A New Beginning

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?

Sunset on Naxos

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.

Oia, Santorini

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.

Morgan and Amy in Santorini

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.

Morgan cliff jumping on Milos

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.

My baby is all grown up (Syros)

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.

Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos Island
You can see videos of our amazing adventure.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Glimpse of Paradise.

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).

Learning From the Past; Preserving the Future

img_3618Over 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?

IMG_3023I 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.

12-7-28Judging 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.

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Gram looking outI 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.

What I was writing about this time last year:  I Want to Be a Princess

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)

 

Food Memories

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. 

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My favorite holiday dish – fried oysters!

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.

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My dad’s stuffed ham, ready for Thanksgiving dinner.

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.

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From our house to yours, Happy Thanksgiving!

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Putting the THANKS back in Thanksgiving.

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 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.

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)

Mothers, Daughters, and Memories

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.

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! 

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. 

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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.

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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.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: A Season for Changes.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Helicopter Parents Are Raising Unemployable Children by Marcia Sirota of The Huffington Post; Husband’s Confused When Wife Climbs In The Crib. Then, He Learns The Heartbreaking Reason… by Jenny Brown on Shareably; 21 Highly-Anticipated Book Club Reads Coming This Spring by  on the BookBub Blog.

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.

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)

 

A Treasury of Memories

img_3610I 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.  

downloadsAs 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.

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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.

downloads2Morgan’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.  

rebeccas-21st-birthdayFor 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.  

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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.

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), Island of Miracles (2017)

 

Learning from the Past, Changing for the Future

10-pics 5October 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.

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)

Off the Grid

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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.IMG_0002
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.IMG_0093_KMLater 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. IMG_2136Back 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.IMG_0036Horseback 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. IMG_0079We all played several games of Poker, and we had visitors – a beautiful family that consisted of a buck, a doe, and two fawns.IMG_0102On 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.IMG_0150

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)

“Be Imitators of Me”

Amy 1st ComWhen I was growing up, I was closer to my grandparents than anybody else in the world. I spent a lot of my summers at their home and learned many lessons about life and love. I have tried to remember all that they taught me, and I hope I have imparted some of their knowledge and beliefs to my own children. The things I learned from them are timeless, and with the world they way it is today, I think everyone could benefit from their wisdom. Here are the top things they taught me, ranked lowest to highest.

 

  1. Money doesn’t grow on trees, but it’s not meant to hold onto forever.  Granddad didn’t believe in banks. Perhaps it was because he was born in 1916 and certainly witnessed the fear and despair brought on by the Great Depression. He always felt that his money was best kept in the wall safe in his house. But that didn’t mean that it stayed there like a stockpile that shouldn’t be touched. If Gram wanted a new pair of shoes (and that was quite often, really, QUITE often), Granddad never hesitated to take her shopping. I remember one time when the three of us were shopping together. Granddad asked, “What are those things on your feet?” I looked down and smiled. “My favorite shoes,” I replied, very proud of the stained, well-worn canvas shoes. “No granddaughter of mine should have shoes that look like that. You’re getting a brand new pair.” I don’t know why that story has always stuck out in my mind, but I do know that we went straight to the shoe department at Peebles, and I walked out with a new pair of shoes. I’m pretty sure Gram left with three new pairs, and Granddad left with a lighter wallet and a smile on his face.
  2. The early bird gets the worm. When I stayed at my grandparents’ house, one of my favorite things to do was to go crabbing with Granddad. The first book I ever wrote was about a day spent crabbing and was a tribute to the man I loved. He rose every morning before the sun came up and went to work. In the summer, that was on the water. In the spring and fall, it was in his fields. He worked early, when the day was cool, and rested in the afternoon when it was too hot to be outside. He knew the value of starting every day before dawn. Grandma was no different. I remember on the days I didn’t get up and go crabbing, Grandma would sneak into my bedroom early every morning to collect the clothes I had worn the day before. They were often washed and on the line before I was even out of bed. Then the chore was done for the day. We called grandma “The Laundry Lady” because of her insistence that all clothes should be washed, dried, and put away first thing every morning. It’s one thing I have yet to master, but I have always tried. And as a writer, you will always find me doing my best work early in the morning. I think it’s because Gram is whispering in my ear that “time’s a wasting” and I’d better get moving and get something done.
  3. Family dinners are essential.  Whether it was just for the five of us and my grandparents or the entire Morgan clan, my grandmother loved serving up a good, old-fashioned family dinner. Every Sunday, that was fried chicken, mashed potatoes, and a bounty of vegetables, bread, and desserts. There was always enough food for one more person at the table, or two or three. The door was always open, and everyone who dined with us was family. I was raised on the belief that families always eat together, and in a world in which most families rarely see each other for a single meal during the week, that’s such an important lesson to remember. I thank my grandmother for recognizing this and my own mother for instilling it in all of us. Though it can be hard at times, eating dinner together as a family is my favorite part of the day, and, like Gram, there’s always room for one more at the table, or two or three.
  4. It’s important to make everyone feel special.  Every man was Granddad’s buddy, and every woman was his sweetheart. It didn’t matter if he had known them his entire life, or if they were serving him coffee at a restaurant where he had never eaten. He learned their names, asked about their families, gave out hugs like candy, and always had a smile for everyone he came across. I don’t believe anyone ever left their presence without feeling like the most special person on earth. My grandparents lived by the words in Matthew 25:30, “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” I believe that Grandma and Granddad saw Jesus in each person they met, and they made sure that everyone felt it.
  5. Friends are friends, whatever their race, religion, or creed.  My grandparents were raised during a time when everything was determined by the color of your skin, where you went to church, and who your relatives were. There were lines that were not crossed. But I remember a young, black man who used to live and work near my grandparents. He could often be found helping out around my great-aunt’s store. Others may have looked the other way when they saw him coming, but not Granddad. They were friends, and that counted for something. Growing up in a neighborhood and attending a school in a white suburban area, I was profoundly affected by my grandfather’s friendship with this man. They remained friends until the day Granddad died, and I’m sure they’re both together now, drinking Coca-Cola and eating Hershey bars in Heaven.
  6. Family matters.  There was nothing that my grandparents wouldn’t do for their family.  If I wanted to spend time with them, all I had to do was call, and they were in the car and on the way. That doesn’t sound like a lot, but they lived an hour away, and they had very busy lives even in “retirement” (truth be told, I don’t think they knew what that word meant). But they were always there no matter what. My grandmother was definitely the mother hen in the family. She looked after her sisters and sisters-in-law like they were her children. Her own mother suffered a stroke early in life, and not a day went by that Gram wasn’t at her mother’s house helping to feed, bathe, and care for her. And no amount of complaining would allow us to stay home when she went over there. Family is family, and we were to all remember that and pitch in where needed.
  7. God should be the forefront of everything. I’ve heard that when my mother was a child, my grandfather rarely went to church. My grandmother would load up their four children and take them to church every week without fail, but Granddad usually stayed home. When I was a child, however, I never remember there being a time that Granddad didn’t go with us to Mass. I recall that he was always a few steps ahead of everyone else, finishing his prayers several beats before the rest of the congregation. I never understood why, and it always perplexed me. But for no reason that I can explain, I find myself doing the same thing. It always makes me feel like he is there praying the words right along with me. Granddad might have been slow to being a regular church-goer, but he was always faithful to God. The St Clement’s Island cross, marking the site of the first Mass in the New World, was built and erected by his own hands. He also made the Stations of the Cross that line the cemetery where he and Gram are now laid to rest. It wasn’t unusual to find a nun or a priest at the dinner table, nor was it unusual for either of my grandparents to say “Get in the car, we’re taking [fill in the blank] to the church.” Sometimes it was laundry or dinner, other times it was an apple pie or a pail of fresh-picked cherries. Grandma prayed every morning, and I still marvel at her ability to put everything else aside, every single day, in order to spend time with the Lord. They lived out Joshua 24:15 throughout their lives, “as for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.” And what better lesson could they have instilled in any of us?

Here is the thing that really stood out to me when I was thinking about all of this. My grandparents taught us all of these lessons and never said a word out loud about any of them. Everything we learned came from observation. They lived out each and every day according to the teachings of St. Paul, “Be imitators of me, as I am of Christ” (1 Corinthians 11:1). I only pray that I always remember what they taught me and that I am worthy of their legacy.

DSC09770On St. Clements Island in front of the cross that Granddad built.

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)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

Waves of Emotion

Almost ten years ago, Ken’s aunt and uncle made us a deal we couldn’t refuse.  Fifteen years earlier, they bought an above-ground swimming pool from a store that was going out of business.  They had every intention of putting it up in their yard for their two little girls.  Well, one thing led to another, life went on, and the pool sat unopened in their garage. Their girls had grown up, gone to college, and moved out, and the pool was of no use to them any longer.  The pool was ours if we were just willing to drive the two hours to pick it up and then figure out how to put it together.  It DSCN4727had no pump or filter and no ladder, but it was spring, so those things were readily available.  Ken went the very next day to pick up the pool, and I scoured Craig’s list for the missing pieces.  By the time Ken got home, I had secured a filter and pump, and a few weeks later, Ken’s sister had located a ladder.  

Ken spent every evening after work for the next month digging out and leveling our yard, piecing together the outer wall of the pool, and trying to stretch the liner that, after 15 years in a garage, had shrunk from its original size.  When the five of us finally pulled the liner into place and stood back and marveled at the giant (and I do mean giant) pool that we had constructed ourselves, it felt as it we were witnessing a miracle.  And oh what a blessing that pool was.DSCN4878

When I was growing up, there was just one thing I always wanted and begged for (except for my 4th grade horse phase).  That one thing was a pool.  Unfortunately, we never lived in a house that had the right yard for a pool.  You can imagine my elation when we had our own pool in our backyard for the girls, Ken, and myself to enjoy.  That first summer, we were in the water every single night.  

DSC02117We had one party after another, inviting friends and family to come over and enjoy our pool.  I can still close my eyes and hear the squeals of delight from the girls as we swam and splashed and played.  It was Heaven right in our own backyard.  Morgan, our swim team champion, was in the water literally from sunup until bedtime.  It’s a miracle she had any skin or hair DSC01878left by the end of the summer.  After a couple if years, we were able to build a deck, and I spent many hours that summer reading books on the deck while the girls swam.  

Alas, as happens in life, the girls grew older, and we all grew busier.  Morgan began spending so much time in the swim team pool, practicing and competing, that she no longer had the desire to swim at home.  If she had friends over, they swam, but otherwise, she seemed to forget that the pool was even there.  Katie and Rebecca had summer jobs that kept them away from the house for long hours, and they lost their love of being in the pool.  Ken started traveling a lot more, and to keep our family together as much as possible, we tried to travel with him whenever we could.  Even I, the girl who longed for a pool, found myself closed up in the house sitting in front of my computer.  Entire summers went by without me even putting on a bathing suit.

Last summer, I got very sick at the tail end of our family vacation.  When we got home, my doctor told me that the best thing for me to do was to spend 10-30 minutes a day in the pool.  That last week of summer was the most relaxing and rejuvenating week of my entire year.  I had forgotten how much I love to swim!  I love the feel of the water, the rhythmic pulse of a string of laps back and forth across the pool, the sun’s hot rays slicing through the cool water and creating a soothing bathtub sensation on my body.  I spent this past winter and the long, cold, wet spring looking out my kitchen window with a smile  This was the summer I was going to swim every day.

A few days ago, Ken pulled the cover off of the pool.  He climbed into the green, murky, stale water, and began cleaning it out.  He noticed a few cracks in the liner, some that looked rather bad, and realized it needed to be replaced.  He found this no easy task as the pool was now around twenty-five years old.  Settling on patching it up, he figured he could get another summer out of the liner while searching for a replacement.  He then retrieved the filter and pump from the shed, cleaned them, hooked them up, and then took them off and carried them into the garage.  The pool was filling, and as Ken worked on something with the pump, I anxiously watched and waited.  Would it be ready by Memorial Day?  It seemed to be taking so much longer this year for Ken to get it all put together.  How much longer would I have to wait?

At dinner last night, Ken announced that we had to make a decision as a family.  “I can’t fix the pump,” he told us.  The pool was too old, the parts no longer available.  A new system would cost upwards of $1000, and he didn’t want to even say how much the eventual liner would cost.  “I spend $2000 a year and countless hours on the pool, and nobody uses it any more.”  

No!  Wait!  What was this leading to?  Were my ears deceiving me?  I was going to use it!  I needed to use it!  We had to have a pool!

“We could build a huge gazebo in that area,” Rebecca excitedly said.

“Or a Michael Phelps practice lane,” Morgan enthusiastically chimed in.

“Or just use the money for our vacation,” Katie suggested.

I was silent.  Did they not see?  Did they not care?  This was my pool!  Our pool!  Where we spent so many good times years ago.  Years ago.  The thought echoed in my mind.  Where did the years go?  Why hadn’t I seized every opportunity to spend time in the pool with my family when we had the chance?  Why had we let other things get in the way?  Why had I spent my entire summer indoors instead of enjoying the one thing I had always wanted so much?DSC09617

I cried last night while Ken held me and apologized.  I know.  It’s a pool.  I get it.  There are far worse things in the world to cry about than the dismantling of a pool.  But it was more than just a pool.  It was my childhood wish, my family’s nirvana for a few short years, a project that we put so much work, joy, and love into.  

The next few days won’t be very much fun for me as I watch the pool come down little by little.  Our backyard will never be the same.  You see, even if we didn’t use the pool as much in the past few years as we could have, the possibility was always there.  But I guess my memories will always be there, too.  In my mind, the pool will always be used by three excited little girls, their laughing father, and their overjoyed mother.  It’s not possible to turn back the hands of time and redo all of those lost hours, but we can make sure we don’t repeat that mistake.  We may not have a pool this summer, but we have each other.  And really, that’s all we need.DSC09619

Gather ye rosebuds while ye may,

   Old Time is still a-flying;

And this same flower that smiles today

   Tomorrow will be dying.

Robert Herrick, 1591 – 1674

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

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

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events

The Family that Travels Together…

Explore. dream, discoverVacation planning time is upon us.  Tis the season when families are cementing their summer plans and dreaming about visiting exotic locales.  Growing up, our vacations always consisted of borrowing a friend’s condo at the beach for a week or traveling with my father on business to places like Dover, New Hampshire or Long Island, New York.  We didn’t go far, but we always had fun.  I’ll never forget the time we stayed at a motel outside of Williamsburg.  I still remember thinking that it had to be the grandest hotel in the world with its strawberry shaped pool and vending machines right in our hallway.  In my mind, it was truly a magical vacation that included stops in Colonial Williamsburg and the now extinct pottery factory, a must-see place for all travelers at the time.

When I was about nine, we traveled to New Hampshire where we toured the Budweiser Factory.  What I remember most was the visit to the stables where the famed clydesdales lived.  I can still picture one of those beautiful creatures as it leaned out of its stall to take a carrot from my little hand.  Again, it was magical for that horse-loving girl from the DC vacationsuburbs.  Another time, we spent a week at Bethany Beach with no plans other than to enjoy the sun and the surf.  Of course, it rained all day, every day, all week.  We played a lot of cards and went to the movies at least once.  We left without suntans, but I think we had more fun on that trip than any other trip we ever took as a family.

Ken and I have tried to give our girls plenty of unforgettable vacations.  IMG_2254We’ve done Disney, several times, and even took my parents there when our girls were very young.  My father had no interest in going and complained non-stop leading up to the trip that he had managed to avoid that mousetrap his entire life and couldn’t understand why he had to go now.  Of course, Dad will do anything for Mom, so he went.  About two days into the trip, we were laughing at the girls as they danced along with the Lion King, wearing their matching Alice in Wonderland dresses that I had hand-sewn.  My Dad turned to me with the biggest grin on his face and said, “You know, this really is the happiest place on earth.”  I smiled back with the knowledge that it wasn’t Disney World that produced all of that happiness.  It was all of us being there together.  Yes, you know it: magical.

As we begin planning our summer vacation, it makes my heart soar that our three girls, two in high school and one about to graduate from college (next year, deep breaths…) still look forward to taking family trips together every year.  We have been so very blessed to be able to take trips ranging from weekend camping trips, where we huddled in a tent in the pouring down IMG_2258rain, to trips to Europe.  One of our favorite memories was spending the night in a covered wagon in DeSmet, South Dakota on the land that once belonged to Charles Ingalls and which Laura wrote about in Little Town on the Prairie.

We’ve all heard it said that you will never look back on life and wish you had spent more time at work, but most people look back and wish they had spent more time with their family.  So I urge you, this summer, to make the time to take a vacation with your family.  It doesn’t have to be grand and exotic; it can even be at home.  It just has to be time that you spend together, playing, walking, exploring, learning.  Don’t sit in the house and watch TV.  Go out, find an adventure, and do it together.  Whether you travel to a faraway land or to a museum an hour away, make it magical.

“The world is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.” – St. Augustine

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015. Her next book, Whispering Vines, is now available for pre-order.

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

Amy’s books:

Crabbing With Granddad (2013)

A Place to Call Home (2014)

Picture Me (2015)

Receive Amy’s Newsletter for News about Books and Events