Phenomenal Cosmic Power

aladin5.jpgYesterday, my daughter, my mother-in-law, and I went to see the new live-action release of Disney’s Aladdin. As with all of Disney’s films, it was a spectacle for the eyes and a sweet concoction for the ears. I was surprised that only Jasmine and Aladdin seemed Middle-Eastern. Those were some lily-white inhabitants of Agrabah! Overall, though, the acting was superb,, the score was enchanting, and we really enjoyed the film, except for one thing that completely ruined the ending for me and left me feeling very much out of sorts…

Most of you probably know that the story of Aladdin comes from The Book of One Thousand and One Nights (also known as The Arabian Nights). The story actually takes place in China, where Aladdin is a poor boy living on the streets in a nameless Chinese city. His mother is persuaded by a sorcerer to allow Aladdin to retrieve an oil lamp from a magical cave. The sorcerer double-crosses Aladdin, who becomes trapped in the cave. A magical ring allows Aladdin the means to escape the cave with possession of the lamp. The genie turns Aladdin into a wealthy prince, and he marries the sultan’s daughter. There is more than one genie involved but no magic carpet.  

In Disney’s version, the genie, a being of of “phenomenal cosmic power,” is the star of the show (the Broadway version leaves no doubt about this and is a spectacular must-see). In the animated version, Aladdin and the genie trick the sorcerer into wishing he was a more powerful genie, and alas, the genie becomes the one trapped–not in a cave but inside a lamp. The live-action version plays out almost the same EXCEPT, the sorcerer does not wish to become a the most powerful genie in the universe. No, in this newest retelling, the sorcerer wishes to become the “most powerful being in the universe.” The genie takes that to mean a more powerful genie, thus relegating Jafar to life in a lamp. Alls well that ends well. But not with me.

As my daughter, Katie, pointed out when we were discussing this almost insignificant and nearly missable word change at dinner, who decided that a genie is more powerful than God? There can be no doubt that everyone involved in the production of that scene, from the writers to the actors to the producers, knew and understood the change.  How could they not? It was a deliberate switch of words and a profound change in meaning. 

Let me be honest here. I love the Disney films. Yes, even the ones where the princess needs rescuing and child-bride Snow White gets her fairy tale wedding. There is something wholesome and fun about them that always brings out the kid in me. I delight in the music, and I’ve spent more than my fair share of money at Disney theme parks. And yes, our family are big Harry Potter fans despite the “magic.”

I am a believer that there IS magic in the world. Perhaps not in the likes of the boy wizard, Harry, or the sorcerer Jafar, but a beautiful, Holy Spirit-infused kind of magic that can be both tangible and ethereal. Moses parted the Red Sea. Elijah was taken to Heaven in a chariot. Jesus sent possessed demons into swine and cured blindness. Even today, the power of prayer has befuddled the medical community in many ways. How can any of that happen without a certain kind of magic? 

The point being that GOD is magic. God is the source of miracles. God is the epicenter of all that is good, all that is possible, all that is known, and all that is unknown. He alone is the most powerful Being in the world. For Disney to change that one little word, is to change the entire makeup of the universe. When I heard it, it was as if the theater went dark, and the action on the screen came to a screeching halt. For the rest of the movie, that line echoed in my mind. In a split second, Disney relegated God to less than nothing–a being less than nothing when compared to the magic and capabilities of a genie. But unlike the genie, God is real. He is alpha and the omega. He is the real friend we all need.
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Yes, it was only a movie, but to me, it was just one more sign that Hollywood is trying to infiltrate the hearts and minds of those who follow the one, true, supreme being–to subtly distort our views and corrupt our beliefs. And they’re doing it one tiny word at a time. 

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: Withdraw From Your Cares.

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).

 

 

Yearning to Be Free

everything-everythingLast night, the girls and I watched a very good and interesting movie. It was your typical teenage girl’s romance in many ways, but there was an unexpected twist (unless, like my girls, you read the book by Nicola Yoon) that has me thinking about parenting in today’s world. The movie, Everything, Everything, centers around Maddy, a seventeen-year-old girl who suffers from Severe Combined Immunodeficiency Disease, or SCID. Maddy cannot leave her house – ever. Any visitors, and there are practically none, must enter through a decontamination chamber and be sanitized, before being allowed into the house, and must keep their distance from Maddy. For seventeen years, Maddy contentedly lives life through books and movies, but all that changes when Olly moves in next door.

SPOILER ALERT

The story revolves around Maddy’s ever-increasing desire to experience life outside of her house. She longs to sit in the same room and have a real conversation with Olly, a compassionate seventeen-year-old boy whose father is abusive and can’t hold down a job, forcing the family to move every few months. Once Olly manages to convince Maddy’s nurse to let him in, being together is not enough for the two teens. The young couple wants to date, to experience the world together; and Maddy begins to ponder the age-old questions, what would you do for love, and would you risk your life to be happy? Once she decides that the answers are “everything” and “yes,” the story takes a turn that those unfamiliar with the book would never see coming. 

WARNING – MAJOR PLOT TWIST REVEALED

What would you do for love? Would you risk someone else’s life to ensure your own happiness? As a mother, watching the revelation that Maddy’s mother had been lying for her child’s entire life, those questions had more meaning.  A doctor, with a clear understanding of what her daughter would have to endure, Maddy’s mother lied to Maddy, and everyone else, from the time Maddy was a baby. After losing her husband and Maddy’s brother in a car accident, Dr. Whittier decided that the only way to never lose Maddy was to keep her locked inside their home forever. It’s truly the kind of stuff that fairy tales are made of. The mother locks the daughter in the castle until the young prince or knight or other charming male comes along and rescues the fair maiden. And as in most fairy tales, the viewer (or reader) is cheering for Maddy and Olly to break out and be free even though the truth about Maddy’s condition isn’t known until the end of the movie.

But what if we aren’t talking about a fairy tale? What if a parent spent a child’s entire life keeping the child locked inside as a way to protect her? Impossible? Not really. I look around today and see many parents doing just that. Sure, their kids are allowed to go outside and play and be with other kids or go to school, but where is mom? Often times, mom is right there beside them. At school, at the pool, at camp, and everywhere else. I see moms unable to let their children fall, make mistakes, get hurt, or fail. A child cries, and mom is right there to pick up the pieces, but what does that do to the child? Does she become a strong, independent person who can contribute to society, or a person who has no idea how to live in the real world, solve her own problems, and find her own place where she can truly be the person God intended?

A recent study revealed that “95% of college counseling centers across the nation reported that they are concerned with the growing amount of psychological issues that they are seeing students enter college with, due to helicopter parenting.” According to the article, young adults today have a higher rate of suicide, a higher dependence on prescription drugs as well as recreational drugs, and a harder time taking control of their adult lives. Take a look at this graphic and tell me if you think there may be a correlation between the amount of young people unable to get a job and the rise in helicopter parenting.

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Am I a perfect mom? No way. Every day I make mistakes.  Every day I am learning. Every day I am trying to find where I fit into the ever-changing lives of my daughters. Every day I want to be better than I am. Every day I wonder what I’m doing right and what I’m doing wrong. And I try to fix what I’m doing wrong, not what they’re doing wrong. And that’s where I feel we have to draw the line. Because in truth, our children are yearning to be free, to be their own persons, to be successful, to have their own lives, and even make their own mistakes. By hovering over them at all times, not allowing them to make their own decisions and their own mistakes, and insisting that they always be within our sights, we are holding them back – plain and simple.

Interestingly, a sign that you’re a helicopter parent is the amount of time you talk to your adult child. Millennials talk to their parents 8.8 times per week, with 86% of first-year college females communicating frequently with their mothers. This is where I have to disagree with the professionals. I talk to my mother every single day. And I have some form of conversation with my grown daughter every day. Sure, I give her advice, but I try to do so only when she asks. And only after I ask her how she thinks she should handle it. I’m not always good at that, but I do try. I hope that, rather than solving problems for my children, I have and do instill in them the ability to solve problems for themselves. It’s not always easy seeing the distinction, but it’s imperative. Have I overstepped? Sure, I have. But I hope that my mistakes have been lessons for my girls as well as for me. 

Cover-001.jpgThis fall, I will be releasing my next children’s book, The Greatest Gift. Ironically, it’s about a king and queen who lock their daughter in a tower in order to protect her from the world. While it is a young man who eventually takes her from the castle, it is the princess who ultimately decides when, how, and with whom she will leave. Like Maddy, she is able to break free from the prison imposed upon her by her parents. Will other young adults today be able to do the same?

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Seeking the Silver Lining.

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/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)

 

Hidden Figures and Orbiting the Stars

DSC07225.JPGOver the weekend, my husband and I saw the new movie, Hidden Figures. When we left the movie, I was filled with regret. Regret that we had not taken our daughters with us. Regret that the world is filled with people who only see the color of skin. Regret that not all people are valued for who they are and what they have to offer rather than how they look.

But in addition to all of the regret, I felt an enormous amount of love for my neighbor, awe for those who possess abilities which I do not, and respect for all people. What those three women, Dorothy Vaughn, Mary Jackson, and Katherine Johnson, contributed to our country was far greater than their work on the space program. They proved to the world that genius is not dependent upon economic status, ethnicity, or skin color. Unfortunately, they had to wait over 50 years for the general public to know their names or even care about whom they are. Why weren’t their accomplishments celebrated along with John Glenn’s or Alan Shepherd’s?  Why did their talents have to be “hidden”? The more I think about it, the angrier I become.

In spite of the problems in our country today between people of different colors, we have come a long way. I feel very fortunate to live in a time when my children don’t feel more capable or deserving because of the color of their skin. I feel sad and angry that there are still children who are taught and believe the opposite. Why should the fact that someone is of another race matter in the grand scheme of life?  Why should men, even today, have more opportunities than women?  God doesn’t care what color you are, what gender you are, where you live, or how much money you have. He only cares that you’re a good person.  Why can’t we all see each other through His eyes?

I urge everyone to go see Hidden Figures. And then I implore them to think about where we are in our society and where each of us is in how we think about others. When we speak of other people, do we refer to them by their skin color? Most people will say, yes. And I ask why? Why is that what we see when we look at someone? Why can’t we see past color and see into the soul?

When our oldest, Rebecca, was little, she could be heard saying, “See that black man…” or “See that purple girl…” or “That red boy…” Ken and I always corrected her by saying, “the man in the black shirt,” “the girl in the purple shirt,” etc.  In hindsight, I wish we hadn’t. Of course, we were afraid that others, overhearing the way she referenced people, would be offended. But we were wrong. I would so much rather everyone refer to people by the color of their clothes and not the color of their skin. It’s one of the many lessons I’ve learned from my children. It just proves the ages old adage that children really are colorblind when it comes to seeing other people. If only everyone could see others the way young children do. Perhaps our world would have far fewer hidden figures and many more people breaking barriers and orbiting the stars.

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 most recent book, Whispering Vines, a 2017 Illumination Award winner, is now available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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)

I Want to Be a Princess

princess-cinderella-and-katieWhen Katie Ann was a little girl, all she wanted was to be a princess.  She had big dreams of growing up, moving to Disney World, and becoming any one of the famed Disney princesses.  Jasmine was her favorite, but she gladly would have been Cinderella or Snow White.  For her, it was all about the makeup and the dresses.  In her mind, being a Disney princess was the only way to guarantee that she could spend the rest of her life wearing fancy gowns and heavy makeup while making people happy.  Thankfully, she grew out of that phase and is looking at more sustainable career choices.  But who can blame her?  I think almost every little girl goes through a princess phase of some sort.  Luckily for my generation, we had two princesses to emulate who weren’t as superficial as the Disney variety.

There were two princesses in my life, two very different women, who taught me all I needed to know about what kind of princess I could be.  One of them was real, a true royal, whose insecurities and endearing flaws made her loved by people in all nations, the world over.  The other, a fictional princess, was brash, bold, and fearless.  She could hold her own in a duel while wearing nothing but chains and a bikini.  Both women defined the word “princess” for a whole generation, and both were lost to us at much too young an age.

At the age of seven, I sat in a movie theater for two hours, unable to breathe.  A twenty-year-old Carrie Fisher portrayed a princess the likes of which the world had never seen.  She was pretty (in spite of the doughnut hairstyle), witty, clever, and brave.  Her aim with a lightsaber was dead-on, and it was her quick thinking and her bold ideas that led to the defeat of the Empire.  She was a force to be reckoned with.  She was the brains behind the rebellion, the one who never took no for an answer, the one who refused to let her circumstances dictate her attitude or her survival.  Much like Princess Leia, Fisher fought her own battles but never let them get her down.  She struggled, in those early years of fame, with substance abuse; but she overcame her addictions and became a spokesperson for overcoming such demons.  She then let the world know about her battle with depression and bi-polar disorder while continuing to act, direct, produce, and become a best-selling author and screenwriter.  She was an advocate for mental health while fighting an enemy as dark and fierce as Darth Vader.  Judging by her success and how she was thought of by her peers, she was worthy of a medal around her neck in an intergalactic celebration.  Sixty was much too soon for her to give up her crown.

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I will never forget being snuggled up on the couch in the wee hours of the morning, at the age of eleven, to watch the wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.  For years, we all watched her go through a torturous marriage and a devastating divorce.  We witnessed her as she grew from a shy, unprepared-for-the-world pre-school teacher to an intelligent, revered advocate for human rights.  She was the epitome of grace and charm and held her head up high whether she was representing the Crown or walking through a minefield.  Perhaps she, too, had been a fan of Princess Leia.  When she died at the age of thirty-six, she had proven to the world that she was strong, brave, outspoken, and willing to go far outside of her comfort zone in order to help those in need.

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I know that Disney has started giving its princesses more personality and more admirable character traits than the ability to sew a ballgown or clean up after seven messy dwarves, but I don’t think they’ve come as far as they should have by now.  Don’t get me wrong, being able to sew a ballgown is a huge accomplishment!  The girls who attend the summer camp that I run can’t get enough of sewing, but they also revel in zip lining, wall climbing, and learning survival skills.  It makes me wonder what we are teaching our girls today.  Is there anyone out there to whom they can look as a role model who exudes charm, grace, and proper etiquette, but can shoot a hole in a garbage compartment door with a blaster and convince the rest of her party to take the plunge into the unknown realm of a trash compactor?

I think I’ll take off the rest of the day and spend it with my girls in front of the TV.  I’ll be sipping my tea from my Princess Diana mug while watching Princess Leia choke Jabba the Hutt with the chains that bind her.  Now if that isn’t a great metaphor for the way Carrie Fisher lived her life, I don’t know what is.

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 most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)

Unmasked

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

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

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

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

Amy Schisler is the author of two mystery / suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores and online.  Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores, at Amazon, and at Barnes & Noble.  Both novels are also available for Kindle, Nook, and iBooks.  Her children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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