Learning to Sail Your Ship

Dear High School Senior,

Here it is, the beginning of your last year of high school, your last year in the school that has been your second home since 1st grade, your last year living at home, your last year as a minor, your last year of being a kid with little to no responsibilities. I could go on and on, but that would make both of us sad and ignore what’s really important–that this year of “lasts” should be a year of making lasting memories. This year should also be about looking back and reflecting on your journey through the past so that you can sail safely and securely to a great future. 

Hurricaine Isabel (16)You probably only have vague recollections of Hurricane Isabel which blew into our lives when you were just three-years-old. It was late September, and we were leaving the following morning for a week-long trip. Our house sits on a piece of high land, so the world looked right when we awoke to a beautiful sunrise that morning. Your father took you and Rebecca down the driveway to cross the street and check on your great-grandparents, but the end of the driveway did not yield to a road, as it should have. Instead, there was rushing water as far as you could see. Daddy got the little rowboat we kept in the backyard, and the three of you made your way to Nan and Pop’s. They were trapped but lucky, for the water went all the way to the top of their porch steps and stopped. After making sure that your aunt was on her way to stay with them, we piled all of our suitcases, our dog, and you three girls into the rowboat and two kayaks and paddled our way out of town. For more than a mile, we steered our way through the flooded roads until we found your Poppy, waiting for us on the other side. I think that was your first lesson in traveling through life. You see, there will be violent storms and rushing water, and your carefully laid plans may be washed away by the floods. You’ll be left with two choices: sit around and wait for the waters to recede, or find a way to paddle your way out of there. How you face the storms and conquer the floods are up to you. Don’t let rough weather get in the way of your plans when you can paddle your way out of the situation at the break of day.

Morgan ridesThere is a story you’ve heard dozens of times, but it’s one of my favorites. You were four, and you went outside to play in the backyard. I stood at the kitchen window, washing dishes, glancing up every few minutes to see you playing on the swings or in the sandbox. As I was finishing up my task, I saw something whir by the window. When I looked again, there you were–riding your sister’s bike, with no training wheels! I ran out and asked you when you learned to ride, and you said, “Just now.” I asked who taught you, and you said, “Me!” It was my first clue that you were going to be a force to be reckoned with. You were not going to let any obstacle get in your way. No challenge was too large, no goal too lofty. With or without help, you were going to achieve your objective. That has never changed, and I hope it never does. Let your goals shine like beacons, and steer your ship toward them. You will encounter storms and rough seas, and you may need to change course, but you will reach your destination.

Years later, for reasons I still don’t understand, you were not allowed to be in the advanced math class with a small handful of your peers. You were angry and confused, as were your parents, but you had such a great attitude once you realized you couldn’t change the decision. You set out to do your best, prove your abilities, and advance on your own. Taking it upon yourself to take two math courses the following year, you advanced and excelled. Once again, you proved that you could not be held back and that you could do anything you set your mind to. But it didn’t come easily to you. You struggled, you had to push yourself, you even cried at times. But you never gave up. There will be times, over the next five years and beyond, when you will be told you aren’t good enough. You will be held back in some way or another. You will be made to feel inferior. Remind yourself that you can do anything you put your mind to. Even when there is no wind at your back, I know you will find a way to sail on.  As Garth Brooks reminds us,

There’s bound to be rough waters,
And I know I’ll take some falls,
With the good Lord as my captain,
I can make it through them all.

collage.jpgRemember your first big dance? You got all dressed up and curled your hair because you were so hoping a certain boy would ask you to dance, and he didn’t even show up! But you smiled, danced with your friends, and enjoyed yourself. And what a lesson that was! Sometimes in life, people don’t show up–literally and figuratively. Sometimes, you’re left on your own to figure things out, to clean up a mess, or to have a good time. When that happens, you can let yourself feel bad about your situation, or you can smile and dance. Perhaps whomever or whatever wasn’t there for you then will be just the person or thing that comes through when you need them the most later in life.

22728713_10210269648273922_4818804090097890691_nYou are only seventeen, yet I know that you have grieved deeply. You lost Granny when you were in elementary school, and then you lost both Nan and Pop when you were in middle school, leaving your little heart especially broken. Nan and Pop lived across the street from us your entire life, and their passing was hard on you. But harder still was losing your Grandfather, Poppy, this year. I’ve never seen you so sad, but you were never helpless. Instead, you rose to your greatest height in those last few weeks. You took the most painful time in your life and used it as an opportunity to learn, to grow, and to embrace what time you and your Poppy had left. You so loved him, and it was your love and your strength that propelled you through those dark days and set you on your lifelong course to come. I know that, in every patient you encounter as a nurse, you will see your grandfather, and you will gift your patients with your compassion, your grace, and your love.

High school hasn’t always been easy for you. You’ve struggled with your own doubts and fears, your own insecurities and anxieties, but you’ve found ways to overcome them. You’ve made friends and lost friends, but you’ve discovered whom you can count on without fail. You’ve been left out, let down, and leaned on without reciprocation, but you’ve shouldered the burdens with your head held high and a smile on your face. You’ve learned that life isn’t perfect, that not every person is honest and trustworthy, that adults don’t always make the right decisions, and that the world doesn’t revolve on fairness. But you’ve also learned that these things don’t have to change who you are. You are a person of worth and integrity, a person who doesn’t lie or cheat to get ahead but perseveres and overcomes, a person who is loyal and true. And you are a person of faith, a person who knows that you will face things that “For human beings this is impossible, but for God all things are possible” (Matthew 19: 26).

Follow your heart, listen to your inner voice, and rely on your faith. Make this year the best year of your life so far. Take what you have learned, and use the knowledge to continue growing, reaching, believing, and achieving. As this year progresses, continue to learn the ropes, build your ship, set your course, and enjoy the ride. When the time comes for your ship to embark on the vast oceans of life, know that I will be standing on the dock, crying but waving and wishing you luck and prosperity. I will watch, holding my breath, as you hoist your sails, surge on through the storms, navigate the rough seas, look toward Heaven, and follow the stars. You will know the way. Sail on.

I love you, Mom

Morgan steering her ship.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).

The Five Reasons We Allow You to Date

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Dear Daughter,

It’s been challenging for you lately, and I know that.  You’re young, and you think you’re in love, and I think it’s wonderful.  You’re growing and learning and figuring out who you are and what you want in life, and I have no problem with you having a partner who cares about you to help you figure that out.  I also know that there are others who disagree and some, young and old, who are giving you a hard time about it.  I appreciate you telling them that I allow you to date and that they can take it up with me; and I know we’ve talked about this, but I’d like to make sure that you fully understand why I allow you to date because it’s a privilege, one that I feel is very important for the healthy development of your mind, body, and spirit.  

As you know, I’ve been given a fair share of advice from others about how to handle the ‘dating situation.’  In fact, it’s a topic that has come up among friends and acquaintances many times, and  often, it becomes an admonishment on me for allowing you and your sisters to date.  This is something that I pray about a lot and your father and I talk about a lot, and while we don’t have all of the answers or make all of the right decisions, we try our best.  We have our reasons for the things we do and allow, very good ones we believe, and you should know what they are.  I’m not setting out to tell the parents of your friends or even your teachers what is right or wrong, but I do want you to know why I have made some of the choices I have in regards to you.  

I have been told, “High school children belong with their families and not out on dates. They have plenty of time for that in college and beyond.”  Interesting thought, but I have another take.  I have heard, “Teens are not mature enough to handle dating.”  No argument from me about maturity, but I’ll get to that.  Recently, you told me that an adult told you, “The purpose of dating is to have sex, so if you’re not planning on getting married and having children in the immediate future, then you should not be dating.”  Uh-huh.  I have lots to say about that one, but let me begin with the least of the reasons why I allow you to date.

5. You’re learning the Ropes.  Your high school years are all about preparing for your future.  You will need to develop good study habits, learn time management, become skilled at balancing school and a job, and become adept at standing up for yourself and your beliefs.  Along with those things, I want you to also prepare for the dating scene.  What is proper behavior on a date?  Where are acceptable locales?  What is the proper dress? This may all sound silly to you, but seriously, these are important questions and not just old-fashioned ideas.  I want to know that when you leave the house with a boy, you know what is acceptable and what is not and what should be expected or not (by and from both of you).  And I want those values and rules coming from me, not from your college roommate.

4. Dating is part of growing.  It is part of figuring out what you want in a future spouse.  That does not mean that you have to marry the first boy who asks you to a dance.  If means that you are learning what it feels like to be asked to a dance, to hold hands, and yes, even to kiss (cue the gasps).  It also means that you are learning about mutual respect.  Does he open the door for you? Is he attentive to you in conversations?  Does he put your needs and desires first?  Is he able to compromise?  Does he respect your wishes, your values, your family and friends?  If the answer is no, then move on!  He was not the right one, but it’s okay to try again.  Would you buy a pair of shoes without making sure that they fit, that they work with your wardrobe, that they’re comfortable and make you feel good?  Dating is no different but far more important.

3.  You need to see him with his mom and yours.  Dating in college is very much a social endeavor.  You will go to parties, night clubs, football games, and dances, much like you are doing in high school, but you will be doing it on your own time, with your own friends, and without your family tagging along, so there are things that you will miss, important things that won’t be revealed to you.  For example, how does he treat his mom?  Is he kind to her, loving, respectful?  Does he help out around the house?  Does he like being with his family?  And, in a way, more importantly, does he like being with yours?  Is he kind and respectful to your parents?  If he never wants to spend time with your family, then I have to ask why?  Is he selfish?  Is he all about what he wants and not what you want?  And on a darker note, is he possessive?  Is he violent?  Does he try to drive a wedge between you and your family?  Remember, when you meet the right one, he will become a part of our family.  Is he willing to do that?  Dating in high school is about blending your family life with your dating life, and that’s an extremely important facet of being a couple.  Learn to do it early and to do it well.

2.  Maturity is learned not inherited.  If I had kept you in the nursery until your eighteenth birthday  and then suddenly set you free in the world, would you think I was crazy?  Would you know how to manage on your own without any prior knowledge?  Of course not!  And dating should be no different.  You can’t grow and properly mature without experience.  You need to learn how to behave in public and in private.  You need to know how to set limits, how to compromise, and how to say no.  Everything you do as you are growing up affects what you do and how you act when you are on your own.  But you need to recognize that you are still growing, still learning, still maturing until, scientists say, the age of 25.  So there will be limits set on you while you’re at home–curfews, acceptable places to go, and acceptable people to be a part of your life.  If we say no, the answer is no, but we will always explain to you why.  And hopefully the ‘why’ will stick with you and help you mature into a person who makes good choices.

1.  The world is a scary place, but I’ve got your back.  You will be put into uncomfortable situations.  You will be faced with circumstances that you may not know how to handle.  You will have questions, and fears, and will make mistakes.  And I want to be there the first time you do, the first time you come face to face with the ugly side of dating.  I want to be sitting on your bed with you when you’re crying after your first broken heart.  I want to be behind the wheel when you need someone to come get you because you don’t feel safe.  I want you to crawl in my bed at night because you’re upset and need your mom.  I want you to go off to college with a past, not a reputation, but a past in which you learned how to spot a nice boy, how to say no, how to get yourself out of a bad situation, how to dress and act on a date, and how to know if he’s the right man.  

The dating world has changed a lot in the past thirty years.  You all do things differently and at a much faster pace than we did.  But to be in the right kind of relationship, make the right decisions, and figure out who the right mate is, you need guidance, and I’ve only got four short years to be that guide.  But know this, even when you are on your own, when you have questions, or when you make mistakes, I will always be here.  I will always be praying for you.  I will always be your mom.  Even when you are grown and go home to someone else.

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)

Unmasked

3 Apr 9, 2013 1-12 PMHalloween is upon us.  That time of year when everyone dons a mask and tries to be someone they’re not.  But let’s be honest here, don’t you sometimes feel like every day is Halloween?  Everywhere I look, I see people trying to fit in with those around them.  Whether it’s high school girls with lots of makeup and matching outfits trying to look and act like the “popular crowd” or middle-aged men and women trying to look or act like teenagers, I often wonder why everyone always tries to be someone they aren’t.

How many times have we seen movies where, at some point, the male lead takes off the glasses of the female lead, lets her hair down, and tells her she’s beautiful?  Do we all swoon because he’s finally seeing how beautiful she is without her glasses?  No!  We swoon because he finally recognizes how someone so different from everyone else, someone not trying to conform, is the most beautiful girl of all.  He sees her for who she is, inside and out, and he realizes that in spite of her being a nerd, or shy, or even crossed-eyed, she’s the one he’s in love with!  Let’s face it, it’s not every girl’s fantasy to be loved because she is just like everyone else.  We want to be loved because we are who we are, and that’s good enough, in fact, better than good enough – it’s perfect. Look at one of the most popular entertainment genres out there – the musical.  Wicked, Billy Elliot, The Lion King, Footloose, Flashdance, Frozen, Matilda, even The Sound of Music – they all have one message in common – Be who you are, embrace it, show it to the world, and live the life you were born to live.

I was ridiculed a lot in high school by my peers for standing out, for dressing my own way, for being a little too loud and a little too peppy.  I had gone through all those years of elementary and middle school hiding behind the popular girls, and I was determined not to do that in high school.  No matter what, I was going to be myself, popularity be damned.  Here’s what I learned: yes, there were girls who hated me and boys who were annoyed by me, but I didn’t care, and in the end, it didn’t matter.  I was never “in” the popular crowd, but I was friends with them, along with every other group in school.  I never felt the need to fit in with anyone, and it turned out that I fit in with everyone.  And really, that’s the way it should be.  After all, as everyone under the age of 50 understands, “each one of us is a brain… and an athlete… a basket case… a princess… and a criminal.”  It’s when we stop hiding all of the facets of who we are that we are able to show the real person who lies beneath the mask.

There’s an old adage that the least popular kids in high school are the most eligible ones twenty years down the line.  So here’s my advice to the world, for what it’s worth.  Be yourself now.  Why wait?  Don’t worry about what others will say or think, just be the best you that you can be.  Take off your mask, and be proud of who you are.  Life is too short to live in someone else’s shoes, or their costume.

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 and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Her 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.