Holiday Reminders

Is your Thanksgiving turkey thawing?

Have you started your Christmas to-do list?

Have you begun planning your holiday schedule?

I’ve been hard at work getting my to-do list together, planning my decorating, coordinating activities with my family, putting together our Christmas card, and trying to remember everything else I need to tend to.

As we begin the holiday hoopla, it occurs to me that we all need a few reminders to keep us on track this season. Here are the things that will be at the top of my Reminders List. Read more

The Top Ten Reasons Easter is Irrelevant

DSC09185I read a news piece recently that said that the majority of Americans believe that Easter has become irrelevant and that celebrating it is “a waste of time,” “meaningless,” and “completely unnecessary.” While I will not argue that too many people associate Easter with Peter Cottontail rather than Christ, I was surprised at the vehemence of some of the respondents. So I gave it a lot of thought, and I’ve come up with a Top Ten List of why Easter has become irrelevant in our present-day society. Counting backwards:

10.  Easter parades just tie up traffic and cause delays. Of course, parades are often associated with holidays, but the Easter parade began, not as a celebration but as a procession. In the Mid-1800s, Christians processed to Mass on Easter Sunday, wearing their new Easter clothes after a long, forty-day period of fasting and abstaining. Onlookers gathered to watch the church-goers go by in their new, spring clothes. For many families, Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, was the only time when new clothes and shoes were purchased. Of course, today, we have the luxury of purchasing new clothes, shoes, toys, housewares, electronics, and anything else we want, every day of the week. Like so many other practices, the purchase of an Easter dress is just another tradition that we can get rid of. Who needs to celebrate the putting on of new clothes after emerging from Lent a new and better person?

9.  Those silly little Easter eggs are completely pointless. Why would anyone want to look for those when they can find virtual reality creatures instead? After all, the tradition of using eggs to symbolize the Resurrection is so out of date. Lost is the reason for the eggs: the hard shell being cracked open in representation of the empty tomb. Eggs were once only painted red, a reminder of the blood that Christ shed on the cross. Even outside of Christianity, the egg is used in many cultures as a symbol of life and rebirth. But who cares about celebrating life anyway?

8.  Easter egg rolls have no meaning and are a waste of time.  Unless, of course, you use the activity to relate to your children that the eggs are rolled to remind us that the stone sealing Jesus’ tomb was rolled away, revealing the risen Christ.

7.  But why the Easter Bunny? Surely this is a ridiculous and silly tradition. It’s hard to argue that the visitation of the gift-bearing bunny on Easter morning is anything but a commercial invention to sell more chocolate. Of course, many people don’t know that German immigrants, in the 1700s, brought to the United States the tradition of the Easter Bunny, a sign of life and rebirth. Osterhase was a colored-egg laying hare for whom children built nests in which the hare could lay her eggs. But of course, teaching children about ethnic traditions, caring for the world’s creatures, and building homes for others are just more wastes of time.

 

6. Forcing kids to put down their phones and other electronic devices in order to enjoy time in the outdoors or with their relatives is a waste of their potential. Why use their brains to hunt for eggs when their phones can locate the exact geo-location of some trinket or useless “treasure” or even better, the elusive Pokemon character, Magmar (yes, I had to look that one up).

 

5.  Taking a Sunday off from watching  baseball, NASCAR, and other sporting events to spend time with family is just ridiculous. After all, the other sports fans play a much larger role in your life than your family, and maybe you’re one of the lucky ones whose parents and siblings will live forever. You can see them any time.

4.  Easter is only about receiving chocolate, and I can eat that whenever I want.  Somewhere, I believe I was taught that Easter is about receiving Salvation, but I suppose that’s not important anymore since we have all we could ever need in this current life. Why worry about a possible life beyond?

3.  Easter Sunday Mass is just another, boring hour of being lectured about some guy who died two-thousand years ago. Nobody today needs to hear about Jesus. He was just some prophet who walked on the earth, cured the blind and lame, fulfilled all of the ancient prophesies about a Messiah, including those about His crucifixion, and then rose from the dead. As they say, those stories will never last. Soon, He will be forgotten like all those who claim to be something or someone they are not. What’s two-thousand years anyway?

2.  The return of the singing of the Gloria and the resounding Alleluia after forty-days of solemn celebrations doesn’t need to be heard, and the Gospel of the Resurrection doesn’t need to be told. Our children will learn about and understand the importance of the life, death, and resurrection of Christ in school and from their friends. Oh wait… maybe not. Oh well, I guess it’s just not important then.

1.   There is no reason to view the Resurrection as a glimpse into the afterlife, the promise of a world yet to come for those who believe. We have everything we could ever want right here, right now. We have everlasting peace, the elimination of poverty, hunger, and strife, only benevolent and loving rulers, and the promise that we can live for all eternity in harmony and tranquility. Right? There’s no reason to hope for a new life, a life of splendor and glory, a life in which we will rise from our earthly graves and experience pure ecstasy with our loved ones and our creator. Don’t you agree? I guess you’ll have to answer that question for yourself. As for me and my family, we will spend Sunday morning singing, praising, and worshiping, while wearing our new Easter dresses, and will then host a giant Easter egg hunt with our friends and extended family. You are welcome to join us.

Brothers and sisters:
If then you were raised with Christ, seek what is above,
where Christ is seated at the right hand of God.
Think of what is above, not of what is on earth.
For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God.
When Christ your life appears,
then you too will appear with him in glory.  —  COL 3:1-4

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Embracing the Romance.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Technology Has Forever Changed Our Way of Thinking. Here’s How to Take it Back by freelance art director, Cristina Vanko; What is “brain hacking”? Tech insiders on why you should care aired on 60 Minutes, April 9, 2017.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me  and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines has just been awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

Holiday Thoughts

IMG_0095Here are some thoughts I wanted to share with my readers as we approach Christmas and the New Year:

It’s okay if your children don’t get everything on their wish list.  It’s important for them to learn that, in life, we don’t always get everything we want.

Giving really is more important than receiving.  Enjoy the thrill of watching someone open a gift you picked out just for them.

It’s okay to say Happy Holidays, or Merry Christmas, or Happy Hanukkah.  Every situation and circumstance is different, and we don’t live in a one-size-fits-all world.

No matter what you are celebrating this time of year, don’t forget the reason for the season.

Enjoy every minute you spend with your family this holiday season.  You really don’t know where you will be next year.

Say a prayer for those who aren’t able to be with their own family at this time because they are risking their lives by serving us and our country – police officers, firefighters, and our military.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, and Happy New Year!

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home 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. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html

You may follow her at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Making Memories

IMG_3301Our family has many traditions that we observe throughout the year.  When it is somebody’s birthday, we eat in the dining room and the birthday girl (or husband) eats on the “It’s your special day” plate that was given to us by dear family friends when my first daughter was born.  At Easter, the girls fill their baskets with dyed Easter eggs, the same baskets they have been using since each of them celebrated her first Easter.  We always take a family portrait on the 4th of July, each one of us decked out head-to-toe in red, white, and blue.  But there is no other time throughout the year that is more steeped in tradition for our family then during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

For many years, my mother and I were part of the millions of people who spent all day shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.  Two things that have happened in recent years have changed that for us: the first was the transferring of all of the best sales to Thanksgiving Day (we refuse to leave our family dinner table to go shopping), and the second was Rebecca’s Freshman year of college.  Since Rebecca leaves the Sunday after Thanksgiving to head back to school and doesn’t return until just before Christmas, we now spend that weekend decorating our house and putting up our tree instead of running to the mall.  It takes an entire day to strip all of the shelves and tabletops of all of our framed pictures, dozens of books, and many collectibles from our travels and replace them with our extensive nutcracker collection and the Nativity sets that my husband and I have brought back from all over the world.  The nutcracker collection really belongs to the girls.  Rebecca started the collection the Christmas she was three after seeing the Nutcracker on stage for the first time.  Over the years we have all added to the assemblage and have now amassed nearly 100 in the form of everything from the original Nutcracker Prince to my prized Washington Redskin.  Most of these will go with the girls when they get married, which leads me to the next tradition that we hold very dear, one that was actually started by my parents when I was a baby.

Every year when we put up our tree, everybody in the family gets a new ornament representative of something special that happened in their lives that year.  Some of Rebecca’s ornaments include a clarinet, a field hockey player, and, of course, her graduation cap.  Katie has an artist’s palette, a drama mask, and a piano.  Morgan’s ornaments include a swimmer, a bow and arrow, and a lacrosse player.  Just as I did when my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas after we were married, each of our girls will take their ornaments with them when they start their own married lives so that they have ornaments for their first tree.

Of course, the most cherished traditions of the Christmas season are the times we spend with family and friends.  This weekend, we will open our home to our closest mother-daughter friends for our 10th Annual Mother-Daughter Cookie Swap.  This year, the participants will make 14 dozen of their favorite kind of Christmas treat ( which may be cookies, or fudge, or bread), and everyone will take home 14 dozen different kinds of treats for the holidays.  I will prepare a gourmet meal to serve them and make homemade gifts for each of them to thank them for their friendship and support over the past year.  Later in the week, our family will enjoy Christmas Eve dinner with my extended family and Christmas Day dinner with Ken’s extended family.  It’s a lot of work, yes, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything  in the world.

New Year’s Eve will find us once again opening our home to friends as the girls will host their 14th New Year’s Eve sleepover!  Why do we do all of this, I’m sure many will ask.  Why not, I say!  What is life if we’re not truly living it, making the most of it, and creating memories and traditions that will go on for generation after generation?  I know that when my children are grown and have busy lives of their own, these will be the things they will cherish – not the materials things, the nutcrackers or the ornaments – but the memories that go with them.  And when you think about it, that’s all we can really take with us when we go, so let’s all make memories that count.

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels.  Her first book, A Place to Call Home 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. https://amyschislerauthor.com/amyschislerauthor.com/Books.html

You may follow her at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com

Giving Thanks

1459342_10152131697541349_1446286180_nOh, the hustle and bustle of the holidays!  Is there any sweeter sound than the melody of family gathered together to celebrate a holiday, or any occasion?  We have had the same Thanksgiving tradition for the past twenty-one years.  We head to my mother’s house (about two hours from our home) the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at whatever time the girls’ afternoon activities end.  This year, it was after Katie’s evening piano practice (Christmas recitals begin on Sunday!).  We met our oldest, Rebecca, halfway to Mom’s.  She was able to get a ride with a friend at college, about three hours from home.  As soon as we entered the house, the smells of Thanksgiving were already in the air: pumpkin bread, chocolate chip bars, Southern Maryland stuffed ham, and Mom’s famous ham and bean soup just for my husband to have for Wednesday’s lunch.  For those who have never had the pleasure, stuffed ham is like eating a little slice of Heaven on earth.

This morning, my three nephews arrived to join in the fun and laughter shared by my three daughters and my niece.  I thought they were supposed to get quieter as they got older, but no, the raucousness never ends; and what a beautiful sound that is!  Later today, they will make gingerbread houses to take home to display throughout the holidays, and Mom and I will begin cooking the turkey.  By the time we go to bed tonight, the smell of turkey will fill every corner of the house.

When we gather around Mom’s dining room table tomorrow afternoon, we will all take turns thanking God for what we are most grateful.  That includes the presence of every person at our table and those no longer with us.  Then we will feast on turkey and stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, Grandma’s famous rolls, a plethora of vegetables, and (my own favorite) my father’s incomparable fried oysters, fresh from the Bay.  One of our traditional favorites at every holiday meal is my Godmother’s baked pineapple, a delicious mixture of pineapple and other ingredients that melts in your mouth.  See below for a special treat for you, my readers!

Once we have finished eating and cleaning up the dishes, we say goodbye to my family and head back across the great Chesapeake Bay to spend the rest of the day with Ken’s family.  We arrive just in time to eat again!  This time, our choices include pumpkin pie, homemade cookies, cheesecakes, and my double chocolate chip pound cake.  The day usually ends with a rousing long-distance run of Dominoes, from the double fifteen down to blanks!  Christmas decorating will begin on Friday as the holidays have officially begun.  There will be a lot of eating, a lot of driving, and a lot of family togetherness, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s these times for which I am most grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Godmother Judy’s Baked Pineapple (as mentioned in my upcoming novel, Picture Me – Sarah Book Publishing, Spring 2015)

Ingredients:

6 pieces of  toasted bread, buttered                            1 15oz can of crushed pineapple

1/2 cup of sugar                                                           1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla                                                        1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Heat oven to 350.

In a greased 2 quart casserole dish, combine the pineapple and its juice with the sugar, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Add slices of toast, torn into small pieces.  Stir and mix well until all bread is coated with the pineapple mixture.  Cut the remaining toast into small squares, and arrange over the top, covering the pineapple mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve hot and enjoy!

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