabbing, along with Ken’s mom, and feasted on our catch with Rebecca and Anthony who joined us on Father’s Day afternoon. We went to Mass, did a little gardening (thank you, Dad for the new forsythia!), and relaxed, happy to enjoy Mom and Dad’s first time staying at the house since 2019.
While I was making desserts on Sunday afternoon, we listened to a playlist that I created which consists of all the music we listened to when I was a kid. At one point, I looked at my mom and said, “I made this list because all these songs remind me of non-football Sunday afternoons.” Mom smiled, knowing exactly what I meant. She added, “When we’d play all the old records and clean the house before the start of the work week.” I nodded and said, “Yep. We’d blast music while cleaning and doing laundry, but what I loved most is how we’d dance and sing while we did our chores.” Those afternoons are among my favorite childhood memories.
I learned so many lessons on those Sundays, lessons like…
Don’t be cruel to a heart that’s true, don’t let your babies grow up to be cowboys, the Mississippi River can’t keep us apart, step back non believers or the rain will never come, Muskogee is a place where even squares can have a ball, and I was rich as I could be. But the biggest lesson I learned is that we’re all given a life, and we all need to make the best of it however we can.
I’m sure there were many other places I would rather have been on the those Sunday afternoons. I could have been playing with friends, running around the neighborhood park, watching a movie, or simply reading a book. I could have begged my mother to let us do something else, anything else, to go somewhere exciting or just be left alone. I could have dreaded those afternoons and moaned and grumbled and done my chores with the worst attitude I could muster. My parents could have made the work feel like complete drudgery. If any of those had happened, I’m quite positive that I’d have no memory at all of those afternoons. There would have been nothing special about them at all. Instead, I can close my eyes and still feel the excitement of going through all of my parents’ records, lining them up in the order I wanted them to drop onto the turntable, and listening for the first scratch of the needle on the shiny vinyl. I still get a thrill whenever I hear something from Elvis’ Moody Blue, a very special record made of the brightest blue vinyl that I loved to hold and look at for a moment before placing it in the stack.
There is a conversation in Tolkien’s, The Fellowship of the Ring, when Gandalf explains the history of the ring to Frodo and how the ring came to be in the hands of Gollum.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”
How true that is. To quote another saying, “Life is what you make it.” We can choose to make all of life’s chores, annoyances, or hardships bring us down, or we can find ways to see the bright side, find the fun, and count our blessings. In the words of the immortal Mary Poppins, we can take all the bad, boring, or laborious things with a spoonful of sugar for “In every job that must be done, there is an element of fun. You find the fun and snap! The job’s a game.”
I don’t think I did a very good job of instilling this teaching in my own children. They seem to think that everything in life that isn’t exciting is to be strenuously avoided, at least around the house! But when Morgan comes home from the museum with a smile on her face and tells us how much she loves her summer job of the past five years, I see a glimmer of that spoon of sugar. Not everything in life can be a game or an afternoon of fun or an event filled with nonstop excitement, but everything in life can be looked at through a different lens, perhaps not always fun, but good in the end, something from which we have learned and grown.
Back in the year 2000, Lee Ann Womack released a song that implored us, “when you get the choice to sit it out or dance, I hope you dance.” My parents understood these lyrics long before Lee Ann’s song became a standard for weddings, graduations, and other milestones in life. They understood that there are times in life when the best choice you can make is to dance.
We’re all given chores. We’re all given good days and bad. We’re all given necessary things with which we have to cope or deal or to which we have to attend. We’re all given times of heartache and pain and unease, times with little rest or hope or happiness. When these times come, the best thing we can do is pray, work through it, and remember the words of Gandalf. Let’s spend our time deciding well what to do with that time. Let’s remember to listen and dance to the music.
Attention Marylanders! Have your children or grandchildren read my book, Crabbing With Granddad? If not, buy it now, and read it to them this summer. Then join the “Support Indie Summer” Reading Challenge for children K-12! To play along and enter to win a stack of books from the challenge, you just need to earn ten points and then fill out this form to enter the drawing. One reader will win all of the challenge picture books, one reader will win all of the middle grade books, and one reader will win all of the young adult books! Only one entry per reader, but multiple readers in a household can enter.
I’m so excited to announce my first ever Book and Wine Dinner! On Thursday August 12, I’m partnering with the amazing Laurie Forster, sommelier, to offer an exclusive event at Scossa’s Italian restaurant in Easton, Maryland. You may know Laurie from her appearances on The Dr. Oz Show, Fox Business Network, NBC and ABC News, or from one of her many interviews with Brides Magazine, The Wall Street Journal, The Wine Enthusiast, Sirius Radio, or Martha Stewart Living! Laurie will bring her expertise and her joyful personality to an evening of food, wine, book talk, wine talk, and lots of mingling, talking, laughing, and toasting. To be part of this exclusive ticketed event, visit my website and buy your ticket today. Spots are limited in order for everyone to enjoy this intimate evening in a beautiful setting on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.
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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, a finalist in the Writer’s Digest Self-Publishing Awards and winner of an Illumination Award, is based, in part, on Amy’s family history. The third book of Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Hope, was released in August of 2019.
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), A Devotional Alphabet (2019), Desert Fire, Mountain Rain(2020).