Wonder Women

IMG_4576I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of spending the better part of this summer with many amazing women. It started with my trip to Europe, with my daughter, Katie, to celebrate her high school graduation. On that trip, I had the privilege of seeing my daughter, the adult. I was awed by her, as I usually am by each of my daughters, and I reveled in the two and a half weeks that we shared together. While she still has some growing up to do, as all kids do when they leave for college, I saw many glimpses of the woman she is becoming. I look forward to seeing all that life has in store for her.

Staff 2017.JPGIn July, the girls and I returned to our favorite summer event – a week of Girl Scout camp. While there are two men who volunteer, the camp is primarily run by women, and what a great group of women they are. Ranging from high school freshmen to women in their sixties, they are students, attorneys, teachers, nurses, a CNN camerawoman, business owners, troop leaders, and a host of other professions. They are all, young and old, women to look up to, if for no other reason than that they tirelessly give an entire week of their lives, every year, to ensure the happiness of 100 little girls. But that’s not the only reason. They are women who inspire and encourage other women, and that’s so vitally important in a world where so many women are determined to continuously put others down.

IMG_7045.JPGA week after camp ended, I found myself on a plane to Austin, Texas, to join 300 other Catholic women for a weekend of spirituality and fun. Joining me in Austin were thirteen of the women I met on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land almost two years ago. For some of us, this was a second or third reunion. For many, it was the first time we’d seen each other since February of 2016. There were tears, prayers, and laughter, much laughter. Each of these women has struggled with something – past regrets, infertility, divorce, health issues, rocky marriages, job loss, the death of a child, ailing and infirmed parents, or some other type of hardship. Each has her own cross to bear, and bear it she does, with dignity, grace, and beauty that cannot be measured by the human eye. Each loves without judgement, acts without selfishness, and relies on her faith to see her through the toughest of times. I look at these women and am overwhelmed by them, by all that they’ve done, by all that they have to give, and by their strength and determination. At one point, one of the women said to me, “When I grow up, I want to be you.” Those words will never leave me because I just want to be like all of them.

IMG_7159.JPGThis week, I got to spend time with the women who matter the most in my life – my three girls. Along with us on our family vacation, is Rebecca’s life-long best friend, Bailey. It has been such a pleasure to spend time with them. Yesterday, we started the day by hiking Bushkill Falls. There were no easy trails for this crew. We knew that the harder and rockier the trail, the better the view, so onward and upward we went. The girls laughed at the warnings that the trails we had chosen would be strenuous, and even Bailey, not a fan of heights, tackled the mountain with grace and ease. It was another glimpse of the women they are and will be, and I marveled at the young ladies we had raised. Picture-cbkma-20170808-0015953In the afternoon, Morgan, her boyfriend, Katie, and I took on a five-level treetop adventure course. With each level, the challenges grew harder and higher. After the first three, Jacob decided he had spent enough time high above the ground (you’ve to hand it to a boy who is deathly afraid of heights but willingly takes on such a challenge). Katie, not one to give up, wanted to continue on to courses four and five, courses on which few people are willing to continue. In fact, she and I were the only females, in our group of two dozen or so people, to move on AND CONQUER the courses, and two of the small handful of women who even attempted the courses that day. As we were leaving, the men were offering us congratulations and compliments, and a woman waiting at the end,  high-fived us, telling us that a man ahead of us had called us the Warrior Women. 

But here’s the truth about all of this. I would never have taken Rebecca and then Katie to Europe after their graduations had Rebecca not encouraged me to do so. She was confident that the two of us could manage ten cities and seven countries in three weeks, and we did. That led to Katie’s trip in which we visited nine cities in three countries in just over two weeks with skill and ease. Their confidence in me in humbling. Their confidence in themselves in awe-inspiring. Likewise, I would never have taken on the job of camp director if another woman hadn’t been so positive that I was up to the task. She encouraged me to take the reins and has continued to support and encourage me for the past eleven years. IMG_7058.JPGI would never have formed the bond that I have formed with my sisters in faith from all across the country if they hadn’t been so open and trusting with each other, so supportive, and such faith-filled, persevering women. There is no judgement there, no attempts to be better than anyone, no snarkiness or cutting each other down. There is just pure love and the understanding that each of us is here just trying to do the best we can in a world that is a never-ending challenge. Much like my day with my family yesterday in which each thing we did was harder than the thing before it. Each level was rockier, higher, more challenging, but we encouraged each other to push on. 

IMG_9935We all have the ability to be Wonder Women, to fight for justice, for truth, for peace, and for love. We all have the ability to encourage one another, to see each other for what we have to give and not for what we lack, to be there for each other in the good times and the bad, to inspire others to have faith in themselves, each other, and God. I learned all of that from the ultimate Wonder Woman, my mom. She is my inspiration, my ideal, that to which I aspire. I am who I am, and my girls are who they are because of her. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. May we all be blessed with a Wonder Woman, or a group of Wonder Women, in our lives.

 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:25-31

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Off the Grid.

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’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, 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 Family that Travels Together…

Explore. dream, discoverVacation planning time is upon us.  Tis the season when families are cementing their summer plans and dreaming about visiting exotic locales.  Growing up, our vacations always consisted of borrowing a friend’s condo at the beach for a week or traveling with my father on business to places like Dover, New Hampshire or Long Island, New York.  We didn’t go far, but we always had fun.  I’ll never forget the time we stayed at a motel outside of Williamsburg.  I still remember thinking that it had to be the grandest hotel in the world with its strawberry shaped pool and vending machines right in our hallway.  In my mind, it was truly a magical vacation that included stops in Colonial Williamsburg and the now extinct pottery factory, a must-see place for all travelers at the time.

When I was about nine, we traveled to New Hampshire where we toured the Budweiser Factory.  What I remember most was the visit to the stables where the famed clydesdales lived.  I can still picture one of those beautiful creatures as it leaned out of its stall to take a carrot from my little hand.  Again, it was magical for that horse-loving girl from the DC vacationsuburbs.  Another time, we spent a week at Bethany Beach with no plans other than to enjoy the sun and the surf.  Of course, it rained all day, every day, all week.  We played a lot of cards and went to the movies at least once.  We left without suntans, but I think we had more fun on that trip than any other trip we ever took as a family.

Ken and I have tried to give our girls plenty of unforgettable vacations.  IMG_2254We’ve done Disney, several times, and even took my parents there when our girls were very young.  My father had no interest in going and complained non-stop leading up to the trip that he had managed to avoid that mousetrap his entire life and couldn’t understand why he had to go now.  Of course, Dad will do anything for Mom, so he went.  About two days into the trip, we were laughing at the girls as they danced along with the Lion King, wearing their matching Alice in Wonderland dresses that I had hand-sewn.  My Dad turned to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “You know, this really is the happiest place on earth.”  I smiled back with the knowledge that it wasn’t Disney World that produced all of that happiness.  It was all of us being there together.  Yes, you know it: magical.

As we begin planning our summer vacation, it makes my heart soar that our three girls, two in high school and one about to graduate from college (next year, deep breaths…) still look forward to taking family trips together every year.  We have been so very blessed to be able to take trips ranging from weekend camping trips, where we huddled in a tent in the pouring down IMG_2258rain, to trips to Europe.  One of our favorite memories was spending the night in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota on the land that once belonged to Charles Ingalls and which Laura wrote about in Little Town on the Prairie.

We’ve all heard it said that you will never look back on life and wish you had spent more time at work, but most people look back and wish they had spent more time with their family.  So I urge you, this summer, to make the time to take a vacation with your family.  It doesn’t have to be grand and exotic; it can even be at home.  It just has to be time that you spend together, playing, walking, exploring, learning.  Don’t sit in the house and watch TV.  Go out, find an adventure, and do it together.  Whether you travel to a faraway land or to a museum an hour away, make it magical.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

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 next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

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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Chocolate Memories

IMG_0532A few years ago, Ken and I realized, truthfully almost too late, that our girls were growing up quickly.  We recognized that as we trudged, sports chairs in tow, from one athletic event to another, raced to this awards banquet and that school fundraiser, and squeezed in piano, tennis, and dance lessons, time was flying by.  The precious minutes we had with our children were increasingly only had while on the run with “have fun” and “good luck” shouted out the window as we sped off to pick up another child or make it to another event.  That’s when we decided that we needed to set aside one day every month for some meaningful togetherness – whether the girls wanted to or not.

To our pleasant surprise, our girls were all for our new plan to spend one entire day each month together without it being a school or church event or our two week summer vacation.  They liked the idea of doing something fun and out of the ordinary together as a family.  So we began to think about what we could do, and believe me, the list was long!  Some of the ideas were do-able, and others weren’t, but the goal was to come up with a day that everyone would enjoy.

Over the past few years, we have had some wonderful family days together.  We have gone skiing, visited battlegrounds and museums, and attended the St. Patrick’s Day parade (and a host of other activities to fill the day) in Washington, D.C.  We’ve gone to Arlington National Cemetery and paid our respects to the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and the 3rd U.S. Infantry, the National Book Festival, and even New York City (okay, that did require an extra day and night).  The point was never what we were doing but that we were doing it together.  We’ve even allowed a boyfriend or friend to tag along if we were also combining the celebration of a birthday or other special event, but for the most part, these days have just been the five of us.  Even with Rebecca off at college, we have continued our family day activities.  Whenever she can join us. Rebecca will come meet us, or we will pick her up on our way to our destination (which usually includes a snowy weather activity as she goes to school in the mountains).

This past Saturday, we took family day to a whole new level when we went to Hershey Park for the day with Ken’s parents, his sister and her boyfriend, and our nephew.  This time, it was actually Ken’s mother who made the plan for the entire family to get together to have a whole day of fun and togetherness.  As we made our way through Chocolate World, just before leaving the park, we stopped to take pictures to remember our day.  While most of the world thinks of Hershey as just a brand of chocolate, I will forever think of it as a another way to make a memory that our family will never forget.

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

On the Road Again

DSC00380Have you ever taken a long road trip with your family?  Movies and television shows always portray these trips as the absolute worst kind of torture a family can inflict upon itself.  Sure, everyone can get irritated with other, and someone always falls asleep and wakes up cranky, but there’s a lot to be said for spending time together in a small space with nobody to talk to but each other.

I thought about this yesterday as my girls and I were driving together on an impromptu road trip.  My oldest daughter, Rebecca, had just returned to her college from a school trip to Nashville.  Still on winter break, she was supposed to drive home in her twelve-year-old, dark green Saturn, a car which she hates but is the best car we’ve ever owned as far as maintenance.  Twelve years on the road, and over 200,000 miles, and it’s never had an issue other than air conditioning finally giving out.  But back to Rebecca… she arrived at school at 4am, texted me to let me know she was in her dorm room, and went back to bed saying she would head home around noon.  When she woke up at 11:00 that morning, she looked out of her window to see that the mountains surrounding her campus were completely covered with snow, and the storm didn’t look like it was going to end any time soon.  Her car was nestled in four inches of the heavy powder, and she dreaded the thought of driving her little car on the treacherous roads.  So, of course, I got the call, “Mom, can you come get me?”

Meanwhile, the snow was really coming down here on the Shore as well, and schools were letting out early.  I headed to town to pick up her sisters, and we hit the road.  Three hours later, after driving through some pretty heavy snowfall on Interstate 70, we made it to the campus.  For the next three hours, Rebecca talked about her trip – the people she met, the things she learned, how her deep faith had been strengthened even more.  Her sisters shared stories about their New Year’s party and the first day back at school.  I don’t think we turned on the radio even once, and no movies played on anyone’s electronics.  Though Katie and Morgan took turns nodding off, we spent the entire ride talking to each other.  Does anyone even remember what that’s like?  To spend hours with other people just talking to each other?

It reminded me of the many road trips we’ve taken as a family.  We have driven cross-country and back numerous times, to Florida and back just as many times, and to Boston and back twice.  Sure, the girls had a DVD player in the back of the van for many years, and then they all acquired their own personal devices; but many times, we talked, we sang, we played games, and we loved it.  Were there arguments?  Sure.  Did someone always end up poking, pinching, or punching someone else?  Of course they did.  But I don’t think any of our children would trade a minute of those family trips we took, car ride and all.  We always looked at the ride as part of the adventure.  Yes, we’ve seen the great Corn Palace of South Dakota, the world’s largest sandhill crane, and the world’s biggest concrete buffalo, and the girls still talk about every one of those things in addition to the many little museums and country stores we visited along the way.

What we learned on those trips can be applied to many other areas of our lives:  you have to make an effort to get along with others; you never know what treasure lies around the next bend; there’s always more than one route to get to where you’re going, so choose wisely; don’t forget to look around and to take a break along the way; keep your sights set on your destination, but know that how you get there is just as important.  If you’ve never taken a family road trip, I highly advise it.  You never know what you might learn along the way.

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