A Whale of a Tale

DSC06345If I were to ask you, or most people, what your favorite animal is, I’m sure you, or most, would answer “cat,” dog,” or other similar such creature.  My children have always thought me a bit strange because I have a great love for (they would call it an obsession with) elephants, sharks, and whales.  Since I was a small child, I have always been fascinated by these three majestic creatures.  When I was very little, I had a small collection of whales – glass figurines, stuffed animals, and such.  As a teenager and young adult, I had quite an extensive collection of elephants – everything from clothes to glass and wooden figures to unique collectibles from around the world (gifts from friends and family).  For Christmas a few years ago, my husband gave me a shark dive in Australia.  It was the most amazing experience ever!

Recently, our family traveled up north and enjoyed a ferry ride to Nova Scotia.  I was excited to discover that we would have the opportunity to see dolphins, porpoises, sharks and whales as we crossed the Bay of Fundy.  The morning began enshrouded with a thick, white fog that wasn’t unlike the New England Clam Chowder the girls had enthusiastically eaten with dinner the previous evening.  Aboard the ferry, we sat in the lounge, huddled in our sweatshirts and clinging to our warm tea and coffee.  Hoping that the fog would lift, we waited for the announcement that it was the right time to observe the sea life.

When we were about an hour outside of Digby, we made our way outside onto the deck with cameras and binoculars.  The wind was blowing so hard that it was almost impossible to even open the door.  We stood on the deck, lined up along the railing, eager to greet whatever beautiful creature arose to bid us a good morning.  The fog had lifted, but there was still a cold, misty chill in the air in spite of being mid-summer.  The shores of Digby were ahead of us, barely visible on the hazy horizon.  The Bay was calm as the sea birds dove below the water and then shot up into the air with their catch in their beaks.

After a while, the girls were cold and bored, and they decided to retreat back into the lounge and test the wifi (they are teenagers, after all).  Ken and I stood on the deck in silence and kept watch on the horizon.  As we neared the landing, we knew that our chances were growing slim to see any marine life.  A ripple of excitement went through me as I sighted movement off to the left.  Peering across the sea, I watched as a school of porpoises gently glided through the waves, their fins in perfect harmony with each other.  Too fast in and out of the waves to stop for a picture, the porpoises swam on out of sight.

As we stood against the backdrop of the open sea while it rolled onto the approaching shore, I knew that we would see no whales today.  The closer we drew to land, the thicker the fog became.  What had cleared while out at sea was now drifting back toward us, covering the ferry with its mantle of white.  At the very last minute before the call to return to our vehicles, I felt, more than saw, a stir out at sea, and I turned just in time to see a monstrous and majestic creature arise from the water.  I suddenly knew how Ahab felt when he first laid eyes on the Great White Whale.  My heart beat faster as I watched the beautiful animal clear her lungs with a mighty geyser that sprayed salty tasting droplets on the fascinated onlookers.  As she began her descent back into the sea, her eyes locked with mine.  Unlike the cold, dead eyes of a shark, hers were bright and full of life.  An understanding passed between us, and I held my breath as I watched her sink into the water, the turquoise pool sliding over her shiny black body and hiding all traces of the magnificent creature.

I breathed for the first time in what felt like several minutes.  I could scarcely believe what I had just witnessed.  I couldn’t wait to tell the girls what they had missed.  I’m sure you will agree that it was a moment to remember forever.  Or perhaps you will realize that Melville and I have more in common than a love for whales.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s next mystery, Picture Me, will be released in August of 2015 and will be available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Buckets Of Dreams

DSC02792Several years ago, a movie starring Jack Nicholson made the phrase “bucket list” a regular part of our vocabulary. Nowadays, I hear people talking all the time about things that are on their bucket list.  I’ve never really had what I called a bucket list, but I’ve always had several life goals that I hope to achieve. Some have a set timeline, and others are just lofty aspirations.

Of course, as a young woman, my goal was to have a career that I enjoyed, a husband who I loved, and happy and healthy children. I was able to achieve all of those things at an early age having met my husband just after graduating from college. Ken and I were blessed to have three beautiful girls by the time I was 31. I worked as a librarian for 15 years, a job that I absolutely loved, and then we were lucky enough to have the stability for me to stay home and begin my next career as a writer. I’ve dreamed of being a published author since I was about eight years old, and now I have two published books and a new novel coming out next month!

But of course, those aren’t exactly bucket list items. My list of life goals is not very long, so I have every reason to believe that I will be able to reach them. Nothing on the list is impossible, and nothing is quite as exciting as bungee jumping over Victoria Falls or climbing Mount Everest. Still, I hope that my list will inspire you to start thinking about your own list. After all, what is life without lofty goals?

Some things I can cross off of my list are shark diving (the most awesome experience ever!), taking my children to Disney World, kayaking off the coast of Australia, seeing Niagara Falls, and visiting Rome and the Vatican. But there are still just a few more things I’d like to achieve in this lifetime.

Fifty by fifty is what I’ve always called my biggest goal. And I’m almost there! Within the next several weeks, we will visit the last two East Coast states, bringing my total to 46. I still need to visit Washington, Oregon, Alaska, and Hawaii, but I have five more years to get there and high hopes that I will. I’ll keep you posted on that one! I never thought I’d go any father than those 50 states and Canada and Mexico, but now that I’ve had the opportunity to travel, I’ve set a goal of going to all six inhabited continents. I’ve made it to 4, so hopefully Africa and Asia won’t be too far behind.

Most of all, I would like to know that I have made a difference in someone’s life – whether through writing, volunteering, or just by being there when they needed it most. I like to think that perhaps I’ve achieved that already, but it’s a goal I’ll never stop trying to reach.

So today, why not write your own list? It’s never too late to start. Let me know what your life goals are. What’s on your bucket list? Maybe we can all inspire others to reach for the stars.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Nobody’s Perfect

Many years ago, a very wise man told me something that I have never forgotten.  After I graduated from college, I moved back home to find a job and save some money until my next great adventure came along.  The first weekend I was home, I attended Mass with my family at our church.  Our pastor, Father Paul (now Monsignor Dudziak), welcomed me home and asked me how it felt to be a college graduate.  I told him that it felt good but not great because I had graduated magna cum laude and not summa cum laude and had missed the higher honor by less than a tenth of a percentage point.  Father Paul nodded without comment and then asked me to follow him.  When we reached the altar he pointed to the floor and asked me “Do you see this carpet?” I nodded, unsure of why he was asking, and he continued.  “This carpet has handmade by Persian monks.  It took months, maybe years, because it was intricately planned and woven by hand.  They are experts at making rugs and create the finest works of art.  However, in every rug they make, they always weave into it a mistake.”  He looked at me and asked, “Do you know why?”  I shook my head, and he replied, “Only God is perfect.”  Humbled, I blushed and nodded.

Do I still strive for perfection?  Every. Single.  Day.  And every day I am reminded, in some way, that I will never achieve perfection.  And you know what?  That’s okay.  The French playwright, Pierre Corneille, once said “we never taste happiness in perfection, our most fortunate successes are mixed with sadness.”  While we all try to be perfect and live a perfect life, don’t we all feel much more accomplished and successful when we’ve faced failureDSC00481 and risen above it?  And who is to say what a perfect life is?  Many would have said that Robin Williams had the perfect life, but alas, he did not think it true.

As Father Paul pointed out to me those many years ago, humans are not perfect, and we never will be.  Michelangelo said “The true work of art is but a shadow of the divine perfection.”  A perfect sunset?  Yes.  The perfect novel?  Probably not.  While we all should try to attain perfection in our lives so as to be worthy of the life God has given to us, we will all fail over and over again.  That is how we learn and grow and become the person we are meant to be.  So I will continue to work towards perfection as I journey through life, but I will remember that I will, and must, make mistakes along the way.  For as the great novelist Margaret Atwood so truthfully said “If I waited for perfection… I would never write a word.”

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Celebrate and Aspire

DSC00647I’m sitting here this morning drinking my tea in the silence before the girls wake up, and I can’t believe it’s already New Year’s Eve.  Twelve hours from now, I’ll be hiding in my bedroom with Jodi Piccoult while twenty teenage girls sit here in this kitchen eating ice cream sundaes and talking about boys.  When did my baby get so old?  How did time go by so quickly?  Rebecca is already a sophomore in college, but it feels like she graduated yesterday and was just born the day before that.  Time marches on so fast, we hardly have a chance to take it all in.

This morning, I watched the year in review on the news, and I was amazed to think that all of those things happened this past year.  From three missing airliners to the rise of ISIS to the loss of the great Lauren Bacall and Mickey Rooney.  Less than a year ago, we were talking about polar vortexes, and this past summer, we witnessed a string of devastating tornadoes and wildfires.  Yet here we are; life zooms by, and we hardly notice.  We lose loved ones, and we go on; we see beheadings and mass kidnappings, yet we procreate and celebrate the joys in life.  People are an amazing creation – resilient and motivated despite all that we face and witness in life.

Tomorrow starts a new year, a year that will see more heartbreak but also more joy.  We will say goodbye to some and welcome others to our families and to our world.  We will discover new hopes, aspire to new heights, and reach for higher stars all with the knowledge that anything is possible in spite of the hard times and tears.  May you all remember those who have fallen, pray for those who protect us, forge new paths, and dream bigger dreams.  May you look back a year from now and wonder “How did I do all of that?” and know that there is still time to do more.  And amidst all of the chaos, may you find time to just be.  May you make 2015 the best year yet, knowing that it is only through pain that we know true joy and remembering that you can accomplish anything you set your mind to.  Happy New Year!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html

You may follow Amy at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com