Fiddling on the Roof

img_3312The Advent/Christmas season always makes me nostalgic, and that is especially true this year.  After this year, I have no idea what our Christmas festivities will resemble.  I like to think that nothing will change, that we will celebrate with our family as always, but I know that, if not this year, then in the very near future, things are bound to change.  As my children grow older and closer to beginning their own lives as adults, I can’t help but wonder which of our family traditions will hold the most meanings for them (oh, how I relate to Fiddler’s Tevye and his fight to keep his family traditions alive as his children become adults).  I grew up in a home and with a family where tradition was everything, and I’ve done my best to instill a love for tradition in my own children.  One such tradition involves our Christmas tree, our hideous, gaudy, wonderful, glorious Christmas tree.

I once had a family member tell me outright that our tree is ugly.  Sure, I know what it looks like to outsiders, but to me, there is no tree more beautiful.  Among the dozens and dozens of ornaments that adorn the tree are the wooden Raggedy Ann that was my very first ornament, a pinecone that Rebecca painted in pre-K as a gift for me, Katie’s buffalo representing the first time she saw her favorite animal live and in the wild, and the ballerina from when Morgan thought that dance class was all that mattered in the world.  Clustered amid the branches, drama masks, an altar server, three field hockey players, a tennis racket, a swimmer, a piano, an archery target, and a clarinet are joined by other such ornaments too numerous to count.  Alongside those are many handmade ornaments and an ornament from almost every place we’ve ever visited.

When Ken and I got married and moved into our first home, our Christmas tree was already decorated with twenty-two years of ornaments.  There were a bird in a nest from my Godparents, a circus train, Raggedy Ann, and many others.  Every year, my brothers and I received new ornaments that represented that year in our lives.  Those precious pieces of memorabilia now share our trees with our children’s little pieces of nostalgia.  Each Christmas season, I hunt for the perfect ornaments, the ones that the girls will pull out years from now and say, “I remember that year.” 

This year, after the girls had placed their newest ornaments on the tree (a Flamenco dancer in La Plaza de Madrid for Bec, a snorkel and goggles for Katie, and a football for Morgan), we stood back and looked at the tree. 

“I’m not doing this when I have my own house,” Morgan proclaimed.

“What do you mean?” came the question I had to push up from my throat.

“I’m going to have a beautiful tree decorated with Christmas balls and ribbons and only white lights,” she replied.

“What about our family tradition? Won’t your children get a special ornament every year?”

“If they want.  They can hang them on their own trees in their bedrooms.”

A little piece of me broke inside.  But that’s okay.  When Morgan’s children come to my house, they can help me decorate my tree.  I’ll have a special ornament waiting for each of them.

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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 inspirational fiction 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)

Lessons from the Stage – Ten Things I Learned From Broadway

IMG_0754The Tonys are this weekend, and I am so excited! I love theater, particularly musical theater. There are so many life lessons that can be learned just from sitting in an ornate theater or opera house and losing yourself in the story and songs.  Here are the things I have learned on and off Broadway.

  1. Seize the day. The boys of Newsies remind us that we can overcome anything if we put our minds to it. No matter what obstacles you face in life, there is always a silver lining. Yes, I’m an optimist, but I really do believe that we can make the world a better place through our thoughts, words, and actions and that nothing is too great to get in the way when you truly put your mind to something.
  2. DSC07773Tomorrow is always a day away. Annie knew what she was talking about. If you weren’t able to seize the day, or today was just really bad, there is always a new day to wake up to and a new start to make. And for those days when you feel like you just can’t make it through the day, tomorrow will be here before you know it.
  3. P1374833_10202642514170532_661522642_neople come into our lives for a reason. Elphaba and Glinda learned a lot more in the land of Oz than how to be good and how to be wicked. They learned that we all make a mark on each person we meet and that everyone has the ability to help us to grow if we let them. And that we can help them in return. I firmly believe that this is true. Every person I have ever met has left a mark on me, maybe large or maybe small, but a mark nonetheless. I hope that I have made a good mark on everyone that I have met. It’s something we should all strive for.
  4. Halloween (20)There’s No Place Like Home. While her nemesis and guardian were learning the value of friendship, Dorothy was finding out that home is where the heart is, and that no matter how far you travel, there’s simply no place like home. Right now, all three of my girls are home for the summer. It’s what every mother looks forward to – having all of her loved ones under the same roof. What I love is that when given the choice of spending time at a friend’s house or bringing that friend here, my girls always seem to pick the latter. We go through a lot of food, and a parade of guests is constantly walking through our door, but I wouldn’t trade it for the world. I love that my girls love being at home and sharing their home with others.
  5. IMG_2806You must face your fears. Even when her confidence wavered, Maria found the courage to return to the Von Trapp house. And we learned along with her that we can’t run from our problems. We have to face them and figure out what God intends for us and our future. For every mountain we climb, we must have the courage to face whatever is at the top and the knowledge that we can discover our own destiny. Even Simba knew that you can’t avoid your future by running from your past. No matter how guilty you feel or how sad it makes you, you must have the courage and confidence to face life head on.
  6. IMG_0602Nobody puts Baby in the corner. Every little girl grows up, and whether she’s dancing her way into someone’s heart or fighting for equal rights, her parents will need to learn to let her go. This is something I live every day of my life these days. With one daughter about to graduate from college (11 months and counting) and another about to graduate from high school, I know that it’s time to let go. I have to hope that I have raised them to stand up for what they believe in and to always choose the side of good. And I have to remember that at those times when I still want to put them in the corner, I need to instead give them the space and the freedom to grow.
  7. IMG_1889Be yourself. One of the best shows I’ve seen in recent years is Disney’s Aladdin. The lesson is simple: don’t try to be someone you aren’t. Being yourself always puts you on top. I have lived my entire life being only myself. It wasn’t always easy. I’ve never been popular or been part of the in-crowd, but I’ve been able to lay my head down at night knowing that I was honest and sincere and that I am exactly what you see. I believe that I have instilled this in my girls. It can be the hard road to take through many of life’s travels, but it’s the right road.
  8. DSC02801Forgiveness changes lives. The Bishop forgave Jean Valjean and gave him a new start. Fantine forgave Valjean for putting her out on the streets and gave him her child from whom he learned love. Eponine forgave Marius and Cosette for falling in love. Cosette forgave Eponine and her family for the way they treated her. Valjean forgave himself for past mistakes. Only Javert, who refused to forgive anyone, couldn’t live with the pain. But in the end, even he was forgiven by the one who gave all of them everlasting life – God in Heaven. Learn this most important lesson from the cast of Les Mis and from Joseph who forgave his brother for trying to kill him. Forgive those who trespass against you; forgive yourself; and know that God is loving and always forgives those who seek His kingdom.
  9. BeatitudesTrust God and find joy even in the midst of pain. Tevye reminds us that there is always joy to be found. As sad as it is when he disowns his daughter and when the family is forced to flee Russia, he reminds his family that they must trust in God and find joy in life. Through his unwavering faith, he faces each day with joy, even the saddest days. May we all be people of joy, as Pope Francis encourages. Face each new day with happiness and hope, and know that only joy can combat despair.
  10. DSC09744How we treat others shapes their future and ours. The Phantom didn’t become the beast who haunts the theater based on his own faults but because of the way he was rejected and tortured by others. However, he became the man they most feared because he gave into his fears, his insecurities, and his pain. Never let others make you into something you are not, and never allow yourself to lose sight of tomorrow, the value of friendship, the comfort of home, the love of God, or the joy in living. Always have confidence in yourself, spread your wings, be the person God intended you to be, and forgive others. Never let yourself get to the point of no return.

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, comes out on June 15, 2016 and 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)

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