Earning Fs in Life

Over the past two days, I was back home attending the funeral of a beloved cousin. The prayer service on Monday evening and the funeral Mass on Tuesday were beautiful and brought many happy memories to mind as we bid goodbye to one of the brightest lights in our family.

Rebecca in MSM Library.jpgFather Early’s Homily really struck a chord with me. He likened life to a class in school. He said that, ideally, when we go to class, we work to achieve As; however, Father told us that we should work hard to achieve all Fs in the class of life.

What? All Fs?

Yes, he encouraged us to earn Fs in life. Why?

Because…

The real gifts in life all begin with the letter, F. In all that we do, we should strive to achieve those Fs. Below are the few that Father pointed out as well as a few that I have taken the liberty of adding:

 

 

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Family: A simple internet search brings up many published articles with titles such as,  For Happiness, Seek Family, Not Fortune – WebMD, Family Talk: Family makes many of us happy – NewsOK, and Families Are Changing, But Still Key to Happiness. Study after study proves that having a tight-knit family leads to happiness. Family can do more than provide stability. Family gives us a whole group of people to lean on, a built-in support system, a ready-made network, and a circle of friends. My mother is, and always has been, my best friend. My husband is my rock. My sister-in-law and I are each other’s spiritual warriors. My brothers are there for me in thick and thin. I can call on my Aunt Debbie for anything and everything. My mother-in-law is a second mother to me, and my children are the lights of my life. At the core of all of this is one simple thing – love, a deep and unwavering love for each other.

Friends: I have quoted the book of Sirach more than once and will happily do so again. “Faithful friends are a sturdy shelter; whoever finds one finds a treasure” (Sirach 6:14). And who can forget the immortal words of the angel, Clarence, in Frank Capra’s timeless story of the importance of friends, It’s a Wonderful Life? “Remember, George: no man is a failure who has friends.” This past Monday, our Bible study group discussed the importance of having meaningful relationships with friends, all kinds of friends, including those who bring us to a deeper faith.
Sirach

Faith: Though I am listing this as number three, I firmly believe that faith is the most important F in our lives. For every article about the importance of family, there are ten about the importance of faith. As we were told by Jesus, “Amen, I say to you, if you have faith the size of a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move. Nothing will be impossible for you” (Matthew 17:20). Faith is what gets us through the hard times, believing that things will get better. Faith helps us stay on track when everything around us seems to go awry. Faith can lead to miracles (see my blog about the movie, Breakthrough).

Famliy Fun.jpgFun: Where would we be if we never had fun? It’s more than just a notion, more than a passing moment, more than a childish endeavor. Seeking and having fun is necessary in so many areas of our lives. Psychology Today tells us that Having Fun Must be Taken Seriously for it is through fun that people learn to negotiate rules, develop healthy lifestyles, gain emotional control and social competency, grow personal resiliency, and hone curiosity. Psychologist Marc Bekoff Ph.D. writes “Play is a banquet for the brain, a smorgasbord for the senses, providing nourishment for body and spirit.” He also says that we, Americans, are forgetting the importance of the feast and not joining the buffet line when it comes to seeking and creating fun in our lives. We work too hard and play too little. We need people like my cousin, Eleanor, in our lives to remind us to have fun.

Fulfillment: I believe that all of us have a need to feel fulfilled. While all of the other Fs mentioned above can and should contribute to that fulfillment, each of us is put here on Earth to serve a purpose. We each have our meaning in life–the pursuit of that which makes us feel whole. For some, it’s charity work. For others, it’s career. For others, it’s providing a loving home for their families. However, I find that what we think is our purpose in life is often what we’ve been told is our purpose–to have a good career, to make lots of money, to provide a big house with lots of stuff for our families. The simple truth is, the life purpose of each person goes beyond what he earns or what she does for a living. It is, again, that thing which makes us feel whole, that which inspires us to a higher calling. 

Fortune: We should all strive to achieve great fortune in life–riches and wealth beyond compare. However, these riches do not consist of the material things we own, and the wealth, of which I speak, is not the amount of money we have in the bank. The fortune we should seek is that which encompasses all of the other Fs that we should be earning throughout our lives. We need to gather our family closer and cherish them. We need to collect good and faithful friends who will lift us up. We need to have the faith to move many mountains. We must amass hours of fun. We must search for what will lead us to fulfillment. When we have all of those things, we all will have cups overflowing with the sweetest drink.

So, I urge you, go out and earn those Fs. If you do, you will leave this world as an A+ student of life.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: I Was a Free-Range Kid.

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).

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).

 

 

 

Standing Straight and Reaching New Heights

This marks my third week of going to physical therapy, three weeks of therapy after more than three months of waking up every morning with severe upper back pain. I’ve always known that I have terrible posture, and sitting at my desk for hours at a time, leaning over my computer, certainly doesn’t help. However, I was shocked when I learned that months of pain was due to the deterioration of my trapezius and pectoral muscles because of my bad posture. Who would have thought that poor posture would actually lead to a reduction in the rotation of my shoulder? Alas, that was the diagnosis, and the doctor said it needed to be fixed now before it was too late. However, fixing the problem is somedays more painful than the original aching back muscles, and I know it’s imperative to keep working on it, but sometimes, I just want to give up.

And isn’t that how we often feel about the things that are hard, things that cause pain, things that make us wish there was a magic spell to make everything okay? 

Why do I have to do these exercises? Why do I have to cause my body even more discomfort? Why do I have to take time from my busy day to spend an hour making my body ache even more than it already does as it rebels against this change?

We all know the old adage, “no pain, no gain.” While we know that it’s the truth, it’s hard to force ourselves to believe that the painful thing we are doing, the tough decision we need to make, the unwanted change that we know is right, is worth the hurt, the worry, the heartache. Sometimes, we have to do things we really don’t want to do. We may have to leave our comfort zone, our family, our home, our friends, our school, or even just our favorite chair or our bed. 

I feel like I’m starting over again with learning how to walk, sit, drive, and do all of the normal physical daily activities I’ve been doing for almost fifty years. And it’s hard! And frustrating, and irritating, and yes, painful. Sometimes, when I’m doing my physical therapy, I just want to cry or quit or yell, “I’m not going to do this anymore!” And I have to remind myself that there are times in life when we just have to push ourselves. We have to make ourselves do the hard work, go the extra mile, or just change course. When I’m ready to give up or turn back, I have to take a deep breath, close my eyes, and tell myself that I can do this. I can move forward.

When I went away to college, I went with such high hopes and big dreams. My parents didn’t go to college. My grandparents didn’t go to college. It was a big, big deal, and I embraced it with enthusiasm. I applied to one college (because that’s what we did back then), and I prayed that I would get in. And I did. With a full scholarship. Off I went, hugging mom and dad goodbye, lugging my big blue chest full of clothes and my backpack of ridiculously priced books. And I hated it. It was not the place for me. I couldn’t figure out where I fit in, who my real friends were, or what activities were right for me. The longer the year went on, the more I knew that I needed to change. Telling my parents was hard. Giving up that scholarship was even harder. Finding a new school, transferring, making new friends, joining new clubs, and finding a new place to live, were really, really difficult. But just like my therapy, I knew I had to do what was best for me. 

When my children were young, they were in a school where they were not thriving. One was being bullied and seemed to be wasting her potential. Another was slowly losing her self-confidence due to harassment from a group of boys in the class. Our youngest was just starting out, and we worried that the situation in the school was only going to get worse. I had always wanted the girls at the local Catholic school, but we just couldn’t afford it. After much prayer, a sign from God told us that it was time to make the change. Our two youngest were enthusiastic about the change. Our oldest, not so much. She had friends and a level of comfort that she wasn’t willing to give up despite the bullying and the fear and the reality that she was being stifled in that environment. But she let her sisters’ excitement persuade her to give it a try, and she visited the school with trepidation. After that visit, she never went back to her old school again. She immediately transferred, found new friends, made a new home, and began a meteoric rise that is still ascending, taking her to new heights among the stars. It all started with resistance that acquiesced into a small step and morphed into a giant leap. And she never looked back. 

At some point, we all have to change course, break our bad habits, learn to sit a little straighter, walk a little taller, push back our shoulders, and hold our heads high, trusting in God that He will never lead us astray. And we will be amazed at the heights we will reach.On top of the world.jpg

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).

Our Future is Going Up In Smoke

Warning – this blog will not be pretty. I am angry, and I’m afraid I’m going to take it out on you. For the past several weeks, I’ve had to watch someone I love dearly suffer from a very rare form of dementia. So rare, in fact, that the doctors know very little about it. Here’s one thing they do know: it was caused by white matter, or decay, in the frontal lobe of his brain, and that decay was caused by years of smoking. And because of that, watching the news this week makes me angry. I’m angry with politicians, with government officials, with lobbyists, and with my fellow American citizens.

And why? Because smoking kills. ALL SMOKING KILLS. Yet states across our land are telling people that smoking and doing drugs are okay! Why? What is wrong with everyone? I don’t care what you are smoking; your body wasn’t made to inhale chemicals. Both cigarettes and marijuana contain dozens of chemicals that cause cancer. And studies have shown that secondhand marijuana smoke is even more harmful to your heart than tobacco smoke. One in six children are hospitalized due to marijuana smoke exposure. And the number of marijuana-related fatal car accidents in the state of Colorado has doubled since recreational marijuana use become legal in 2013. Yet the state of California just joined Colorado and seven other states in saying it’s perfectly okay to smoke pot for recreation.

I saw a young woman being interviewed on the news yesterday who claimed to be an employed, high-functioning, and responsible adult who happens to smoke weed. She says it’s no big deal. And some researchers agree with her. “A 2002 study, for example, tested 77 heavy smokers for days after abstaining from smoking pot. Memory impairment was found for heavy users up to 7 days after using marijuana, but by day 28 their memory test results didn’t differ significantly from control subjects.”

But here’s my question, what about twenty-eight years from now? How will it affect their memory or any other part of their brain then? People spend millions of dollars each year trying to quit smoking cigarettes, but cities and states are salivating with glee about the money they’re going to rake in because of pot sales. Oh, but marijuana isn’t addictive, like cigarettes are, you say…  However, “according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse, marijuana addiction goes up to about 17 percent in those who start using young (in their teens) and to 25 to 50 percent among daily users.” Now that it’s A-Okay to smoke wherever and whenever you want in certain areas of the country, how many daily users will there be five years from now?

Dr. Abi-Dargham, MD, a professor at Columbia University Medical Center and author of a study at the university said that, “the bottom line is that long-term, heavy cannabis use may impair the dopaminergic system, which could have a variety of negative effects on learning and behaviour.” In addition, a number of studies have shown a link between smoking marijuana and schizophrenia as well as psychosis. Finally, researchers have found that the people who smoke daily for at least four years have a smaller volume of gray matter in their frontal lobe. Bingo. Know what that means? White matter in the brain. Decay. Which leads me to this…

I can’t help but wonder if my father-in-law’s rare form of dementia will become more commonplace in the future. While cigarette smoking has gone down, marijuana smoking is on the rise, and we have no idea what illnesses and physical impairments that will cause down the road. How many more people will die in accidents? How many more will move on to harder drugs when pot no longer provides a good enough high? How many more will begin developing diseases, chronic health conditions, pre-natal abnormalities, and debilitating illnesses because we’re now making it okay for people to smoke another dangerous substance. Medical marijuana, by the way, is most beneficial when it’s ingested, not smoked, so don’t even go there with me.

Maybe I’m wrong. Maybe we won’t see any long-term affect of these new laws. But I hope and pray that none of my children or any of their children have to go through this again. At least not because some politician thought it was a good idea to make money by jeopardizing the health of his or her constituents. Beware, America, we are heading down a slippery slope, and only time will tell what the long-lasting effects will be.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Resolving to Succeed in 2017

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. Amy’s 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)

 

Nine Tips for Losing Nineteen Pounds (and Counting)

IMG_2989It felt so good, that one little comment made by a friend after Mass on Sunday. “Psst, Amy, have you lost weight?” Someone noticed! In fact, I’ve lost 19 pounds in the past few months. For the first time in years, I have to keep pulling up my shorts, and my shirts are hanging on me. It feels good, and honestly, it has been easy. Yes, I’ve had to completely re-evaluate what I eat, how much I eat, what I cook, and what I order out (the hardest of all). I’ve had to come around to a whole new way of looking at meals, but you know what? It worked. And I’m not starving, nor am I giving up my favorite foods. It was a learning process, and I’m happy to share it with you.

  1. fmimg22490971610149207.ss-0-Weight Watchers was a starting point but not a crutch. I joined, after the encouragement of a few friends, but I knew I didn’t have the time for meetings, so I joined using the app. I found that I only needed to be a member for about three months in order to see what I was eating and how it affected my diet (that’s diet with a small “d” because I don’t feel like I’m on a Diet). I had to learn what foods I was eating that needed to be scaled back or cut out. It was also a great help in restaurants as I shifted into eating things that would satisfy but not add too many calories. I was able to track my food as well as my exercising and learned how each affected my weight. It was also nice to see the weight chart go down each week! I’ve stopped using the app, but I’m still applying the principles, and I’m still losing weight.
  2. Breakfast was hard. I won’t lie. I’m not a big fan of breakfast food. I love bacon, but it doesn’t love me. I don’t eat doughnuts or pastries or waffles or bagels. They just leave me feeling bloated. I enjoy a good pancake but not enough to eat them very often. Cereal works for me, but only about once a week. My go-to breakfast has always been yogurt, but it just doesn’t fill me up. What I really love is oatmeal, but plain, unflavored oatmeal? Yuck! So here’s my recipe for a tasty, healthy, and satisfying breakfast: I cook one serving of plain, instant oatmeal, add a quarter cup of fruit, a half cup of plain, Greek yogurt, and a dash of cinnamon. Mixed together, it’s just the right temperature, tastes great, and leaves me satisfied until lunch.
  3. Lunch was even harder. Okay, don’t laugh. In my mind, I was eating the healthiest lunch I could possibly eat. I ate a piece of fruit, a small helping of crackers and light cream cheese, and a serving size of dark chocolate almonds (hey, it’s dark chocolate, the heart’s vitamin). The first day I loaded the meal into my app, I was shocked. My little tiny lunch ate up half of my allowed points for the entire day! It took some time, but I learned what I can eat that will be nutritious and keep me from snacking before dinner. A healthy sandwich (my favorite is peanut butter and banana on Foldit 5 Grain Flax Bread), a piece of fruit, and a serving of crackers keeps my stomach happy until dinner. I’ve even gotten to where I can forego the crackers and go heavy on the fruit and still be satisfied. Or I substitute the crackers with Half Naked Popcorn. Yummy!
  4. Finding new dinner recipes was fun, and everyone chipped in. Nobody complained when I wanted to try something new. Katie is a vegetarian, so she happily helped me create new meals that were to her liking. The key was making sure that the meal was heavy on fruits and veggies and light on carbs. To be honest, it’s easier than it sounds. Spaghetti, a staple in our home, was even within my point value if I made it the right way. I have always make my sauce from scratch, so that helps. We only use whole grain noodles, so that’s another plus. Ken hunts, so elk burger is our meat of choice (if I’m adding meat). Another plus. It was the portion size that was really the issue, but when served with a nice salad, a smaller portion was easy. Once I learned that not only was I satisfied with a smaller portion, I also felt less bloated, then all was good. And that garlic bread we all like to have on the side? No problem. I just made sure that whatever I ate the next night was lighter. It’s all about balance, but haven’t we been hearing that for years?
  5. valpollicellaCSWe found new ways to make old favorites. I wanted food that was satisfying and healthy, so we found ways to add veggies into things. For example, our favorite new recipe is baked ziti. No, I’m not kidding! It was Katie’s idea that put it over the top. I made the whole grain noodles and my homemade sauce. At the same time, I sautéed fresh spinach in garlic and olive oil. I then mixed the spinach into a bowl of fat free ricotta cheese. I layered the noodles, cheese, and then the sauce and baked it. It was fabulous! Served with a salad, it was filling and rich but not heavy. And I even enjoyed a glass of wine with it and felt no guilt at all.
  6. Ah yes, the wine. That was a killer. If there’s one thing I enjoy immensely, it’s a good glass of Italian wine with dinner. Perhaps that was my problem. I like to eat and drink like I’m in Italy, but I don’t walk everywhere I go like they do in Italy! So I had to decide, eat a filling meal or drink a glass of wine. My stomach won out, and I cut my wine consumption to one glass per week. Okay two, because…
  7. I always take a day off. It seems like there is always one night, usually over a weekend, when we go out to eat, attend a party, or entertain guests. That’s my time to relax, have a drink or maybe two, and eat what I want. I forget the meal plan for that one meal and just enjoy myself. Here’s what I learned, though: eating everything I want just leaves me feeling miserable. So I’ve learned to eat what I want within reason. If I know I’m having a couple of drinks or really want that specialty dessert, I go with a light dinner. And I spend more time thinking about the company I am with than the food I am eating. Life is too short to spend every minute worrying about something, so I just let go and enjoy.
  8. Exercise doesn’t have to hurt. I’ve been doing yoga for almost four years. I try to go three times a week. I do the fitness yoga, or strength yoga, so I’m working my body and not just clearing my mind. It works for me, and I feel good about myself when I leave the gym. And I try to stay active even when I’m not able to make it to class. When we vacation, we don’t spend a week sitting on the beach. We see and do everything, and I mean everything. That usually requires a heck of a lot of walking and often other activities such as horseback riding or mountain climbing. As far as I’m concerned, exercise is about moving, no matter what form of movement you choose to make.IMG_2151
  9. strawberry-shortcake2Snacks and desserts are well-deserved. And every now and then I will indulge in a small hot fudge sundae or even a cookie. But I snack all the time and don’t feel guilty. Remember the Half Naked Popcorn? It has become my go-to pick me up along with whatever fresh fruit is in season. We’ve eaten a lot of watermelon this summer, and I do mean a lot! We’ve also kept the strawberry and blueberry growers in business along with the peach farmers. I will miss the fresh fruit when winter sets in, so feel free to let me know what winter varieties you enjoy. I’ll be sure to check them out. As far as sweets, I haven’t given those up entirely either. This week, we made a homemade strawberry shortcake for Rebecca’s final dinner at home before she went back to school. It was made with angel food cake and fat free Readi Whip. I ate a piece without any remorse, and to be honest, I had another piece the next day.

Live life. Enjoy yourself. But be healthy. I haven’t felt this good in years, and I’m hoping that some of my tips and examples will inspire others to start eating right and getting healthy. There’s only one time when it’s too late to start, so what are you waiting for?

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)

 

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.

What’s Hidden Inside?

IMG_2314I found out yesterday that my beautiful, energetic, happy, and seemingly healthy four-year-old golden retriever has a life threatening heart murmur.  While still in the prime of her life, she will need to see a cardiologist and be put on medication to regulate her heart.  Misty was showing no signs of being sick.  She and her sister, Rosie, chase each other around the yard and the house on a daily basis.  She eats well and has a great disposition.  I never imagined that her routine checkup would reveal a condition that could, at any moment, take her life.

This situation has gotten me thinking about, not just Misty, but others who may have something hidden from the outside world.  We encounter dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people every day.  How many of those people have something going on inside their bodies or in their lives of which we are completely unaware?  How can we possibly know everything that another person is going through?

Sometimes when my children complain about somebody in their class, I remind them that they have no idea what that person might be going through outside of school.  Perhaps that person who refused to give up his seat to you on the subway, or the person at the grocery store who grumbled and complained the entire time she was packing your groceries, just received terrible news or is going through some kind of personal turmoil.  I think that we tend to believe that if somebody looks great on the outside or has a smile on their face all of the time that their life must be perfect.  In reality, this is rarely the case. Everybody is going through something all of the time.

So the next time you meet up with somebody who isn’t in a good mood, smile at them, and be kind.  You never know if that small gesture will add the little bit of brightness they need at that moment.  And always remember that even those with a smile on their face and those who always look happy and healthy could have something hidden that is wreaking havoc on their body, mind, or soul.  How you treat them and react to them could make a huge impact on their lives and perhaps even your own.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and 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.  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 and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com