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)

Six Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

DSC00972Ken has always given me a hard time on long car rides about having my nose stuck in a book instead of looking around. While I can’t argue his point that there’s so much to see, those long stretches of highway just scream for distraction. However, I’ve always managed to know when to put the book down and take in the beauty around me. Sadly, this knowledge seems to be lost on most people today who can’t lift their eyes from their phones for more than thirty seconds. There is so much that they are missing.  Here are just a few of the reasons why everyone needs to put their phones down more often and open their eyes to the world around them.

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Seville, Spain

1. There is so much to see in this world! Don’t sit with your eyes glued to the screen. Reading about places on the Internet will never, ever be the same as seeing them with your own eyes. You will never experience the world on a screen the way you will with all of five of your senses. Take a walk, take a drive, fly to another land. And don’t look at your phone. 

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A spontaneous night of bowling with friends.

2. There’s nothing like real human interaction. Instead of texting friends, go out with them! Turn the phones off, and enjoy your time together. When you have a problem, need a shoulder to lean on, someone to wipe your tears, your phone won’t meet your needs. Only your friends, live and in the flesh, can give you a hug, a pat on the back, a genuine smile and loving touch.

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The 9/11 Museum

3. History can come to life. These days, you can watch a movie on your phone, a YouTube video showing clips of an important event, a news broadcast, and more. But there’s nothing like touching an artifact, There’s nothing like walking on the hallowed ground of a Civil War battlefield or Ground Zero. Instead of an online virtual tour of the White House, call your congressman, and schedule a visit.  It’s easy and it’s free. Rather than watching a documentary about the Civil War, visit Gettysburg, or Antietam, or Fort Sumter.  Someone once asked me how we were able to instill such a love of learning and of history in our children. It was easy, I told them, we didn’t teach them history, we showed them history. We brought it to life before their very lives.

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Morgan playing her favorite game

4. Games are more fun in real life. Our country faces a juvenile obesity problem that is unprecedented, and it can’t be solved by exercising one’s thumbs. Virtual reality games don’t constitute exercise, and no matter how much you walk around looking for Pokemon, you aren’t truly pushing your body, gaining strength and muscle, or sharpening your athletic skills, and nether are your children. 

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It’s always fun and games when the family is together

5. Social skills are important! Whether playing a team sport, or a game of Uno with family, we need to stop looking at our phones for entertainment and start looking around us. Last week, my mother, brother, and I took all of the cousins (8 kids, ages 9 to 20) to Six Flags and were met with disappointment. Just before opening, a bomb threat was called in, and the park wasn’t able to open. We went for ice cream, a stroll on a local boardwalk, and then back to Grandma’s house for an afternoon of board games. And we had a ball.  It wasn’t the thrill of riding a roller coaster, but there were laughs, cheers, and a sense of camaraderie that could not have been had if everyone had simply gone back to the house and played on their phones. It was a no phone zone, and it was wonderful.

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Powderhorn, Colorado

6. Because moments are fleeting. Life passes by in the blink of an eye. Ferris knew what he was talking about when he said “Life moves pretty fast. If you don’t stop and look around once in a while, you could miss it.” A sunrise may last for as long as thirty minutes, but each minute, even each half minute, is completely different. Colors change, clouds shift, shadows grow and shrink. Each time you blink, the scene transforms. When I photograph a sunrise, I end up with about a hundred shots, each one totally and completely different from the rest. It’s an amazing palette of colors on an ever-changing canvas. To look away for even an instant is to miss the next great work of art. Perhaps God does that on purpose. It’s a reminder that each moment, each tiny piece of time is to be marveled at, revered, appreciated. And take it from someone who has seen a lot of sunrises, there’s nothing like putting down the phone, or even the camera, and gazing at the real thing.

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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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and EventsSix Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

No Place Like Home

 

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The Plaza de Espana in Seville

It’s good to be home.  While our family had a wonderful vacation traveling all over Portugal and Spain, there’s nothing like a good night’s sleep in your own bed.  It’s even better when you’ve spent the previous two weeks sleeping in other people’s beds in other people’s houses.  Yes, I do mean houses, or apartments in most cases.  Rather than staying in hotels, we spent this vacation renting homes through AirBnB.  My sister-in-law suggested them to us a few years ago, but I was never interested in staying in someone else’s home.  This year, to save money, we decided to give it a try.  My feelings are still mixed, and to be honest, I’m not sure I would do it again, but it was part of the adventure, so I’m glad we gave it a try.

 

 

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The central square in Merida, Spain, just a few blocks from our apartment – our favorite of the houses in which we stayed.

AirBnB was created with the idea that people would open up their home to travelers as a bed and breakfast or that they would allow others to rent their home when they, the host family, was away.  In theory, it’s a great idea.  However, as pointed out in a recent article in the Harvard Business Review, that’s not quite the reality of the business.  Rather than staying in someone’s personal home, in most cases, guests stay in an apartment that has been purchased by the owner specifically for AirBnB rentals.  While this was fine with us (and slightly less creepy), according to HBR, it’s having devastating effects on the housing market in several US and European cities where “residents” are no longer actually living in the homes, and real estate prices are driving middle income families out of local neighborhoods.  We could certainly see how this was the case as most of the places where we lodged were in residential areas rather than hotel and tourist centers. 

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The shrine and basilica in Fatima, Portugal

All in all, our experiences were good ones.  Our children had never stayed in a B&B, and they were happy that only one of the places we stayed in was in someone’s home.  While they delighted in the scrumptious breakfast we were provided before leaving Fatima, they didn’t like the feeling of staying in the home of a stranger while the owner slept in the room upstairs.  They much preferred the apartments where we were met by the owner, given a tour, and handed a key, before saying goodbye to the never seen again host.  They did love, however, the opportunity to have their own beds, and in some cases, their own rooms, and it was nice to be able to wash all of our clothes halfway through the trip.

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Katie and Morgan took turns reading to each other on the many subway rides.

My advice to anyone considering AirB&B is simple.  Research, read, and review.  If the apartment is “located in the center of Malaga [and] the square is filled with restaurants, tapas bars, pubs and bars, fundamental enclaves within the Malaga night.,” know that this really means “nothing in Malaga closes, or quiets, until close to 3am, and you’re in the thick of it.”  If you’re an early to bed family or a light sleeper, hearing the partying in the streets until 3am and then the trash trucks and recycling trucks until 4am is probably not going to bode well for your next day of sightseeing.  “Close to the train station” may not mean an easy walk with your bags but rather a subway ride in which you’ll have to change trains three times.

While we didn’t have any major issues, and all of the hosts were pleasant and helpful, I really missed the amenities of staying in a hotel – a concierge to consult, a clean room each afternoon, a steady supply of toilet paper (yep, that was an interesting morning), and a pool, game room, etc. the things that most people enjoy while on vacation.  It was good experience, and I don’t think I would have changed anything, but I did learn to read between the lines.  In some cases, if it sounds good to be true, it probably is.

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The Roman ruins in Merida, thankfully not one of the apartments.

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Meet Author, Alexa Jacobs

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A dinosaur.That’s what my first book was about. At least, I think. I close my eyes and I vividly remember this paper book in my hands, cut out in the shape of a dinosaur head. Along the back of his head was a line of hole punches with purple yarn holding the entire book together.

I don’t remember what the book was about or what elementary grade I was in when I created it. I know it passed through my hands when I moved out of my childhood home and unearthed the boxes in my grandparents basement. You know the one, full of the things that seem to get held onto for a lifetime. I love boxes like that. Everything that makes us US is represented. I’ve tried so hard to put at least one thing, big or small into a box for my own children every year to have one day. When they grow up, and they move out and they unearth those boxes they will see; this was the best of them. Pieces and parts of personality while they were still forming. Magic, mid-creation.

I had no idea what the dinosaur book was about, my immediate memory was of something completely different than the story. I remembered the typewriter.

I think it belonged to my great-grandparents because I simply cannot imagine my grandmother making use of one. She had the most amazing penmanship I’ve ever seen. I used to stare at the mail, or a check she had written, or even a grocery list and wonder how I could get my handwriting to look anything like hers. Time and practice, she’d say. But that’s a post for another day…she had this typewriter collecting dust in the basement. Black, shiny metal with small round circle buttons standing on skinny tall typing keys. It made this glorious old fashioned sound that my little brain could not get enough of. I loved the click, clack, click as my fingers chose the right letters. I loved the way the words appeared on the crisp white paper in their slightly worn looking patterns. I specifically remember stopping many times and running my fingers along the top where the little metal typebars laid perfectly aligned until a key was selected and it would fly up and hit the ink ribbon in front of the paper.

I think I was the only ten-year-old girl who was thrilled with a stack of clean white paper. I can still feel it in my hands as I carefully rolled it into the platen and sat back for that second before I would begin typing.

Once upon a time…

That’s where my story began; in my grandparents basement writing a multitude of amazingly forgettable stories (which they kept) on an unforgettable piece of machinery (which they did not keep).

I’m still obsessed with the memory of this old typewriter. Recently I was paroozing the isles at TJ Maxx (I know, I wish it was somewhere more bohemian for you, but TJ Maxx is pretty amazing) I came across a silver framed black and white print of an old fashioned Underwood typewriter. It looks exactly like the memory in my mind, so now it hangs in my office and I smile every time I see it. The memory of sentences and sentences, paragraphs and pages of what was no doubt the pure nonsense of a child still lays fresh in my mind.

You never know what is going to introduce you to your passions of life, and you certainly never know when. I look at my oldest child and think that I knew I wanted to be a writer at his age, deep down. It wasn’t loud enough yet, but it was there. I look at my youngest child and think at his age, I had no idea. The magic, for me, happened somewhere in the middle. Everything they get excited about these days, I wonder, is this their passion?

Becoming a writer was one of the most natural experiences in my life. The click, clack, click of the keyboard under my fingers is a lullaby to me. There was nothing hard, nothing challenging. For the first time in my life, I was able to turn that part of my personality all the way up. Becoming an author…now that was hard work.

Enter the plotlines, and formulas, and grammar rules, and genres, and the classes and the marketing, and blogging and the metadata (seriously, what the hell is metadata?) and…oh, for the love of an oxford comma. Sixteen different times I have thought that the book I am currently working on is absolute crap.

But then something amazing happened. I walked into a room of writers who I have spent years admiring. I’ve read some of their book, and can only dream of having stories as richly told as theirs. From the minute I entered the room, I started backpedaling in my own career. I found it very hard to stare a writer in face, a writer who I know has sold hundreds of thousands of books, and say to them that I am a writer too. I’m not a writer, you’re a writer. I’m just….a dreamer.

The amazing part that I mentioned, happened when they admitted that they are just dreamers too. Every single writer I met that night asked me what my book was about, and what I want out of writing. They asked me what my passions were, and were happy to share moments of similarity. I was thrilled beyond belief to hear an award winning novelist admit she had been up all night because the last 2700 words she wrote were absolute trash and she just couldn’t figure out how to get from point A to point B in her plotting wheel, noting she may just kill everyone off in chapter nine and open a bottle of wine.

What I took away that evening, besides an amazingly ugly little stuffed Santa from the “re-gifted” exchange, was to always be a dreamer. Always remember that writing is a passion I chose. Don’t think abut the plotlines, and formulas, and grammar rules. All of that can be worked out. All of that can be learned. What can’t be learned, or faked, is what I hear when I hear the click, clack, click of the keyboard. This is my song.

Sing it loud, sing it proud.

…and the award winning Authors cheered me on. ME. Because they know the words to that song, they hear it too.

My passion is writing, but what’s yours? Do you find yourself in love with an old trunk full of travel stickers? Does it make you want to see the world? Do you find yourself flipping through your grandmother’s tattered and torn recipe book, stopping to study splatter marks from a sauce that boiled over twenty years before you were born? Does it make you want to feed your soul? Do you find yourself seeing the world one captured moment at a time through your camera? Does it make want to freeze time, if only for a second, so you can have THAT feeling forever? Do you dance, do you sing? Do you count your dollar bills over and over, organizing and planning on charts for the future not because you need to but because you love the way the numbers come together?

Sing it loud, sing it proud and remember that we are all dreamers. Think back in your life, and you’ll find it. What would I find if I opened up the childhood box that represents the best of you? I was a child when I first heard my calling…but it took me three decades to listen.

What would you hear if you stopped and listened? What is the click, clack, click sound of your heart?

***

Alexa Jacobs was born and raised in the suburban outskirts of Baltimore, and now lives with her husband and sons in central Maryland. Her debut novel, Rising Ridge, has been hailed by critics as a relatable tale of a young woman’s journey into first love and new adulthood. She is an active member in both the Maryland Romance Writers and the Romance Writers of America.

In her second novel, The Dreamer, Jacobs explores Contemporary Romance with Suspense. The Dreamer will be available in September 2016.

Find out the latest updates from: http://www.alexajacobs.com

 

 

 

 

 

Striking Gold

Our family recently discovered a hidden gem while on vacation in Spain. When we were planning our trip, our oldest daughter discovered a little known city called Merida, between Fatima, Portugal, and Seville. Though it is one of the oldest cities in Spain, it has been only in recent years that Merida has become a destination for tourists. A small, quiet town in southwest Spain, it is the site of several Roman ruins including a coliseum and amphitheater. Like much of Spain, the city comes alive at night when locals and visitors as young as three years of age can be seen playing in the streets and watching futbol in the outdoor bars into the wee hours of the night. 

We visited the city over a weekend in June, yet the streets were still almost empty, and the tourist sites had plenty of room in which to move. Unlike other European cities such as Paris or Rome, Merida felt quaint and new in spite of the age of the city. Untouched by most tourists, its beauty can be fully appreciated even during the times of day when one would expect large crowds. It’s easy to take the time necessary to fully enjoy the experience and the ambiance of the city.

Aside from the wonderful aspects of the city of Merida, I discovered something else while on vacation this year that surprised me. Though our family has vacationed together every year since our oldest was born over twenty years ago, this was the first year that I didn’t feel like I was traveling with three children. Technically, two of our girls are still youths, ages fifteen and seventeen, but this summer, it really felt like we were traveling with adults.

Shopping excursions shifted from visiting local toy stores to dress shopping as the girls all tried to imitate the fashion tastes of Europe. Desired souvenirs were no longer key chains and snow globes but artwork and pottery. Yes, there were some disagreements, petty squabbles, and normal insecurities that sisters are so adept at bringing out in each other, but there were more moments of real conversation (without cell phones!), mature sight-seeing (no children’s museums), and late nights sitting in Spanish bars talking about college and future plans.

Though I often lament about how much it pains me to see my girls grow older, I have to admit that spending time with my young adult daughters was a truly uplifting and pleasant experience. I’m not ready to marry any of them off, but I can see the future, and it is a treasure to behold.

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

“Be Imitators of Me”

Amy 1st ComWhen I was growing up, I was closer to my grandparents than anybody else in the world. I spent a lot of my summers at their home and learned many lessons about life and love. I have tried to remember all that they taught me, and I hope I have imparted some of their knowledge and beliefs to my own children. The things I learned from them are timeless, and with the world they way it is today, I think everyone could benefit from their wisdom. Here are the top things they taught me, ranked lowest to highest.

 

  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it’s not meant to hold onto forever.  Granddad didn’t believe in banks. Perhaps it was because he was born in 1916 and certainly witnessed the fear and despair brought on by the Great Depression. He always felt that his money was best kept in the wall safe in his house. But that didn’t mean that it stayed there like a stockpile that shouldn’t be touched. If Gram wanted a new pair of shoes (and that was quite often, really, QUITE often), Granddad never hesitated to take her shopping. I remember one time when the three of us were shopping together. Granddad asked, “What are those things on your feet?” I looked down and smiled. “My favorite shoes,” I replied, very proud of the stained, well-worn canvas shoes. “No granddaughter of mine should have shoes that look like that. You’re getting a brand new pair.” I don’t know why that story has always stuck out in my mind, but I do know that we went straight to the shoe department at Peebles, and I walked out with a new pair of shoes. I’m pretty sure Gram left with three new pairs, and Granddad left with a lighter wallet and a smile on his face.
  2. The early bird gets the worm. When I stayed at my grandparents’ house, one of my favorite things to do was to go crabbing with Granddad. The first book I ever wrote was about a day spent crabbing and was a tribute to the man I loved. He rose every morning before the sun came up and went to work. In the summer, that was on the water. In the spring and fall, it was in his fields. He worked early, when the day was cool, and rested in the afternoon when it was too hot to be outside. He knew the value of starting every day before dawn. Grandma was no different. I remember on the days I didn’t get up and go crabbing, Grandma would sneak into my bedroom early every morning to collect the clothes I had worn the day before. They were often washed and on the line before I was even out of bed. Then the chore was done for the day. We called grandma “The Laundry Lady” because of her insistence that all clothes should be washed, dried, and put away first thing every morning. It’s one thing I have yet to master, but I have always tried. And as a writer, you will always find me doing my best work early in the morning. I think it’s because Gram is whispering in my ear that “time’s a wasting” and I’d better get moving and get something done.
  3. Family dinners are essential.  Whether it was just for the five of us and my grandparents or the entire Morgan clan, my grandmother loved serving up a good, old-fashioned family dinner. Every Sunday, that was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a bounty of vegetables, bread, and desserts. There was always enough food for one more person at the table, or two or three. The door was always open, and everyone who dined with us was family. I was raised on the belief that families always eat together, and in a world in which most families rarely see each other for a single meal during the week, that’s such an important lesson to remember. I thank my grandmother for recognizing this and my own mother for instilling it in all of us. Though it can be hard at times, eating dinner together as a family is my favorite part of the day, and, like Gram, there’s always room for one more at the table, or two or three.
  4. It’s important to make everyone feel special.  Every man was Granddad’s buddy, and every woman was his sweetheart. It didn’t matter if he had known them his entire life, or if they were serving him coffee at a restaurant where he had never eaten. He learned their names, asked about their families, gave out hugs like candy, and always had a smile for everyone he came across. I don’t believe anyone ever left their presence without feeling like the most special person on earth. My grandparents lived by the words in Matthew 25:30, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” I believe that Grandma and Granddad saw Jesus in each person they met, and they made sure that everyone felt it.
  5. Friends are friends, whatever their race, religion, or creed.  My grandparents were raised during a time when everything was determined by the color of your skin, where you went to church, and who your relatives were. There were lines that were not crossed. But I remember a young, black man who used to live and work near my grandparents. He could often be found helping out around my great-aunt’s store. Others may have looked the other way when they saw him coming, but not Granddad. They were friends, and that counted for something. Growing up in a neighborhood and attending a school in a white suburban area, I was profoundly affected by my grandfather’s friendship with this man. They remained friends until the day Granddad died, and I’m sure they’re both together now, drinking Coca-Cola and eating Hershey bars in Heaven.
  6. Family matters.  There was nothing that my grandparents wouldn’t do for their family.  If I wanted to spend time with them, all I had to do was call, and they were in the car and on the way. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but they lived an hour away, and they had very busy lives even in “retirement” (truth be told, I don’t think they knew what that word meant). But they were always there no matter what. My grandmother was definitely the mother hen in the family. She looked after her sisters and sisters-in-law like they were her children. Her own mother suffered a stroke early in life, and not a day went by that Gram wasn’t at her mother’s house helping to feed, bathe, and care for her. And no amount of complaining would allow us to stay home when she went over there. Family is family, and we were to all remember that and pitch in where needed.
  7. God should be the forefront of everything. I’ve heard that when my mother was a child, my grandfather rarely went to church. My grandmother would load up their four children and take them to church every week without fail, but Granddad usually stayed home. When I was a child, however, I never remember there being a time that Granddad didn’t go with us to Mass. I recall that he was always a few steps ahead of everyone else, finishing his prayers several beats before the rest of the congregation. I never understood why, and it always perplexed me. But for no reason that I can explain, I find myself doing the same thing. It always makes me feel like he is there praying the words right along with me. Granddad might have been slow to being a regular church-goer, but he was always faithful to God. The St Clement’s Island cross, marking the site of the first Mass in the New World, was built and erected by his own hands. He also made the Stations of the Cross that line the cemetery where he and Gram are now laid to rest. It wasn’t unusual to find a nun or a priest at the dinner table, nor was it unusual for either of my grandparents to say “Get in the car, we’re taking [fill in the blank] to the church.” Sometimes it was laundry or dinner, other times it was an apple pie or a pail of fresh-picked cherries. Grandma prayed every morning, and I still marvel at her ability to put everything else aside, every single day, in order to spend time with the Lord. They lived out Joshua 24:15 throughout their lives, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And what better lesson could they have instilled in any of us?

Here is the thing that really stood out to me when I was thinking about all of this. My grandparents taught us all of these lessons and never said a word out loud about any of them. Everything we learned came from observation. They lived out each and every day according to the teachings of St. Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I only pray that I always remember what they taught me and that I am worthy of their legacy.

DSC09770On St. Clements Island in front of the cross that Granddad built.

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 eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

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To All of the Muses in My Life

IMG_1118I was blindsided last night by the outpouring of love and support that I received from so many people.  I held a launch party for my newest release, Whispering Vines, available today in print and ebook.  The large reception room at Scossa’s Restaurant and Lounge was standing room only with friends, family, fellow writers, and even strangers who all came to purchase my new book.  By the end of the event, I was completely sold out of that book and had sold numerous copies of my earlier books.  It was an evening I will never forget.

I often hear it said that the life of a writer is lonely and depressing.  Many writers spend their days in isolation, writing at home, locked away from the world.  Many of the world’s greatest authors lived painful lives of solitude, often turning to drugs or alcohol, with many committing suicide.  I’ve never been able to reconcile that type of existence with my own life.  I’ve been asked many times how I find time to write, and I’ve had several people tell me that I have to slow down, stop volunteering, and curb my social life and family trips.  It seems that now that I am an author, I am expected to close myself off from the world and spend twenty-four hours a day with my fingertips glued to the keys of my laptop.  Last night was a reaffirmation that becoming a hermit is the last thing I should do.

I thrive on relationships.  The more time I can spend with my family, the better. The times I’m able to sneak away with friends are blessings. Everyday interactions with other school parents and volunteers are essential to my well-being.  Leading a week-long volunteer camp is crucial for my happiness and feeling of self-worth.  And it’s from these many people and moments that I find my inspiration.  Most of my characters are based on people I know.  All of the settings are based on places I have visited.  And the storylines are always inspired by experiences I’ve had or stories I’ve heard from others.  Where would I be, where would my writing be, if I didn’t have such a strong connection to other people?

So I would like to thank everyone who has supported my writing, all of those who have bought my books, those who were at the party last night, and every person who has touched my life in some way.  You are all my inspiration, my muses.  They are your faces that I see when I am describing characters, your homes and your families.  They are our conversations that I recreate, and it is your friendship and love that resonates in the stories that I tell.  The success of my writing can be contributed to every one of you, and I wouldn’t change that for the world.

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 latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events