Scouting the Future

For the past fifteen years, my three daughters and I have been active Girl Scouts. Over the years, many have questioned us about our decision to remain involved. We’ve heard every excuse to leave: Girl Scouts isn’t pro-life; Girl Scouts exploits girls through the sale of cookies; Girl Scouts only cares about making money; Girl Scouts is too time-consuming; Girl Scouts doesn’t care about the girls or the volunteers; Boy Scouts is better; and so on.

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Rebecca takes a break on the paddle board.

This past week, my three girls and I spent seven full days at the Girl Scout campground closest to our home where I am the director of a week-long summer camp, and my girls are all counselors. Rebecca ran the boating program, Katie worked with the high-ropes and zip line course, Morgan assisted with a Brownie program, and I spent the week running the camp for the twelfth year. This camp is the number one reason why we continue to be a part of Girl Scouts, and it fully exemplifies every good thing about the organization that everyone overlooks. If you find that hard to believe, I’d like to share with you some of the responses from our post-camp surveys.

My daughter loved…

“the camp fire and s’mores.  Loved learning to kayak and paddle board. I love all the new experiences she gets to have and all the new friends she meets.”

“finding her independence.”

“having independence and opportunities to do things she can’t at other camps”

“learning things she can’t learn or do anywhere else.”

“No electronics!!”

“Wonderful, caring staff.”

“that the counselors and PAs are helpful, the friendships I make there, the new skills I learn”

“Being with girls/women who are leaders”

“the flag retirement ceremony”

“I love that they get to experience new things and spend time away from electronics! They enjoy all of the girls and staff. They enjoy learning and doing new things.”

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A 10-year-old girl took this!

I could share dozens more, but you get the point. Girl Scouts, the organization, may have its problems, but from what I’ve seen over the past year or so, they truly are trying to fix the problems. It will never be perfect, but neither will I. One thing I do believe with my whole heart is that, without people like those who volunteer for our camp – not a single one of us is paid to work in the 100-degree, humid, often-stormy camp, filled with sand and dirt and bugs – the organization will never, ever be able to obtain the vision that Juliette Gordon Low had for it. Without camps such as ours that exist entirely to build up girls and create women of courage, confidence, and character, where can these future leaders go to build their self-esteem, learn new skills, enjoy the outdoors, and learn how they can make a lasting impact on their community and the world.

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Climbing to new heights

I’ve observed girls grow from silly, unfocused, little girls into responsible young woman able to lead successful programs as high school students. I’ve seen an autistic child find a real friend who didn’t care one bit that her new friend was “different.” I’ve watched my own daughters blossom into leaders, unafraid to try new things, speak out, and take charge. I’ve seen middle and high school girls who, for one week, don’t care about makeup or hairstyles or impressing boys, but care about making friends, learning to build a birdhouse (using the power tools needed to do it), identifying birds and trees and plants, mastering a kayak or paddle board, conquering their fear of heights, and helping homesick girls feel comfortable and happy.

There’s nothing like the feeling you have when you go from learning to sew your first stitch to completing a whole lap quilt in one week’s time,

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A nine-year-old made this in one week!

or when you get your first bullseye on the archery range,

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My niece with her first bullseye

or when you perform a skit for 170 people that you wrote yourselves, or when you when you reunite with your “camp best friends” after one or fifteen years.

38125773_10217343154476313_1215761222654230528_nWe strive to be honorable, to serve God by saying grace before meals, to serve our country and our community through multiple service projects throughout the week, to help people at all times, and to live by the Girl Scout Law. We recite the Girl Scout Promise and the Pledge of Allegiance every day. We respect our flag and, in the words of the late, great Johnny Cash, “we raise her up every morning. We take her down every night. We don’t let her touch the ground and we fold her up right.”

I’ve heard many people, over the years, wonder what their true calling is. What is it that God wants them doing with their lives? While writing is the gift that I believe God has given me to share with the world, I strongly feel that running this camp, meeting these people, helping these girls to grow and become the women they were meant to be, is my true calling in life. And what’s more pro-life and pro-woman than that?

There may be those who have their problems with Girl Scouts, but I will continue doing my part to help the organization be something that would make Juliette Gordon Low proud of the institution she created. After all, in her own words,

“The work of today is the history of tomorrow and we are its makers.”

― Juliette Gordon Low

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).

What’s Happened to the Family?

 All week this week, Cuba, the United States, and the whole Catholic world will be focused on the family, and with good reason. Today, we are seeing a worldwide decline in the “family.” The days of Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver are long gone and are now seen as a joke, but there’s something to be said for the golden age of the family. It used to be that families ate dinner together every night, attended church together on Sunday, and watched tv, read, and played games together on a regular, if not daily, basis. But in 2015, it’s rare that families spend one hour a week together.

Athletics, careers, social lives, social media, and a host of other things have become more important than spending time together. The vast majority of the families I know find it impossible to sit down for a meal together. The typical middle or high school child spends their afternoons at athletic practice for school, and then practice for a rec team, and then a meeting of some kind (Scouts, work, etc.), and then there’s still homework to be done! Even in elementary school, children are shuffled from one event to another with no break in between. My family is as guilty as the next of over-scheduling and overbooking. Sometimes we have to take a long, hard look at what’s on our calendar and just make the decision to scale back and refocus our attention on what matters – being a family.

The decisions aren’t always easy, and we’ve found it best to have rules that we stick to without fail. When our children were old enough to play sports for school, the rec sports were wiped off the slate. So no, none of my children are on travel teams or all-stars, or those necessary paths to college scholarships that almost all families seem to think are vital to their children’s future. Let’s face it, only one child on the team is really good enough to get that scholarship. Is it really yours? Wouldn’t it be better for them to get their homework done and get a good night’s sleep instead? The most valuable piece of advice our high school field hockey coach ever gave us was “your daughter is very good, but she’s not that good.” Instead of being upset, we were relieved. What a tremendous load that took off of her back! Much more time went into academics and less into trying to contact every college coach on the east coast, and she graduated with honors and quite a nice sum in merit scholarships.

Another hard and fast rule for us is that Sunday is for God and family. Sure, we go to a lot of Saturday evening Masses, but that just opens up our Sunday to do something fun as a family. Even if it’s just watching a football game together, the key word is together. When my middle daughter considered trying out for basketball, there was just one factor that changed her mind – Sunday practices. There has to be a place to draw the line, and that was it for us.

Throughout our world, we are witnessing a staggering drop in population. Families aren’t valued any more. In many cases, they aren’t even desired. We have become a world where people have to choose between family and career, family and a house, family and a life. Whatever happened to FAMILY LIFE? When did children become a burden rather than a gift?

As we listen to the Holy Father talk about the importance of the family, let us all consider how we can improve our family life. How can we find a way to make family meals work? What can we cut out of our children’s schedules to make them live fuller, happier, more peaceful lives? How can we reshape our culture to make others see that families and family lives matter? At the very least, begin having meals without phones at the table! These are things that all parents need to think about before it’s too late.

I will never greet my family at the door wearing an apron and holding Ken’s slippers, but I will make it my job to ensure that all of them always know the importance of being a family.
Christmas is coming. Buy books!

I had the extreme pleasure a couple weeks ago to attend the Decatur Book Festival just outside of Atlanta Georgia. It was so great to see all of the people, couples, families, friends, out buying books and supporting authors. The National Book Festival has also just taken place, and we’re not done yet! This weekend is the Baltimore Book Festival, and several Eastern Shore writers will be selling, signing, and speaking. Come see and hear us if you are in the area!

Be sure to support all of your favorite authors this Christmas. Please comment below on where you can find authors this fall and what other book festivals are taking place. Let’s encourage everyone to give the gift of reading this year!

If you’re looking for an autographed copy of any of my books to give as gifts, you will be able to find me at the following places over the next couple of months. Please check my web site for more information.

Sunday, September 27 – the Baltimore Book Festival in Baltimore, MD

Wednesday, September 30 – St. Michaels library’s author event, St. Michaels, MD

Friday, October 9-Saturday, October 10 – Wisp Resort, Fort McHenry, MD

Monday, November 9 – Meet the Author! at the Wicomico County Library, Salisbury, MD

Saturday, November 28 – the News Center, Easton, MD

I am happy to travel outside of Maryland. Just let me know when and where you’d like me to be. Happy reading!

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 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, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.