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.

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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.

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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? 

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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.

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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:

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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.

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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)

 

A REAL Boyfriend…

A few days ago, my oldest daughter shared a photo she saw on Facebook in an effort to get the word out that this is NOT what we should be teaching our sons and daughters. The photo read:

A REAL BOYFRIEND:

  • Calls you for nothing.
  • Texts you all the time.
  • Wants to see you.
  • Gets jealous.
  • Is overprotective.
  • Loves you.

 I was sickened by the message that this sends, and I have not been able to stop thinking about the harm that some of these sentiments could do to young people. So, here is my list, based on my own experience and observations, of what a REAL BOYFRIEND is:

  • A real boyfriend loves you for who you are, inside and out, and takes the time to get to know the true you.
  • A real boyfriend is willing, and even happy, to wait for marriage to have sex. It’s about more than religion, though I consider a religious basis a strong one. It’s about fidelity, commitment, self-worth, dignity, and mutual respect. 
  • A real boyfriend does amazing things like hand-carry an entire hand-painted 12-place-setting china set, complete with all of the accessories, all the way from Poland to the US because they reminded him of you; and he knew you’d love them even more than the set you picked out at the china store.
  • A real boyfriend is your best friend, your confidant, your go-to person. He is there for you to share your wildest dreams, your darkest secrets, and your silliest moments; and he’s not afraid to let you and the world know that you are special. 
  • A real boyfriend builds you up, never tears you down, keeps you grounded without stifling your dreams, and talks you through your problems, helping you solve them in a way that will enhance you and your life.
  • A real boyfriend is happy for you when you spend time with your friends. He does not constantly ask whom you are with or what you are doing. He trusts you. He encourages you to have friends who make you happy and help you to grow. 
  • A real boyfriend enjoys spending time with you and doing the activities that you like to do. He recognizes that a relationship is a give and take and that you should both make an effort to do things that make the other happy.
  • A real boyfriend is there to hold your hand when you are sick, comfort you when you are sad, and calm you when you are afraid. He does not add to your sadness or fears, but helps you deal with and overcome them.
  • A real boyfriend loves God more than he loves you and works with you to live a life that is holy.
  • A real boyfriend, who plans to be with you for life, knows that love means being at your side even when you no longer know he’s there or no longer know who he is.
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    Authentic love is what we will remember this Friday, that Jesus loved us so much, He gave His life for us.
  • A real boyfriend understands that authentic love is unconditional and self-giving. It is sacrificial. It asks constantly, “What can I do for the love of the other?” John 15:13 tells us, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”  To sum it up, you have to look no further than the writings of Saint Paul:

Love is patient and kind; love does not envy or boast; it is not arrogant or rude. It does not insist on its own way; it is not irritable or resentful; it does not rejoice at wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth. Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.”
1 Corinthians 12:4-8

May you all have a blessed Easter.

Did you hear Amy’s guest appearance on Danielle Bean’s Girlfriends Podcast? Check it out

What I was writing about this time last year:  All That Stuff & 5 Things It Taught Me

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)

Rolling with the Punches

I’ve learned many things over the course of my lifetime, but the most important thing, the thing that comes back to me time and time again, the thing that keeps me sane when the world is swirling out of control, is that nothing you do matters more than being flexible. No matter what curve balls life throws at you, it’s vitally important that you roll with the punches.

 

We are almost halfway through Girl Scout camp week, and we’ve had our ups and downs, as is normal. Some nights, it’s all I can do to make it to my bed (and some mornings, I don’t want to open my eyes). But I know that come sunrise, I have to get up and do it all over again, a little better, a little clearer, a little differently, but again and again and again. When something fails, go wrongs, or ends in frustration, I can’t give up, give in, or walk out. When you’re the top gun, it’s your job to fix the problems, correct the mistakes, tweak the programs, and make things work the way we all think they should. The only way to keep it going is to suck it up, roll back my shoulders, and do what needs to be done.

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Sometimes, all you need is to say a prayer, take a deep breath, and find a way to relax and regroup.

 

When camp is over, I’ll be back home and back at work. According to my beta readers, my next novel needs a lot of work. That’s okay. I expected that. The first draft is always rough. I could take all that work and delete it, never looking back; or I can start at the beginning and do what needs to be done. Like any other author, writing is my job, and I have to be flexible. Sometimes, my favorite parts of the book have to be thrown out. Just because I like it, or it’s good writing, doesn’t mean it works in that book. And I’m at peace  with that. My writing can’t flow if I can’t go with the flow.

So the next time you’re faced with an obstacle in life, something that just isn’t going right, or a necessary change in plan, remember that everything is fleeting. Few things that are done can’t be undone. Say a prayer, then change your course. In most cases, whatever has gone awry can be fixed with prayer, reasoning, and perhaps a little elbow grease. So get going. Let nothing stand in your way. You can do this.

You’ll get mixed up, of course,
as you already know.
You’ll get mixed up
with many strange birds as you go.
So be sure when you step.
Step with care and great tact
and remember that Life’s
a Great Balancing Act.
Just never foget to be dexterous and deft.
And never mix up your right foot with your left.

And will you succeed?
Yes! You will, indeed!
(98 and 3/4 percent guaranteed.)

KID, YOU’LL MOVE MOUNTAINS!

So…
be your name Buxbaum or Bixby or Bray
or Mordecai Ali Van Allen O’Shea,
You’re off the Great Places!
Today is your day!
Your mountain is waiting.
So…get on your way!

From: Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Seuss

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Update on 150 Reasons to Go.

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)

Twelve Travel Tidbits To Remember

IMG_0673Over the past ten years, I’ve done more than my fair share of traveling, both foreign and domestic. With a husband who travels weekly, I often have my pick of getaways; and all the frequent flyer mileage adds up, meaning I can travel with Ken on business as well as travel on my own or with friends and family. I’ve learned a lot about traveling, sightseeing, and staying sane when all plans seem to go awry. Here are the most important things I’ve taken away from my experiences.

Plan for the unexpected. We used to laugh at my grandmother who always carried an extra pair of underwear in her purse in case she was stranded somewhere. And an extra pair of shoes, but that’s another story. We might have thought she was crazy, but she was on to something. More often than they’d like to admit, airlines screw up. Twice in the past five years, I arrived at my destination without a bag. Both times, I had a carry on with enough clothes to get me through a couple days. Included in the bags were my essentials – reading glasses, contacts (when I wore them), camera, device chargers, and any medication I might need. This past week, I spent almost three days without my luggage. No need to panic. I had just about everything I needed and could easily obtain the rest. Okay, the thought of losing all those souvenirs almost killed me, but I had to let the worry go and have fun. Thankfully, everything showed up just when I needed it.

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Checking off lists in Scotland

Plan your itinerary. Last week, Katie and I met a mother and son traveling from Florida. Maru had an extensive list of everything she wanted to see on their trip. As they traveled, she checked off the items one by one. Katie and I also had a list, but ours was a daily itinerary of what we should see each day. We checked the list each night to see what we did and what we missed. The key to doing this right is to research ahead of time, and know what you want to see and how much time it takes to do each thing. But in the end, you must be willing to….

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Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Be flexible. Not every day goes as planned. Waits in line can be longer than anticipated. An unexpected visit from the queen might cause the palace you planned to tour to be closed for the day. Or, like Katie and I, you might meet others and decide to switch things around so that you can all do things together. While in Canada, we completely shifted gears and gave up our second night in Halifax after falling in love with the smaller coastal towns and opting to stay in one of those instead. While planning can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches, being flexible can make the entire trip go more smoothly and be more enjoyable.

Know your money situation. What is the currency? Does your credit card charge fees for international use? Does your debit card work overseas? Do you really need to use foreign currency, or are US dollars better? In some countries, particularly in South America, they are. Research before you go. Know if you’re visiting countries that are more expensive than than others. How will this affect your travel? A word of advice: if you’re going to Iceland, plan on eating a lot of hot dogs and drinking water; and in Copenhagen, know where the McDonald’s is. Or be prepared to allot a hefty sum for food and drinks.

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Seljalandsfoss in Iceland

Know when you need a camera and when you don’t. When Ken and I visited the Holy Land, it was impressed upon us to not worry about taking pictures because it’s more important to concentrate on being in the moment in the holy places. While we did take pictures, we took far fewer than we normally would, and we tried to really soak up everything around us before worrying about snapping the shots we felt would be the most meaningful. Sometimes, I take my camera with me, but other times, I rely on my phone. If you’re climbing a mountain or walking behind a waterfall, leave the camera behind. Reach for your phone only when you know that you, and the phone, are safe from harm. Are you going biking on an island off the coast of Australia? Then the phone is sufficient. Riding a tour bus with several historic and scenic stops? Then the good camera is a must. Be wise, and know which is the best option for the type of photos you want or the logistics of the place you’re visiting.

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Stonehenge

Take the bus. Most often, you visit someplace where you want to explore every alley and corner. Other times, you just need enough time to see the highlights. And many times, there’s just one particular thing to see. Whether it’s a ride to Stonehenge or a twelve-hour manic race to see everything in a thirty mile radius of Quebec City, don’t be afraid to join the tour. Bus rides provide so many opportunities and benefits – you can see multiple sights in a day without having to rent a car or read a map; you have a built-in tour guide (and they’re usually fabulous); you can meet other travelers along the way and get ideas for other places to visit; you learn a lot about the culture, history, and landscape of the place you’re visiting; and, though you may be disappointed that you can’t hit every shop in each town you go to, most of the time, the driver has the timing down to a tee. He or she knows exactly how long it will take for you to climb to the top of the waterfall, take a boat ride on the Loch Ness, or visit the black sand beach.

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Ireland

Don’t be afraid to drive…on the left. When Mom and I went to Ireland, I admit that I was pretty nervous about renting a car. But  our plan to see every single part of the country in eight days would not have worked otherwise. So I bit the bullet and rented the car. Though it felt a little strange at first, before long, driving on the left side of the road become natural. A year later, when Ken and I visited New Zealand and decided to take a drive up the coast, I actually offered to do the driving. Just like riding a bike, the skill came back to me. Would I be nervous to do it again? Sure, I would. It’s not the way I learned to do a task I do every day, but I wouldn’t say no.

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The Colosseum in Rome

Know when you need a guide. Most of the time, you can see everything you want without help. We have the Internet to teach us history before we go. We have the Maps app to keep us from getting lost. And there’s a City Pass for almost every major city in the world that cuts your cost or saves you the wait in line. However, there are times when it’s best to hire a guide. Some examples: the only way to avoid the three to four hour wait at the Vatican or the Colosseum, is to have a guide. Not only is it well worth the time you save, you will learn more about the Basilica and museums than you ever could on your own. Likewise, if you really want to get know the city of Florence, with hundreds of years of history, a guide is your best option. And those kooky nighttime ghost tours you can do on your own with the online guide – forget about it. Only a guide will really make the stories come to life. By the way, that City Pass I mentioned? I highly recommend them. But do your research. We found them to be a total waste of money in Madrid, and depending upon your schedule, choosing the right length of use can be tricky. But I wouldn’t visit New York or London without one.

Be alert. I have never felt unsafe when traveling, and so far, I’ve never had anything stolen or taken from a pickpocket, but those things do happen all the time. Know your surroundings. Keep your distance from people or situations that don’t look or feel right. Always know where your money, credit cards, phone, etc. are at all times. I sacrifice my purse for a smaller cross-shoulder bag whenever I’m traveling. It keeps everything close to my body and keeps my money and cards stored neatly without the need for a wallet which can be easily lifted from an open bag. In Barcelona, last summer, a woman walking near us on the sidewalk kept steering uncomfortably close to me. Bells went off, and when she reached for my purse, I was ready. Firmly holding onto the bag with both hands, I looked right at her and said, “No, go away.” She quickly darted through the crowd without looking back. When my family asked what happened, I told them. I knew my instincts were right, and it was a good lesson for my girls. If I had been one to pay more attention to my phone than to those around me, that story could have had a very different ending.

Keep a check on your items. While I’ve never had anything taken, we have had the unfortunate lost article or two. Twice on this last trip, Katie left something behind in her haste to pack up and move out. One was a tube of posters she had bought in London for her dorm room. The other was the blue and purple tartan scarf we bought in Scotland that so beautifully matched her eyes. If you’re changing planes or trains, or grabbing a quick meal somewhere between destinations, always pack up before it’s time to leave, check your area, and then double check that you’ve gotten everything. A coupe posters and a scarf can be easily replaced and don’t present a large monetary loss. A piece of art, a hand-knitted sweater, or a one-of-a-kind purchase, would be another, tragic, story.

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Good friends made in the Holy Lands

Make friends. I know, that sounds crazy. How can you make “real” friends while traveling? Believe me, you can. Some of my closest friends are people Ken and I met on a ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. While that is a little different as it’s an emotional and spiritual journey rather than just a vacation, the same general rule applies when traveling. While you can’t fully let your guard down with strangers, you can make friends. On a cruise, several years ago, my girls joined the kids’ clubs offered onboard. To this day, they are still friends with a number of those kids and keep in touch via social media and email. Rebecca even went to a senior prom with a boy with whom she became friends. Katie and I had so much in common with the mother and son that we met in Scotland last week, that we’re trying to make plans to get together again. You never know where a chance meeting might lead, what long-lasting friendships may develop. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe in coincidence. Everything happens, and every person enters our lives, for a reason.

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Gullfoss in Iceland

Enjoy every moment. Don’t lose sight of why you’re there and with whom you’re traveling. Put down the phone (I know, you all get tired of hearing me harp on that), talk to your companions and to other travelers, savor your meals, rise with the sun, and go to bed when everything shuts down. Do that late night ghost tour. Eat that local delicacy you never thought you’d try. Visit the museums, the parks, the beaches, the out-of-the-way overlooks and grueling hikes. You will never regret having done those things, but I guarantee that you will regret what you don’t do. Life is short. You might never get back to the same place twice. Take advantage of everything you can while you’re there.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.20.12 AMBe inspired. Traveling has taught my children to reach beyond their own worlds and eat new foods, learn about other cultures, and dare to try something new. This sense of adventure can often lead to new experiences even after returning home. After discovering foreign foods that we like, we often go home and attempt to recreate the recipe. More times than not, it works! Reeling at the expense of the Icelandic sweaters, Katie bought a kit with yarn and a pattern and is planning to knit one for herself. Ken’s cousin, Crista, came home from traveling and began brewing her own craft beer. We all took up kayaking after Ken and I paddled with the penguins off the south coast of New Zealand. And I’ve won two literary awards for my book, Whispering Vines, inspired by a trip to a small, family-owned winery near Verona. Be open to learning and to doing. Every trip has the potential to lead to something bigger in your life.

Finally, share your love of travel and your experiences with others. Some may only see these places through your eyes. Others may be inspired to follow your lead. It’s both a large and a small world out there. See all that you see, and let others know how easy it is to do the same.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: No Place Like Home.

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/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)

Guest Blog – Lessons from a Teenage Entrepreneur

This morning, 18-year-old Katie Schisler, would like to share what she has learned by running her own business. I’m sure you will enjoy the wit, wisdom, and advice.

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When I was 13 years old, I started working as an employee at my family’s snow cone stand in the resort town of St. Michael’s, Maryland. I am now 18, and for the last two years, I have been running the stand as my own business. I handle all of the financials and hire my own employees. I also still work at the stand myself. Here are 5 things that I have learned as a young, small business owner.

1. Conversation skills.

Tips are a huge deal. That is the only money that you make that goes straight into your pocket (I do pay myself and my employees, but tips are walk-away-with cash). So how do you maximize your tip amounts? You talk to your customers! With a smile that says, “I’m happy to help you,” it’s always nice to ask where they’re from and what brings them to the area. And if someone happens to say that they are a local, encourage them to come back, and tell them that you can’t wait to see them next time. Customers are much less likely to give a good tip to someone who is unfriendly, or acts like that is the last place they want to be. Extra tip: it also helps to wear a hat or t-shirt with the name of the college you plan to attend. It’s a real conversation starter, and you’d be amazed at how many people say they or their relatives went there.

2. The value of a dollar.

Everything costs money, and at the beginning of the season there is a good chance that you are going to be in debt. Whether you owe your grandfather money for buying you flavors and spoons, or you owe your only employee $8 an hour for a weekend where she only sold $30 worth of product, you are going to have expenses that you need to pay off. This is when you need to learn not to panic because some weekends will earn you a lot more than that. Also, everything adds up. If I were to sit here every weekend eating snow cone after snow cone, eventually I am going to run out of flavoring that no one was paying for.

3. Patience is a virtue.

As I write this, it’s already noon, and I have not made a single sale. Town had so many people in it while I was driving to work, so where is everyone and why don’t they want snow cones? I might as well close early. But then, as 1:30 rolls around, my first customer approaches me. He was eating lunch at noon and had decided to wait until after lunch to come get snow cones for dessert. By the time that customer is finished paying, I have another customer waiting in line behind them. Before I know it, the line is halfway down the sidewalk. After that, it begins to slow down a bit, but customers still trickle in until closing time. Closing early is only worth it on days when it is raining no matter how bored you are.

4. You form relationships.

I live in a tourist town, so a good amount of my customers are tourists. However, ever since we opened all those years ago, we have had a small amount of locals who have followed us from Talbot Street to the Maritime Museum to our current location on Willow Street. Whether it’s “The Chocolate Guy” or “The Egg Custard Lady,” I can always count on seeing a familiar face during my day at work. Other than occasionally seeing them at Church, I really didn’t know these people before I started this business. This kind of support is what encourages me to keep coming to work every weekend.

5. It’s really not THAT bad.

Yes, on days that I have work, it is very hard to get me out of bed. But with an occasional groan and grumble about how much I don’t want to go, I get up and go to work. In all honesty, there is nothing bad about working during the day; I actually really enjoy it. The dread, however, comes from the before and after of the job. Every morning I have to lift heavy coolers full of Ice into my car, put the full flavor bottles in my car, drive to work, drag out the stand, move the coolers and flavors onto the stand, and do the tedious job of making the counter look presentable. Then, at the end of the day, I have to put the coolers back in the car, put everything that was on the counter away, make sure everything is clean, put the flavors in the car, drag the stand back to where we keep it, go home, then then refill all of the flavor bottles. THAT is what I dread every morning when I wake up for work. Like I said, working here is actually kind of nice once everything is set up. I thoroughly enjoy interacting with the customers, and when I have no customers it’s nice to sit in the sun and read a book. I just have to push through the annoying jobs that come before and after working.

So, if you or your child is thinking of starting a serious, worth-while and sustainable business, go ahead! Encourage your kids to get out of bed and go to work. There’s nothing like being your own boss, and the responsibility they will learn from it will help them for the rest of their lives.

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: To All the Muses in My Life.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Had a Job Interview but No Callback? Here’s What to Do Next Time;  Interview: The husband of Chiara Corbella on his wife’s sacrifice and possible canonization.

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/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)