Defining Success

It’s an amazing thing to watch your children grow. I guess I’ve always known that being a parent is a special gift that holds a lifetime of rewards, but you really don’t get it until your children are on their own. Sure, you experience the joy of a baby, the thrills of all the “firsts” that a child goes through, the gold stars on homework and tests, the first goal on the playing field, the magical moments of their first love. But you never truly understand what a gift you’ve been given until a couple decades have passed, or come close to passing. That’s when you stop seeing them as children and begin seeing them as real, grown-up, decision-making, mistake-prone people. It’s also when you begin to wonder, even worry, about how they will define and discover success.

Because being successful, according to world standards, is hard! There’s so much conflicting advice out there. Find your passion. Make lots of money. Wait to get married. Go, get married. Wait to have children. Have children while you’re young. Make money, not babies. Follow your heart. Follow your head. How is any young person supposed to know what to do? Did you know that 80% of college students in the US change their majors at least once, and most students change their majors three times in the course of their college careers? Why? They have no idea what they should do, or WANT to do, to be successful.

Our oldest, Rebecca, has known for years that she wants to be an attorney. Her father, an attorney, majored in Biology and Chemistry and told her from the start that she should choose a major she loved and work hard to be the best in that field of study. He knew, as Elle Woods learned, that you don’t have to slog through political science to get into law school (that’s coming from yours truly, a poli sci major). Rebecca took this to heart…eventually. She tried out several majors, beginning with criminal justice, and moving on to an array of others before finding that she had a passion for philosophy. It seemed that every other month, she called me with the familiar opening, “Mom, I’m changing my major.” I often wondered if she would ever finish college. But she did, and in only four years.

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The day Rebecca decided on Catholic University’s Columbus School of Law

With a double major in philosophy and sociology, as well as a minor in legal studies, she made it into one the best law programs in the country and finished her first year, ranked within the top of 20 of the class. So much for doing things the traditional way, or even the easy way. Rebecca found what she loved and made it work for her. I’d call that a good start on the road to success.

Throughout Katie’s life, everyone she encountered told her that she would make a wonderful teacher. Katie wanted no parts of that. She whole-heartedly believed those who told her that being a teacher just isn’t worth it. She was often told that children were too hard to deal with, that the money isn’t worth the hassle, and that she was too smart to teach. She applied for college as a communication major, hoping to make her love of photography and her writing skills the building blocks of a successful career in journalism. Just two weeks before she left for college, she came to me in a panic. “Mom, I don’t want to be a journalist. I want to be a teacher!” Hallelujah! I was so happy, I almost cried. Okay, maybe I did cry a little. After a few phone calls and several emails, Katie’s class schedule was adjusted, and she was ready to begin her study of education.

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Katie and some of her students

And how about now, ten months later? Katie is student-teaching at a bilingual school in Peru and loving every second of it. Every day, I look forward to her texts, containing pictures of “her kids”  and details about what she’s teaching them. And here’s what has struck her the most–in Peru, like many countries outside of the US, she found that “teachers are treated like rock stars!”

 

Do you know that teachers’ salaries in the US ranked TWNETY-SEVENTH in the modern world, ahead of Italy, Hungary, Chile, and the Slovak and Czech Republics? And that US teachers are tied with doctors and nurses for the most stressful careers and get little support for the hard, demanding jobs they do? Where are our priorities, America? 

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Checking out the nursing lab at Morgan’s chosen college.

And speaking of nurses… Morgan will be a senior in high school in the fall. More focused than almost any young person I know, she has already chosen her college and her field of study. After the suffering and death of her grandfather, earlier this year, Morgan knew that she was being called to be a nurse. But what was she recently told by a family member? “Be a doctor. You’re too smart to be a nurse.”

What is it with our culture that makes us diminish the importance of certain necessary careers? Did you know that nurses almost never have trouble finding a job? That being a nurse “is the ultimate opportunity” for travel? That nurses can specialize in any area of interest, bringing their passions to their job in ways most people will never be able to? That they are “the most trusted profession”? And that they have tremendous earning power? These are just a few of the many reasons to choose nursing over any other profession. Yet I know that many people will look down on Morgan, like they will Katie, because her chosen profession just isn’t good enough.

 

On the heels of the deaths of Kate Spade and Anthony Bourdain, many are wondering who, if anyone, is immune to the disease of helplessness and despair. While attorneys sit right in the middle of those more or less likely to take their own lives, health care professionals have an 80% lower suicide rate than the top victims of suicide. The lowest rate was in teachers, educators, and librarians. Perhaps we need to take a long, hard look at what really makes people happy, where they can find comfort and hope, and how they can discover their self-worth and be successful.

Perhaps we will never all agree about what true success is. Sure, you can listen to all kinds of Ted Talks, telling you what success is and how to achieve it. But I think that Inc. Magazine was pretty close to the mark when it printed, “If you believe success is simply making (or having) a lot of money, you may be setting yourself up for failure.” The author claims that success means one of two things to most people–either you’re happy or you’re rich. He argues that to be truly successful, you should be both. He says that the key is to define success as being happy, finding your passion, and becoming rich in happiness, which can lead to monetary wealth as well. 

My grandfather had a plaque on his desk that now sits on my husband’s dresser. The quote is most often attributed to Robert Louis Stevenson. It’s a beautiful verse that I hope my girls, and all of you, will remember and take to heart.

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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

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Three Simple but GIGANTIC Reasons to Try Something New

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 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/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).

 

Through the Eyes of a Child

img_4551As I’m finishing up our 2016 photo album, I’ve been looking back over the past year and thinking about all that we did and saw.  There were many life-changing events, but the things that make me smile the most are the things, large and small, that bring to mind the phrase, ‘wonder and awe.’  I still remember being in 8th grade, preparing for Confirmation, and learning about the Gift of the Spirits.  Sr. Janet told us that the most important gift was wonder and awe, which she described as always seeing life through the eyes of a child, unjaded and full of amazement at all that God does, creates, and gives.  Her words have always stuck with me, and I have been reminded of them many times throughout my life.

Over the past year, I was humbled as I knelt before the tomb of our Lord.  I cried as I walked through the 9/11 Museum.  I laughed at the antics of my girls while we were in Spain.  All of these things brought me to a new understanding of whom I am and where I am in my life.  But nothing makes me smile like the simple memories – Katie’s eyes as they lit up watching Aladdin’s magic carpet rise above the Broadway stage; the joy on the faces of my children and their friends when they summited a 14,000 foot mountain in Colorado; my mother’s exclamation of pure amazement when she looked through the kids’ Christmas-light 3-D glasses.  These small things bring me great joy, and they exemplify the truth in the saying that money doesn’t buy happiness.

So many people spend their lives searching for more: more wealth, more stuff, more power, more friends, more time.  You name it, everyone wants more of it.  Morgan and I recently listened to a Ted Talk about happiness.  It talked about the correlation between having more stuff and feeling less satisfaction.  Having more doesn’t mean feeling more unless that feeling is that of being overwhelmed, burdened, disorganized, and dissatisfied.  When will people, particularly in the Western World, realize that all we need to feel happy is to be content with what we already have?  It’s not about keeping up with the neighbors.  It’s about finding joy within yourself and radiating it out to others.  It’s not what others give to you but what you give to them that will bring true satisfaction with what you have and who you are.

In 2017, I implore you to look past the stuff and see the simple joys that surround you every day.  Laugh at the kids building a snowman in your yard or next door.  Delight in the smell of the flowers in your garden this spring.  Close your eyes and revel in the feel of the warm sun on your face.  Breathe in the crisp, cool fall air.  Don’t let a minute of the next year go by without noticing all of the amazing things in this world.  Find your sense of wonder of awe, and cherish it.  Never stop looking at life through the eyes of a child. 

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 most recent book, Whispering Vines, is now available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)

Be A Person of Encouragement

DSC09282A few years ago, I read a book called Magnetic Christianity by radio host and inspirational speaker, Gus Lloyd. I was reminded, while listening to Gus’ program yesterday morning, of his last chapter which is on encouragement. I’ve actually been thinking about this word a lot lately. What is encouragement? How can we be people of encouragement? And why do we want to be?

To encourage or give encouragement is “to inspire with courage, spirit, or confidence.”  It’s more than merely giving a pat on the back or simply saying good job. It’s the act of inspiring someone, of uplifting their spirit, of boosting their confidence. Those are pretty lofty aspirations, if you ask me. Think about it – giving encouragement to someone could actually make a difference in a person’s life. You could be the catalyst that allows someone to feel victory instead of defeat, success instead of failure, or become the person they were meant to be. 

My daughter, Katie, has a fabulous assistant tennis coach. When one of the kids is doing something wrong or making mistakes that affect their game, she doesn’t point out what they’re doing wrong. She encourages them to do what is right. She describes a better way, a more skilled approach, or path to improvement. She believes that by encouraging the player and showing him or her how to improve upon what they are already doing right is they best way to teach them to win. And she’s right every time. 

A teacher who encourages students to do their best will always be more successful than a teacher who consistently points out what a student does wrong. Encouragement isn’t the absence of correction but the enabling of confidence through positivity. A child doesn’t learn through negative reinforcement. He rebels or shuts down. But I’m sure we’ve all witnessed what happens to a child who meets that one teacher, coach, or mentor who lifts her up with encouragement and shows her that she matters and can succeed. 

The same can be said in the workplace.  According to a recent study by the University of California, people who are positive are more successful, less likely to be unemployed, healthier, and live longer.  It further found that positivity at work can lead to more engaged and resilient employees.  Psychologist, Sarah Lewis, in explaining the findings to CNN said, “[When] people enter a more positive space they become more willing to take risks and make comments,” she said “they go into the more difficult conversations and they’re more productive.”  What employee wouldn’t want that in his workplace?  And encouragement should go both ways, from the employer as well as the employee.  

The key word in the definition of encouragement is “spirit.”  When someone has lost their spirit, they have lost a bit of themselves, perhaps forever. The death of one’s spirit can be the death of any positive outlook they may have for the rest of their life. But to encourage one’s spirit, to make someone feel good about themselves, to boost their confidence, to help them to see the good that is within, can be life-changing. We should all strive to be persons of encouragement. This means:

  • Point out and reinforce the good in an effort to fix the bad. People are always more receptive to the positive. 
  • Do not lie or spread rumors about others. This harms both your spirit and theirs. 
  • Do not tear down others. Show them, in a kind and loving way, how they can be or do better. 
  • Offer assistance to those you see struggling, whether it is of the mind, body, or soul. 
  • And smile. Show others that no matter what you, yourself, may be facing and no matter what troubles they may have, there is always a reason to smile. It’s the easiest way to begin your journey toward living a life of encouragement. It may even change the way you look at yourself. 

I guarantee that when you become a person of encouragement, you will not only change the lives of those you encourage, but you will become a changed person yourself.  So go out there and be a positive influence.  I know you can do it!

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction, so that we may be able to encourage those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are encouraged by God.  For as Christ’s sufferings overflow to us, so through Christ does our encouragement also overflow.  If we are afflited, it is for your encouragement and salvation; if we are encouraged, it is for your encouragement, which enables you to endure the same sufferings that we suffer.  Our hope for you is firm, for we know that as you share in the sufferings, you also share in the encouragement.”    -2 Corinthians 1: 3-8

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)

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The 6 Things You Are Doing That Limit Your Happiness

DSC_1859I 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.

1.  Allowing others to dictate your mood. Nobody can make you unhappy but you.  I tell my children this all the time.  Others can criticize you, put you down, attempt to take away your self-esteem or lessen your accomplishments; but at the end of the day, you are the one who lives with your choices, your beliefs, the person you are or are becoming.  Only you can determine how you should feel, and only you can take the reins and make your life be what you want it to be.

           After his first audition, Sidney Poitier was told by the casting director, “Why don’t you stop wasting people’s time and go out and become a dishwasher or something?”*

2.  Letting failure get the best of you.  You’re never going to be perfect.  That role belongs to only one being, and He doesn’t expect you to be perfect; but He does expect you to try to be.  So what if you failed at something.  Are you going to let that be the end of life as you know it?  Stick that chin out, roll up your sleeves, and try again.

Thomas Edison failed 1,000 times while trying to invent the light bulb. When asked how it felt, Edison replied, “I didn’t fail 1,000 times. The light bulb was an invention with 1,000 steps.”*

3.  Not appreciating what you have.  Do you have a roof over your head?  Do you have food on your table, clothes on your back, shoes on your feet?  Then what are you complaining about?  There are many people in the world who are far worse off than you are, but they are able to find happiness.  How?  By appreciating what they have and not what they lack.  We aren’t supposed to get everything we desire in life, or there would never be anything to strive for, hope for , look forward to.  Enjoy what you have without complaining about what you don’t have, and you will find that what you have will increase tenfold.

 

“Be thankful for what you have; you’ll end up having more. If you concentrate on what you don’t have, you will never, ever have enough.” Oprah Winfrey**

4.  Letting worries win.  I am willing to bet money that the happiest people you know are the ones who worry the least.  They know that life has a way of working things out.  Personally, I believe that God will do my worrying for me.  Remember the saying, “Live and let God.”  Whether you believe in a divine presence or not, you will be a happier person if you do not dwell on worry. Some things in life are out of our control.  Don’t try to control them.  They will only end up controlling you.

“There is no cross, big or small, in our life which the Lord does not share with us.”  Pope Francis***

5.  Not allowing yourself to catch the joy of others.  Embrace other peoples’ happiness.  So you’re not having a good day, or a good experience.  Is that any reason to bring others down or to not try to lift yourself up?  Share in the joy of others.  Allow their joy, their inner peace, to enter your life.  Someday you will regret the time you spent alone nursing your wounds, continuing to make yourself unhappy; but you will never regret the time you spent enjoying life with friends and family and seeking joy.

“To make others less happy is a crime. To make ourselves unhappy is where all crime starts. We must try to contribute joy to the world. That is true no matter what our problems, our health, our circumstances. We must try.”  Roger Ebert****

6.  Ignoring the golden rule.  To enjoy true happiness, you must create happiness and share it with others.  Smile, and others will smile back.  Hold the door for someone, and they will hold it for someone else.  Speak kindly to those around you, and they will speak kindly in return.  No further explanation is needed.

“Do to others as you would have them do to you.”  Luke 6:31

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”  Matthew 22:39

“Be the change that you wish to see in the world.”  Mahatma Gandhi

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

*http://www.uky.edu/~eushe2/Pajares/OnFailingG.html
**http://www.inc.com/jeff-haden/40-inspiring-motivational-quotes-about-gratitude.html
***http://www.aggiecatholicblog.org/2015/01/top-75-pope-francis-quotes/
****http://www.brainyquote.com/quotes/keywords/joy_3.html

Prescription for Happiness

IMG_1159I have to admit that over the summer, I had many, many moments of envy.  Not all-consuming jealousy or want-to-tear-their-eyes-out rage.  Not even the kind of envy that lingers.  Each instance lasted for just a few seconds, but it was there nonetheless.  These moments came each time I took a few minutes to pause and steal a quick look at Facebook.  No, it wasn’t the traveling, or the shopping, or the amazing photos.  It was even more basic than that – I was envious every time someone posted a picture of themselves by the pool.  Yes, I said the pool.  People had time to lay by the pool.  Some even had time to get IN the pool!  How could they do that?  How did they find the time between laundry, housecleaning, work, driving children around, etc. to even sneak into their room and put on a bathing suit, not to mention make themselves that delicious looking cocktail, and lounge by the pool?  Some of them even had books on their laps or on the table beside them.  That was serious pool time!

Here’s the thing – we’ve had our pool for several years, but for the past two summers, I haven’t even gotten my toes wet.  Every day I look longingly out the window and think, Today I will find the time to get into the pool.  By bedtime, the pool is the farthest thing from my mind.  At least it was, until a few weeks ago.  Remember that fabulous vacation I wrote about?  The one to Canada that was such an awesome family adventure?  Did I happen to mention how it ended?  Nope, I spared you the details of the last few days when I walked around with a fever and a general feeling of something getting a hold of me.  On the fourth day of my fever, while in Niagara Falls, I awoke to discover that despite no previous signs of a sore throat, I had strep that had gone systemic.  Yes, giant spots covered my entire body, and Ken had to rush me to the nearest urgent care.  Fast forward to the following week when I happened to mention to the pediatrician at Katie’s physical that the spots would not go away.

The doctor took a quick peek and said “Spend 10 minutes every day outside in the sun exposing your body to the rays.  They’ll dry up and go away.”

“What about the pool,”  I asked.  “Would the chlorine help?”

“Absolutely,” she replied.

Willing to do whatever it took, later that day, I put on the new bathing suit that I bought at the beginning of the summer and had never even worn and quietly went out to the pool.  The water was warm and so soothing.  At first I just immersed myself in the luxurious liquid, and then I began swimming some slow, easy laps.  After a few minutes, I remembered just how much I love to swim.  I mean, I really, really love to swim.  I began doing different strokes, racing back and forth from one side to the other.  Then I just floated atop the water, letting it wash over me as I closed my eyes and relaxed in the glow of the late afternoon sun.  After about 30 minutes, I reluctantly dragged myself from the pool to go in and get dinner ready.

When I walked inside, Rebecca looked at me in surprise.  “You were in the pool?”

“Yep,” I replied with a smile.  I repeated to her what the doctor told me and then added, “This is the best prescription I’ve ever been given.  I wish my doctor would refill this at the beginning of every summer.”

“Mom,” Rebecca said, “you know, you can prescribe it to yourself.  You deserve to enjoy summer, too, and to get in the pool every day if you want to.  Nothing bad will happen if you take some time for yourself every day.”

Ah, the wisdom of a collegian.  As her words sank in, I realized she is absolutely correct.  Aren’t we always hearing about taking time for ourselves and paying attention to our own needs?  That seems so selfish to me!  But I can tell you, for the rest of the summer, each time I stepped out of that pool, I was in a better mood and felt more relaxed and ready to get back to whatever task awaited me.  The pool was good for my mind, body, and spirit (and by the way, the spots were miraculously gone in just a couple of days).

So I’m trying to remind myself each day, whether it’s an hour at the gym or a long, relaxing lunch, I’m going to take just a little bit of time for me.  So attention everyone I’ve ever promised to meet for lunch, I’ll be calling you to set a date.  We all deserve to prescribe some time each day to do something for ourselves.  I’ve realized that if I slow down and take just a few minutes for myself, everyone around me will benefit, including me.

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online.  Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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