Professionalism Gone Awry

imagesIs it just me, or is the world of professionalism taking a decidedly non-professional turn? Several times in the past couple weeks or so, I’ve witnessed a breakdown in the level of professional courtesy. And I’m not just talking about at restaurants or in the grocery store, though some of those places have their issues with professionalism as well (remember when the customer was always right?). I’ve seen and heard people at pretty high levels of businesses or organizations treating colleagues and customers with a disturbing lack of respect.

It seems that everywhere, from local mom and pop businesses to national organizations and even professional writers’ groups, there is a dire need for education in how you treat or speak to people. Last week, I received an email about an upcoming training for a particular organization that was so snide and condescending, I had to go back and reread it, trying to see if I was taking it out of context or with a bias to the situation. Sadly, no, the problem was not a misunderstanding of the tone of the email, which can happen so easily with technology these days, but with the actual words that were used. There is no doubt that it was meant to be snide and condescending. Point taken. But did they really have to go there?

Elsewhere, I witnessed someone asking a question about a professional writing project that is in the process of being put together. The answer given, to the perfectly harmless and totally understandable question, was as kind and helpful as a slap in the face. Was that really necessary? Is it too hard to kindly answer a question that others may also be wondering? One can certainly be assertive and frank while still being tactful, can’t they?

I’m at a loss as to how to explain the shift that I see happening more and more these days. Is it social media? Loss of moral education? Fewer liberal arts colleges which typically require classes in ethics? Too many exhausted parents who just don’t have the time or the desire to teach politeness? Politicians, athletes, and other celebrities who are rude and crass and don’t stop to think or even care that they are role models? Is it just that we’ve become so self-centered as a people that we really don’t care anymore how we treat others? 

I recently came across a blog that gives a list of what the writer sees as tantamount professional behavior. A similar list can be found in a newspaper article I read online. I agree with everything on these lists, but I’d like to take it a step farther. While the newspaper article wraps up the list with the advice, “Set good examples…within your organization,” I say that’s not enough. Professionalism begins with everyday, ordinary kindness, and that begins at home. I vow to make a renewed effort to set good examples at home. I will try to always speak to my children with kindness; say please, thank you, and you’re welcome to everyone; show respect to all others; take responsibility for my actions; and never say something rude or hurtful to anyone. I will insist that my children work to do the same. I hope that you will all take that vow with me. I’d like to think that we are just one generation away from returning civility, kindness, and professionalism to all aspects of our lives.

Are you looking for a new way to meditate on the Stations of the Cross this Lent? If so, check out the newly revised edition of Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms. You can order it in print or download the ebook version today!

What I was writing about this time last year:  Becoming the Learners

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and sweet, faith-filled romance novels for readers of all ages. She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her books, Picture Me, Whispering Vines,  and Island of 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/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)

“In the End, Only Kindness Matters”

photo_40389_20150830I was recently introduced to several songs that have become go-to songs for me. The playlist they make up is the most played one on my phone and in my car. A few of the songs I knew, some from my own youth, and others were new to me but not to the world. All of these songs were featured on last spring’s television event, The Live Passion; and after watching it, I was compelled to buy the soundtrack the very next day. Now, whether I hear one of these songs on my playlist or on the radio, I hear it in a whole new light often picturing where it belongs in the retelling of Christ’s passion, death and resurrection. Even though we’re getting ready to enter Advent and not Lent, one of those songs has been on my mind a lot lately. The song, Hands, was sung by Tricia Yearwood in the live show, but it was written and originally sung by Jewel. I don’t know how I missed this when it was first released, but I guess I was simply in a different place in my life, and it didn’t speak to me then like it does now. Here are the lyrics:

If I could tell the world just one thing ~~ It would be that we’re all ok ~~ And not to worry because worry is wasteful ~~ And useless in times like these ~~ I will not be made useless ~~ I won’t be idled with despair ~~ I will gather myself around my faith ~~ For light does the darkness most fear ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ Poverty stole your golden shoes ~~ But it didn’t steal your laughter ~~ And heartache came to visit me ~~ But i knew it wasn’t ever after ~~ We will fight, not out of spite ~~ For someone must stand up for what’s right ~~ Cause where there’s a man who has no voice ~~ There ours shall go singing ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ In the end only kindness matters ~~ In the end only kindness matters ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ I will get down on my knees and I will pray ~~ My hands are small, I know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ My hands are small, i know, ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ But they’re not yours they are my own ~~ And I am never broken ~~ We are never broken ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s mind ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s heart ~~ We are God’s eyes God’s hands God’s eyes God’s hands ~~ We are God’s hands God’s hands We are God’s hands

Hands, Written by Jewel Kilcher, Patrick Leonard • Copyright © Downtown Music Publishing LLC, Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

While there are many reasons why I could be thinking of this song, the main reason is that, lately, I have come to believe that the virtue of kindness is disappearing from our culture, and maybe the world. I see and hear children speaking to each other and to adults with such blatant disrespect, and having no idea that they’re doing it or why it’s wrong, and I think, no wonder we have so many problems in this world. What would the world be like if everyone made a concerted effort, every single day, to just be kind to one another? What if I held my tongue more often before speaking to my husband? What if my daughter thought about how someone else might feel before chastising them? What if a teacher thought about the repercussions on a student because of a cutting comment the teacher uttered in front of the class? What if politicians considered what they are teaching future generations when they do nothing but verbally knock each other down?

St. Paul the Apostle, in his letter to the Galatians, said “But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.” He outlined the most basic guidelines for how we should act, speak, live, and treat one another. Believe me, I know it’s hard. I struggle with this every day, but there is something that gives me hope. You see, St. Paul didn’t call these the “Rules of the Spirit,” or the “Commands of the Spirit.” He called them the “Fruit of the Spirit.” How beautiful when you think about it. These aren’t the things that we are ordered to do or even the things we will be given outright, but they are what we reap, what we harvest, what we can share with others. If we practice the fruit of the Spirit, then we can spread love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control to others, and in return, we should receive all of those back.

I implore you to join me in starting today. Together, let’s think about what we do, what we say, how we act, especially in front of our children. So often, I find myself reminding my own children that they are not being respectful, speaking kindly, or acting with love. In those moments, I wonder if I have set the example for them, if I have failed as a parent. For if I have not taught my children to be kind, then what does it matter what else I have taught them?

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)

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)

Listing for Love

Ken and Amy's Wedding33-001I am a list maker.  I’ve been a list maker since I first learned to write and realized the magic that accompanies crossing off things accomplished.  Sometimes, the more I cross off, the more I add to my list. I’ve had a list on my desk for about a month now that lays out all that I want to accomplish this fall.  My Katie laughs when she reads it because one item is “Write a book.”

“You’re always writing a book, Mom, but that’s so cute.”

Yes, I’m always writing a book, but to see it on a list makes it real, makes it something that must be done and must be crossed off.  It’s a means to an end.

When I graduated from college, my best friend and I sat down and wrote lists.  They weren’t lists about what we wanted to accomplish in life or what our goals were for our twenties or beyond.  We had those lists already, and they were getting longer and longer by the day.  No, just for fun, we wrote lists of what we were seeking in the perfect guy.  It began as a joke, a way of blowing off a steam about the fact that we were now four years older, four years more experienced and worldly, four years wiser, and still single.  But as we compiled the list, we grew more serious, each of us reading each other’s lists and critiquing, improving, and offering further suggestions.  After all, who knows you better than your best friend?

Within a year, I was engaged, and within a couple of years after that, so was she.  I still credit that list with helping me focus on whom and what I wanted because, miraculously, when I met Ken, I was able to cross off all 25 things on the list, not 20 or 24, but all 25.  Not everything on the list is as important to me today as it was then.  Half of the things probably wouldn’t even make it if I had to write it all over again.  One of the things was that I needed a man who would change with me as I grew older, who could adapt to any situation.  That was near the bottom of the list, but well over twenty years later, I see that it should have been at the top.

So if I were telling my daughters to write their own lists (and no, I’m not doing that because this list is not a game – it’s a serious, what I want for the rest of my life list), but if I were telling them to write their lists, here are the things I would recommend they put at the top:

  1. He must be adaptable to any situation with the realization that life isn’t a long, superhighway.  It’s a twisting, turning, up and down hills and mountains, country road with surprises around every bend.  Be ready to change course and handle the wrecks along the way.
  2. He must share some of your interests but must also have interests of his own.  While you should share the most exciting adventures together, it’s okay to do things apart; in fact, it’s a must.
  3. He should not say “I love you,” within a month or even two, and when he says it, he needs to look you in the eye and say it from the heart.  Those three words should be the most important words he ever says to you.  They need to have true meaning and depth.  They are not a way to get you in bed or make you feel special.  They are the three words that he should tattoo on your heart and his and be willing to put them into action every day for the rest of your lives.
  4. He needs to dance.  He doesn’t have to like or be good at it, but he needs to be willing to do it.  You should not be that one person who, at every wedding (and by the time you write this list, there will be wedding, after wedding, after wedding) or at every family party, dances with friends to every fast song and then sits by his side and watches everyone else dance the slow songs.  It’s during the slow songs that your bodies communicate, and it’s during the fast songs that you let loose and have fun.  Do it together. Even if he looks like he’s the star in a Steve Martin movie.
  5. Watch him carefully when he is with his mother.  The old saying is so very true, how he treats his mother is how he will treat his wife.  Is he kind to her?  Respectful?  Helpful?  It’s okay if he complains about her a little.  In fact, that lets you know that he’s not still hanging onto the apron strings.
  6. Never make him choose between you and his mother unless you are certain that he will choose you.  If he won’t, then stop here.  You don’t need to look at anything else on the list.  BUT be careful about what you are asking him to choose because his mother will become your mother.  Treat her as such.  You will find that you will need her someday when there’s no better ally than her to have on your side.
  7. He must pay for that first date, and the second, and even the third.  If he’s worth a fourth, then maybe you can treat, but don’t insist or overdo it.  A true gentleman expects to pay.  It’s a matter of respect.  If he doesn’t want to impress you, then what’s the point?
  8. He must care about how he looks.  This isn’t about vanity.  It’s about respect.  If he doesn’t have respect for himself and the way he appears to others, then he won’t have respect for you.  Of course, if his phone is full of selfies, or he can’t stop glancing in the rearview mirror to check his hair, then ask him to stop the car and let you out.  Walk away, and never look back.
  9. Your family must be as important as his.  Do not let him or his family make every decision concerning your social calendar.  If he won’t spend time with your little sisters (even when they’re being bratty), then he will never be a good brother-in-law or father.  If he dates you, he dates everyone in your family and must be willing to accept and spend time with them.
  10. Most importantly, he must be kind.  To you, to your family, to his family, to your friends and his, to his colleagues.  He shouldn’t be a pushover or passive aggressive, but genuinely kind.  He must always think about others, especially you.  “A tree is known by its fruit; a man by his deeds. A good deed is never lost; he who sows courtesy reaps friendship, and he who plants kindness gathers love.” St. Basil

So there’s your start.  Your list will be longer and will include trivial things like “Must listen to _______ music,” and “Doesn’t eat all of the popcorn,” and that’s okay.  You will have to live with this person for the rest of your life.  Have fun, but think it through, and when you’re finally able to cross everything off, you will feel more than accomplishment.  You will feel completion.

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.  Amy’s children’s book, Crabbing With Granddad, may be purchased in stores and on Amazon.

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.

Raising Adults

DSC07028No offense to any new moms out there, but you have it easy!  Those first few years of parenthood are both wonderful and exhausting.  Sleepless nights, changing diapers, choosing a preschool, putting them on the bus, teaching them to make friends, watching them make the wrong friends, helping with homework, cheering on the sidelines, cleaning scraped knees and wiping snotty noses and tear-stained faces are just some of the painful joys of parenthood.  But I have to be honest with you, looking back, it was actually quite easy to raise children.  It’s once they hit high school that everything changes because that’s when you realize that you are no longer raising children; you are raising adults.

I liked raising children so much better than raising adults.  I have such a hard time letting go.  It just seems so much easier for me to fill out forms, contact teachers, cry to (and about) coaches, and make the tough decisions for them.  I want so badly for them to advocate for themselves, but I can’t help myself!  I am always fighting the urge to step in, and I often lose the battle.  If you think that watching your child fall off a bike is hard, try watching them fall in love, fall into the wrong crowd, or fall on their faces literally and figuratively.  Being able to pick them up, cradle them in your lap, and kiss the hurt away is infinitely easier than mending a broken heart or being on the other side of the slammed door.  Being a guide and mentor would be easy if I didn’t want so much to be at the reins, controlling everything that happens in their lives.  As if I could have stopped that bike from falling…

Raising adults is a lot like raising puppies.  You discipline as best you can, hoping they understand that it’s out of love, you scold and yell to stop them from doing something harmful, you keep them on a short leash for as long as you can; but then you realize that there comes a day when you have to trust them, leave them alone, let them wander, and pray that when you or they return, nothing has been damaged beyond repair.  There will be accidents and incidents, and no matter how old they are, they will try your patience and make you so angry you see red, but deep down, you know that all they really want from you is your love and attention.

I still have a lot of learning and letting go to do.  It’s not an easy road, and there are many bends, dead ends, yields, and U-turns, but I know that there’s a light at the end of the tunnel.  My mother and I don’t always agree, and we had our share of arguments when I was becoming an adult, but there’s nobody in the world whom I love, respect, and enjoy spending time with more than her.  I can only hope and pray that I can be as lucky with my three girls.  Correction, my three young adults.  Loving them while letting them go is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I know that someday we will all reap the rewards.

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.

Raising Teenage Daughters

I recently read an article in the New York Times about parenting teenage daughters.  I had such mixed feelings about the woman’s story!  I couldn’t quite grasp whether she was complaining, venting, musing, or just rambling.  She seemed to be saying that teenage girls are horrible beasts almost all of the time, but that every now and then, she saw a spark of the girl they used to be.  I was confused and almost irritated by this.  Ever since reading it, I’ve asked myself, is this the way it’s supposed to be?  Am I doing something wrong?  Am I missing something in my child-rearing skills?  Do my children have to hate me, treat me with disgust and disrespect, and talk horribly about me behind my back in order for them to grow into mature women?  Should I try to turn back the hands of time and make this happen?

You see, that has not been my experience at all, and I’ve been raising teenage girls for quite some time now.  My three daughters and I taDSC09582lk about everything, spend quality time together, and honestly like each other.  My girls are the ones who come home talking about how horribly other girls talk bout their mothers, and they always tell me that they say “My mom is my best friend.  I tell her everything.”  In fact, another teen was recently spending the weekend with us (hoards of teenage girls are always spending the weekend with us), and upon hearing Katie declare this, she said “I know.  I tell your mom everything, too.”  But there is that worrisome guilt again.  Should she be telling me everything?  Shouldn’t she be telling her own mother?  Where does that line get crossed?

Okay, to tell the truth, things aren’t always so happy-go-lucky between my daughters and me.  Sometimes they tell me things I wish I didn’t know.  That’s when the “good mother” in me comes out, the one who lectures and admonishes.  But then I have to remind myself that I raised them to have their own opinions and think for themselves.  Sometimes they tell me they don’t want me to join them, and that’s okay.  It’s important for them to go their own way and do their own things.  We are not joined at the hip, nor should we be.  Sometimes they talk about going far away to college (though my oldest ended up less than three hours away) or moving to another state one day, and I have to smile and encourage them even though I think to myself, what if you get sick?  What if you get hurt?  What about our monthly family days?  How will you join us?  What about birthdays, and holidays, and days we just want to go shopping?  What am I supposed to do without you?  So I have to remind myself that Ken and I have worked hard to nurture their roots but to also give them wings.

And then I look at them, these beautiful young women who come to me with their problems, who text or call me just to tell me they aced a test, or didn’t, who smile when they get out of school and grudgingly answer the questions they claim to be so tired of me asking.  I look at these young women and I know, they are my daughters, my lifelines, and my friends.  So while I’ve always been told, “be their parent, not their friend,” I will continue to listen to their idle chatter, and dry their heartbreaking tears, and sing with them at the top of our lungs as we drive to school.  And I will lay down the law when necessary.  Perhaps I will look back and think about what a better mother I could have been if I had been stricter with them and drawn more of a line between mother and friend, but my girls seem to be happy, healthy, and excelling in school and life, and as far as I’m concerned, that’s all that matters.

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

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