New Year, New Strategies

New Year’s resolutions are tricky. So often, people choose ones that are so lofty, it’s impossible to reach them. Other times, resolutions are simply not easily added to our daily routines and are forgotten or just fall by the wayside. This year, like everyone else reading this, I am determined to keep my three 2019 promises to myself, but I’m not off to a good start! So, I’ve come up with some strategies that will, hopefully, help to keep myself on task.

I don’t usually share my resolutions, but I want to hold myself more accountable this year, so I’m going to share them with the 1000+ people reading this! I’ve set three goals for 2019:
1. I want to continue getting back into the routine of saying a daily Rosary.
2. I want to make it to a gym class at least three times each week.
3. I MUST stop saying, “I already told you…” to my husband!

Yesterday was January 1st, and I was determined to start the year off right. I was going to say my Rosary before Mass, but, of course, we had an issue with the altar ministries that I had to sort out, so that didn’t happen. All day, I intended to fit it into my schedule, but in all honesty, I never took the time to make it happen. So, FAIL, right off the bat!

Enter, strategy one:

ūüĒ∑¬†I will find a time during my daily routine that will allow me to have 20 minutes to say my Rosary. Now, I know when that time will work for me, but when will it work for you? When can you find the time in your day to do that one thing you’re determined to do to make yourself a better person? Are you an early riser? Can you wake up 15-20 minutes earlier than normal every day for the next year in order to accomplish one of your resolutions? Or are you a late-night person? A danger I have found in trying to do something late at night is that I’m often so tired, I can’t stay up any longer than normal, so keeping my eyes open an additional 20 minutes just doesn’t happen. But the reality is, we all have 15-20 minutes in our day that we can squeeze in something that is important to us. Have you timed yourself on how long you scroll through Facebook? I bet it’s easily 15 minutes for many people. Ask yourself, what’s more important to you–seeing what everyone is bragging about online or making yourself a better person?

 Quote.jpg

This morning, I was headed to the gym for my Wednesday morning cardio class. Just before I was to walk out the door, my husband walked into the kitchen in a panic. He was so tired when he went up to bed last night, he removed his hearing aids and couldn’t remember where he put them! It was an all-out search for the next twenty minutes, and by the time we found them, it was too late for me to make it to class.

Strategy number two:

ūüĒ∑¬†Compromise and improvise. I know that the internet has an endless supply of exercise videos, and many can be streamed right to my television using the ROKU. A quick search gave me dozens of options. The first couple were not what I wanted, but on the third try, I found the perfect video.¬†Freedom Fit with¬† Jenny Ford had exactly the cardio routine I was looking for. It was the right length, style, and pace. Even better, it nearly matched the routine my regular fitness coach does in class. Sure, I would rather have been with my gals at the gym, but the other alternative was to blow off the workout for today. I told myself, when devising my resolutions, that blowing off my workouts was not an option, and I felt so good about myself when my workout was done. When life gets in the way, don’t let yourself down. Find a way to make your resolution happen. It might not be exactly what you intended, but a little compromising goes a long way. And maybe a different time or different place will inspire you even more than the original or usual plan.

Yoga

Two down, one to go. How am I going to tackle my third resolution? Admittedly, this will be the hardest one to keep. Raise your hand if you feel like you have to tell your husband over and over and over again the same things.

tenor.gif

See–I knew it wasn’t just me! Deep breath.. The real question is, does pointing that out each time it happens actually help the situation? Not in the least. In fact, it just leads to wasted time, hurt feelings, and extreme exasperation for both of us. Starting today, I will try really hard to think before I speak. Not an easy task, believe me. But it’s something I’ve always said I was going to be better at with everyone I encounter, and now seems to be the right time to start.

So, strategy three…

ūüĒ∑¬†As in any difficult or knee-jerk type of situation, take a deep breath and count to ten. Hey, even counting to five is better than jumping in without considering the consequences. And then, take a second to digest what’s really going on and how to respond to it. Have a chest of other verbal options at your disposal. Instead of saying, “I already told you…” what else can I say that isn’t accusatory or inflammatory? Having several, well-intentioned responses will be more helpful and amicable than basically telling my husband, once again, that I am right, he is wrong, and if he would just listen to me, we wouldn’t be in this situation! That argument never seems to get me anywhere. And when I do speak, I need to watch my tone. That always seems to get me into so much trouble. Deeply inhaling and taking the time to think through my response should help me temper my tone. It certainly can’t hurt. Don’t you have something that you’re working on this year that would be more successful if you take just a moment to breathe deeply and ponder your reaction before you do or say something you will regret?

IMG_8243.JPG

No matter what your resolutions are, I’m confident that you and I can be successful in sticking with them for the next 363 days. If we just make a concerted effort to take time for what matters most, learn to compromise and improvise, and take a deep breath, a step back, or a moment to evaluate, we can accomplish anything.

So, what are your resolutions, and how can you put these three simple strategies into use to help make 2019 your best year yet?

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Learning From the Past, Preserving the Future.

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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and 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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

Hero Worship and the Making of True Leaders

Monday morning, I watched a very interesting interview on CBS This Morning. The guest was author, General McChrystal, and he spoke about his new book,¬†Leaders: Myth and Reality. One of the things that most intrigued me about the interview was that, just two days prior, I lead a women’s retreat that focussed on female leaders of the Old Testament Coincidence? I think not. The response of the women to the retreat and then the surprise of seeing this morning’s interview have caused me to really think about what we are teaching our children about whom and what a real leader/hero is.

General McChrystal argues that “leadership is not what we think it is and never has been.” His opening example is the portrayal of George Washington crossing the Delaware. We’ve all see this famous painting by¬†Emanuel Leutze, which hangs in the Metropolitan Museum of Art.
washington_crossing_the_delaware_by_emanuel_leutze

The problem is that historians believe that the actual crossing looked something more like this depiction by artist, Mort Kunstler.
111208-Washington_crossing_the_Delaware-painting-AP111208150487

For many years, Americans have accepted as fact the portrait of Washington in which he looks confident, standing with the flag, his troops bravely battling the elements. But Washington could not have taken such a stance without tipping the boat, and the troops would not have had a clear and glowing sky leading them onward while the snow and wind battered everything else around them. More likely, as Kunstler portrays, Washington would have been nervously holding onto the wheel of the hastily-constructed barge while the men, barely clothed for the cold, would have been fighting the weather and the current to make it safely across the river. 

Why is this important? Because there is a mythology that heroes and leaders are “ten feet tall, never scared, never wrong, have the answer to all our questions.” But, McChrystal argues, “this is almost never correct.” Moreover, it’s typically not the leader who solves the problem but the team he or she is commanding. We often give leaders certain attributes even though they may not be that way in real-life, or in private. We thrust greatness upon people, forgetting that they are in fact¬†people. People are human. They make mistakes. They do things the wrong way. They have flaws and bad habits. They aren’t always honest or moral. They aren’t meant to be placed upon a pedestal, or to stand upright with their legs propped up on the side of a rowboat, lest they cause everything to be out of balance and go toppling into the waves.

McChrystal also says that we count on and encourage our leaders to solve all of our problems. He argues, and I agree 100%, that a leader teaches us how to solve our own problems. He or she helps us find the tools necessary to make things better. He “leads” us to find greatness in ourselves. The effectiveness of a true leader should be based on moral leadership not on looks or great speeches given, or portraits based on myth and not facts.

This past weekend, the women who attended our parish retreat learned lessons in leadership and in life from Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. These were women who sometimes made mistakes, who did not always do what society expected them to do, who had pasts that had to be overcome, who sinned and were redeemed. But they all strived for some common goals: to be people of character, to hold fast to their faith, to counsel and advise, to teach others how to live virtuous lives, and to be women of God. They were not queens, not rulers, not rich, and not always revered. They had flaws, but they worked for the good of the people and taught others to do the same. They weren’t about power and glory (and when Miriam did become haughty, she was punished, served her time in exile, and was forgiven), but they were about doing what was right for the glory of God. Not themselves. For God.

In this world where everyone bows to sports heroes, politicians, and Hollywood movie stars, hailing them as leaders and heroes, we are telling our children that, to be a leader is to be braggadocios, self-serving, rich, morally bankrupt, abusive, foul-mouthed, promiscuous, lecherous, and gluttonous. By holding up these people as those to emulate, we teach that it’s okay to lie, to tear down, to disparage, to make fun of, and to engage in all forms of debauchery. We forget that true leaders and heroes are ordinary people, going about their lives doing their jobs to the best of their ability. My friend, Susan, blogged about the heroes of the recent hurricanes. Those are the people I want my girls looking up to!

George Washington was not a hero because he was tall, strong, fierce, and out to be a great destroyer of armies and men. He was a hero because he faced his fears, he was good to his men, he was loving toward his family, he did his job to the best of his abilities, and fought beside his men. He wasn’t perfect; he made mistakes, and that’s okay. Sometimes, a leader does. But what makes him a true leader, a real hero, is what he learns from his mistakes and what he teaches others about how to do things better.

Our children need to know who the real heroes are. Let’s teach them about Miriam, Ruth, Deborah, and Hannah. Let’s make sure they know about the heroics of men like St. Peter and St. Paul. And let’s encourage them to model themselves after some of the real heroes of the world:
Nelson Mandela
The Dalai Lama
Pope John Paul II
Malala Yousafzai
William Kyle Carpenter
Candace Lynne Lightner
Rosa Parks
Jane Addams
Joan of Arc
Oskar Schindler
Martin Luther King Jr

It’s time to stop the hero-worship. It’s time to stop promoting myths about what greatness is and what it looks like. It’s time to redefine leadership and heroism. It’s time to recall the words of Isaiah,¬†“He who walks righteously and speaks uprightly,
who despises the gain of oppressions, who shakes his hands, lest they hold a bribe, who stops his ears from hearing of bloodshed and shuts his eyes from looking on evil, he will dwell on the heights; his place of defense will be the fortresses of rocks; his bread will be given him; his water will be sure.”

Isaiah 33-15-16.jpg

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Longing for a Little Sleep.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and 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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Spending a Fortune on the Marriage

35553327_2182882288395900_5241912812019646464_nA young friend of our family has just announced her engagement. We are so happy for her and praying that she will have a wonderful wedding and even more wonderful marriage. As today is my twenty-fifth wedding anniversary, I’d like to take the time to offer some advice to those young people out there planning their own nuptials and expand on what I told our friend:
1. As you plan the wedding, don’t spend money; spend time with those you love.
2. Spend more time and energy planning the marriage than the wedding.

When Ken and I got married, twenty-five years ago, we wanted a grand wedding with all of the accouterments – the fairy tale dress and tuxedos, the large wedding party, the enormous guest list, an unforgettable nuptial Mass, a full-course dinner, and a joy-filled evening of dancing and partying. We got it all. We hosted 300 guests, and we didn’t break the bank doing it.Wedding

Here’s how:

Ken and Amy Wedding DayThe Dress and Veil
My aunt, my mother, and I scoured the stores to find the perfect dress at the perfect price. We bought it, off the rack, at a discount bridal shop. It was on the “last year’s fashions” rack and was exactly what I wanted. The veil was made with my mother’s wedding tiara. I wore it for my First Communion as did my both of my cousins and, years later, all three of my daughters. We added new tule and some pearls, and it was the perfect accessory for my dress. I wanted lots of lace, a modest bodice, a beautiful back, and a detailed train. I got it all at a bargain basement price. I just had to be patient, wait and relax, and enjoy the hunt with my aunt and my mom.

Wedding3The Ceremony
The church that my parents attended (in the parish where I attended when in high school and before marriage) was under construction, so we headed up the road to the church I grew up in, and it was still as beautiful as I remembered it. We worked with our Pastor, Father Paul Dudziak, to plan a meaningful ceremony rich in faith and tradition. Afterward, a friend of Ken’s lamented that he had never attended a wedding that was an hour and a half long! It was worth every minute. I’ve never been a fan of the ten-minute wedding. I believe a wedding should be something that represents the eternal love of Jesus Christ as well as the eternal bond of marriage. I wanted everyone, especially Ken and me, to leave the church knowing that something special, something lasting, something sacred had just taken place.

Wedding1The Flowers, Photography, and Cake
Our flower arrangements and bouquets were designed by mother and me with the help of a family friend who owned a florist. She helped us choose exquisite selections that matched the color theme and my personal tastes while staying within a strict budget. Our biggest single expense was probably the photographer, but we could afford to spend a little more because we cut costs everywhere else, including the wedding cake. A friend of ours owned a bakery and made the most mouth-watering cakes you’ve ever tasted. When we asked her about making the cake, she insisted on making it as her gift to us. We have never forgotten her generosity.

The Venue
We held our reception at the church hall next to our parish’s yet-to-be-constructed church. It wasn’t fancy, but it was affordable, and the decorations that my mother and her friend planned and designed transformed the room from an ordinary church hall into an elegant banquet room. We hired someone with event experience to make sure the food was on the buffet table and to do all of the serving and cleanup of the dishes.

Ken and Amy's Wedding34-001

The Food
Believe it or not, we made all of the food ourselves. Yes, we made a traditional Southern Maryland Fall Dinner, for 300 people, all by ourselves. Every – single – bite – with the exception of frozen rolls that were baked fresh during the ceremony. For months, everyone in the family chipped in to pick crab meat. Throughout the summer, we saved enough meat for my grandmother and Ken’s grandmother to fill their freezers with homemade crab balls. My mother made hundreds of her unforgettable pumpkin muffins and froze those as well. My father and my grandmother spent days, leading up to the wedding, making the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham, a delicacy only found in Southern Maryland. My uncle worked his magic to grill melt-in-your-mouth pit beef. And the day before the wedding, all of the women in our family, my Godmother, my bridal party, and several family friends, gathered in the church hall to cut fruit and veggies, steam shrimp, and assemble trays while the men followed my mother’s decorating instructions. We talked, we laughed, and we reminisced. It was a day that I remember and cherish as much as the wedding day itself, and in some ways, even more.¬†

Wedding2The Marriage
But the truth is that none of that would have mattered. None of it would have meant anything at all. All of it would have been for nothing if Ken and I had not spent as much effort planning and working on our marriage. Twenty-five years together, in today’s world, is a long time. Sometimes, it feels like twice that. There have been days when we didn’t like each other very much. There have been moments when we wondered if it was worth it. There have been fights and slammed doors and long drives to clear my head. But in the end, we meant it when we said, “until death do us part.” We’ve lived through the good times and bad, the richer and poorer, the sickness and health. We’ve laughed until we cried and cried until we laughed. But we’ve always been there for each other. We’ve never turned our backs on each other, never considered life without the other, never looked to anything beyond what we have together.

IMG_8196.JPGDon’t ever let anyone tell you that, if you’re right for each other, everything else will fall into place. Don’t let anyone tell you that marriage shouldn’t be hard sometimes. Don’t believe that you won’t have to work at it, even harder than you work at your job, your studies, your goals. But don’t ever think for a moment that it isn’t worth it to have someone to come home to who loves you more than anyone or anything in the world. To have someone to share your dreams and your failings. Someone to hold you when you cry and someone who knows how to make you laugh.

And don’t make the mistake that so many make these days and wait until it’s too late! There will NEVER be enough money. There will NEVER be the right time in your career. There will NEVER be plenty of time down the road for the timing to be right. We got married at 23 and 24. Unheard of today! We still had several years of graduate and law school ahead of us. We had nothing except college loans and a lot of hope and dreams. And we had each other, a plan, and faith.

As we read in Ecclesiastes,¬†“Therefore, it is better for two to be together, than for one to be alone. For they have the advantage of their companionship. If one falls, he shall be supported by the other.” (Ecc. 4:9-10). And in Proverbs: “To find a wife is the find happiness, a favor granted by the Lord” (Prob 18:22). So, to those young couples getting ready to embark on the most wonderful time of your lives, don’t worry about spending a fortune on your wedding. A small budget can still give you the wedding of your dreams! But do spend a fortune on your marriage, paid for with all the treasures that will ensure a happy life together – love, joy, communication, tenderness, understanding, patience, resiliency, forgiveness, and an abundance of faith in God.

11-2

What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Little Time to Spare.

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children‚Äôs 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‚Äôs other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children‚Äôs book is¬†The Greatest Gift.¬†The suspense novel,¬†Summer‚Äôs Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and 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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

 

Learning to Sail Your Ship

Dear High School Senior,

Here it is, the beginning of your last year of high school, your last year in the school that has been your second home since 1st grade, your last year living at home, your last year as a minor, your last year of being a kid with little to no responsibilities. I could go on and on, but that would make both of us sad and ignore what’s really important–that this year of “lasts” should be a year of making lasting memories. This year should also be about looking back and reflecting on your journey through the past so that you can sail safely and securely to a great future.¬†

Hurricaine Isabel (16)You probably only have vague recollections of Hurricane Isabel which blew into our lives when you were just three-years-old. It was late September, and we were leaving the following morning for a week-long trip. Our house sits on a piece of high land, so the world looked right when we awoke to a beautiful sunrise that morning. Your father took you and Rebecca down the driveway to cross the street and check on your great-grandparents, but the end of the driveway did not yield to a road, as it should have. Instead, there was rushing water as far as you could see. Daddy got the little rowboat we kept in the backyard, and the three of you made your way to Nan and Pop’s. They were trapped but lucky, for the water went all the way to the top of their porch steps and stopped. After making sure that your aunt was on her way to stay with them, we piled all of our suitcases, our dog, and you three girls into the rowboat and two kayaks and paddled our way out of town. For more than a mile, we steered our way through the flooded roads until we found your Poppy, waiting for us on the other side. I think that was your first lesson in traveling through life. You see, there will be violent storms and rushing water, and your carefully laid plans may be washed away by the floods. You’ll be left with two choices: sit around and wait for the waters to recede, or find a way to paddle your way out of there. How you face the storms and conquer the floods are up to you. Don’t let rough weather get in the way of your plans when you can paddle your way out of the situation at the break of day.

Morgan ridesThere is a story you’ve heard dozens of times, but it’s one of my favorites. You were four, and you went outside to play in the backyard. I stood at the kitchen window, washing dishes, glancing up every few minutes to see you playing on the swings or in the sandbox. As I was finishing up my task, I saw something whir by the window. When I looked again, there you were–riding your sister’s bike, with no training wheels! I ran out and asked you when you learned to ride, and you said, “Just now.” I asked who taught you, and you said, “Me!” It was my first clue that you were going to be a force to be reckoned with. You were not going to let any obstacle get in your way. No challenge was too large, no goal too lofty. With or without help, you were going to achieve your objective. That has never changed, and I hope it never does. Let your goals shine like beacons, and steer your ship toward them. You will encounter storms and rough seas, and you may need to change course, but you will reach your destination.

Years later, for reasons I still don’t understand, you were not allowed to be in the advanced math class with a small handful of your peers. You were angry and confused, as were your parents, but you had such a great attitude once you realized you couldn’t change the decision. You set out to do your best, prove your abilities, and advance on your own. Taking it upon yourself to take two math courses the following year, you advanced and excelled. Once again, you proved that you could not be held back and that you could do anything you set your mind to. But it didn’t come easily to you. You struggled, you had to push yourself, you even cried at times. But you never gave up. There will be times, over the next five years and beyond, when you will be told you aren’t good enough. You will be held back in some way or another. You will be made to feel inferior. Remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to. Even when there is no wind at your back, I know you will find a way to sail on.¬† As Garth Brooks reminds us,

There’s bound to be rough waters,
And I know I’ll take some falls,
With the good Lord as my captain,
I can make it through them all.

collage.jpgRemember your first big dance? You got all dressed up and curled your hair because you were so hoping a certain boy would ask you to dance, and he didn’t even show up! But you smiled, danced with your friends, and enjoyed yourself. And what a lesson that was! Sometimes in life, people don’t show up–literally and figuratively. Sometimes, you’re left on your own to figure things out, to clean up a mess, or to have a good time. When that happens, you can let yourself feel bad about your situation, or you can smile and dance. Perhaps whomever or whatever wasn’t there for you then will be just the person or thing that comes through when you need them the most later in life.

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nYou are only seventeen, yet I know that you have grieved deeply. You lost Granny when you were in elementary school, and then you lost both Nan and Pop when you were in middle school, leaving your little heart especially broken. Nan and Pop lived across the street from us your entire life, and their passing was hard on you. But harder still was losing your Grandfather, Poppy, this year. I’ve never seen you so sad, but you were never helpless. Instead, you rose to your greatest height in those last few weeks. You took the most painful time in your life and used it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to embrace what time you and your Poppy had left. You so loved him, and it was your love and your strength that propelled you through those dark days and set you on your lifelong course to come. I know that, in every patient you encounter as a nurse, you will see your grandfather, and you will gift your patients with your compassion, your grace, and your love.

High school hasn’t always been easy for you. You’ve struggled with your own doubts and fears, your own insecurities and anxieties, but you’ve found ways to overcome them. You’ve made friends and lost friends, but you’ve discovered whom you can count on without fail. You’ve been left out, let down, and leaned on without reciprocation, but you’ve shouldered the burdens with your head held high and a smile on your face. You’ve learned that life isn’t perfect, that not every person is honest and trustworthy, that adults don’t always make the right decisions, and that the world doesn’t revolve on fairness. But you’ve also learned that these things don’t have to change who you are. You are a person of worth and integrity, a person who doesn’t lie or cheat to get ahead but perseveres and overcomes, a person who is loyal and true. And you are a person of faith, a person who knows that you will face things that¬†‚ÄúFor human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26).

Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, and rely on your faith. Make this year the best year of your life so far. Take what you have learned, and use the knowledge to continue growing, reaching, believing, and achieving. As this year progresses, continue to learn the ropes, build your ship, set your course, and enjoy the ride. When the time comes for your ship to embark on the vast oceans of life, know that I will be standing on the dock, crying but waving and wishing you luck and prosperity. I will watch, holding my breath, as you hoist your sails, surge on through the storms, navigate the rough seas, look toward Heaven, and follow the stars. You will know the way. Sail on.

I love you, Mom

Morgan steering her ship.jpg

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor, Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and 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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Defining Success

It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow. I guess I’ve always known that being a parent is a special gift that holds a lifetime of rewards, but you really don’t¬†get it until your children are on their own. Sure, you experience the joy of a baby, the thrills of all the “firsts” that a child goes through, the gold stars on homework and tests, the first goal on the playing field, the magical moments of their first love. But you never truly understand what a gift you’ve been given until a couple decades have passed, or come close to passing. That’s when you stop seeing them as children and begin seeing them as real, grown-up, decision-making, mistake-prone people. It’s also when you begin to wonder, even worry, about how they will define and discover success.

Because being successful, according to world standards, is hard! There’s so much conflicting advice out there. Find your passion. Make lots of money. Wait to get married. Go, get married. Wait to have children. Have children while you’re young. Make money, not babies. Follow your heart. Follow your head. How is any young person supposed to know what to do? Did you know that 80% of college¬†students in the US change their majors at least once, and most students change their majors three times in the course of their college careers? Why? They have no idea what they should do, or WANT to do, to be successful.

Our oldest, Rebecca, has known for years that she wants to be an attorney. Her father, an attorney, majored in Biology and Chemistry and told her from the start that she should choose a major she loved and work hard to be the best in that field of study. He knew, as Elle Woods learned, that you don’t have to slog through political science to get into law school (that’s coming from yours truly, a poli sci major). Rebecca took this to heart…eventually. She tried out several majors, beginning with criminal justice, and moving on to an array of others before finding that she had a passion for philosophy. It seemed that every other month, she called me with the familiar opening, “Mom, I’m changing my major.” I often wondered if she would ever finish college. But she did, and in only four years.

17158883_10209959438995927_895105399768296717_o
The day Rebecca decided on Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law

With a double major in philosophy and sociology, as well as a minor in legal studies, she made it into one the best law programs in the country and finished her first year, ranked within the top of 20 of the class. So much for doing things the traditional way, or even the easy way. Rebecca found what she loved and made it work for her. I’d call that a good start on the road to success.

Throughout Katie’s life, everyone she encountered told her that she would make a wonderful teacher. Katie wanted no parts of that. She whole-heartedly believed those who told her that being a teacher just isn’t worth it. She was often told that children were too hard to deal with, that the money isn’t worth the hassle, and that she was too smart to teach. She applied for college as a communication major, hoping to make her love of photography and her writing skills the building blocks of a successful career in journalism. Just two weeks before she left for college, she came to me in a panic. “Mom, I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to be a teacher!” Hallelujah! I was so happy, I almost cried. Okay, maybe I did cry a little. After a few phone calls and several emails, Katie’s class schedule was adjusted, and she was ready to begin her study of education.

IMG_0794
Katie and some of her students

And how about now, ten months later? Katie is student-teaching at a bilingual school in Peru and loving every second of it. Every day, I look forward to her texts, containing pictures of “her kids”¬† and details about what she’s teaching them. And here’s what has struck her the most–in Peru, like many countries outside of the US, she found that “teachers are treated like rock stars!”

 

Do you know that teachers’ salaries in the US ranked TWNETY-SEVENTH in the modern world, ahead of Italy, Hungary, Chile, and the Slovak and Czech Republics? And that US teachers are tied with doctors and nurses for the most stressful careers and get little support for the hard, demanding jobs they do? Where are our priorities, America?¬†

IMG_6536
Checking out the nursing lab at Morgan’s chosen college.

And speaking of nurses… Morgan will be a senior in high school in the fall. More focused than almost any young person I know, she has already chosen her college and her field of study. After the suffering and death of her grandfather, earlier this year, Morgan knew that she was being called to be a nurse. But what was she recently told by a family member? “Be a doctor. You’re too smart to be a nurse.”

What is it with our culture that makes us diminish the importance of certain necessary careers? Did you know that nurses almost never have trouble finding a job? That being a nurse “is the ultimate opportunity” for travel? That nurses can specialize in any area of interest, bringing their passions to their job in ways most people will never be able to? That they are “the most trusted profession”? And that they have tremendous earning power? These are just a few of the many reasons to choose nursing over any other profession. Yet I know that many people will look down on Morgan, like they will Katie, because her chosen profession just isn’t good enough.

 

On the heels of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, many are wondering who, if anyone, is immune to the disease of helplessness and despair. While attorneys sit right in the middle of those more or less likely to take their own lives, health care professionals have an 80% lower suicide rate than the top victims of suicide. The lowest rate was in teachers, educators, and librarians. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at what really makes people happy, where they can find comfort and hope, and how they can discover their self-worth and be successful.

Perhaps we will never all agree about what true success is. Sure, you can listen to all kinds of Ted Talks, telling you what success is and how to achieve it. But I think that Inc. Magazine was pretty close to the mark when it printed, “If you believe success is simply making (or having) a lot of money, you may be setting yourself up for failure.” The author claims that success means one of two things to most people–either you’re happy or you’re rich. He argues that to be truly successful, you should be both. He says that the key is to define success as being happy, finding your passion, and becoming rich in happiness, which can lead to monetary wealth as well.¬†

My grandfather had a plaque on his desk that now sits on my husband’s dresser. The quote is most often attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a beautiful verse that I hope my girls, and all of you, will remember and take to heart.

IMG_6435.JPG

Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very happy to partner with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details:  https://www.facebook.com/events/238528263576139

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Three Simple but GIGANTIC Reasons to Try Something New

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017).

 

Withdraw From Your Cares

IMG_0884-001I recently heard of a survey, showing that 52% of Americans reported unused vacation days in 2017. This is down 2% from the previous year, but the trend remains–Americas, unlike their counterparts around the world, are not leaving work behind to spend downtime with their friends and family. And while more people did take time off, half a million more vacation days were lost in 2017 than in 2016. 705 million vacation days were left unused. Of the days not used, Americans forfeited 212 million days, a donation of $561 per person on average in work time to their companies.

I read those numbers and gasped, shaking my head that so many people would rather work, or feel the need to work, rather than take time for themselves. While cost was cited as a barrier to taking time off, I can’t help but ask, what is the cost of a day at home, or at a local park, or at a free museum? Compare the cost of a vacation to that of a hospital stay after a heart attack or stroke brought on by long, stressful days at the office? Almost the same number of people reported their children as barriers to time off. Really? People won’t take vacations because their children get in the way? What kind of world are we living in?

For the first half of our marriage, Ken was an elected official and then the head of a state agency. For all of those years, he was expected to work, or least be available, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He and I both knew that, for the sake of his mental health and the health of our family, he needed to take breaks. Vacations, no matter how big or small, near or far, were always vital to our family and¬†his sanity. For more than ten¬†years now, Ken has worked for a global company, which means that often, while I’m in bed asleep, he is on the phone with colleagues in Korea or Australia. He travels often, almost weekly, and his sleep schedule is never normal. I fear that, without a vacation, he will have a mental or physical breakdown. And his job is not at all abnormal in this world of the internet, cell phones, and ease of travel.

When I was a child, our family didn’t have money to spare, but my brothers and I felt like we were the richest kids in the world. My parents took us to Andrews Air Force Base to see the Blue Angels. We visited every Smithsonian Museum. We hiked up and down the hills at the National Zoo, laughing at the monkeys and marveling at the elephants. All of those things were free. Meals? Hot dogs at the concession trucks. To my parents, these were low-cost days away from work, spent with family. To my brothers and me, they were priceless days that made lasting memories.

I encourage everyone to take a break this summer, or multiple breaks. Go outside. Connect with nature. Discover a passion. Enjoy time with your family. Play ball with your kids. Last summer, the company that Ken worked for was being sold, and we weren’t sure of Ken’s employment future. Rather than a long, expensive vacation, we borrowed a dear friend’s cabin in the Poconos. We hiked, zip lined, and even parasailed, but most of the trip was spent playing games, doing puzzles, and taking it easy. Morgan and Jacob spent hours fishing, and Ken and Katie enjoyed frequent naps. It was wonderful.

So, work hard this summer. Make each day count. But don’t forget this beautiful advice:

IMG_7143-001

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Oh, The Places You’ll Go (to borrow from Dr. Seuss)

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)

The Rhythm of Life

In my Wednesday morning cardio class, we always begin with music that has a slow beat. Over the course of 45 minutes, the music gets faster as the beat increases. Our breathing becomes strained, heartbeats race, and movements grow more rapid as our instructor calls out the steps in that day’s routine. The class flies by, with a short break here and there to get a drink and take a breath, then resuming at a faster speed, all of our thoughts and efforts focused on the precision of steps, proper breathing, and keeping up with the pace of the music, until we welcome the cool down with its smaller, slower movements and calming breaths.

This morning, it occurred to me what a perfect metaphor the class is for life. We start out slow, unsteady, unsure of what lies ahead, focussing on learning our steps and finding the right beat. The majority of our lives are spent running the race, fighting for our breath, making our movements in the world larger, faster, more meaningful. And then, in the blink of an eye, we’re forced to live at a less hectic pace, find a slower rhythm, breathe a little easier, knowing we made it all the way through and have come out stronger, smarter, and more aware of the person we have become. But have we?

I’m reminded of a waterfall–a gentle river that lazily rolls along until it picks up speed, rushing and turning, breathing in leaves and twigs, pebbles and debris, until it plunges off the edge in a torrent of energy, ending its journey when its furthest ripples become a calm and placid pool. We are like the water, swept up in a life over which we have little control, unable to stop the swirling chaos as it gathers our time, our energy, and our very being and rushes toward the precipice, falling into serenity at the end of the journey. Has the water changed? Has it grown? Has it found its own rhythm, told its own story? Have we?

As my youngest prepares for her senior year of high school and my oldest begins talking about a future wedding (no, she is not engaged, but she’s a gal in her twenties with a super guy at her side), I am beginning to feel the rhythm of my life start to slow. I’m no longer running the roads every day, driving my little girls to and from school. My school volunteer commitments are narrowing down, and I’m focussing more on my writing and less on homework and class parties and play dates. The loss of my father-in-law has also really put things in perspective for me. I made a vow to spend more time with my parents. I don’t have to be home every day to cook dinner or tuck my almost-adult youngest child in bed, so a night or two at mom and dad’s is not only possible, it’s a blessing and a joy. And it makes we wonder what I’ve missed along the way. Did I always stop when I needed to so that I could take a breath, smell the roses? Have I led my own life or allowed the constant push and pull of commitments and the ways of the world to dictate what I did and who I’ve become?

Yes, I’m still a long way from the end of the cool-down (at least, I hope I am), but I’m seeing the wonderful opportunities that lie ahead as I readjust my steps and take deeper breaths. Life is such a beautiful gift, and it saddens me that it goes by so quickly while we are all moving to an accelerated beat. I pray that my own girls can live their lives at a nice steady speed, enjoying a healthy life while, at the same time, keeping up with the demanding pace of this modern life. I’m sure there is a healthy balance in there somewhere. They just need to find the right music and remember that no matter how long a person is on earth, life is short. Don’t forget to take a deep breath, slow down, and always look for the rainbows that bend over the rushing waters of life. Let them be a reminder to you that it’s okay to stop and take a breath as often as needed or desired.

The Rhythm of Life.jpg

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:¬†¬†Eight Books You’ve Never Heard of for the Summer of 2017.

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 latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores. 

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 Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017)