I Will Give You Rest

For the past fourteen years, Ken and I have traveled, about once every eighteen months or so, to our shared cabin in the San Juan range of the Rocky Mountains. It is a refuge for us, a place where we can lie around all day and read or hike through a field of wildflowers or climb into the sky atop a fourteener.

Uncompahgre Peak, elevation 14,308′

Last week, Ken and I spent several days at the cabin, and it was unlike any other time we’ve spent there, beginning with the drive.

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Seeing Through the Forest to the Trees

Recently, a friend posted the following graphic on Facebook:

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This really hit me hard. As the mother of three girls, I see and hear all too often so many judgements and criticisms of others. While we’ve tried very hard to raise children who are kind, loving, and tolerant, it’s so very easy for all of us to fall into the trappings of a society that thrives on comparisons, disparages, and denunciations. Sometimes we even fall prey to these weaknesses with each other.

IMG_8422Of my three daughters, two of them are outspoken, free-thinking, and often exasperating in their insistence that they know best for themselves and others. But one daughter is quiet, introspective, and much more tolerant of everyone. She’s more emotional, more insecure, and more likely to see her own faults and weaknesses. She’s most certainly the tree that stands alone in the woods, the one that is struggling to reach the light, the one that needs its own space but is woefully dependent upon the others. That’s a thing, you know. Some scientists and naturalists believe that “trees of the same species are communal, and will often form alliances with trees of other species. Forest trees have evolved to live in cooperative, interdependent relationships, maintained by communication and a collective intelligence similar to an insect colony.

I’ve seen this play out over and over again within our own family. Our daughter wants to be independent and self-assured, but one biting word or harsh look from one of her sisters or a peer, and she’s once again the bent tree, desperately in need of light. And it isn’t just her sisters and peers that have this affect on her. I’m afraid that I’m a major contributor to her feelings of inadequacy. A high-achiever, perfectionist, and admittedly intolerant when it comes to others’ faults, I often have a hard time being the “good” parent. I want to, but my own fears for her future lead me to say and do things that don’t help at all. Thank Heaven for Ken, who is able to relate to her on a level that I am never able to. Sometimes, I just have to give him a look, and he knows that he needs to step in. He’s so patient, loving, and kind in those times when I’m pulling out my hair in frustration. Tree expert, Peter Wohlleben, tells us that “young saplings in a deeply shaded part of the forest…survive because big trees, including their parents, pump sugar into their roots through the network.” Thankfully, Ken is there when our daughter needs to be pumped up by his strength. 

But here’s the strange thing – I, too, was that tree in the woods that wanted so desperately to be more than I thought I was – to have the greener leaves, richer soil, more abundant birds nesting in my branches, and a greater amount of light shining on me. Though I think I hid it well, I was always insecure, never trusting that my friends were really my friends, always striving to be more than I felt I was, never sure that I was… enough. 

Trees.jpgToday, I know that I am what I am. I am enough. I am exactly who and what God intended me to be. I suppose I am on my way to being like the oldest, tallest, and sturdiest trees in the forest. As Professor Suzanne Simard says, “Mother trees are the biggest, oldest trees in the forest…nurturing, supportive, maternal. With their deep roots, they draw up water and make it available to shallow-rooted seedlings. They help neighboring trees by sending them nutrients, and when the neighbors are struggling, mother trees detect their distress signals and increase the flow of nutrients accordingly.” Even having been a mother for over twenty-two years, I am still working on dispensing that flow of nutrients when and how they are needed, but I certainly see that that we are all–families, friends, communities–dependent upon each other. We were all created by God, and all are works of wonder.

Some of us are tall and sturdy. Some are thin and weak. Some need more nutrients than others. Some are green and vibrant all the time while others have the need to go dormant for periods of time. Some have long branches that reach out to everyone, some have deep roots that give stability, and some have leaves that quake like the Colorado aspen, shining and waving to others, welcoming them into the fold.

 

We should all be reaching out to others, providing stability, welcoming others in. We should all see each other as trees, accepting those who seem less than worthy, providing strength to those who are like struggling saplings, and nourishing others with whatever they need–be it food, shelter, friendship, or just a kind word or deed.

I urge you to begin looking at each other differently. Even if these naturalists are literally barking up the wrong tree, and all of their assumptions about the interdependency of trees is rubbish, we can still learn a lot from the ecosystem that has created and sustained the world’s woodlands and forests. Sumard says, trees “live longest and reproduce most often in a healthy stable forest. That’s why they’ve evolved to help their neighbors.” Rather than judge, condemn, or criticize, we need to acknowledge and accept the gifts that each person has to offer. All we need to do is begin seeing each other as trees. 

Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very delighted to be partnering 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, click here.

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 MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracleshas 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), Island of Promise (2018).

 

Mountains, Body, and Soul

I took a walk early this morning in the area described in my book, Summer’s Squall. The rest of the family left well before dawn to climb Redcloud and Sunshine, two of the five over 14,000-foot mountains in the San Juan range of the Rockies, where we have a second home. We all climbed Uncompahgre Peak last week, and I’m still plagued by sunburn! Read more

Our Future is Going Up In Smoke

Warning – this blog will not be pretty. I am angry, and I’m afraid I’m going to take it out on you. For the past several weeks, I’ve had to watch someone I love dearly suffer from a very rare form of dementia. So rare, in fact, that the doctors know very little about it. Here’s one thing they do know: it was caused by white matter, or decay, in the frontal lobe of his brain, and that decay was caused by years of smoking. And because of that, watching the news this week makes me angry. I’m angry with politicians, with government officials, with lobbyists, and with my fellow American citizens.

And why? Because smoking kills. ALL SMOKING KILLS. Yet states across our land are telling people that smoking and doing drugs are okay! Why? What is wrong with everyone? I don’t care what you are smoking; your body wasn’t made to inhale chemicals. Both cigarettes and marijuana contain dozens of chemicals that cause cancer. And studies have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke is even more harmful to your heart than tobacco smoke. One in six children are hospitalized due to marijuana smoke exposure. And the number of marijuana-related fatal car accidents in the state of Colorado has doubled since recreational marijuana use become legal in 2013. Yet the state of California just joined Colorado and seven other states in saying it’s perfectly okay to smoke pot for recreation.

I saw a young woman being interviewed on the news yesterday who claimed to be an employed, high-functioning, and responsible adult who happens to smoke weed. She says it’s no big deal. And some researchers agree with her. “A 2002 study, for example, tested 77 heavy smokers for days after abstaining from smoking pot. Memory impairment was found for heavy users up to 7 days after using marijuana, but by day 28 their memory test results didn’t differ significantly from control subjects.”

But here’s my question, what about twenty-eight years from now? How will it affect their memory or any other part of their brain then? People spend millions of dollars each year trying to quit smoking cigarettes, but cities and states are salivating with glee about the money they’re going to rake in because of pot sales. Oh, but marijuana isn’t addictive, like cigarettes are, you say…  However, “according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana addiction goes up to about 17 percent in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.” Now that it’s A-Okay to smoke wherever and whenever you want in certain areas of the country, how many daily users will there be five years from now?

Dr. Abi-Dargham, MD, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center and author of a study at the university said that, “the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behaviour.” In addition, a number of studies have shown a link between smoking marijuana and schizophrenia as well as psychosis. Finally, researchers have found that the people who smoke daily for at least four years have a smaller volume of gray matter in their frontal lobe. Bingo. Know what that means? White matter in the brain. Decay. Which leads me to this…

I can’t help but wonder if my father-in-law’s rare form of dementia will become more commonplace in the future. While cigarette smoking has gone down, marijuana smoking is on the rise, and we have no idea what illnesses and physical impairments that will cause down the road. How many more people will die in accidents? How many more will move on to harder drugs when pot no longer provides a good enough high? How many more will begin developing diseases, chronic health conditions, pre-natal abnormalities, and debilitating illnesses because we’re now making it okay for people to smoke another dangerous substance. Medical marijuana, by the way, is most beneficial when it’s ingested, not smoked, so don’t even go there with me.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we won’t see any long-term affect of these new laws. But I hope and pray that none of my children or any of their children have to go through this again. At least not because some politician thought it was a good idea to make money by jeopardizing the health of his or her constituents. Beware, America, we are heading down a slippery slope, and only time will tell what the long-lasting effects will be.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Resolving to Succeed in 2017

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet 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 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 followed up her success with, Island of Miracles, which has outsold all of her other books worldwide and ranked as high 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available. Amy’s novel, Summer’s Squall, is now on sale 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)

 

Off the Grid

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We had a problem at camp this year that we’ve never had – complaints from adults and girls alike that the teen counselors spent too much time on their phones. I was actually quite surprised considering a HUGE part of their training revolves around the rule that they are NOT to be on their phones at camp. No campers are supposed to know that anyone even has a phone. Teens (and adults) who have phones with them are to refrain from being on the phones unless they are on break or after the girls are in bed. I was disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, I just recently wrote a blog about why we need to start putting our phones down and enjoying life.

I sometimes wonder if today’s young people have any idea that they can actually exist without being on their phones. They’re either texting, or snap chatting, or instagramming, or tweeting, or uploading to FaceBook, YouTube, or Tumbler. They’re looking at posts, watching vines, or playing games. It is any wonder that employers complain that today’s recent graduates have no socials skills? 

For the past week, we have been living in paradise. We’ve been at our second home in the San Juan range of the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Our girls each brought a
friend with them, and though we tried to prepare them, I don’t think they really believed us when we kept saying that there was no cell service at our cabin. That means a week of no texting, no chatting, no posting, and no calling. For the first twenty-four hours, I wasn’t sure these poor kids were going to survive. Slowly, they started to come alive. They noticed the low-hanging clouds over the mountains, the way the morning mist clings to the treetops, and the wildlife that lives around the mountain. They went four-wheeling to look for deer, and they began to talk about which day they were going to get up at five to see the sunrise.IMG_0002
The next day, the whole gang went white water rafting. They had to brave the icy cold waters, racing rapids, and light rain without any contact with the outside world. Not only did they all survive, they had the time of their lives. There was no need to find satisfaction through electronic devices when the world at their fingertips had so much to offer.IMG_0093_KMLater that day, they pulled out the puzzles, and that evening, they played a board game. The next night, after a day of white water rafting, they brought out the cards. Uno led to blackjack, and the stakes were high – a collection of lollipops and chocolate bars. 

They woke at four the next morning to tackle something that none of the visiting friends had ever done. They climbed one of the highest mountains in the continental United States — Handes Peak, which stands at 14,048 feet. I will admit that they were thrilled to discover that there is LTE service at over 14K feet. They all called their moms back home in Maryland and posted pictures of their accomplishment. Then it was back to the land of no service. IMG_2136Back at the cabin, everyone was rewarded with s’mores as a rainbow lit up the evening sky. The kids ate quickly, and we enjoyed playing Dominoes until late into the night.IMG_0036Horseback riding on the high plains of the Rockies took the gang out of their element once again, and there was no mention of not being able to text or call anyone. Over the course of the two and a half hour trail ride, we all talked and took in the scenery with no mention of phones or social media. That night, we enjoyed watching the Olympics without anyone even asking about which athlete or sport was trending on Twitter. IMG_0079We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.IMG_0102On the day we left, some of us woke up to see the sunrise over the mountains. Though there were plenty of pictures taken to be shared once they had service, there were also memories made that can be shared with others for many more years than those photos will be around. While I know that this will all change one we get back to civilization, I like to imagine that these kids might actually think twice the next time they face the choice between their phones and a bike ride, or a walk in the woods, or any other activity. I hope that the the thing they will remember the most from this vacation is the reason why I love spending time at our cabin high in the Colorado Rockies – it’s a reminder of how wonderful life is when you you stop letting other things get in the way of actually enjoying life.IMG_0150

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her latest book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Six Reasons to Put Down Your Phone!

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

Casting for Memories

Fly Fishing Fly Fishing1I was listening to my favorite radio show this morning, Seize the Day with Gus Lloyd, and he mentioned that he had gone fishing in Wyoming over the weekend.  For the rest of the ride home, I thought about my favorite fishing memory and how much it meant to me, still means to me.  I grew up spending my summers on the water with my grandfather.  I have many fond memories of jumping off the dock with my cousins, crabbing with Granddad (the subject of my first book), and going fishing.  Often, my father would join us if it wasn’t a weekday or if he and mom had taken off from work and were down at Grandma’s with us for a few days.  Fishing was a past time that we all enjoyed, and I still enjoy it today. Read more