“Grandma always gathered her family for Sunday dinner, transforming the old scratched oak table into a royal banquet… Those times are long since past, and the old oak table now sits in our sister’s kitchen…but when she places a crocheted doily on the table and spreads an array of desserts and wines upon it, we go back in time to the days of our youth and a longing for a time so precious, so dear, that only in our minds can we go” (“Family Sustenance,” Country HomeMagazine, December 1994).
Those words were written by my mother and referred to the family dinner table that once sat in her grandmother’s kitchen and now sits in my aunt’s living room where many of our family gatherings are held. Oh, if that table could talk…
Last night, we had the opportunity to have dinner with our now married daughter and her husband at their new home. This is Rebecca and Anthony’s first Christmas living together and the first time they decorated their own Christmas tree. I stood for several minutes and looked at the ornaments from their combined childhoods and thought about all the years we’ve collected ornaments for our girls. It felt odd to see Rebecca’s ornaments on a tree other than our family tree, but it was a beautiful, comforting feeling to know that a big part of her childhood hangs on the tree in her new home. We are still tethered together by tradition even when miles apart.
When our family talks about my Great Aunt Sissie, someone always brings up her prize-worthy coconut cake. It’s as much a part of her as the country store she ran and the white hair on her head. Though Aunt Sissie is no longer with us, her recipe will live on through her grandchildren who still get together throughout the year to bake the cake in her memory.
Great Aunt Mary Alice made the best chocolate cake ever. It was a staple at family functions and is in our family cookbook. Thanks, Mom!
They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?
Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?
I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.
This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.
Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.
I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.
It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.
This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.
Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines, and Island of Miraclesare all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vineswas awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016. Island of Miracleshas outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. 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.
Over the past month, our family has spent a lot of time looking at pictures. My father-in-law, once an avid traveler and adventurer, now finds pleasure in perusing old family photo albums. Seeing all of the photos from the past, while at the same time putting together our family’s 2017 album, leads me to wonder about all of the pictures that people take today. I hear countless people talk about the thousands of photos on their phones. I cringe at the tales of those who have lost thousands of photos because of a phone failure. I recall all of the pictures my grandfather took throughout his life, so meticulously placed in albums and labeled with tender loving care. And I think about the albums I have put together every year since 1992 that my children still love to pull out and go through, laughing at their childhood antics and fondly recalling those who are no longer with us. How will it be for future generations when there are no longer any photos to see, no albums to leaf through, no tangible proof that any of us were here? I get that people are taking lots of pictures, but what do they do with those photos? Where do those memories go?
I wonder how many people have never created a photo album or even own printed photos, other than a few framed prints around their house. We all know people who have boxes of developed but undocumented photos stashed away somewhere or laptops filled with pictures with no idea as to whom or what are in them. We live in a world where most pictures depict someone’s face, with their forehead cut off or their tongue sticking out, that is here one instant and self-destructs the next.
My oldest daughter disagrees with me about this being a problem. She says that her generation takes more photos than any other, and they print and enjoy looking at them with their friends. She believes that the digital age has allowed the taking of photos to become more popular than ever. But that isn’t my point. The Professional Photographers Association claims that 42% of people no longer print photos. Some claim that this isn’t an issue because digital drives can be handed down from generation to generation. Yep, those old floppy disks full of pictures sure are valuable today, aren’t they? Or those flash drives that hold all of your family memories? How will those be accessed in twenty years? No problem, you say, because Instagram and Facebook hold a treasure-trove of photographic memories. Not true, my dear, not true. I noticed recently that even those photos only date back a few years. Facebook is deleting your memories, and I bet you didn’t even know it. Go ahead, check for yourself. All those pictures you shared several years ago are gone.
Things looks pretty dim for future generations when it comes to remembering what great-grandma looked like or how much someone resembles his grandfather.
Cameras are being sold at record low numbers. Everyone depends upon their phones for pictures, but once a digital image disappears, it’s nearly impossible to get it back. I recently read Map of the Heart by Susan Wiggs, a novel about a photographer who specializes in recovering newly discovered film from years gone by. Working with anthropologists, historians, and families, she’s able to identify POWs, MIAs, and other people whose pictures have survived the years, locked inside a roll of film in a forgotten camera. Will there come a time when there are no cameras, no never-before-seen film or even SD cards to help unlock secrets of the past? Adding to the problem is that most people who do print photos use cheap printers with ink that fades and have no idea how to actually go about properly preserving photos.
Judging by what I’m seeing and hearing, Ancestry.com is exploding with people looking for answers to their past. DNA tests are becoming commonplace among people from ages twenty to fifty. We are yearning for a connection to the past, a window to tell us who we are and from where we came. I can’t help but wonder if it’s because we no longer have as many photographs to help us find that missing link. No more photos of common things like preparing a meal or families enjoying a simple day at home. All photos are either staged for Instagram perfection or are filtered before being dispersed to cyberspace for a quick laugh and instant destruction.
I hope I’m wrong and that younger generations do realize what a gift they have with all of this modern technology and and will use it in a way that allows them to pass down cherished images to their children and grandchildren. I hope more people will begin taking and saving photos in some way or another instead of continuing down the road of only taking selfies that have no meaning and no lasting significance. I hope my daughter is right and that her generation of twenty-somethings are saving their photos in a way that will let their children and grandchildren see them. I hope everyone strives to preserve pictures of the past and of those important people who should never be forgotten but will not show up in any history book. Otherwise we are not only losing the Greatest Generation but our link to all generations since then.
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 Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas 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.
I love food. I love eating food. Staying on Weight Watchers for the past eighteen months has been a Herculean effort because I don’t want to count my portions and limit my intake. I want to eat it all. I must say, I’ve become very good at the art of restraint–most of the time. But here we are, about to celebrate Thanksgiving, and I plan to throw caution to the wind and eat everything I love without guilt. I may have to work extra hard over the weekend, but how can I resist? After all, food holds such wonderful memories for me.
My grandfather was a waterman, which meant that fish, crabs, and oysters were a staple at every important family gathering. Crabs not in season? No problem; there were always soft crabs and crab cakes in the freezer. There isn’t a time, when I sit down to eat crabs, that I don’t think of my grandfather. And though my father was never a waterman, I think of him every time I eat my all-time favorite food, oysters. Absolutely nobody makes them as good as he does, though I’m trying to perfect his recipe. One recipe I perfected years ago was for my grandmother’s crab cakes. Never in my life have I ordered them in a restaurant. For those of you who have tasted only restaurant crab cakes, you have no idea what a bite of Heaven a real, no-filler, all-crab-meat crab cake is. Once you taste one, you’ll be spoiled for life.
Oh… baked pineapple. I can never eat this sweet side dish (who waits for dessert?) without thinking of my Godmother and how I wish we still lived close enough to see each other several times a year. I shared her recipe on here a few years back, and it’s worth checking out. It’s one of the foods that I can never get enough of, and I think it’s because it reminds me that not everyone who is family is related to you. Some are family out of love.
And that reminds me of my two best friends. Debbie makes the most mouth-watering bacon-wrapped chicken you’ve ever tasted, and Anne’s baked goods are so life-changing that I can’t choose one to highlight. Maybe the Texas Sheet Cake that she makes like nobody else does. Or the fudge puddles with creamy chocolate inside a peanut butter cookie creation. Or the brookies, Morgan and Jacob’s favorite, that none of us has been able to replicate. I’m getting hungry (and packing on the pounds) just thinking about them!
I guess the bottom line is that food isn’t just sustenance for our bodies. In some ways, it’s nourishment for our souls. It creates a connection, a memory, a return to a cherished place in time long ago. I can’t taste hot chocolate without remembering how my mother always, so lovingly, had it ready and waiting for us when we walked into the house on a bitterly cold day. My father remarked recently that bread pudding reminds him of his mother and the wonderful dessert she made, using day-old bread, when he was a boy. The smell of Southern Maryland stuffed ham takes me back to holidays with my extended family in St. Mary’s County and to my wedding. My father and grandmother spent days in the kitchen making the unique entree for our 300 guests. I really thought we had a picture of the two of them making it, but I guess that’s a photo that only exists in my mind, along with all of my other food memories.
They say you are what you eat, but I think it’s more like, we become who we are partly through the foods we eat and love. They help form attachments, create cherished memories, and serve as a reminder of the people we love and those we’ve lost. That’s why food and meal times often play an important role in my books. My novel, Whispering Vines, contains many recipes, some of them given to me by my friend, actress Bianca Roses, which her Italian immigrant grandmother was more than happy to share (thank you Nonna Nina).
So, on this Thanksgiving, I wish you all bon appétit. Enjoy every bite you take, and remember with fondness those loved ones whose recipes have been passed down through your family. Let this meal and this time together create memories that will last a lifetime. And have another helping of pumpkin pie for me. I’ll be limiting myself. Maybe.
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 Meand Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016.Whispering Vineswas 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 on pre-sale and will be released on December 1, 2017.
Recently, I read an article in a magazine entitled, A Moment in Time: Try Not to Forget. It was the story of Laurel Miff’s visit to London with her grandmother who now suffers from Alzheimer’s. That trip is one of the few memories that Miff’s grandmother still recalls. “Whenever I visit her now,” Miff wrote, “she speaks of how we deftly made our way through the Tube from one London site to another, with barely a moment’s pause to enjoy a cup of tea.” The article brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the wonderful trip my mother and I took to Ireland. We spent our days, from sunup until long after the sun went down, touring site after site in city after city. Some nights, though exhausted, we laughed so hard we thought we might be booted from the hotel. We still love to joke about our Psycho experience in Kilkenny, our favorite town, where the hotel owner, bellhop, cleaning service, chef, and concierge were all the same person. Those eight days are among the most wonderful of my life, and I thank God that we were able to spend that time together.
Enjoying Irish Coffee in Kilkenny
Along the Ring of Kerry
Four years ago, when Rebecca graduated from high school, she had this crazy idea that a group of her friends and a couple moms (myself included) would drive cross country and back. I say crazy because this was when gas was over $6.00/gallon! Ken laughed and told her that, with all of the frequent flyer mileage he accumulates, he could fly her and me to Europe and back cheaper than she could drive halfway across the country! Well, he didn’t have to say that twice.
Rebecca spent the next couple months planning our trip, based on what she learned in two of her favorite classes: World History and World Geography. Over the course of three weeks, we visited seven countries on a budget of $6000, and no, I did not stay in any hostels. There comes a time, or an age, in life where you have to draw the line!
Mont St. Michel, France
Luxembourg City, Luxembourg
We knew that we had opened a real can of worms with two younger sisters eager to follow in our footsteps, but the trip was worth every penny spent then and will be worth what is spent in the future. Rebecca and I created memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. From walking around the ancient stones of Stonehenge on a chilly, windy day to seeing three different figures of royalty, live and in person (Queen Elizabeth II of England, The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Queen Beatrice of Denmark), to sipping wine and eating escargot at an outdoor cafe in Paris as we watched the passersby, the trip was magical.
In a few weeks, Katie and I will embark on our journey. While she has planned a week’s stay in London, we will be using the time there to venture out to places neither of us has seen: Bath, Windsor, Wimbledon, and a few others. We will then visit Scotland (alas, no trip to Craigh na Dun for me) and finish our trip in Iceland. It’s a completely different itinerary as Rebecca and Katie are very different people, but the end goal is the same. It’s a time for mother and daughter to renew our relationship, reminisce about the past, talk about the future, and create memories to last a lifetime.
I can’t figure out where the time has gone over the years of my life and the lives of my children, but I do know that I haven’t let it go by without trying to create as many lasting memories as I can. I cherish every moment I have with my mother as well as every moment with my girls. Sure, we have disagreements, and there are moments of drama, but I can honestly say that cross words are few and far between. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to have the mother I have and the daughters Ken and I have raised.
It’s a big world out there with lots to see and do. Take the time to see explore it, and take a friend. I highly recommend your mother, grandmother, or daughter. Create memories that are so good, even Alzheimer’s can’t cause them to fade. And I’ll remember you, my readers, in a few weeks as I sip my scotch and look out over the city of Edinburgh or stare at the volcanoes of Iceland. Raising a glass, I will toast to you, to travel, and to mothers and daughters everywhere.
Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me and Whispering Vines, are recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top three inspirational fiction books of 2015 and 2016. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.
I have spent the last few days working on digitizing our family photo albums. It’s a tedious task but one done with love. For the first fifteen years of my marriage, I meticulously recorded every event in our lives by hand–cutting, pasting, and decorating page by page until each scrapbook was perfect. By 2009, I had graduated to a digital camera and started creating all of my albums on my computer. It’s a mandatory family tradition that we all five gather, just after New Year’s, to “watch” the album on our big screen TV to critique, correct, and finalize the year of memories before I send the pages away to be made into a book.
As I’m going through each non-digital album, scanning in page after page, I’m reliving every little moment of the lives of my girls thus far (though to be honest, I have so many albums with so many memories, that I haven’t even begun to scan the “Katie and Morgan years”). It’s hard to believe that Rebecca, who turned twenty-one this past Sunday, was ever so small. Everything was recorded from her birth to her first laugh, her first crawl, and her first best friend.
Every year, my scrapbooks grew larger as I filled the pages with childhood milestones, family get-togethers, vacations, and, later, school memories. It is not an exaggeration to say that our albums fill an entire bookcase in our house. And the best part is that the girls really do love pulling them out and looking through them. Katie can see her Baptism, the first time she held her own bottle, the first time she lifted her head, ate spaghetti, and laughed at our beloved Granny.
Morgan’s early pictures from her birth to her first steps and first Halloween reveal her orneriness and her deep, genuine love for her best friend and big sister, Katie. As I look back at all of the fun times and cherished memories, I think of their closeness, and it makes me both happy and sad. Happy because I’ve never known two sisters who are closer than they are. Not that Rebecca isn’t greatly loved by her sisters, but a deep, unwavering bond exists between Morgan and Katie that I pray will always remain, and that is where the sadness comes in.
For you see, our albums are changing as the years go by. There are fewer photos of Rebecca as she leads a life away from home, and next year, my Katie will leave on her own new adventure. The Schisler Family Album for 2017 will portray senior portraits, law school and college acceptances, two graduations, and a world that consists of Mom, Dad, and Morgan, without Rebecca or Katie. It’s an unfamiliar landscape that is sure to bring ups and downs, highs and lows, and the promise of change around every corner.
At least I know one thing for sure. No matter where my children go, I will always have them tucked safely away inside my heart and on my bookshelf.
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 book, Whispering Vines,is a 2017 Illumination Award winner; and her most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale.
October 19, 1988 began like any other day. I was a Freshman in college, and I had a full day of classes. The morning went as usual, lunch was spent with friends, and then I moved on to my 1:00pm American Lit class. During the class, I was suddenly overcome with the most intense feeling of grief. It was all I could do not to cry, a feeling which many students studying Ahab’s quest for the mighty white whale may have felt, but one which I couldn’t logically explain at the time. For the rest of class, I had a hard time concentrating. All of my thoughts were consumed by the knowledge that my grandfather was starting chemo that day and the belief that something had gone terribly wrong. After class, I reported to my job at the campus library and began shelving books. Not too long after arriving at work, I looked up to see my roommate and one of my best friends from high school heading toward me, their expressions giving away their mission.
“Your Dad called,” was all I needed to hear.
“I know,” I told my roommate. “I knew the moment it happened. My grandfather is gone.” I remember collapsing in her arms but remember little else about the following few days. One thing that I will never forget is hearing the number 400 over and over again. That’s how many people joined in the procession that took us from the funeral home to the church. Police were at every intersection. Traffic lights flashed rather than turned, and cars pulled off the road to pay their respects to a man who was known and loved far and wide by every person he ever met.
When my grandfather called a girl, a young lady, or a woman, “sweetheart,” there was no hidden meaning, no sexual undertone, nothing sexist or bigoted. There was only admiration and respect. And the females loved him because he made them all feel special. It wasn’t a lewd thing. It was an appreciation for them and for what they represented–wives, mothers, waitresses, nurses, teachers, business women. He opened doors and tipped his hat. He was a true gentleman, and everyone who knew him respected him for that.
It has long been rumored that our family has Indian blood in it, and one look at Granddad during the summer months always convinced me of the rumor’s truth. His rich copper-colored skin soaked up the sun, and his incredibly thick, white hair, once jet black, made his baseball cap sit high upon his head. I’m not sure I ever saw him happier than when he was outside working his fields or steering his boat. Except when he was with his family. There was nothing more important to my grandfather than his family. The love he poured onto all of us was apparent to all. He was a provider, a loving husband, father, and grandfather. He was a loyal friend, someone who never turned his back on anyone no matter their color, religion, or status in life. He was a man of high moral character and integrity who went to church, volunteered in his parish and community, and counted his friends by the hundreds.
He was also a hard worker. Granddad was a civilian employee at Patuxent River Naval Base, but he was also a farmer and a boatbuilder. When he retired from the base, he added waterman to his list of occupations. He planted gardens, both for food and for beauty. He built boats, furniture, houses, and anything else that struck his fancy, and he built them to last (I still own and use furniture that he built with his own hands). At some point in his life, he took up photography and meticulously put together album after album of family memories. In his sixties, he took up winemaking. At seventy, he not only quit smoking but quit growing tobacco. His decision to stop smoking and stop promoting the habit gave him a new lease on life, but it was a short lease. Unbeknownst to him, cancer had already made its home in his lungs.
I’ve taken you on this trip down memory lane not only because Granddad is on my mind today but because he is what we are missing in this world. We should all be striving every day to be like Buck Morgan and to raise our children to be like him–to respect everyone; to treat everyone as if they matter; to love our friends, family, and God with all our hearts, and to show that love at all times; to open doors and tip hats; to work hard without asking for more; to live within our means; to go to church and understand that it’s the least we can do as children of God; to smile at everyone; to make each moment count; and to never be afraid to try new things, make new friends, achieve a new goal, or search for a higher purpose.
Once the dust clears from this awful election, I pray that we can return to civility. I pray that we all recognize what we’ve become and vow to stop this plague from spreading. Let’s all try to live lives of charity, love, respect, honor, and goodness. Let us all, within our own families, plant gardens, harvest fields, build lasting memories, and raise a generation that appreciates what it has, works hard to have a better life, and understands the things that matter. I believe we owe it to ourselves, our children, and our past generations. I also believe that it’s never late to try. My grandfather would agree.
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.
We had a problem at camp this year that we’ve never had – complaints from adults and girls alike that the teen counselors spent too much time on their phones. I was actually quite surprised considering a HUGE part of their training revolves around the rule that they are NOT to be on their phones at camp. No campers are supposed to know that anyone even has a phone. Teens (and adults) who have phones with them are to refrain from being on the phones unless they are on break or after the girls are in bed. I was disappointed, but I can’t say I’m surprised. After all, I just recently wrote a blog about why we need to start putting our phones down and enjoying life.
I sometimes wonder if today’s young people have any idea that they can actually exist without being on their phones. They’re either texting, or snap chatting, or instagramming, or tweeting, or uploading to FaceBook, YouTube, or Tumbler. They’re looking at posts, watching vines, or playing games. It is any wonder that employers complain that today’s recent graduates have no socials skills?
For the past week, we have been living in paradise. We’ve been at our second home in the San Juan range of the Rockies in Southern Colorado. Our girls each brought a
friend with them, and though we tried to prepare them, I don’t think they really believed us when we kept saying that there was no cell service at our cabin. That means a week of no texting, no chatting, no posting, and no calling. For the first twenty-four hours, I wasn’t sure these poor kids were going to survive. Slowly, they started to come alive. They noticed the low-hanging clouds over the mountains, the way the morning mist clings to the treetops, and the wildlife that lives around the mountain. They went four-wheeling to look for deer, and they began to talk about which day they were going to get up at five to see the sunrise.The next day, the whole gang went white water rafting. They had to brave the icy cold waters, racing rapids, and light rain without any contact with the outside world. Not only did they all survive, they had the time of their lives. There was no need to find satisfaction through electronic devices when the world at their fingertips had so much to offer.Later that day, they pulled out the puzzles, and that evening, they played a board game. The next night, after a day of white water rafting, they brought out the cards. Uno led to blackjack, and the stakes were high – a collection of lollipops and chocolate bars.
They woke at four the next morning to tackle something that none of the visiting friends had ever done. They climbed one of the highest mountains in the continental United States — Handes Peak, which stands at 14,048 feet. I will admit that they were thrilled to discover that there is LTE service at over 14K feet. They all called their moms back home in Maryland and posted pictures of their accomplishment. Then it was back to the land of no service. Back at the cabin, everyone was rewarded with s’mores as a rainbow lit up the evening sky. The kids ate quickly, and we enjoyed playing Dominoes until late into the night.Horseback riding on the high plains of the Rockies took the gang out of their element once again, and there was no mention of not being able to text or call anyone. Over the course of the two and a half hour trail ride, we all talked and took in the scenery with no mention of phones or social media. That night, we enjoyed watching the Olympics without anyone even asking about which athlete or sport was trending on Twitter. We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.On the day we left, some of us woke up to see the sunrise over the mountains. Though there were plenty of pictures taken to be shared once they had service, there were also memories made that can be shared with others for many more years than those photos will be around. While I know that this will all change one we get back to civilization, I like to imagine that these kids might actually think twice the next time they face the choice between their phones and a bike ride, or a walk in the woods, or any other activity. I hope that the the thing they will remember the most from this vacation is the reason why I love spending time at our cabin high in the Colorado Rockies – it’s a reminder of how wonderful life is when you you stop letting other things get in the way of actually enjoying life.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.