Feeling Grateful

Though the entire world always seems to ignore the month of November and move right into December, November is the month of giving thanks. I’d like to take just a few minutes to share some things for which I am eternally grateful (in no particular order).

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My Parents
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My Mother-in-Law
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My Friends, near and far
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My brothers
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Those who serve
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Our country
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Our God
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My you all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God bless you, and God bless our land.

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Breaking The Rules.

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.

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).

Friendly Deception – how social media is changing our relationships and what we can do about it

IMG_7748Isn’t it funny how deceiving a picture can be? Take this one for example. It looks like the perfect day – not a cloud in the bright blue sky, the sun shining above, everything lush and green. The truth – it was darn cold, and it rained off and on all day. But you’d never know it by looking at the photo. This idyllic scene from my recent trip to Stockholm is quite deceiving unless you were there. I’ve been thinking about that a lot lately, about how every day we look at pictures of people and places that seem to be perfect, but we don’t really know what’s going on because we aren’t there, but more importantly, because we don’t ask.

I recently read an interesting article by Jay Baer, consultant and keynote speaker, who said that “those situations where we ‘meet’ someone through social media, have the opportunity to interact in real life, and then develop a relationship that creates true friendship are few and far between.” He lamented the fact that a social media friend committed suicide, and nobody saw it coming. He wondered if this person actually was his friend, was he anybody’s real friend? He argues that social media isn’t bringing us closer together but driving us farther apart “as we know more and more people, but know less and less about each of them.” 

39931590_419362661928100_610133224239162107_nThink about your own social media account. I don’t know about you, but I use mine to share updates about my kids, picture of my travels, and upcoming events I want to invite people to. And that’s what I want to see on other people’s posts. I don’t care how you lean politically, and I don’t want to see your dirty laundry aired for the world to see. I prefer Facebook to be my happy place, where I can go and see a smiling picture of a happy person, enjoying life. Yesterday, I stumbled upon this picture of my oldest daughter, and I think it’s one of the prettiest pictures I’ve ever seen of her. And like all of the first-day-of-school photos and the Homecoming shots, it just made me smile. But I also know what was going on in her life on the day this picture was taken, the people and things she was worried about, the decisions she had to make, and the hectic pace of her life that week. You don’t see any of that in her smile.

Her picture perfectly illustrates how my attitude, of wanting to see only the good, blinds me to what’s really going on with my family and friends. I see their happiest moments and often forget to ask about the tears they shed for a loved one, the defeat they just suffered at work or on the field, the problems they are facing with their family, or the devastating news they recently received. I’m not saying that I, or anyone, should pry into other people’s business, but I sometimes need to be reminded that social media lets us forget that we’re all real people. We need human interaction, and not the technological kind. We all have what psychologist Abraham Maslow termed, the Hierarchy of Needs (anyone who has taken a psychology course at any level should remember that triangle). Nowhere does it mention that we need hundreds of sometimes friends, but it clearly says that we need intimate relationships. We need REAL friends.maslow-5

I’ve had to stop and think, when was the last time I picked up the phone and called a friend to see how she’s really doing? When was the last time I invited someone to lunch or took the time to visit with anyone in person? When was the last time I sent a card to someone just because I wanted them to know I was thinking about them and not just hitting the “like” button on their page?

FullSizeRenderI consider myself extremely blessed because I do have an intimate group of friends who are “my people.” We tell each other everything. We commiserate with each other when our lives are spiraling out of control, and we lift each other up when we are feeling down. And yes, we do that through a private Facebook chat group. But here’s what really makes the difference in our friendship: we seek out time to get together. We plan trips to see each other. We revel in each other’s real presence. We hug, we hold hands, we look each other in the eyes. We participate in a real friendship. 

On the downside, I rarely see or talk to the women who live nearby and who have been my best friends for many years. I think I take for granted that they will always be there. I forget that they, too, are just a phone call away, a short trip down the road. It’s so easy to let those relationships slide because I know I can just send a text and say, “let’s get together.” The problem is, I rarely do. I let my everyday life get in the way. I depend upon social media to keep me up on what’s going on in their lives. I do exactly what Baer warned about, I allow social media to inform me about my friends and my relationships instead of reaching out beyond my computer screen.

I know that I need to really assess my friendships and my relationship with social media. Because that’s really what the relationship is with – social media – not with real, live people. We can’t live without checking out Facebook or Twitter or Instagram, but we live without checking in with the real flesh and blood people in our lives. Maybe it’s a generational thing. My mother is on Facebook and peruses it regularly, but more often, she can be found having lunch with her friends, taking trips with her girl group, and organizing get-togethers with people near and far. She knows how to cultivate friendships and how to keep them for many, many years. I fear that the rest of us are losing that ability. 

So, the next time you’re scrolling through those smiling, happy photos plastered on Instagram, remind yourself to stop and think about the faces you’re seeing. Ask yourself when the last time was that you contacted them, asked about their families, inquired about a hard situation they were in, or checked on their health. Baer summed up his article reminding us that we all think we know someone and what’s going on in their life, but we don’t. “And that’s social media’s fault. But more so, our own.”

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).

 

 

 

A Journey of Faith

 

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The Guadalupe Pilgrims

This past Sunday’s first reading told us how, after eating eating and drinking, Elijah was strengthened for his forty day journey to Mount Horeb (1 Kings 19:4-8). It was a good reading for me because Sunday was the last full day of our journey to Mexico City to visit the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe. You may remember that, three years ago, Ken and I participated in a pilgrimage to the Holy Land, There, we met a group of pilgrims who have increasingly become more family than friends. We try to get together several times a year, and often, our get-togethers revolve around our Catholic faith. This past weekend, many of our pilgrim family spent five days journeying to the religious sites and churches in Mexico City, praying, celebrating Mass, and enjoying the short time we had together.

 

 

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Friends from our local parish we invited to join us.

Reflecting on that short time, and the way we spent it, I’ve come to realize that this past weekend is a small representation of my life in general. We journeyed a long way, some getting caught in flight delays or heavy traffic, causing us to take a different route (who knew traffic was that bad in Mexico City?). Some came prepared with extra luggage for the many things they would accumulate on the way. Some of us were unprepared for the great temperature variations throughout the day and ran out of clothes. Some traveled alone, and a few were strangers, invited by friends to come along. 

 

How indicative of our spiritual lives here on earth! Though life is short, we travel a long way in our quest to reach salvation. We meet roadblocks, delays, and detours along the way. We aren’t always as good and faithful as we should be, but we carry on, hoping to find the right path. We try to be prepared for whatever life brings us, carrying that extra baggage as needed, often feeling the need to unload some of it along the way. Often, we are unprepared, though, and have to make due with what we have or find a way to meet our needs. We want a way to predict what lies ahead, to see the coming rain and avoid it, but alas, all we know is that there is a sunset at the end of the day and the glorious rising of a new sun in the morning. Sometimes, we travel this journey alone, depending upon God, but realizing we can rely on the love and care of those sent by God to walk the journey with us. Often, we are strangers amidst our fellow travelers, seeking friendship and a spiritual connection. In the end, we are all on a pilgrimage, searching for something to make our lives more meaningful. 

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Juan Diego’s tilma, as vibrant and it was in 1531, undeteriorated by time and circumstances.

Juan Diego traveled each day to and from his home and work. On December 12, 1531, he took a detour, expecting to avoid seeing the Virgin who had been appearing to him, but she was there, waiting along his path, and told him that she would grant him a sign for the bishop (you can read the whole story here). Climbing to the top of Tepyac Hill, Juan Diego found Castilian roses, flowers only found in Spain and not native to Mexico, certainly not in December. Thinking this was the sign, Juan Diego gathered the roses in his poncho, his tilma, and hurriedly took them to the Bishop. Upon opening his tilma to reveal the roses, an image of the Virgin appeared on the tilma. For almost 500 years, the tilma hung, first in the chapel built by Juan Diego and then in the church built by the Bishop. There was no glass protecting it, no frame, no special scientific or technological preservations of any kind, yet the tilma remained completely intact, unfaded, undeteriorated, and unharmed. Upon being moved to a newer basilica, it was placed in a glass frame. A 1921 bombing attempt to destroy the precious cloth resulted in destruction of the altar and melting of the bronze crucifix (some believe this was a sign that Jesus was protecting his mother), yet the glass covering the tilma was not even shaken, no cracks or breaks, no melting of the frame.

Juan Deigo learned that we never know what or whom we will encounter on our travels. Even detours cannot change the course that the Lord has set for us. Along the way, we meet many strangers, some become friends, some become family; all play a part in our journey. At times we feel vulnerable, unprotected, unable to stop the stumbling blocks and even bombs placed before us. However, I have learned that to have true friends of faith on whom I can rely, to whom I can talk, with whom I can pray, helps me keep the course, finish the race, and keep my faith.

IMG_7022.JPGOur journey here on earth is short, very short. We should not waste a moment of it. Despite the detours, we must continue on. Having a faithful group of friends and family will strengthen us along the way. As St. Paul said to Timothy, I hope to one day say to my dear friends across the nation and into Canada,

“But you must keep steady all the time; put up with suffering; do the work of preaching the gospel; fulfil the service asked of you.
As for me, my life is already being poured away as a libation, and the time has come for me to depart.
I have fought the good fight to the end; I have run the race to the finish; I have kept the faith
all there is to come for me now is the crown of uprightness which the Lord, the upright judge, will give to me on that Day; and not only to me but to all those who have longed for his appearing.
Make every effort to come and see me as soon as you can.”

2 Timothy 4:5-9

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).

It’s Not Enough

Author’s Note: When I first wrote this piece, it was much longer. It laid out, in great detail, all the lessons I learned in 2017. But as I thought about it, I realized that there was only one lesson that truly mattered. Here it is…

Life itself is a classroom, a continuously evolving curriculum, an education that lasts from the day you are born until you die. At my age, after more than a few decades on this earth, I am amazed at the things I learn every day. Here is the most important thing I learned in 2017 that will shape my words and actions in 2018 and beyond.

It’s never enough to assume that others know how you feel. When Ken and I first began dating, over twenty-five years ago, I thought it was more than strange that his entire family says “I love you” every single time they are on the phone. Without fail. It took me a long time to get used to hearing Ken tell his mother, father, brother, and sister that he loves them so often. I’m not sure when the change began to occur in me. Perhaps it was when my father had his last bout with cancer. Maybe it was when Rebecca began driving. Or when my dear grandmother left us. At some point, I noticed that I, too, had started saying “I love you” before hanging up the phone. Over the past two dozen years, we’ve lost grandparents, aunts and uncles, and friends. We’ve watched others lose parents and even children. We’ve seen how quickly you can lose someone who meant more to you than you ever said out loud. So, you see, the most important thing I learned this past year is that it’s not enough. It’s not enough to say I love you once a year, once every five years, once in a lifetime. It’s not enough to only say I love you to your children or parents. It’s not enough to wait until someone is dying to hold his hand, kiss his cheek, and whisper in his ear that you love him. It’s simply not enough.

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What I was writing about this time last year:  Through the Eyes of A Child

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; and her 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)

The 9 Most Important Things I’ve Learned at 47

5-Granada53Today is my birthday, and though my children and I kid that I turn 29 again every year, I really don’t mind people knowing that I am 47. Every day, I remind myself how lucky I am to be alive, be part of my family, have the wonderful friends that I have, and live in the greatest country in the world. Age means nothing to me except that the older I get, the wiser I am, the more experiences I’ve had, the closer to God I grow, and the more I appreciate where I’ve been and what I have. Unfortunately, we live in a throwaway society. There are many stories on the news these days about elderly people being put to death simply because they are old or ill. We throw away things that aren’t broken as well as broken things that can be fixed. Everybody wants to stay young, look young, and only have things that are the newest of their kind. It’s actually quite sad when you think about it. Who says that just because something or someone is old, it or she is no longer any good? Below, are the things that I see as the best part of growing older.

1.  I no longer feel guilty about doing or buying what I want. I’ve had a job since I was 16 years old, and Ken and I have worked hard for everything we have. There’s no reason not to enjoy it.

2.  Although I still have two girls in high school, my children and I are at the point in our lives where we are able to talk to each other and do things together as friends. From going to concerts to vacationing to sharing a glass of wine (since Rebecca turned 21 last month), we are able to relish the friendship that we have spent the past 21, 18, and 16 years cultivating.

3.  I have never really been the kind of person who cares what others think about me, but I have always known the difference between character and reputation. Reaching middle age means that I have established my reputation and assume that people know my character. If they don’t, it’s no longer my problem.

4.  I know exactly who my friends are. The days of trying to fit in, avoid mean girl cliques, and live outside of the popular crowd, are long gone. I know who the people are that I can count on, who the people are with whom I can share secrets, and those with whom I can share a smile and even a cup of coffee but not the intimate details of my life. It’s quite freeing to know that I don’t have to play the games that some people play. I’ve had the same best friends for 40, 23, and 16 years, and I wouldn’t trade them for the world.

5.  My life is only half over. I’m an eternal optimist, so thinking of my life as half over is foreign to me. Instead, I think of it as only half over. I still have, hopefully, another 47 years to do all of the things I still haven’t done – visit the last four states that I have yet to go to, ride in a hot air balloon, return to the Holy Lands, see my children marry and have children of their own, and walk El Camino (2019 is my target year, right Anne, George, Marian, Anne, Susan, Chandi, Ronnie, and Tammi?).

6.  My parents aren’t getting any younger either. I try to see them as often as possible and spend as much time with them as I can. I cherish our moments together and hope they know that everything I am, have, and believe is due to their love, guidance, and example.

7.  My faith is stronger now than it ever was, and I am still learning more about it every day. Time in prayer has become more treasured and coveted. Reading scripture is a daily habit. I’ve walked with God intermittently over the past 47 years. I want to spend the next 47 walking beside Him every minute of every day.

8.  Even the bad days are good. As happens in everyone’s life now and then, there are days when nothing seems to go right. These are the days when I recall the things that really matter (all of the other things on this list), and remain grateful for what I have. My mother used to tell me time and again, there’s no use crying over spilt milk. Instead of worrying about spilled, spoiling milk, I prefer to seek out and smell the roses because…

9.  Life is a gift and a blessing. We have the ability to do so much, to experience so much, to give of ourselves to others, and be blessed by others in return. We should make every day count and enjoy life to its fullest.

For Lenten inspiration, check out Amy’s collaboration with authors, Anne Kennedy, Susan Anthony, Chandi Owen, and Wendy Clark:  Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms.

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 book, Whispering Vines,  is a 2017 Illumination Award winner.  Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

Rewriting the Story

Last night, I took my mother,  sister-in-law, and friends to see Wicked. It was the fourth time I’ve seen the production, and If you’ve never seen the it, I encourage you, no I implore you, to run, don’t walk, to the nearest theater at which it is playing.  For those who, like myself, read the book and were left shaking your head and wondering what on earth all of the hype is about, trust me.  The play is a beautiful celebration of friendship that you don’t want to miss and will never forget.  Rather than rehashing to story of Dorothy from Kansas, Wicked tells the tale of the deep and abiding friendship of Dorothy’s good and beautiful guardian, Glinda, and Dorothy’s archenemy, the Wicked Witch of the West, known in the book and play as Elphaba.  The most dramatic and pivotal scene is when Elphaba, after casting a spell on an ordinary broom, gains the ability to fly and takes off for the Westernmost reaches of Oz. However, the climax is when the best friends, Glinda and Elphaba, tell each other goodbye.

Elphaba laments that she is limited in her abilities to do good, to save the world, which was all she ever wanted to do.  She has been cast as the villain, and she tells Glinda that she must now figure out how to save Oz from an evil which is overtaking it in the form of the Wizard (not the good guy Frank L. Baum led you to believe he was).  The two friends sing about how their meeting and subsequent friendship is like a comet pulled from orbit as it passes the sun, a stream that shifts when it meets a boulder, a seed dropped by a bird in a distant wood – their friendship is a catalyst for change.

Elphaba says that she has heard that people come into our lives for a reason, that we are led to those who need us, who help us to grow.  She and Glinda agree that no matter what has happened in the past or what may happen in the future, their friendship has changed them, “For Good.”  The song tells us that they are who they are because of knowing each other and that their stories have been rewritten because they are friends (obviously the message of the play).

I can honestly say that I am who I am today because of the people who have crossed my path, because of those I call my friends.  My friends influenced who I was a child, as a teen, and as an adult.  I’ve had to choose wisely, sometimes letting go of people, even close, dear ones, because their influence wasn’t a catalyst for good in my life.  I look back and see where I need to seek forgiveness and where old resentments no longer matter.  I can look around me and see who has changed me for the better both as friends and colleagues. Many years ago, I met a gal from church who became my very best friend and has continues to be a major force in my life. A few years later, I met the mother of one of Rebecca’s classmates, and now I have two best friends who have changed my life and my understanding of friendship. Almost a year ago, a whole new group of people came into my life.  I never thought, when first meeting this group, that they would have such a profound impact on me.  A seed was definitely dropped in a distant wood, and its roots took hold and sprouted into a wonderful new life.

I can’t begin to express what it means to me to know that I have friends who have been there for my entire life.  I have friendships that have deepened over the past twenty years, and I have new friendships that have such strong bonds, I can scarcely believe that we just met.  What I can express is best summed up by the words of Glinda and Elphaba, “Because I knew you, I have been changed for good.”

Jesus told His disciples, “Follow me,” and they left the lives they knew and followed Him.  Never could they have imagined what awaited them or the world.  They felt an instant connection, and sometimes, if we are among the very luckiest, we find that same connection with others.  Just as the disciples did, we find our stories being rewritten because someone came into our lives.  My wish is that all of my girls are lucky enough to find those relationships, in marriage and in friendship, the ones that change their lives “for good.”

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)

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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Why It’s OKAY To Be Friends With Your Kids

DSC08130Yesterday I saw yet another article about why parents should not be friends with their kids.  I see memes all the time warning parents about this, and it seems that every magazine, parenting blog site, and advice column rails against the pitfalls of being your child’s friend.  While I do understand where they are coming from, I have to respectfully disagree.  You see, I am living proof that it’s not only possible but beneficial for parents and children to be friends, even best friends.

Parents are our first playmates.  They teach us to play peek-a-boo and patty cake.  They show us how to build block towers and sand castles.  My mother used to play Barbies with me, color with me, ride bikes with me.  When I was in middle school, we took tennis lessons together, and in high school, we took aerobics.  When my mother went on ladies’ weekends with her girlfriends, she didn’t leave me behind in a house full of men; I went, too.  There was no Mrs. Brown or Mrs. Dyer.  They were Debbie and Shannon.  And I wasn’t “Judy’s daughter.”  I was just one of the gals.  We went to historical sites, shopping outlets, and the beach.  There wasn’t drinking or going to bars.  These were ladies and acted as such, and I saw this and learned from it.

I knew kids in high school whose parents allowed them to have parties with alcohol.  The parents not only condoned it, but some even participated in the drinking and partying.  Those were not parents who were being friends with their children.  They were simply being children themselves.  Nothing like that would have taken place in my house, ever.  We had family game night, family movie night, and family vacations.  We had fun.  But my parents knew where to draw the line.  My mother was my friend.  She was always there.  She was our troop leader, team mom, classroom volunteer (and yes, she worked – part-time when we were young and full-time when we were older).  I knew I could always count on her for advice, comfort, and yes, fun, but I also knew that she was my mom.  There were lines I could not cross, and lines she would not cross.  She was the rule-maker, the game-changer, the one in charge.  There was never any confusion or doubt.  Mom was Mom, but she knew how to be a friend (and credit to Dad, too, who always kept us laughing but was also truly a dad).

Today, my Mom is the first person I call for advice, the first person I call when something good happens, the person I want to talk to when something bad happens.  We tell each other everything, go on trips together, and celebrate every special occasion together, no matter how small.  Throughout my life, friends have come and gone, some I don’t see or talk to for days, even weeks or months.  But my mother has always been there.  I talk to her every day, sometimes several times a day.  It wasn’t a friendship that developed as I grew older.  It was a friendship that my mother nurtured from the day I was born.

In our house, I am the troop leader, the team mom, the classroom volunteer.  I am the shoulder my girls cry on, and even the shoulder that their friends sometimes cry on.  We are the sleepover house, the party house, the snowed-in house.  And everyone who comes here knows that it is a safe place – there will be no drinking, no boy-girl sleepovers, no inappropriate movies or behaviors.  But there will be fun.  Because everyone who lives or comes into this house is family, and we are all friends.  When Katie Ann told me recently that I am her best friend, I knew she didn’t mean that I was a party buddy or someone who would condone every bad move she makes.  I knew that she meant that I was the one she could count on to be there for her, good and bad, and tell her like it is, whether she wants to hear it or not.  When Morgan’s friends marvel that she has no secrets from me, she understands that having no secrets also means that I get to reprimand her when she is wrong and punish her when she does something of which I don’t approve.  As Rebecca recuperates on our couch this week after oral surgery, she knows that I’m going to boss her around and make her follow the doctor’s orders so that she fully recovers because that’s what moms do. And she also knows that no matter how tired I am, I will stay up past my bedtime to watch another movie with her because that’s what friends do.

I will never feel bad for being friends with my girls.  They know when I am Mom and when I can be their friend.  As with my mother, there are lines that are not crossed.  But they also know that I will be there for them, the only true best friend they will ever have, from the day they were born through all eternity.  I should know.  I have my own best friend to prove it.

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 due out in the summer of 2016.

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)

Events:  April 30, 2016 01:00AM, Wicomico Public Library, Salisbury, MD, US  http://wicomicolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventI… 

May 01, 2016 02:00AM, Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 50 East Main Street, Westminster, MD, US http://library.carr.org/about/westminster.asp# 

6 Ways Friends are Like Wine

DSC04828I have had many friends over the course of my life, some loyal and true, others only after their own gain.  I’ve learned the hard way whom to trust and how to make friendships that last.  I’ve watched my three daughters go through ups and downs with friends as they progress through the various stages of life, each stage with its own set of criteria for relationships.  I’ve made mistakes in choosing friends and in properly being a friend, and I try to impart whatever wisdom I have gained on my children and their own circle of companions.

Over the past year, while doing research for my upcoming novel, Whispering Vines (Summer, 2016), I have had the great pleasure of learning about wine.  I have been a lover of wine since childhood when my grandfather, an amateur vintner, allowed me the first taste of each bottle he opened (ooops, sorry Mom!).  Even in my youth, I could tell a good wine from a bad one.  I’ve not always been that smart with friendships.  However, much like my taste in wine, my knowledge about friendship has matured.  Here is what I have learned.

1.  All good things are carefully cultivated.

A good wine is cultivated and harvested by hand.  There are many reasons for this.  It ensures that each grape is perfect, is at just the right stage of ripeness, and will not spoil the rest of the batch.  Have you noticed lately that wines are getting harder to drink?  Headaches come more frequently, and the alcohol goes to your head much faster.  No, it’s not age, it’s the wine content.  Wine has become such a huge industry that giant producers bottle more wine than they can sell.  In order to not lose money, they add sulfates and sulfites and even more alcohol.  This preserves the wine longer and causes you, the unsuspecting imbiber, to drink more wine.  After all, once the alcohol hits you, you crave more.  This is why I seek imported, lesser known vintages where the harvest and cultivation is done by hand and based on quality, not quantity.

Friends should be chosen the same way.  Quality is much more important than quantity.  Does the most popular person in the room truly have loyal and trustworthy confidants?  Have they been chosen wisely?  One bad friend can spoil the entire bunch.  Harvest your friendships and cultivate them.  Attend to them with care, striving for the best friends, not the most friends.

2. Time Matters

It has always been said that wine is better with age.  However, that is not really true.  The best wines are the freshest wines.  Leaving a bottle in your cellar to age doesn’t improve the wine.  It actually causes it to become heavy and bitter, soiled with deposits that lie at the bottom and then end up in your glass when you pour.  No, the aging of wine is part of the process.  Wines that are meant for aging are chosen by the vintner, not the consumer.  They are aged in barrels, not in bottles, and they are sold when the time is right for drinking.

Good friends are like good, aged wine.  They are kept in a special place, perhaps in your heart, held onto and cherished, and brought out when you need them most.  They are not neglected nor forgotten.  On the contrary, you always know they are there, and they know the same about you.  I am very blessed to have a friend who has been there for me since the 2nd grade.  We don’t see each other often, but when we do, we treat it as something special.  Our friendship has aged, and we know that when the time is right, we can pour out ourselves for each other.  Cheers to you, Cindy!

3. The perfect vintage doesn’t happen often

Everyone has heard someone remark about a certain wine, “That was a good year,” or “That was a good vintage.”  There are simply some years that are better than others.  This is due to a combination of reasons, mostly climate-related, that create the perfect harvest – grapes that have just the right amount of sugar, water, and plumpness.  Those are the years that truly matter when it comes to wine making.

There are times in our lives when we are blessed with better friendships.  College friends tend to be better than middle or high school friends.  Friends made during child-bearing years can last for the rest of your life.  I’ve found that friends made during spiritual highs can become the friends who will last a lifetime.  There are stages in our lives when we have the ability to meet just the right people.  When that happens, I call it divine intervention. The friendships I developed as a young wife and mother are the strongest ones I have.  I raise a glass to you, Anne and Debbie.  And the friendships I have made through my faith journey are the ones that ground me.  Those are the people I go to for prayer, guidance, support.  There are too many to name, my Bible study group and my fellow pilgrims among them.  God has brought you all into my life, and for that, I am eternally grateful.

4. Blends are Best

I am partial to Italian wines, particularly to Amarone, a blend of red grapes which make the wine dry and robust.  Three different varieties of grapes are used to make this award winning wine, and the prize is well deserved.  Those who produce this variety of wine know that it takes more than one kind of grape to make a good wine.

Thus it takes more than one kind of friend to make a good friendship.  Every person I count as a friend is different.  They are from various backgrounds, live in a myriad of cities around the country (even around the world).  They have their own interests and even contrasting lives.  Yet they all blend together to make me who I am.  Each has touched me in some way that has made me, I hope, a better person.

5. Taste changes with age.

In my younger years, I was partial to any wine that was sweet and fruity.  Strawberry and plum were favorites, perhaps a throwback to Granddad’s homemade varieties.  I loved any wine that was pink.  Over the years, my tastes leaned toward less fruity, dryer whites, a good German Riesling or an Italian Pino Grigio.  Today, I prefer Amarone or Chianti, rich and very dry reds.  As I have matured, so has my taste in wine.

The same can be said when it comes to making friends.  For most young people, the goal is to be friends with the “in” crowd.  As we age, we realize that we are much more discerning about whom we allow into our inner circle.  When young, we have many friends and almost no acquaintances.  They’re a friend, or they’re not.  I have found that middle school girls are pros when it comes to distinguishing between “friends” and “non-friends,” though their criteria for making these determinations is far from perfect.  As an adult, I have come to realize that I have many friends, but my reasons for seeking out certain individuals has changed greatly. Again, as I have matured, so has my ability to choose friends.

6. How it makes you feel is what counts.

So what’s the best way to choose a wine or decide what your preference is?  By taking a step back and seeing how that wine makes you feel.  Does the very bouquet make your head spin when you take that first sniff?  Do your toes curl as it slides down your throat?  Does it make your food taste better?  And how do you feel after a glass or two, or in the morning when you wake up?  Choose your wine based on what makes you feel good, what it adds to your life.

Do the same with your friends.  Choose wisely.  Do you happily anticipate seeing them, talking to them, spending time with them?  Do they make whatever you’re doing even better just by their presence?  Do you still feel the same about them the next day?  Do they add something good to your life, make you feel better about yourself, encourage you, support you, build you up?  Would you pair them with your family, your favorite movie, your husband?

And remember, a good friend should enhance your life just as a good glass of wine should enhance your meal.  Make good friends, but more importantly, be a good friend. Be the friend you want to have.  Your own kindness, compassion, loyalty, and attentiveness will come back to you.  And it’s never too late to start.  At Cana, the headwaiter remarked, “Everyone serves good wine first, and then when people have drunk freely, an inferior one; but you have kept the good wine until now.”  Be the good wine for others.  Your life will be sweeter in the long run.

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 due out in the summer of 2016.

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)

Amy Schisler, shares her secrets for writing a 5 star novel – April 30, 2016 01:00AM Wicomico Public Library, Wicomico, MD, US http://wicomicolibrary.evanced.info/signup/EventDetails.aspx?EventI… 

Carroll County Public Library Author Panel  – May 01, 2016 02:00AM  Westminster branch of the Carroll County Public Library, 50 East Main Street, Westminster, MD, US http://library.carr.org/about/westminster.asp# 

Be Thankful

DSC09204-001Here we are in the month of November, the one month of the year when everybody seems to be grateful for something – actually 30 somethings – one new thing every day.  While I applaud the effort of those truly trying to show their gratitude, I find myself wondering every year, are these people thankful for these things all year long or just when they can post it on Facebook for all the world to see?  Do any of us really understand what it means to be grateful?  Are those petty little things actually the things in life for which we are the most thankful?  Why do we take so much for granted, whether that means appreciating something just once a year or never giving it a thought at all?

This past weekend, my husband and I celebrated our anniversary in Cartagena, Colombia (I’m grateful for business trips to exotic places and for frequent flyer mileage).  While we were there, we took an excursion that led us off the beaten path IMG_1439and through a rural landscape that revealed poverty the likes of which I have never seen, and I’m sure few people in this country could imagine.  We recently began sponsoring a young boy in Colombia, and I cried when I looked at the huts outside of my window and pictured him living in one of them.  We asked if we could send him shoes or clothing, and we were told no because it might cause him harm to have things that nobody else has.  How sad, how tragic to think that a simple pair of shoes is too much for a person to even hope for.

I read somewhere recently that our families are getting smaller while our houses are getting larger.  We have accumulated more “stuff” than any generation before us, yet with all that people have, there are those who are still crying for more.  Even the poorest people in our country have more than those in 3rd World nations, yet the ones we saw last weekend are out there working hard every day trying to feed their families while here, over 1/3 of the US population is on welfare.  So many of us drive around in luxury cars without a care in the world while approximately 50,000 of our US Veterans are living on the streets.  We can all find time to go to Disney World, but 85% of nursing home residents never have anyone visit them.

Hey, listen, I’m as guilty as the next person when it comes to buying things I don’t need, eating more than my share, taking for granted all that I am blessed to have.  All I ask is that every United States citizen stops and takes a minute to think about all that they have and how lucky they are to live in a land where we have the ability to run to the store for milk, shop whenever we want new clothes, or even just change our shoes when our feet get sore.  Be grateful that you have family and friends, that you have a home and means of transportation, that you have the freedom to worship, work, and play however you please, and that there are men and women standing guard at night while you’re asleep making sure that you can wake up tomorrow and still have all of those opportunities.

We are among the lucky ones.  Remember, not just today, but every day to thank God, your parents, your teachers, and our military for all of the sacrifices they have made for you.  It’s not about the cars and houses and material things.  It’s about the life you live and those who are a part of it.  Smile and be thankful – every minute of every day.

                                        Vets

Special thanks on this Veteran’s Day to my father, Richard; my father-in-law, David; our friend, Nick; and my nephew, Ty for their service to our country.

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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.