Family Togetherness, A Gift From Heaven

“The family is the first essential cell of human society.” –Pope John XXIII

Have truer words ever been spoken? Where would I be without my family? Though I put God first and foremost in my life, I would be nothing, have nothing, achieve nothing, and live for nothing if not for my family. Not seeing most of my extended family for over a year was one of the hardest things I’ve ever had to do in life. Thankfully, that long, dry period ended this past weekend.

On Saturday, we hosted a graduation party for our middle child, Katie Ann. She graduated in May from Mount St. Mary’s University, but we wanted to give our family a little more time to be comfortable in a large gathering, so we asked them all to save the date for August 21. It made my day to get responses like, “I told the rest of the family they could do whatever they wanted, but I will be there come hell or high water,” and “I’m done with not seeing everyone.” We were all determined to be together, and not even a potential tropical storm was going to keep us apart.

Opera great, Robert Breault, is attributed with saying, “What greater blessing to give thanks for at a family gathering than the family and the gathering.” And he was so right.

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Serving on Earth

Our family loves to entertain. I’ve written about taking friends crabbing, hosting our annual Mother-Daughter Cookie Swap, and hosting huge gatherings for holidays, graduations, weddings, and any other occasions that come along. I get a real thrill out of seeing a new RSVP pop into my inbox, and I spend hours planning menus, setting tables, putting up tents, decorating, and trying to make our home feel as festive and inviting as I can. I love finding and sharing new recipes as much as I love making the same beloved recipes over and over.

Whether we’re hosting a large event or simply having friends over for lunch or dinner, inviting others to our home and finding a way to make it special is the way I show my love and appreciation for them. That’s how our annual cookie swap got started–as a way of inviting our closest friends into our home to celebrate the gift of their friendship and let them know how special they are to us.

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Clinging to Love

When I was a little girl, our family spent most weekends “down in the country.” This was, and still is, how my parents referred to the area where they grew up in Southern Maryland. Though we lived just ten minutes outside of Washington, DC, my parents always thought of St. Mary’s County as home. I came to feel the same way after spending so much of my childhood there. In fact, even as an adult, the dreams in which I am “at home” often take place at my grandparents’ house. My mother tells me that at the end of each weekend, I would cling to my grandfather’s legs and beg him not to let my parents take me back with them. While my parents are THE BEST, all I wanted was to be with my grandparents.

As I got older, I spent many, many weekends and extended summer stays with Granddad and Gram, as I always referred to my grandmother. Much of that time was spent crabbing, fishing, or “helping” Granddad with his tobacco crop.

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A Lifetime of Blessings

Last night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our now married daughter and her husband at their new home. This is Rebecca and Anthony’s first Christmas living together and the first time they decorated their own Christmas tree. I stood for several minutes and looked at the ornaments from their combined childhoods and thought about all the years we’ve collected ornaments for our girls. It felt odd to see Rebecca’s ornaments on a tree other than our family tree, but it was a beautiful, comforting feeling to know that a big part of her childhood hangs on the tree in her new home. We are still tethered together by tradition even when miles apart.

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Ob la di, ob-la-da, life goes on…

Life goes on, just as the Beatles song tells us. No matter what happens in the world, people continue to live their lives as best they can, and they should.

For the mental and emotional stability of everyone, we need to remain optimistic and live our lives as normally as possible. 

I recently read the delightful book, Dear Mrs. Bird by AJ Pearce. The fictional novel, set during WWII told of dances and nights out with friends and girls painting their legs to look like they were wearing stockings. Of course, it also depicted the air raids over London and the devastation of war, but what struck me was the reminder that even during war, life goes on. People fall in love and get married. Babies are born. Lives are lived.

For example, Read more

“The Living Memory of the Family”

Today, I am channeling happy thoughts and cherished memories. We’ve just finished moving my mother-in-law in across the street, and having her so close has brought back so many memories of my childhood and my own children’s childhood. 2020 Grancy

I recently read an article which pointed out that “For decades, the importance of grandparents in kids’ lives flew under the radar.” The article goes on to list the many benefits:

  • Kids often turn to their grandparents for advice when they are facing adverse events;
  • relationships between children and their grandparents increased the likelihood that kids will become engaged in their communities;
  • and being around grandparents actually makes less sedentary and has a positive affect on their BMI.

And there’s more… Read more

Hallelujah Is Our Song

I write this just a day before we begin the sacred Triduum–those three days before Easter Sunday when Christ suffered His passion and death. I can’t believe that this will be the first Easter in my entire life that I will not be with my parents and brothers and all of our extended family. Our fifty-some person guest list has been dwindled to just six–Ken and me, our three girls, and Ken’s mother across the street from us.

I’ve been crying a lot this week. I feel a bit lost. I don’t know what I would do without my Bible studies (which we continue online), daily Mass, the encouraging messages I am receiving through various email lists and YouTube channels, and the Zoom party my girlfriends and I had last night.

I miss my mom and dad. I miss hugging and sitting with my friends. I miss going to Mass with an excruciating longing.

But… Read more

A New Beginning

They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?

Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?

Sunset on Naxos

I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.

This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.

Oia, Santorini

Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.

Morgan and Amy in Santorini

I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.

Morgan cliff jumping on Milos

It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.

My baby is all grown up (Syros)

This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.

Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos Island

You can see videos of our amazing adventure.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Glimpse of Paradise.

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 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 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because… Read more

Gifts of the Father

Though you won’t read this until Wednesday, January 16, I’m writing it on Tuesday, January 15, 2019. January 15, 2018 feels like yesterday, and I find it hard to believe an entire 365 days have passed already. On this day, one year ago, our family sat in a church and said goodbye to one of the most beloved human beings I have ever known. Even writing that, I have to squint to see through my tears. Some wounds take a long time to heal. Some never do. 

The Italian novelist, Umberto Eco, once said,

“I believe that what we become depends on what our fathers teach us at odd moments, when they aren’t trying to teach us. We are formed by the little scraps of wisdom.”

If that is the truth, and I believe it is, then my father-in-law taught us a great many things. He taught us to work hard. He taught us to love life. He taught us to never give up. He taught us to believe in ourselves. He taught us that family always comes first. He taught us to never be too proud to do a job yourself, no matter how dirty. He taught us that God can be found in the most unlikely of places. Most of all, he taught us to laugh–at the world, at our problems, at ourselves.

I grew up hearing people on television make fun of, avoid, and speak ill about their in-laws, and it was never anything I understood. My father and his father-in-law were the best of friends. My father still weeps when he talks about what a wonderful man my grandfather was, what a wonderful friend. I saw their bond and wondered if they were unique or if Hollywood just thought it was funny to act like all in-laws were the kin of satan.

When I became engaged, friends warned me about the power struggle between daughters-in-law and mothers /fathers-in-law. I prayed that I would get along with Ken’s family, that we would love each other no matter what, that we would see past pettiness and be able to enjoy good times together. I hoped for a kind of friendship with Ken’s family–perhaps something like what my father and grandfather had.

What I got was a real, true second set of parents, and not the kind who ground you or tell you what you do wrong or expect you to do everything the way they want it done. I got the kinds of parents I already had. They are kind and loving, fun to be around, and people I genuinely love to spend time with. At the center of the family, for so many years, was Ken’s father, David. 

He was never “David” to me. He was always, “Dad.” Almost as much a father to me as my own dad, and that’s saying a lot. I could call on Dad for just about anything, and I did.

When another driver ran a red light and totaled my car, and Ken didn’t have a cell phone (because none of us did back then), I called Dad.

When our oldest daughter was flown to shock trauma after being hit in the head with a baseball bat, and the entire county police force was trying to track down Ken, I called Dad.

Whenever something broke, and Ken was out of town, I called Dad. Or when I needed more firewood. Or when a snowstorm hit, or I needed help hauling some treasure home from the auction.

Dad came to pick us up when Hurricane Isabel hit, and our town was so flooded, we had to leave in a rowboat.

Dad came to help set up and decorate for every celebration, however big or small. 

Dad built much of the furniture in our first house and the original kitchen in the house we live in now.DSC04386.JPG

Dad “stopped by to bring the girls some doughnuts.” Mind you, he lived 45 minutes away, but he “stopped by” just the same.

Dad became the rock I leaned on when Ken was traveling. He held me when I cried for my grandmother after she passed. He sat next to me in the hospital when the doctor gave Rebecca 11 stitches. 

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nDad once walked across the field hockey field, minutes before the last game of the season was the begin, just to give Morgan a Hershey Bar and a hug.

Dad once convinced the girls to eat dog food because it “tastes like candy.”

Dad once won “big” at the casino, spent all of his winnings to buy ice cream sundae ingredients, and invited all the grandkids over to celebrate his win.

Dad must have owned fifteen Coast Guard Academy t-shirts and hats, that he wore EVERYWHERE, just so he could tell people that his grandson was there.
352-18557386_10209137891700715_4268888509976742415_n
One Easter, dad showed up with PVC pipes formed into “guns” and taught all the kids how to shoot marshmallows at everyone.
Morgan and Poppy.jpg
And now, a full twelve months after we told him goodbye, I still feel like he’s going to walk in the door any minute with a box of doughnuts, a handful of candy bars, or a homemade cheese danish.

Dad was never a man of great means, but he gave all he had to anyone who needed it. Proverbs 13:22 tells us that “A good man leaves an inheritance to his children’s children.” It’s not referring to gold or silver or a fancy house or an estate or trust fund. A true inheritance is a lasting legacy–the knowledge that you were loved, the understanding of how to love others, and the wisdom it takes to live a truly good and fruitful life. Ken’s father left us all a mountain of wealth. Like author, Ruth E. Renkel said, “Sometimes the poorest man leaves his children the richest inheritance.”

We love you Dad, and we miss you. Every single day.

dad's inheritance

What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Not Enough.

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 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.

Amy’s next novel, The Devil’s Fortune, will be released in March of 2019.

the_devils_fortune_cover

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).