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)

“I am your father…”

imagesI’m going to do something today that I never thought I would do.  I have the privilege of aligning myself with one of my greatest idols, master story-teller, George Lucas.  This morning, I re-watched Lucas’ interview with Charlie Rose; and for the second time, I was mesmerized by his story and struck by his priorities.  When asked why Lucas walked away from directing for fifteen years, he said “I wanted to be a dad.”  Wow.  One of the most successful movie makers in the world, and arguably the most successful story-teller of our time, walked away from it all to be a dad; not a politician, not an actor or a rock star, not some other avenue toward greater celebrity, but a dad.

Yes, one could argue that Lucas had no need for more wealth or greater celebrity, but in today’s world, that’s hardly the point.  In a world where everyone’s main objective seems to be to grow richer and more famous, here is a man who had it all, the world at his fingertips, and the only thing he really cared about was being a good dad.

Almost ten years ago, I walked away from a job I loved.  I was a librarian at a local college, and it was the greatest job, with the greatest people, ever.  I was happy to go to work each morning, and I enjoyed every second of my day, except….  Saying goodbye to my girls every morning was hard, very hard.  And they were strong, independent girls who had no problem waving goodbye to Mommy and going to school.  It was Mommy who was always sad.  And then there were the days when one of them was sick, and I had to make the call to work, feeling guilty if I stayed but even guiltier if I went.  Though my girls had wonderful caregivers, I wanted to be the one there with them when they were sick, when they were sad, when they learned to walk and run, and every step in between.  And so I made the decision to leave the job I loved and come home to a life I Ioved more.  And I’ve never regretted it for a minute.

Our society has created a world where mothers are forced to work – sometimes for economic reasons, and sometimes for political or societal ones.  Moms (and Dads) are expected to work crazy hours, be on call 24/7, and keep up a pace that, at times, seems inhuman.  Top that off with the expectation that all mothers should be able to create things like Martha Stewart, cook like Bobby Flay, and clean like a team of Merry Maids.  Is there even time to be a Dad or Mom in today’s world?  Sadly, many young people are deciding that there is not.  The population of the Western World is declining because couples do not have either the time or the money to start a family.  Where are our priorities?

My husband, Ken, works long hours and is on call 24/7, but he makes being a husband and father the most important thing in his life.  In spite of his grueling travel schedule, he is at every field hockey game, swim meet, and tennis match.  He never missed a dance recital or a play performance.  We let our children know every day that they are what matters, they are our world.  A Polish proverb says, “You have a lifetime to work, but children are only young once.”  It is a rule by which we both try to live.

Am I saying that all good moms are stay-at-home moms?  Absolutely not.  I’ve never actually considered myself a stay-at-home mom. I taught computer classes at our local community center for several years after leaving my full-time job.  That steamrolled into my own business, teaching senior citizens how to use and take care of their own computers in the comfort of their homes.  Both jobs were very rewarding, and I’ve met some fascinating people, many I am happy to now call friends.  And when I was ready, I became a full-time writer.  I may be at home, and I do drop everything to be there for my girls, but I have always been a hard worker.  My mother did the same.  She worked small, part-time jobs here and there, but she was always there for us, no matter what.  She and Dad sacrificed for us so that they could be a part of our lives, and you know what?  We never felt the tightening of the belt or noticed the lack of money, never traveled or took lavish vacations, but as Dolly Parton said, “we were rich as we could be.”

Let me just say, that working moms and dads can be great parents, too.  I look at my aunt who raised two independent women, beautiful on the inside and out, while working full time.  I watched her sacrifice at home and at work to take care of her family. Having been witness to the hard work yet never-faltering attentiveness of their parents, my cousins now have beautiful families and careers of their own.  My aunt always made sure that her family came first.  And that, I believe, is the measure of success.  By putting family first, we can have it all, maybe not in the eyes of society, but in the eyes of the ones that matter the most.

George Lucas told Charlie Rose that Steven Spielberg once told him that he hopes to die on a movie set.  George said he hopes to die in bed watching a Spielberg movie.  Charlie asked, “And how do you want to be remembered?”  Lucas gave the simplest yet most profound answer, “As a good dad.”  After the life he has lived, a man who will be immortalized through the stories he created wants to be remembered simply as “a good dad.”  Is it any wonder that in his greatest story, it was because of the love for his child that the father sacrificed everything he had, everything he worked toward, and his own life to save his son?  In the end, it was not his actions as a villain that most people recount when speaking of Vader, but as a father.  Lucas knew all along that fame, fortune, and power are trivial, and that being a parent is what truly matters.

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.