I have wonderful memories of holiday meals with my extended family. We would all gather for every major holiday–Thanksgiving, Christmas, Easter–and most of the minor holidays–Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, and often Independence Day.
The faces at the table changed over time. Babies came, loved ones passed, and new husbands or wives appeared. Always present, though, was the love for each other. And the Southern Maryland Stuffed Ham.
When Ken and I got married, I insisted on a complete, traditional Southern Maryland fall menu. That had to include stuffed ham. My Dad and my grandmother spent days making enough stuffed ham for 300 people. Ken’s Eastern Shore relatives never again saw holidays meals the same way. Each time we returned from Thanksgiving or Christmas at my Mom’s house, Ken’s family asked, “Did you bring back any stuffed ham?”
Looking back, I’m amazed that Dad and Gram pulled off this feat for my wedding. Stuffed Ham is not your average meat.
If you look closely at the Thanksgiving picture above, you will see the stuffed ham in the middle of the table. “What’s all that green stuff?” you may ask. That, my friend, is the stuffing. It’s not your average stuffing made of some kind of bread and mild spices. This ham is stuffed with a bushel of fresh, leafy kale and a boatload of hot, savory spices. It’s unlike anything you’ve had before, and unlike anything you will have anywhere other than St. Mary’s County, Maryland (yes, Charles County and a small area of Virginia have their own versions of stuffed ham, but it’s not the same) and small parts of Kentucky to which early Marylanders migrated.
While the dish itself is one of the most unique you could ever have, it’s the process and the history that really make this truly different and special.
Our girls were sent home from college on March 13, so it’s been three weeks since we started social distancing and two days since shelter in place was put into effect in our state. To say that we are living on top of each other is an understatement. To say that there haven’t been arguments and disagreements would be a lie. However, to say that it’s been 24 hours each day of nonstop misery would be grossly inaccurate.
Throughout these past few weeks, we’ve experienced both good and bad, and I’m determined to come out of all of this remembering the good, such as…
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).
My husband and children
My Friends, near and far
Those who serve
My you all have many things to be thankful for this Thanksgiving. God bless you, and God bless our land.
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.
School has been out for less than a week, and so far, my girls have worked at their respective jobs, gone kayaking, watched movies on our backyard movie screen, gone on bike rides and boat rides, and spent time lying on the hammock, reading books. The requirements that they get outside every day, read every day, and work a summer job have been drilled into them their entire lives. However, I still see them spending way more time on their electronic devices than I would like, but I’m coming up with some ways to change that. And you should, too. Since it’s summer time, I’m going to ask you to step outside. Outside your house or office, outside your comfort zone, maybe even outside of yourself.
There is a whole world outside that awaits you, but the only way to really appreciate it is to get up off the couch or away from your desk, and go outside to see it. Perhaps this means taking a bike ride, going out on the water, or even visiting a museum. The main point is to get outside of your house. Go somewhere. Do something. You’ll be amazed at what you might learn. But first, you’ll need to…
It takes hard work and effort to break a habit. Believe it or not, that phone is not actually glued to your hand. And don’t think that I’m Miss Perfect when it comes to putting down my phone. I’m absolutely as bad as the next person. The other night, we were watching a movie in the backyard when Rebecca looked around and said, “Every one of you is playing a game on your phone or iPad instead of watching the movie.” While I protested that I could certainly watch a movie and play Words With Friends at the same time, I knew she was right. Note to self: the next time we have movie night, the iPad stays in the house. Watching a movie in the backyard with my family, with a glowing fire blazing nearby, and two dogs slumbering next to my chair, should be all the entertainment I need.
ry something new
Last week, I wrote about trying something new. There is so much in the world that I haven’t done, and I’ve done a lot! I could probably make a list of over 100 things that I’d still like to do. Of course, I can’t fit them all in this summer, but I’ve been trying to decide lately what I can do. For starters, I cut a mango today for the very first time. And I’m going to be visiting my first active volcano in July! Now those are certainly very different firsts, but they both count! Your something new can be small, large, or life-changing. The point is, you’re trying something new, but you must do it physically and not using a phone, tablet, or laptop!
ee the world
Ken gets very frustrated when we go on long drives and everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen. “Look around you,” he’ll cry. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” And as much as I love to read in the car, I know he’s right. When everyone is staring at their screens, they’re missing the real show outside their window. Luckily, my girls have been able to experience some of the those beautiful things they’ve missed as the world goes by while they’re on their phones. They’ve slid down a snowy hill on a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. They’ve white-water-rafted in the Rocky mountains. They’ve kayaked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And not once during any of those times did they ask, “Where’s my phone.”
Imagine a world without cell phones. I know, we say it all the time, “What did we ever do without cell phones?” Or without computers? Hmmm, let me see if I remember. Oh yeah, we talked. We played. We stayed out late, well after dark, playing hide and seek and jailbreak. We played street hockey. We rode bikes. We played flag football in the backyard. We went on long walks, spent time in the neighborhood park, took tennis lessons, joined Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so much more. The list goes on and on. And not once did we wonder what we were missing. Not once did we worry about who was trying to reach us while we were out. Imagine what life would be like if we could do all those things today without frantically looking for a place to charge our phones!
Discover life beyond your laptop. A study in New York Magazine from 2015 showed that about 1/3 of Americans have never interacted with their neighbors. Researchers believe this is because we are more in touch with people through electronics than through personal relationships. The study also showed that those who did know and interact with their neighbors are healthier and enjoy their day more. Many neighborhoods today have playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, bike paths, and more. Step outside and look around. Wave. Have a drink with the guy across the street. Check out the local park. Go on a bike ride. And take your kids with you.
If I were a anthropologist in the future, studying the collapse of the human race, I could probably trace the demise back to one single invention – the cell phone. People are on them ALL. THE. TIME. At dinner, at the movies, on the subway, walking down the street. What is so important that none of us, myself included, can go more than sixty seconds without looking at our phones? I’m sure you’ve all heard that America is suffering from a terrible, contagious, life-threatening disease. It’s known as FOMO. Time Magazine even did a story on it recently – This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out. The answer? Gratitude. “Really?” you ask. Yep. It’s that simple. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate your friends, family, home, job, life. The article sums it up by saying, “Gratitude is essential.”
By focussing on the good in your life, going outside without your device, trying something new, seeing the world, imagining the possibilities, discovering the people around you, and being grateful for what you have, you can kick the electronic habit. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?
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.
I am blessed to live in the United States, a country that boasts “the pursuit of happiness” as an unalienable right. If doesn’t, however, guarantee that you will be happy or that anyone has to be forced to make you happy. It just decrees that you have the right to pursue being happy. Nor are any of us given a path to happiness, a guarantee of some sort that we will be happy. That is up to each of us as individuals. And the only way to be happy is to pursue a life of happiness, not from others, but from the things that you, yourself, do every day. Unfortunately, many people are searching for happiness in ways that leave them feeling empty, unfulfilled, and even sad and sometimes lonely. In my observations of the people and situations around me, here is what I see that they’re doing wrong. Read more →