Dear Graduate, Be Happy

Dear Graduate,
I can scarcely believe that you, my baby, are about to go out into the world on your own. At eighteen, after twelve years of school (fourteen counting Pre-K and kindergarten), I’m sure that you think you know everything you need to know about the world and how to navigate it. I am confident that you have learned enough to be successful in college, to find the right friends, and make the best choices. You have already proven that time and again. However, there are many lessons still to be learned. The lessons I feel you most need to concentrate on are the Five Simple Rules To Be Happy.

5 Simple Rules.jpg

I’m not sure who originally came up with the list.  A former yoga instructor of mine finished every class with the rules, and you can find them listed in books, blogs, and articles everywhere. They’re available on mugs, paperweights, and T-shirts. While these rules make sense, and I do want you to follow them, there are important things to remember about each of them.

1. Free your heart from hatred. ‘Hate’ is one of the most overused words I ever hear. People hate everything from broccoli to music to people. Because it is so commonly used, I think people tend to forget what it actually means. Hate is intense. It is passionate. It can lead to death and destruction. It can tear apart lives and poison the soul. Psychologist Dr. John H. Sklare warns, “The more you hold onto hatred, the more likely it is that the hot coal of the emotion will burn you. And the more you feed it, the stronger it becomes.”

Never let hate be the emotion you feed. It will zap you of your energy, steal your happiness, and elude you of peace. It will take away your joy and turn you into a bitter, resentful person. Instead, always look for ways to love, even toward those who hurt you. Perhaps Mother Teresa’s advice is all you need to know, “I have the found the paradox, that if you love until it hurts, there can be no more hurt, only more love.” 

2. Free your mind from worries. Oh, my dear child, how I’ve seen you worry. I’ve watched you fret over the large and the small, and I’ve seen you become anxious over things that you cannot change or control. Remember that you cannot control all things and all people. You can only control how you react to them. React with patience, with kindness, and with love. Seek peace from your faith, and no that God has a plan for you. Put your trust in Him, forsaking all worries, and know that He will lead you down the path for which you were chosen. When in doubt, pray. When prayers don’t easily come, hold fast to this one,

Prayer for Serenity

God, grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change,
the courage to change the things I can,
and the wisdom to know the difference.
Living one day at a time,
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardship as a pathway to peace;
taking, as Jesus did,
this sinful world as it is,
not as I would have it;
trusting that You will make all things right
if I surrender to Your will;
so that I may be reasonable happy in this life
and supremely happy with You forever in the next.
Amen.
                                            Reinhold Niebuhr

 

IMG_0672When times of worry strike, when anxiety overtakes you, find solace in the things that bring you joy. Take a break and visit someone who always makes you feel good. Spend just a few minutes with the Lord. Treat yourself to something that makes you happy. Reflect on all the good times you’ve had. Turn to someone who makes you smile. There are many times in life when a smile is all that is needed to cure whatever ails you.

3. Live simply. Do not hold onto things, people, grudges, money, or time. Let your heart delight in the small things: a child’s laughter, a puppy’s kiss, an afternoon with friends, a hand to hold, a shoulder to lean on, a delicious meal, a good book,  and a refreshing cry. Know that one true friend has more worth than fifty others who won’t be there when you need them. And always be that friend to others. Don’t take on too many responsibilities or neglect the ones that matter.

IMG_3070.JPGTake the time to breathe. Never underestimate the value of walk in the woods, a dance in the rain, or a snowflake on your tongue. Take time for yourself. Allow yourself to experience silence. Keep in mind the words of St. Pope John Paul II, “only in silence does man succeed in hearing in the depth of his conscience the voice of God.”

4. Give more. When you live simply, you will find that you have more to give. Give your time to help those in need. Give your ear to those desiring someone to listen. Give your words to those seeking comfort and reassurance. Give your talents to the causes that are most worthy. Give money to the poor and your coat to those in need. Share what you have, and never be selfish. 

“Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ Then the righteous will answer him and say, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you drink? When did we see you a stranger and welcome you, or naked and clothe you? When did we see you ill or in prison, and visit you?’ And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’
Matthew 25:34-40

5. Expect less. I’m going to admit that I have a hard time with this. I agree that you should never presume, but there are many things in life that you should expect. The motivational speaker, David Jospeh Schwartz, said, “Think little goals and expect little achievements. Think big goals and win big success.” Expecting less may allow us to feel less pain or experience fewer falls, but it can also lead to lower standards. You often asked why I always expected you to get As. What would you have said if I had only ever told you I expected you to get Bs? How hard would you have worked if I told you I only expected you to pass? Setting expectations is necessary in order to achieve goals.

You should expect your partner to be faithful. You should expect your friends to be loyal. Expect to be treated with kindness. Expect nursing school to be hard! 

I believe that this rule is more of a reminder to keep in mind that what you expect will not always be what you get. Sometimes, life will far exceed your expectations, and other times, it will fall short. You may need to adjust your expectations (like the year you took Physics). You may need to reassess your goals. You may need to find new friends. When faced with those times, remember that there is always a greater lesson to be learned. Sometimes you have to recognize that expectations are unrealistic, and that’s okay!

“You can’t expect perfection. It is important to sort of acknowledge some of our imperfections. I write them down. There’s something about acknowledging mistakes and being able to put them down on paper; they become facts of your life that you must live with. And then, hopefully, you can navigate the road a little bit better. “
Ron Howard, actor, director

DSCN8172The bottom line is, only you can create your happiness. Only you can control what you feel. Only you can find contentment with the world, with others, with yourself. By sowing love instead of hate, by freeing yourself of worries, by living simply, by giving more, and by setting the right expectations, you can experience profound joy, delight in all that matters, and find peace in your heart and mind. Of all the things you should remember as you march to Pomp and Circumstance, remember this, you have the power to live the happiest life possible. Go out there and seek joy, and everything else will fall into place.

Want More?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: It’s Summer Reads Time Again!.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

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

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

Oh, The Places You’ll Go (to borrow from Dr. Seuss)

Dear Katie,

1999 scrapbook15Where did the years go? It seems like just yesterday, I was being rushed into the operating room, Dr. Joe assuring me that everything was going to be okay. You’ve always had a way of doing things like that to us: changing the plot just when we thought we were all on the same page. You were due on March 3, 1999, but apparently, you weren’t ready yet. On March 2nd, Dr. Joe told me that you would not be making an appearance for at least another week. Of course, you do always try to be punctual, so whether my body was ready or not, you were determined to come on March 3rd. And you did.

 

July 4thIt didn’t take long to realize that you had a strong will and an aggressive, but at the same time, sweet personality. You always seemed to be at odds with yourself: shy but gregarious; strong-willed but obedient; inquisitive and skeptical but trusting; outwardly radiant and happy but inwardly scared and insecure. As Winston Churchill said, you have always been “a riddle, wrapped in a mystery, inside an enigma.”

 

We watched you go from a smiling, confident toddler to a timid, hesitant little girl. And I began to worry. Tests showed that you are a genius, a child far beyond her years in intelligence but one who suffers from a severe lack of attention and focus. We were told you were an Einstein who would never succeed in school. Over the years, you curled into yourself like the potato bugs that amazed me as a child. We helplessly watched, praying for the right words, the right path on which to find you. What we couldn’t know, didn’t see, was that you were forging your own way. The student who was predicted to never understand math and be a poor reader has mastered Calculus and rarely looks up from a book. The girl who has a hard time opening her mouth in a crowd is a lector at Mass and a key player in school productions. The child we worried would always be a follower is president of one of the largest clubs in school and edior-in-chief of the yearbook.

DSC09050

DSC03407.JPGYour father and I thought we would spend your life watching out for you, steering you in the right direction, worrying about your every decision. But you’ve taught us to have faith, in God and in you. While we saw dark clouds and ominous skies, you, to quote Louisa May Alcott, were “not afraid of storms, for [you were] learning how to sail [your] ship.” While we saw a path that led into a dark and scary forest, you saw “two roads diverged in a wood,” and you chose the one that “made all the difference” (Robert Frost). As we held our breath and waited for the floor to drop out from under you, you held fast to your dreams, closed your eyes, and took a leap, many leaps, challenging yourself to take the harder class, go for a lead in the play, run for the highest office, and venture into places others dared not go. And you did it all with grace and joy.

Over the past two weeks, we have seen you accept one award after another, smile as the accolades piled before you, and shine for the world to see. On Thursday night, as you march across the stage, know that you can keep marching. No matter what obstacles you face, you will overcome them. No matter how rocky the road is ahead, you will persevere and succeed. Remember that Daddy and I are always here for you. We love you. We know that today and every day is your day. “Your mountain is waiting. So…get on your way!”

Love, Mom

Hall of Fame-001

What I was writing about one year ago this week: A Season for Changes.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  According to Harvard Psychologists: Parents Who Raise “Good” Kids Do These 5 Things from Curious Mind MagazineYou’re Going To Miss It on Beauty Beyond Bones; and 11 Simple Changes I Made to Improve My Writing Habit by Michelle Zunter in The Huffington Post.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me(2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017)

 

A Season for Changes

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. A time to give birth, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to uproot the plant. A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to tear down, and a time to build. A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance. A time to scatter stones, and a time to gather them; a time to embrace, and a time to be far from embraces. A time to seek, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away. A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.     Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8

13254639_10207441691893823_7080817339069943742_o

We’ve all read the verses or at least heard the song.  Every school choir seems to sing it at some point.  It has been featured in movies and in books.  Many reflections have been written about the words attributed to Solomon (although the author is not actually identified).  But I believe there is a line that is missing, something that each of us experiences over and over throughout our lives – a time for change.

One could argue that every line in the passage is about change, and that is very true.  Birth and death bring change as do tearing down and building up.  Scattering and gathering can be catalysts for change as can seeking, losing, keeping, casting, rending, sewing, speaking, loving, etc.  We are faced with changes, both large and small, time and time again, every day.  I am reminded of this more and more each spring as graduation time is thrust upon us, whether we are ready or not.

My oldest, Rebecca, returned home from school yesterday after an emotional farewell to her roommates and her boyfriend who are graduating.  They are moving on to the next stage of their lives, catapulting change not only on themselves but those around them.  What will the future bring for them and for their loved ones?  We can only guess.  Jobs, graduate school, families, mortgages, and all that comes with moving into adulthood will now become reality for the Class of 2016.  At every level – high school, college, and beyond, commencement brings change.  Leaving home for the first time, leaving the comfort and safety of your school and friends, entering “the real world,” and saying goodbye are experienced by some for the very first time.  For parents, whether it is your first child or your last, letting go is often accompanied by great heartache.

Though Rebecca has another year to go in college, the reality of change has really hit me this week.  She will be entering her senior year at Mount St. Mary’s the same time that her sister, Katie, enters her senior year of high school.  While one is looking at colleges, the other is looking at her future and trying to decide what it will hold.  Both are eagerly planning and thinking about the next step while I hold my breath and close my eyes and still hear them cooing in their cribs, see them taking their first steps, feel them curled in my arms, so small and delicate and new.  How has time passed so quickly?  When did they get so big?  

I think journalist Sydney Harris summed it up best when he said, “Our dilemma is that we hate change and love it at the same time; what we really want is for things to remain the same but get better.”  We know that change is good and that with each change, we grow as a person and experience life more deeply, but we long for things to stay the same or to return to a time in the past.  At least, I know I do.  I have loved every minute of being a mom.  I have laughed and cried at every stage of my daughters’ lives, and I know I will continue to do so as they leave home, go to school, get jobs, marry, have children, and become the people God intended them to be.  But there will always be a part of me who wants to turn back the hands of time and just enjoy those moments that I see now were so fleeting.  

Change is inevitable, and the only thing we can really do is embrace it.  Let change help us to grow, at every age and at every stage.  There is always something to reach for.  Even changes that are bad, ones that rip us apart, can lead us to a new understanding, perhaps a new friend, a new way to look at life.  No matter how hard the next few years will be for me as a parent, I ask that I have the courage to both accept and embrace the changes that are coming and to see each change as a blessing, a chance to learn and grow, and a new season to be welcomed. 

Hope springs eternal in the human breast;
Man never Is, but always To be blest:
The soul, uneasy and confin’d from home,
Rests and expatiates in a life to come.

–Alexander Pope

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

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

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

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events