Seven Things I Should Have Done

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Katie – College Sophomore in PA

Another school year is upon us. Two of my girls have already begun classes, one in her second of law school and the other in her second year of college as an elementary education major and Spanish minor. The house is quiet again, on most days, as Morgan is back on the field hockey field or out pounding the pavement, looking for a job. This was the first summer since she was eleven years old that she didn’t work, and she’s missing her spending money; but she spent the entire summer traveling, so she can’t complain!

As I sit here in the quiet house and work on my next novel, I can’t help but think ahead to next year when all three girls will be off on their own for the first time. While looking ahead, I’m also forced to look back. For over twenty-two years, Ken and I have had, as our top priority, the task of raising children. It hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been worth all of the effort, all of the tears, and all of the pain. Why? Because while there has been effort, tears, and pain, there has been so much more fun, laughter, and joy. Still, there are several things I wish I had done differently. Perhaps, my mistakes can be someone else’s gain. So, here you go. These are the things I wish I had done differently as a parent:

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Reading to Rebecca (and Tucker)

7.  I wish I read to my girls later. My girls all learned to read at very early ages. Quite early on, they stopped needing me to read to them at night. For several years, this was okay because when one stopped reading to me, another was holding up a book and blinking her sleepy eyes while pleading for one more story. But then one day, I turned around I realized it had been years since I had cuddled up in bed with one of my girls and read to or with them. It ended way too soon, and I regret not finding ways to stretch it out. Rebecca may not know this, but the time she came to me in a panic that she had to read an entire novel before the start of 9th grade and hadn’t left enough time to do it, was one of the best times of my life as a mother. Ironically, the book was Rebecca, after which she was named, but she found, as she read, that she was having a hard time following it and knew she couldn’t finish in time. For the next three nights, I stretched out on her bed and read aloud as she packed her book bag, brushed her hair, or straightened her room before climbing into the bed with me to listen to the strange and mysterious tale of Mr. DeWinter and his wife, Rebecca. Alas, that, too, was over too soon. 

6.  I wish I had played with them more. With three girls in the house, there was almost always somebody to play with. Only Rebecca got the chance to have mommy or daddy all to herself for a few years, but even then, I wanted her to be independent, so I didn’t make it a habit to actually play with her as much as I should have. I helped her set up her Barbie house, and I helped her clean up when she was done, but I don’t really remember actually sitting down and playing with her once she was past the toddler stage. Sure, we’ve always had family game night, including Mexican Train Dominoes matches that sometimes last half the night, but that’s not the same as good, old one-on-one play time. How many important life lessons did I miss out on teaching because I wanted her to learn to be self-reliant? How much did I miss by insisting the girls play with each other while I worked or cleaned house? Couldn’t those things have waited? Yes, they could have. Future grandchildren, watch out. 

5.  I wish I had insisted that the girls make their beds every morning. Seriously. I can’t leave my room in the morning unless the bed is made. Why didn’t I instill this same habit in my girls? In his book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg asserts that making your bed each morning becomes a keystone habit, one that results in making other good decisions made throughout the day. He says that it gives you a sense of taking charge which leads to “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills” such as sticking to a budget.  Author, Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project), even contends that making your bed can actually make you a happier person! Now, two of the three have finally gotten into the habit of making their beds every morning, and they say it really does make a difference in how they keep their room and how they feel about themselves.

4.  I wish I had told my girls what we expect instead of what we hope. I wish we had told them,

  • We expect you to be a leader and not follow others down the wrong path.
  • We expect you to follow our rules and the law and not drink, smoke, or do drugs.
  • We expect you to abstain from sex because you’re not ready, you’re not married, and you’re not equipped to handle the consequences (not to mention the teachings of the Church). 
  • We expect you to study hard and get good grades.

There’s such a difference between telling a child, “this is what we expect you to do and how we expect you to behave” and saying, “you shouldn’t do this, but if you do, do it safely.” That’s certainly part of the conversation but shouldn’t be the focus. It’s about creating expectations and teaching them that it’s not only okay to stand their ground but will be better for them in the long run.

3.  I wish I had told them that they don’t have to always be on the top of the heap. I should have told them to try their best, work their hardest, and reach for the stars but not at the expense of their self-worth, sanity or integrity. I wish I had told them that it’s okay to fail as long as you try harder next time. It’s okay to fall down as long as you get up. It’s okay to be number two or three or even five as long as you did honest work and truly gave it your all. It’s not about how you finish but how you got there that counts.

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Morgan on the ramp she helped build in Kentucky

2.  I wish I had shown them the real world. Yes, we traveled–a lot. Yes, they saw amazing sights and had unforgettable experiences in places all over the world. But we never served at a soup kitchen. We never visited a homeless shelter. We took many loads of clothes and goods to St. Vincent de Paul, but we didn’t give enough of our time as volunteers. When Rebecca was a Junior Girl Scout, she earned her Bronze Award by collecting back packs and school supplies and handing them out to underprivileged children through SVDP. She still talks about the little boy who cried as he hugged his back pack as if it was a bag full of gold and precious jewels. Morgan talks about the man with the broken bike of which she and a SVDP volunteer helped fix the tire. When the man left, Morgan learned that he was homeless, and the bike was his only possession. But we never did anything with that knowledge. We never even tried. Thank Heaven for the school mission team. Trips to the Kentucky mountains and upstate New York were the closest my girls ever got to seeing how those in need actually live. I wish we had made sure that the girls did more to help others. I pray they still can and do.

1.   I wish I had paid more attention to my girls when they talked. I’m always distracted, always thinking about what I should be doing, always trying to complete several tasks at once. When I was little girl, I used to love to visit my Great-Aunt Grace. She would pour me a glass of lemonade and offer me grapes or cherries or cookies, and we would sit in her formal living room and talk. That’s it. We’d just talk. Looking back, I’m surprised that I liked going there at all. The television was never on. There were no other kids to play with. There were no toys. There was just Aunt Grace, lemonade, maybe a cookie, and the chance to sit and talk. 54527_1483407733837_6670383And I cherished those little moments more than she ever knew because Aunt Grace made me feel special. She didn’t want someone to watch TV with her, help her do chores, or eat her baked goods. She didn’t need a little kid interrupting her day as she gardened or dusted. But no matter what she was doing, she always, always stopped, made us a treat, and sat down to talk, to hear about my life, to ask me questions about my school or my friends, to pay attention to me and let me know that she cared. Nothing else was more important for those ten or fifteen minutes. It was all about sitting with me and listening to me as I talked. And it was wonderful. If only I can make myself remember, as a busy adult, how that felt as a grateful child.

I’m sure there are many other things I would do differently if I had it to do over again. Thankfully, my girls turned out all right–so far! Hopefully, someday I will have grandchildren and a second chance to get it all right. For now, I just pray they know that I tried, I sometimes failed, but I always loved them whether I remembered to tell them that or not.

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Morgan, Rebecca, Katie, and me at the summit of Uncompahgre Peak in Colorado

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 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).

Five Things Mother Taught Me

With Mother’s Day coming up this weekend, of course, I’d be thinking about my mother. But on top of that, I’ve been staying at Mom’s this week to help out Dad while Mom isn’t feeling well. Spending time at her bedside, I’m reminded of all that she has taught me over the years. Here are the most important things I’ve learned:

6893Strength is not about power. As we are told in the Book of Psalms, “She [a woman of worth] is clothed with strength and dignity, and laughs at the days to come.” Clothed in strength, not exhibiting strength, not showing power or aggression or loftiness, but clothed in strength. That’s quite remarkable when you think about it. Strength and dignity should be what we wear, what we exude, what we show others. It’s more than being strong or powerful. It’s letting others see what you’re made of, but in a dignified way. My mother is not only the matriarch of our family, she is the bloodline that gives us life literally and figuratively, the glue that holds us together, the giver of advice, and the pillar on which we lean. Everyone thinks that my father is the strong one, but, like the rest of us, all his strength comes from Mom. It always has.

15732720_10154924178131349_440735058246395734_oLove has no bounds. St Paul tells us that “Love knows no limit to its endurance, no end to its trust, no fading of its hope; it can outlast anything. It is, in fact, the one thing that still stands when all else has fallen (1 Corinthians 13: 7-8). No truer words could be spoken about my mom. She loves her family fiercely and would do anything for them. The same can be said for her friends. My love for my family and friends is a direct reflection of the love she has always shown to me and my brothers. It’s a love without end, without restraints, without jealously. I think that the simplest way to describe the love that my mother gives is that it’s a direct reflection of the Father’s love for us.

Every person deserves love and mercy. Everyone has that friend, the one that nobody can figure out exactly why you are friends. They seemingly have nothing offer, and perhaps they aren’t even that good a friend in their treatment of you or others. There have been times when my mother has mentioned one person or another, and I’ve wondered, “Why do you even put up with them?” But I know what her response would be. In life, it matters not what someone can do for you. Sometimes, all that matters, is what you can do for them. There are some people in this world who, through no fault of their own, need you more than you need them. And I’m not talking about handouts or such. Some people have nobody else to talk to, no shoulder to lean on, no one to whom they can vent, nobody to pray for them. Sometimes we need people in our lives to show us that things could be worse or that we shouldn’t take anything for granted or from whom we learn to be merciful. “Blessed are the merciful, for they will be shown mercy” (Matthew 5: 7).

Move Heaven and Earth for your family. No matter what she has going on, no matter how busy she is, my mother will let nothing stop her from being with her family. Aside from God, family is all that really matters. That’s why there was no question, when I received word that Mom was being admitted to the hospital, that I was going to pack my things and make the two-hour drive to be there for her and for Dad. It’s the least she would have done for me or my brothers or her own siblings. We are told, “if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith” (Timothy 5:8). My mother is the most perfect example of providing for her family, all family, whether they are actually related to us or not. I pray that I am able to follow her example.17884100_589736467897030_5760503867601997137_n

Be the embodiment of Christ’s light. Jesus told us, “You are light for the world. A city built on a hill-top cannot be hidden. No one lights a lamp to put it under a tub; they put it on the lamp-stand where it shines for everyone in the house. In the same way your light must shine in people’s sight, so that, seeing your good works, they may give praise to your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5: 14-16). My mother is certainly the light of Christ for all to see. She is patient, loving, kind, humble, sincere, honest, and trustworthy. She puts everyone else before herself and gives without asking for anything in return. If I can be half the person my mother is, emit just a single beam of the light she radiates, then I will have become the best person I can be.

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Can’t you see Mom’s glow in this photo with her friends?

DSC_7689.JPGSo to all mothers everywhere, but especially, my own, happy Mother’s Day. Thank you for providing your strength, showering us with your love, showing us how to treat others, being there for your family at all times, and radiating the light of Christ for all to see, an example to us and the world. I love you, Mom.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: The Family that Travels Together.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  I Never Wanted to be a Helicopter Parent. But I Am. by blogger, WonderOak; Why kids today are out of shape, disrespectful – and in charge by Leanne Italie in The Wichita Eagle; 18 New Historical Fiction Novels to Read with Your Book Club by  on the BookBub Blog.

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)

The Agony of the College Search

 Katie, my high school junior, and I have spent the past two days touring four different colleges (with Morgan in tow). A couple weeks ago, we visited one school, and this weekend we will visit another. I’m not sure what takes a worse beating, my pounding head, my exhausted body, or my aching feet. Searching for the perfect college is not for the faint of heart.

When I set out to choose a school, over 25 years ago, I had no idea where to begin. My parents had not gone to college (shout out to Mom who never gave up on getting her degree after becoming a busy mom). As a student at a rather large high school, I didn’t find the guidance department particularly helpful. It was all a guessing game, so I did my best to guess what the right fit would be for me. I failed miserably. I did no visits, conducted no research, and made no comparisons. I chose a school from a catalog at school, applied, received a full scholarship, and signed on the dotted line. Within the first month of school, I knew I had made a huge mistake. At the end of the year, I transferred to the school where one of my best friends attended. It was a good experience, and I graduated with honors; but looking back, I’m sure it would not have been my school of choice had I done things the right way.

Fast forward 20 years to when our oldest was beginning the college search. After convincing her to narrow her list of “top choices” from 27 to 9, we began our rounds. My husband didn’t understand why we were spending so much time and money traveling from one college to the next (after all, he pretty much did the same kind of college search I did, and his experience was great). But I knew that Rebecca was a lot like me, and that she needed to find the perfect niche. I also knew that if she ended up transferring, the world would not come to an end. Luckily for all of us, she has never been happier in her life. She made the right choice, and her future looks bright.  

So back to Katie. Five down, and one to go. So far, she has a top choice, a backup, and a reach school. She hopes that this weekend’s visit will produce a solid second choice so that she can start focusing on what matters most to her – meeting the tennis coach and establishing a place on the team. She has made notes – “great food and lots of coffee bars,” “spacious dorm rooms,” “close proximity between dorms and tennis courts.” Once she knew that her major and area of interest were covered, she started concentrating on the logistics of life of campus. Wherever she goes, I just want her to be happy.

At least I feel slightly ahead of the game for the next time around. Morgan, now in 9th grade, has fallen in love with two of the schools we toured. Both have pre-med, so that’s a good start. Maybe if I’m lucky, she will have her school before we get to this point two years from now. And I will be able to add to my resume “Professional College Finder.”

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

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

Amy’s books:  Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015)