Seven Things I Should Have Done

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Katie – College Sophomore in PA

Another school year is upon us. Two of my girls have already begun classes, one in her second of law school and the other in her second year of college as an elementary education major and Spanish minor. The house is quiet again, on most days, as Morgan is back on the field hockey field or out pounding the pavement, looking for a job. This was the first summer since she was eleven years old that she didn’t work, and she’s missing her spending money; but she spent the entire summer traveling, so she can’t complain!

As I sit here in the quiet house and work on my next novel, I can’t help but think ahead to next year when all three girls will be off on their own for the first time. While looking ahead, I’m also forced to look back. For over twenty-two years, Ken and I have had, as our top priority, the task of raising children. It hasn’t always been easy, and it hasn’t always been fun, but it has been worth all of the effort, all of the tears, and all of the pain. Why? Because while there has been effort, tears, and pain, there has been so much more fun, laughter, and joy. Still, there are several things I wish I had done differently. Perhaps, my mistakes can be someone else’s gain. So, here you go. These are the things I wish I had done differently as a parent:

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Reading to Rebecca (and Tucker)

7.  I wish I read to my girls later. My girls all learned to read at very early ages. Quite early on, they stopped needing me to read to them at night. For several years, this was okay because when one stopped reading to me, another was holding up a book and blinking her sleepy eyes while pleading for one more story. But then one day, I turned around I realized it had been years since I had cuddled up in bed with one of my girls and read to or with them. It ended way too soon, and I regret not finding ways to stretch it out. Rebecca may not know this, but the time she came to me in a panic that she had to read an entire novel before the start of 9th grade and hadn’t left enough time to do it, was one of the best times of my life as a mother. Ironically, the book was Rebecca, after which she was named, but she found, as she read, that she was having a hard time following it and knew she couldn’t finish in time. For the next three nights, I stretched out on her bed and read aloud as she packed her book bag, brushed her hair, or straightened her room before climbing into the bed with me to listen to the strange and mysterious tale of Mr. DeWinter and his wife, Rebecca. Alas, that, too, was over too soon. 

6.  I wish I had played with them more. With three girls in the house, there was almost always somebody to play with. Only Rebecca got the chance to have mommy or daddy all to herself for a few years, but even then, I wanted her to be independent, so I didn’t make it a habit to actually play with her as much as I should have. I helped her set up her Barbie house, and I helped her clean up when she was done, but I don’t really remember actually sitting down and playing with her once she was past the toddler stage. Sure, we’ve always had family game night, including Mexican Train Dominoes matches that sometimes last half the night, but that’s not the same as good, old one-on-one play time. How many important life lessons did I miss out on teaching because I wanted her to learn to be self-reliant? How much did I miss by insisting the girls play with each other while I worked or cleaned house? Couldn’t those things have waited? Yes, they could have. Future grandchildren, watch out. 

5.  I wish I had insisted that the girls make their beds every morning. Seriously. I can’t leave my room in the morning unless the bed is made. Why didn’t I instill this same habit in my girls? In his book, The Power of Habit, author Charles Duhigg asserts that making your bed each morning becomes a keystone habit, one that results in making other good decisions made throughout the day. He says that it gives you a sense of taking charge which leads to “a greater sense of well-being and stronger skills” such as sticking to a budget.  Author, Gretchen Rubin (The Happiness Project), even contends that making your bed can actually make you a happier person! Now, two of the three have finally gotten into the habit of making their beds every morning, and they say it really does make a difference in how they keep their room and how they feel about themselves.

4.  I wish I had told my girls what we expect instead of what we hope. I wish we had told them,

  • We expect you to be a leader and not follow others down the wrong path.
  • We expect you to follow our rules and the law and not drink, smoke, or do drugs.
  • We expect you to abstain from sex because you’re not ready, you’re not married, and you’re not equipped to handle the consequences (not to mention the teachings of the Church). 
  • We expect you to study hard and get good grades.

There’s such a difference between telling a child, “this is what we expect you to do and how we expect you to behave” and saying, “you shouldn’t do this, but if you do, do it safely.” That’s certainly part of the conversation but shouldn’t be the focus. It’s about creating expectations and teaching them that it’s not only okay to stand their ground but will be better for them in the long run.

3.  I wish I had told them that they don’t have to always be on the top of the heap. I should have told them to try their best, work their hardest, and reach for the stars but not at the expense of their self-worth, sanity or integrity. I wish I had told them that it’s okay to fail as long as you try harder next time. It’s okay to fall down as long as you get up. It’s okay to be number two or three or even five as long as you did honest work and truly gave it your all. It’s not about how you finish but how you got there that counts.

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Morgan on the ramp she helped build in Kentucky

2.  I wish I had shown them the real world. Yes, we traveled–a lot. Yes, they saw amazing sights and had unforgettable experiences in places all over the world. But we never served at a soup kitchen. We never visited a homeless shelter. We took many loads of clothes and goods to St. Vincent de Paul, but we didn’t give enough of our time as volunteers. When Rebecca was a Junior Girl Scout, she earned her Bronze Award by collecting back packs and school supplies and handing them out to underprivileged children through SVDP. She still talks about the little boy who cried as he hugged his back pack as if it was a bag full of gold and precious jewels. Morgan talks about the man with the broken bike of which she and a SVDP volunteer helped fix the tire. When the man left, Morgan learned that he was homeless, and the bike was his only possession. But we never did anything with that knowledge. We never even tried. Thank Heaven for the school mission team. Trips to the Kentucky mountains and upstate New York were the closest my girls ever got to seeing how those in need actually live. I wish we had made sure that the girls did more to help others. I pray they still can and do.

1.   I wish I had paid more attention to my girls when they talked. I’m always distracted, always thinking about what I should be doing, always trying to complete several tasks at once. When I was little girl, I used to love to visit my Great-Aunt Grace. She would pour me a glass of lemonade and offer me grapes or cherries or cookies, and we would sit in her formal living room and talk. That’s it. We’d just talk. Looking back, I’m surprised that I liked going there at all. The television was never on. There were no other kids to play with. There were no toys. There was just Aunt Grace, lemonade, maybe a cookie, and the chance to sit and talk. 54527_1483407733837_6670383And I cherished those little moments more than she ever knew because Aunt Grace made me feel special. She didn’t want someone to watch TV with her, help her do chores, or eat her baked goods. She didn’t need a little kid interrupting her day as she gardened or dusted. But no matter what she was doing, she always, always stopped, made us a treat, and sat down to talk, to hear about my life, to ask me questions about my school or my friends, to pay attention to me and let me know that she cared. Nothing else was more important for those ten or fifteen minutes. It was all about sitting with me and listening to me as I talked. And it was wonderful. If only I can make myself remember, as a busy adult, how that felt as a grateful child.

I’m sure there are many other things I would do differently if I had it to do over again. Thankfully, my girls turned out all right–so far! Hopefully, someday I will have grandchildren and a second chance to get it all right. For now, I just pray they know that I tried, I sometimes failed, but I always loved them whether I remembered to tell them that or not.

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Morgan, Rebecca, Katie, and me at the summit of Uncompahgre Peak in Colorado

The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available in stores and online.

Amy Schisler is an award-winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture MeWhispering Vines, and Island of Miracles are all recipients of Illumination Awards, placing them among the top inspirational fiction books of 2015, 2016, and 2017. Whispering Vines was awarded the 2017 LYRA Award for the best romance of 2016.  Island of Miracles has outsold all of Amy’s other books worldwide and ranked as high as 600 on Amazon. Her latest children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, can be found online and in stores.

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

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016), Island of Miracles (2017), Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms (2017), The Greatest Gift (2017), Summer’s Squall (2017), Island of Promise (2018).

A Long Line of Love

Nan's Family Pics68My three daughters are extremely lucky in that they come from a very long line of love. On both sides of their family, they have been blessed with a long and loving history. From their parents, grandparents, great-grandparents and as far back as we can trace, they have been able to witness couples who have loved unconditionally. Yesterday, I was very happy to wish my parents a happy 52nd wedding anniversary. They learned how to love unconditionally from their own parents, and are a shining example to the rest of us.

Today, I am honored to share with you a guest blog written by my 14-year-old daughter. It exemplifies what real love truly is.

A life lesson that is important to me is to be proud of whom and what you love. This is so, so important. It wasn’t exactly told to me, but instead it was shown. They didn’t know they were showing me something that still stands out to me today. I don’t even think they realized how much so, but my great grandparents were very proud of each other. They loved each other so much and made each other so happy that they talked about how great the other one was, and they loved glorifying everything good about each other.

I strongly believe that my great grandparents, or Nan and Pop to me, were a couple of very special people. They met when they were teenagers and Nan was walking down the street, and Pop told his friends that she was the prettiest girl he had ever seen and that he was determined to marry her someday. Well, if I know something about my grandfather, it’s that he never gave up on something he wanted. I think everyone finds true love, but theirs was so strong.

I had the privilege of knowing my great grandparents for a few years of my life. I wish they were still here with us, but even in their short time with me, they showed me so many things, and they impacted my life greatly. I lived across the street from them until Pop passed away in 2011, and Nan couldn’t fend for herself, so she lived in a nursing home. Living so close to them was a blessing. I could walk across the street after school, and they would tell me stories, and I loved hearing them. They were such lively people who never ceased to amaze me.

Hearing them talk about each other really showed me how important it is to be proud of the person you love. Before I started to notice the little things they did and said for each other, I don’t think it was as big of a deal to me. As I got older and their health declined, I really started noticing. After Pop passed away, Nan told nonstop stories about how they met and how great a person he was. I don’t think, even once, did Nan not talk about Pop during our frequent visits.

Both of them have passed on by now, but one thing I will never forget is when my grandfather passed away.  They had a military service because he was a veteran. During the service, they presented a flag to my grandmother. When the guards handed her the flag she began to cry, and the only words she could manage were “I’m so proud to have loved him.” This was such a powerful moment in my life, and I could never forget it. I’m proud to have called them my grandparents, too.

  • Morgan Schisler, 2015

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, online, and through ibooks. Amy’s newest mystery, Picture Me, was released in August of 2015 and is available in stores and online. 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.

Letter to My Daughters’ Future Husbands

DSC04396When our youngest daughter was born, the first thing my husband said when he saw her was “she looks just like my sister.” The second thing he said was, “Oh God, we have to pay for three weddings.”  While I do agree that we will need to pay for their weddings, I’m not concerned. My mother and I have coordinated several beautiful and even lavish weddings for family and friends, both efficiently and economically. My concern is not at all the wedding but the marriage. With that in mind, here’s what I have to say.

Dear Future Husband,

I don’t know that we have met yet.  Perhaps we have, perhaps not.  You may be someone my daughter has known for years or someone she has yet to meet.  Regardless, you don’t know her like I do, nor have you walked in my shoes, so allow me to give you some advice.  She is not a princess, though she may think she is, and as far as you’re concerned, that’s how it should be.  Treat her as such, as someone who is to be honored, respected and revered.  In return, she will treat you the same way.

Tend to your marriage like it s a garden.  Weed out mistrust, judgement, defensiveness, and fear.  Prune back any hurt that grows there (because it will), and water the good seeds you plant – your hopes, your dreams, and eventually your children.  Let the sun shine on it every day through your love by complimenting, helping, and most important, talking; and don’t be afraid of the rain and storms.  Welcome them, too, as ways to strengthen your marriage.  Clean up the fallen branches after the storm clears, or they will clutter your lives.  Because there will be storms, and there will be things to clear away, but by working together, you can weather anything life hurls at you.

Most of all, trust that God has brought you together and that He will guide you.  Go to Church together, pray together – at meals, at bedtime, in good times and bad.  Make your faith the foundation upon which you build all things, and know that with God, all things are possible.

Whether you are in your twenties or just barely into your teens, remember that any girl you meet could be the one, my daughter, but that there will only be that one.  Don’t fall prey to the norms of society.  Every girl you date will be someone’s wife, but perhaps not your own.  Keep that in mind in everything you do.  Would you do “that” with someone else’s wife?  Would you want someone else doing that with yours?

In the end, all I want is your happiness, all of you, my three daughters and their husbands.  Shower each other with love, strive for your dreams, encourage each other to reach for the stars, and always be there for each other no matter what.  Know that their father and I are here for you.  Even now, I love you all.

Love, Mom

Amy Schisler is an author of mystery and suspense novels. Her first book, A Place to Call Home is in its second printing and may be purchased in stores, online, and through ibooks. Her previously published children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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

Being Grounded

DSC09341Another revelation at the gym!  While in class this morning, I heard our teacher say the same thing over and over again.  “Your right foot should be grounded…”  “Make sure your left leg is grounded.”  “While in the half-moon, your right arm and right leg must both be grounded.”  I felt pretty good about myself after class today.  I had worked up a sweat, maintained my balance, and literally felt grounded!  Yes, my feet, legs, hands, etc. were firmly pressed to the mat during working poses, but more importantly, I realized that I am grounded in my life.

Looking back, how could I not feel that way?  My parents are phenomenal people who raised me to believe in myself, work hard, strive to do and be my very best, and never give up on my dreams.  They secured a good education for me, helped me find scholarships so that I could attend the college of my choice, and continue to support me in my adulthood as a wife, a mother, and a writer.  My mother reads every chapter that I write before I re-read it myself.  My father edits my work before I send it to my publisher.  They planted the very best roots for me and then allowed me to grow into my own tree and spread my branches.  And when I’ve dropped all of my leaves at various times, or had branches broken off in the storms of life, they have been there to help me reach farther and grow taller.

My husband is my biggest critic but also my strong and loving supporter.  He lets me know when I’m on the wrong track or not thinking clearly, but he always allows me to find my own way back.  I hope that, together, we have grounded our three daughters the way our parents grounded us.  Sometimes it doesn’t seem that way, but I think we have done all right.

Life is hard!  Everyone stumbles and falls; all trees bend in the wildest of storms.  The key is to keep from being uprooted.  We all need something to keep us grounded, whether it’s our families, our friends, our church, or even hobbies.  What is the old saying?  “No man is an island.”  What is an island missing?  Firm ground underneath!

In the novel that I’m working on these days, Courtney is doing a lot of thinking about her roots.  She moves into her late grandparents’ house to make a fresh start in a place where she feels grounded.  Oh sure, she’s going to be frightened out of her mind throughout the book, but she’s spreading her branches in the place where she first developed her roots.  She needs to feel that connection to help her overcome a recent tragedy.  We all need to feel that connection at some point in our lives.  Maybe your day is today.  Do you feel like an island, desolate and segregated from the rest of the world?  I promise you, the roots are there.  Take the time to find them, nurture them, and let them become grounded.  Close your eyes, spread your branches toward the sky, and reach for your dreams.  As my mother has always told me, you will make it some day.

You Can’t Go Home

Morgan Home - Bushwood-001They say you can’t go home again, but I’ve never believed that was true. Until today. As a child, I spent most of my summers at my grandparents’ house on the Wicomico River in St. Mary’s County, Maryland. For me, that was the happiest place on earth. Forget Disney World; the only place I wanted to be was at grandma’s house.  I happened to be “down home” today and stopped to look at the house where I spent so much of my youth. Read more