Over twenty-six years ago, when I was pregnant with Rebecca, a dear family friend gave me a really special gift. On the surface, it doesn’t seem special, but over the years, it has become a cherished item in our family. It’s an item that is used several times a year but only on special occasions – typically birthdays. It’s a reminder that each of us has something to offer, that each of us is unique, that we are all special.
This simple plate that says, You are special today, has made an appearance at occasion after occasion throughout the girls lives. Using it has become a time-honored, beloved tradition in our house. Everyone knows that the table is not completely set unless the plate is in its proper place at the seat of the guest of honor.
It might seem silly, but you see, it’s about so much more than a plate.
When I was a little girl, our family spent most weekends “down in the country.” This was, and still is, how my parents referred to the area where they grew up in Southern Maryland. Though we lived just ten minutes outside of Washington, DC, my parents always thought of St. Mary’s County as home. I came to feel the same way after spending so much of my childhood there. In fact, even as an adult, the dreams in which I am “at home” often take place at my grandparents’ house. My mother tells me that at the end of each weekend, I would cling to my grandfather’s legs and beg him not to let my parents take me back with them. While my parents are THE BEST, all I wanted was to be with my grandparents.
As I got older, I spent many, many weekends and extended summer stays with Granddad and Gram, as I always referred to my grandmother. Much of that time was spent crabbing, fishing, or “helping” Granddad with his tobacco crop.
Today, I am channeling happy thoughts and cherished memories. We’ve just finished moving my mother-in-law in across the street, and having her so close has brought back so many memories of my childhood and my own children’s childhood.
I recently read an article which pointed out that “For decades, the importance of grandparents in kids’ lives flew under the radar.” The article goes on to list the many benefits:
Kids often turn to their grandparents for advice when they are facing adverse events;
relationships between children and their grandparents increased the likelihood that kids will become engaged in their communities;
and being around grandparents actually makes less sedentary and has a positive affect on their BMI.
Over the past few weeks, my blog readers have seen Morgan’s senior photos, read my advice to her as she gets ready to head to college, and accompanied us to Greece and Rome. After all of that, Morgan suggested that you all might like to know her a little better. Since she’s heading off in less than two months to begin her journey to her future career, she’d like to share with you what led her to this moment. I hope you finish this feeling like you know her a better and knowing that there is still hope for future generations.
Warning: you may need a tissue or two.
Throughout my whole life, and up until January of 2018, I struggled with what I wanted to do for the rest of my life. I was terrified to make the wrong choice, knowing that this was probably the most important decision I would ever make. For as long as I can remember, I have wanted to be connected with medicine. I floated between dentist, surgeon, and even medical malpractice law. My whole life I served others with compassion and love, but it never clicked. Little did I know, that in less than two months, my whole world would flip upside down. I knew exactly what I wanted to be: a nurse.
On November 22, the day before Thanksgiving, my grandfather, who I called Poppy, was admitted into Johns Hopkins Hospital. This would be a shock for the whole family, because he had just gotten back from a week-long vacation in Colorado with my dad and aunt. Less than a week later, it was found out that he had Frontal Lobe Dementia, a rare and terminal form of dementia. We were told that he might have up to six months to live, but it was looking like a lot less. In early December, he was allowed to go home with hospice care. By this time, Poppy had lost all ability to talk and had to be fed through a feeding tube. This change was dramatic because he was always the life of the party and the most talkative person in the family with the most stories.
Poppy was a huge part of raising me. For example, he lived only 15 minutes away from my school, allowing me to see him often, and allowing him to always be present whenever anybody needed him. He came to my house just about everyday, whether it was to help my dad or simply to give to my sisters and me some pastry that he just mastered. So when I heard that someone I thought who was going to live forever was looking at less than six months, I became empty. More than just being upset that I was losing someone so important to me, I felt helpless. For me, there was only one way I could fix this, and it was to do something. So at only 16 years old, I became one of the primary caregivers for my grandfather. This forced me to become really mature really fast. I had to use my independence to be responsible for another person.
Everyday after school, I would drive right to the farmhouse where Poppy lived. I would go straight inside and begin my daily routine: feed him through a feeding tube, give him any pain medicine, try to communicate in any way possible, and just be company for him. After hours of caring for him, I would go home, do my homework, and go to bed fully prepared to do the exact same thing the next day, and everyday, until this journey was over. For the next two months, until the time of his passing, this is exactly what I did. Over Christmas vacation, I stayed with my grandparents around the clock. I was dedicated to making Poppy feel comfortable and showed deep compassion for him. This compassion is something that I will carry with me into my future career.
I learned and used every skill I needed to fully care for my grandfather so that my grandmother, Grancy, could get some sleep at night and not worry about doing everything for herself and Poppy. There were times that I would tell her I knew exactly what I was doing, even if I didn’t, and then I would figure out how to do whatever it was. By the end of my time with my grandfather, I knew that nursing was my calling. Our time together gave me the opportunity to learn skills that I will use everyday as a nurse, such as giving insulin and feeding through a tube. While these skills are material things, I also grew in compassion, sympathy, maturity, and responsibility.
Since that time, I have been very enthusiastic about my future. I am constantly trying to learn new skills that will benefit me, I have started teaching myself the Spanish that I will use with patients, and I am taking classes aimed towards health professions. When I told my uncle that I had decided to be a nurse he said to me, “You’re so smart, just go ahead and be a doctor! It pays more and you are more than capable of doing it.” I just smiled and explained to him that I don’t want to be a doctor. I don’t want to go and give patients their diagnosis and then move on to the next room to do a consultation. I want to be the person that cares for a patient for their whole journey and makes them comfortable along the way. While the time spent with my grandfather in his last few months was long, hard, and emotional, I know that it happened for a reason. I am eternally grateful for Poppy as he helped me figure out where I am meant to be in life, and not a day of my life will go by when I won’t thank him for being such a big influence on me.
I think Morgan’s grandfather would be so proud of her as he would be of all of his grandchildren. It’s going to be hard to let her go, but I think Morgan will be do just fine. I’m so excited to watch her make her dream come true.
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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 Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas 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.
Lately, I’ve been thinking quite a lot about my grandmother. Part of it is because I’m writing a book in which the heroine’s grandmother is, to put it simply, my grandmother. The grandmother’s home is my grandmother’s home, and the hometown is her hometown. As I write, I’m happily revisiting the place I loved most in the world, when growing up, and the couple I most admired. On top of that, the husband of my grandmother’s dearest friend passed away last week, and I was back in that small hometown, seeing people I hadn’t seen in years, saying goodbye to another part of my past and to another piece of my grandmother.
We all have a grandmother, or a grandmother-like person, who we grew up loving and admiring. In my current book, I state that Courtney’s grandmother “was everything Courtney ever wanted to be.” I always felt the same about my grandmother. She didn’t have more than a high school education, but she was among the smartest women I’ve ever known. She had the kind of smarts and common sense that most highly educated people never have. She was fearless, willing to try anything, go anywhere, experience new things, and meet new people. No task was above or beneath her, from selling soft crabs throughout the summer to gather a small bit of Christmas money to getting on her hands a knees to mop the kitchen floor at the parish church and rectory. She worked hard and never shirked responsibility. If every young person today had half the work ethic of my grandmother or my grandfather, we’d be living in a much better world. And the same goes for her strong faith. Gram never missed Mass, said daily prayers before starting her day’s work, and offered a Rosary for every person in need.
Looking back at the simple life that my grandparents lived, I can’t help but wonder where we’ve gone wrong. Theirs was a life of devotion to their families, their Church, and each other. They took no more than needed and gave more than they had. They bought what was necessary and saved their money for a rainy day (except when it came to shoes–Gram considered new shoes a necessity at all times for all occasions). They paid for everything in cash. They knew that hard work paid off and that God and family were the center of everything.
I’m not sure what my grandparents would have thought of the world we live in today. Granddad passed away when I was just eighteen, before the age of computers and electric cars and people believing they are entitled to more, more, more. Granddad would have loved Facetime, without a doubt. To be able to speak, face-to-face, with his grandchildren and great-grandchildren would have been the highlight of each day. But he would have hated the lack of true social interaction and the attitude that men and women can’t admire each other without taking offense (he was a hugger who called every female sweetheart while always showing the utmost respect to everyone). He would have loved electric cars but would have hated the solar panels that have taken over so many farmers’ fields.
There are still days when I wish I could pick up the phone and call my grandmother. I miss the weeks that the girls and I spent at her house in the summer. I’d give anything to go crabbing or fishing with my grandfather just one more time. Today, so many young couples are getting married later in life and are then waiting to have children.Even with the life-expectancy now being at 78.7 years old, there are many people who grow up never knowing their grandparents or great-grandparents. Despite the cries from the over-population zealots, we are actually in a population crisis due to policies like those in China and Japan and young professionals in the US and Europe not having families. I fear that my parents will never see my children become parents. My husband has already let it be known that he’s ready and eager to be a grandfather before he’s too old to enjoy it.
I pray that everyone can have a grandmother who is everything she wants to be, a grandfather who can teach him or her how to fish, and a relationship with both of them that they will cherish all the days of their lives. We’re losing our focus on the family. We’re losing our respect and love for the elderly, who so many see as a burden on their jet-setting lives. We’re losing the ever-important grandparent-grandchild connection that helped so many of us become the persons we are today. I thank God every day that Ken and I had children when we were young, that my children have grandparents (and had great-grandparents) to bond with and look up to. I pray that future generations remember how important it is to maintain that connection. When you look at the big picture, Grandparents are only in our lives for a short time. Cherish the ones you have. Build the relationships between your parents and your children. Take the time to see each other in person, spend time together, and show love and respect for each other beginning today. Someday, perhaps soon, it will be too late to start.
“Grandchildren are the crown of the aged, and the glory of children is their parents.”
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 Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas 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.
When I was a little girl, there was no place more enchanting, more relaxing, more rejuvenating for my mind, body, and soul than grandma’s house. Whether for a weekend, a week, or the whole summer, be it alone or with my brothers, it was my escape from the real world. After I got married, I continued visiting my grandmother, whose 97th birthday would have been yesterday, carving out a week every summer to make the three-hour drive from our home on the Eastern Shore down to St. Mary’s County. I even made the trip, without fail, when I had three babies in tow. How my grandmother loved those visits, and how I loved being with her. Just like when I was child, there were no demands, no places we had to go, no stresses or worries. We lounged in the living room and read books, We sat on the backyard swing and talked. We made the rounds, visiting the cousins and neighbors, but were in no hurry to be anywhere. No matter my age or station in life, grandma’s house was, for me, a glimpse of Paradise.
I tried, once I had the girls, to take a week at my own parents’ house as well, but somehow, the summers always got away from us, and I started going less and less. Just as I did when I was little, I began sending my girls to their grandmother’s house at a young age. I think Rebecca was three the first time I left her at my mother’s by herself. From the calls throughout the week, and the stories Rebecca brought home, you would have thought she spent the week at Disney World. Last summer, at the age of twenty-one, Rebecca took her boyfriend, Anthony, with her to spend several days at my parents’ house. I can’t begin to express how that made me feel. My parents felt like the most special people in the world, but they still reminded me that I didn’t get home enough. Every time I went home for a quick, overnight trip, my mother would say, “You need to come more often and stay longer.” I knew she was right, but I never really made the time to do it.
After we lost Ken’s dad this past winter, I realized how important those visits are, not just for my girls but for my parents and for me. That’s why, for the past three mornings, I have awoken in my old bedroom to the sounds of my eighty-one-year-old dad getting ready for his two-mile walk. Joining him, at a much earlier time that I would be opening my eyes at home, dad and I headed through the neighborhood. The first half the walk was spent in silence as we each prayed the Rosary. After that, dad pointed to the various houses along the way, telling me who still lived where, who was retired, who had since passed, and what changes were taking place in the neighborhood. We talked about our family and about people we knew. At times, we didn’t talk at all. We just enjoyed the quiet of each other’s company.
Yesterday, Mom and I went on a home and garden tour. We have watched three movies, gone shopping, and talked a lot. We’ve been in no hurry, had no stress or cares, and just enjoyed being together, chatting about books and the kids and life. It was my husband who reminded me that this visit is much like the ones I used to make to my grandmother’s house. I never let a summer go by that I didn’t make the trip, and far too many years have passed since I marked that week on the calendar. I’m so happy Ken reminded me how important that was. I’m going to make sure a trip to my parents’ house is always the first thing I mark on the calendar from now on when summer planning gets underway. We can’t let the busyness and the hectic pace of life allow us to ignore those beautiful gifts and glimpses of Paradise.
Please join me in celebrating the much-anticipated release of Island of Promise, the second book in my Chincoteague Island Trilogy. I am very happy to partner with Sundial Books on Chincoteague for this celebration. All are welcome on Wednesday, July 24 from 1:00-3:00 at Sundial Books. For more details: https://www.facebook.com/events/238528263576139
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 Me,Whispering 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 Vineswas 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.
When I was growing up, it was pretty much known by all that my grandmother was a meteorologist. No matter the day of the week or time of day, she always knew what the weather was going to be, and she was always right. Today’s weather forecasters could have learned a lot from her. While we all made fun of Gram, we also understood that weather was extremely important to my family. There were always weather-based questions that needed to be answered. Was it going to be calm on the water that morning while granddad was out crabbing? Was hail going to fall on his crops? Could Gram hang her wash on the line? What would the temperature be when the fresh vegetables were gathered and the livestock taken care of? Their lives literally revolved around the weather, and both of my grandparents were quite adept at reading the signs and knowing what the weather would be like each day.
When Ken and I wake up in the mornings, the first thing I do is reach for the remote control. As we lie in bed and watch the news, we talk about what the day will bring and what our plans are. But neither of us talks when the weather report comes on. Ken knows that I cannot begin my day without first seeing the forecast. Of course, we all know that the forecast is not always what we would like it to be. Over the past several weeks, I have sent up many prayers asking the Lord to let the sun shine down upon graduations, prom/post-prom, and this weekend’s culminating graduation party. I may ask for good weather, but I know that I have to continue to make plans and provisions for whatever the day will hold. As a life-long weather observer, there are several lessons that I have learned from Mother Nature.
Acceptance – While I may pray for good weather, we all know that sometimes it does rain on our parade. What can you do when you’re planning Easter for 50 people and hunting for several hundred Easter eggs and the weather forecast is calling for rain? Rather than wallow in self-pity, you just have to come up with a Plan B. Some years we are racing against the clouds, trying to find every egg before the heavens break open and unleash their torrents of rain. Once, when the kids were very little, we even held the Easter egg hunt in our garage. We improvised. What other choice do we have? The weather is what it is, and just as in life, the sun doesn’t always shine. You make the best of things, and accept your situation, doing what you can to make everything work for the best.
Enjoyment – I have to say that not all bad weather translates to a bad time. Snowstorms, thunderstorms, frigid temperatures, and other things that make it impossible to go outside can lead to great enjoyment inside. There are always movies to watch, books to read, games to play, doughnuts to bake, and many other things that can bring a family together when the weather is frightful. When we were young children, severe thunderstorms became a time for gathering together to say the Rosary. Snowstorms presented an afternoon watching Gone With the Wind or the Wizard of Oz. When my own children were younger, it was a time to introduce them to favorites like Star Wars or the Game of Life. Sometimes, it simply means peace and quiet as everyone reads a book or works on homework.No matter what we do, we are reminded that time spent together as a family, without the need to go anywhere, is always time to be cherished.
There’s Always a Rainbow – We’ve all heard the saying that in everyone’s life, a little rain must fall. And as young children, we’re all taught to look for the rainbow. It’s not just a silly thing to do or a superstition. Looking for the rainbow is what we should do constantly throughout our lives. Storms will come and go, and we will always need to find a way to get through them. Another thing we’ve all heard is that every cloud has a silver lining. Whatever storms you may be facing in life, know that there is something good waiting for you after they pass. Do not spend your time fretting about the storms. Always be on the lookout for the rainbow.
Plan anyway – And when the storm is predicted, don’t shut down or stop living. Continue to make your plans, and live life as if you’re expecting the skies to be clear. Weather is unpredictable, and often, when we are told that the rain will come, it never appears. Think of all the times that people prepared for hurricanes or blizzards, only to wake up with theSun shining. We humans never really know what is to come or what the day will bring. Make your plans. Prepare for your cookout. Invite your friends. You never know what the day will bring.
Appreciate the sunshine – Much like looking forward to the rainbow, always remember that while there are dark and cloudy days, there are far more sunny days. Count your blessings, and appreciate the good times. Don’t waste a minute of sunshine. Go outside, lift your face to the sun, and breathe in the fresh, clean air. The bad weather always clears, and the sun always rises.
My grandparents were weather watchers, for sure, but they were also mindful of the little amount of time they had. No matter the weather, life goes on, so don’t let a few clouds ruin your parade. Dance in the rain, bask in sun, enjoy the breeze, watch the lightening, feel the snow on your face. Accept each day, whatever the weather, with the knowledge that it is a gift. And even on cloudy days, let your sun shine for all to see.
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.
Memories are funny things, elusive little pieces of time that slip in and out of the mind on the tails of the spirits of the past. This time of year, those spirits conjure up so many memories for me. Mother’s Day always reminds me of my grandmother who I loved so much and miss every day. The smell of lilacs in the spring brings to mind carefree days reading books in the backyard of my childhood home. The anticipation of summer reminds me of all of the time I spent in a little town in St. Mary’s County called Bushwood. How I loved spending long, lazy days at my grandparents’ home in the country. I crabbed with my grandfather in the Wicomico River in the mornings and walked the tobacco fields next to the house in the afternoons. I can still close my eyes and remember the sweet scent of the leaves that were so large I could sit under them and shield myself from the sun’s scorching rays.
One of my fondest memories was helping Gram with the wash. It amazed me that every morning, before most of the world was awake, the first load of the day was already in the washer. When I wasn’t crabbing with Granddad, I enjoyed wonderful country breakfasts of fresh eggs, scrapple, and sliced peaches in cream while Gram sat with me and said her morning prayers. Then we would load the laundry into the baskets and take it into the backyard to hang on the clothesline.
Long before anyone spoke about global warming or carbon footprints, Gram knew that a dryer was only to be used when necessary. Hanging out clothes and linens was much more economical. It kept the house cooler, used less energy, lowered the utility bills, and best of all in my mind, just made everything smell better, sweeter, and cleaner.
I’ll never forget the feeling of slipping beneath those cool, crisp, line-dried sheets at night. I would fall asleep to the sounds of the crickets and tree frogs outside of my window and the feel and smell of the country air on my skin. Even now, there is nothing quite like enveloping myself in a freshly made bed with sheets that smell of country air and sunshine. If you don’t believe that sunshine has a smell, then you’ve never had the pleasure of laying your head on a pillowcase that has been warmed by sunlight and dried by the gentle breeze of God’s waving hand.
I now live on Maryland’s Eastern Shore in a little town that is similar in many ways to the beloved Bushwood of my youth. We crab in Grace Creek, take walks through our woods, and enjoy the quiet, country life. And every sunny day from April through October, you can find our family’s laundry on the clotheslines that are strung up in our backyard. On breezy days, when the wind gently blows the clothes against my cheek as I hang them, I smile and look up, knowing that Gram has just whispered “hello.” Always on my mind and in my prayers, I whisper back, “I love you and miss you.” And I think of her that night when I lay my head on my crisp, clean sheets.
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.
It’s almost funny, the things we will do to spend just a small amount of special time with the ones we love, and how we truly come to appreciate those times over the years. Christmas is one of those times. Christmas in our house was always special, always a wonderful get-together with our large, extended family. When I was very young, my parents and I would spend the entire Christmas holiday with my grandparents on the Wicomico River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. We always attended the Christmas Eve vigil at the church where my parents were married (which was built by my grandfather). While it was just the five of us there on Christmas morning, throughout the day, family would arrive until the tiny house was bursting at the seams with all of the people, presents, and holiday cheer. Dinner was a festive event with family from all over Southern Maryland popping in and out to exchange gifts and greetings. Read more →
My three daughters are extremely lucky in that they come from a very long line of love. On both sides of their family, they have been blessed with a long and loving history. From their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and as far back as we can trace, they have been able to witness couples who have loved unconditionally. Yesterday, I was very happy to wish my parents a happy 52nd wedding anniversary. They learned how to love unconditionally from their own parents, and are a shining example to the rest of us.
Today, I am honored to share with you a guest blog written by my 14-year-old daughter. It exemplifies what real love truly is. Read more →