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. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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. Read more

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.