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).

An Update on The 6 Top Reasons Every Girl Should Go To Outdoor Camp

Two years ago, I wrote one of my most read and shared blogs of all time. It told why I feel it’s so important for parents to send their daughters to an overnight summer camp. I’d like to update you all on some of the things I listed and on the girls mentioned.

Link to original article.

It’s that time of year, the time when parents are bombarded with emails and snail mails asking them to send their children to camp.  While there are many different kinds of camps that focus on everything from making your child the next Peyton Manning (or Nick Foles!) to teaching them how to audition for Broadway, every child should have the opportunity to experience a good, old-fashioned outdoor camp, especially girls.

Why, you ask, is it so important to send my daughter to camp?  Simply put, there are things that your daughter will learn at camp that she might never learn at home, and I don’t mean building a fire or pitching a tent, though she may learn those skills as well.  The truth is that there are things that are much more important that she will learn to do that you can’t teach her but that she can learn on her own through experience and observation.  How do I know this?  Because after twelve fourteen years of volunteering at an all-girls camp and ten twelve years of running the camp, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Simple Milestones 

Imagine your five-year-old pulling out her own clothes, dressing herself, and even tying her shoes.  Oh, she doesn’t?  You’ve tried over and over to teach her about the bunny crawling into the hole, but she just can’t do it by herself?  You might be surprised.  I can’t count the amount of girls who have come to me with brilliant smiles because they just tied their own shoes for the very first time.  All of the other girls can tie their own shoes, and suddenly that stubborn, strong-willed, “mommy, please do it for me” child wants to accomplish this task for herself.  Add to the mix a totally cool, upbeat, teenage girl who encourages her every morning to get dressed, fix her hair, tie her shoes, even brush her teeth, and every little girl wants to prove that she, too, can be the big girl that her teen counselor knows she can be.  I remember the first time my niece came to camp.  My brother was amazed when she came home and insisted on fixing her own hair “the way Giggles fixed it at camp.” This year will be my niece’s fifth year at camp and my brother’s fourth! Mike (known as Flash to the girls) teaches photography. Where else can girls go to learn photography from a professional photographer who really cares that each girl learns the best way to photograph everything from a sunset to a bowl of M&Ms? 

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Handling Things Out of Anyone’s Control

It’s raining today, and your daughter refuses to go to school because she has to walk from the front door to the car.  Imagine her running, giggling all the way, from her cabin to the unit house to play games with her friends until the rain passes.  Imagine her swimming in the rain (as long as there’s no thunder and lightning), not only without complaint, but without even noticing the falling drops.  When it rains at camp, the activities must go on.  The lesson leaned – life goes on.  Just because something comes along that we can’t control doesn’t mean we throw in the towel.  As long as it’s safe, everything continues.  And if it’s not safe to be outdoors, we improvise – games and activities inside the program center, extra snacks, maybe even a movie, whatever it takes to keep having fun.  Life throws you curves, and time at camp teaches girls that they can hit a home run no matter what the pitch is. The same year this was written, but months after it was published, we held camp during a brutally hot week. While we all hoped for a cool-down, we never asked for the entire last day to be one torrential downpour complete with insane lightning and thunder. Girls spent most of the afternoon inside the cramped program center, doing crafts and playing games. Some of the activities led to a whole new program the next summer after we learned how much the girls loved doing improvisational acting! When at camp, you truly do learn how to turn lemons into lemonade! 

Trying New Things

Whether it’s a meal she would never eat at home or an activity she would never dream of trying, camp is all about doing something new.  We once had a girl at camp who quickly gained the nickname, Carrots, because, as you may have guessed, she would eat nothing but carrots.  By the end of day two, she was trying new foods and asking for seconds.  Camp makes you hungry!  And if all of the other girls are eating it, there’s a good chance, she will, too.  The same goes for trying things that she might never do with or for Mom.  No offense moms, but there are far too many times that we don’t push our daughters to do challenging or even scary things because, well, because they’re our daughters.  Part of it is the fear that something will happen to them, and part of it is because we often don’t give them credit for being able to do it, or, let’s be honest, we don’t want to do it ourselves.  There are few things that get me smiling more than watching a little girl go from crying her eyes out and refusing to even climb the ladder to hearing her squeals of delight as she glides through the air on a zip line.  The satisfaction comes not from knowing that she was talked into going, but from knowing that she convinced herself that she could. Last year, a high-ropes course was added to the camp. If you thought that girls went away empowered just from riding a zip line, imagine how great they felt about themselves after climbing to the top of the high-ropes course, powered solely by their own brains and muscles and often by the helping hand of a new friend.

 

Coping With Fears

There was once a little girl at camp who cried herself to sleep every night.  She cried through programs, she cried through meals, she cried through swimming and archery and everything else that the other girls did with joy.  This year, that little girl is the floor manager at CNN and an adult camp counselor.  She has been coming since the age of five, through grade school, middle school, high school, and college. She comforts little girls and tells them her story.  After twenty years of coming to camp, she boasts that there isn’t any place she’d rather be.  Whether it’s zip lining over a deep ravine, being away from Mom and Dad, or surviving thunderstorms and spiders, girls leave camp knowing that they can overcome anything.  And nine out of ten of those girls will be back the next year. Last year, we had a little girl fly to Maryland all the way from Houston, Texas, to attend her first sleep-away camp. She was so nervous and cried the first night. This year, she’s attending a month-long camp! Someday, maybe she will conquer the moon!

Discovering the Unknown

There is so much that girls can learn and discover at camp, and some of them might surprise you.  Inner city girls come to camp and see giant, sunbathing turtles for the first time.  Girls with no siblings learn to share a room (actually, a cabin or a tent) and eat at a table of twelve talking, laughing girls.  First time campers feel the power that comes with spending the week away from home.  More importantly, girls learn tolerance, respect, and empathy.  This past year, we had a little girl with autism attend camp for the first time.  At first, the other girls weren’t sure what to think about Brie (pictured above on the zip line and below).  Some may have been scared, and several were apprehensive about being near her or working with her because they recognized that she was different.  It didn’t take long for them to see her as a beautiful, loving, intelligent girl who isn’t really any different than the rest of them but who just needed their assistance and their patience.  While Brie’s mother felt that her daughter left camp having learned so many new things, it was really the staff and the other campers who truly learned the most.  We are all better for spending the week with her. For the third year, Brie will grace us with her presence this summer. She has brought so much joy and sunshine to our camp, and she continues to teach us lesson after lesson about compassion, dignity, patience, and unconditional love.

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Becoming a Leader

The vast majority of girls who return to our camp have one goal in mind – to keep coming long enough to become a teen counselor.  Those ultra cool young ladies who brush hair, hold hands, dry tears, and read stories are the envy of every little girl at camp.  The girls want to grow up to be just like those teens with intriguing camp names like Giggles, Broadway, Twizzler, and Trouble.  That is quite an honor because those teenagers grow up to be remarkable young women.  Many of them, like Tinkerbell who works at CNN, continue coming to camp through high school, college, and beyond.  One of our counselors is a schoolteacher who comes to camp every year with her own daughters.  She has been coming since she was in grade school.  We have several college girls who plan to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers.  We have adults who are in those fields and others: a school administrator, a former crime scene technician, heck, even a published author.  Many of our all-volunteer staff went to camp themselves, either at our camp or a similar one.  They know the importance of instilling goals and confidence in our campers so that they can be the leaders of tomorrow. Tinkerbell is now the head camera operator at the CNN DC news center and has imparted her wisdom on girls in our Journalism Program. Giggles graduated and begun college and is one of our swim instructors, helping girls reach their potential on land and in the water. Twizzler is now in law school and has led programs on crime scene investigation and newspaper reporting, editing, and design. This year, for the first time, we have teenage camp counselors leading several programs! How empowering will that be for the younger girls to see these young ladies step up and take charge?  I can’t wait to see these girls at their best, sharing their knowledge with the campers.

So before you delete that email or throw away that brochure, picture your daughter.  Not the daughter you live with, the one you see every day, the one you dress and coddle.  Picture your daughter as an independent, self-confident, successful adult.  She can get that way through a number of routes, but the one she will always remember and want to return to again and again is an all-girls summer camp.  She will develop friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that will both entice and inspire her to become the person you always knew she could be.  What more could you ask for?

What I was writing about this time last year:  Longing for Laura’s Little House

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 600 on Amazon. Her next children’s book, The Greatest Gift, is now available; and her novel, Summer’s Squall, is on sale 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)

 

Wonder Women

IMG_4576I’ve had the pleasure and privilege of spending the better part of this summer with many amazing women. It started with my trip to Europe, with my daughter, Katie, to celebrate her high school graduation. On that trip, I had the privilege of seeing my daughter, the adult. I was awed by her, as I usually am by each of my daughters, and I reveled in the two and a half weeks that we shared together. While she still has some growing up to do, as all kids do when they leave for college, I saw many glimpses of the woman she is becoming. I look forward to seeing all that life has in store for her.

Staff 2017.JPGIn July, the girls and I returned to our favorite summer event – a week of Girl Scout camp. While there are two men who volunteer, the camp is primarily run by women, and what a great group of women they are. Ranging from high school freshmen to women in their sixties, they are students, attorneys, teachers, nurses, a CNN camerawoman, business owners, troop leaders, and a host of other professions. They are all, young and old, women to look up to, if for no other reason than that they tirelessly give an entire week of their lives, every year, to ensure the happiness of 100 little girls. But that’s not the only reason. They are women who inspire and encourage other women, and that’s so vitally important in a world where so many women are determined to continuously put others down.

IMG_7045.JPGA week after camp ended, I found myself on a plane to Austin, Texas, to join 300 other Catholic women for a weekend of spirituality and fun. Joining me in Austin were thirteen of the women I met on our pilgrimage to the Holy Land almost two years ago. For some of us, this was a second or third reunion. For many, it was the first time we’d seen each other since February of 2016. There were tears, prayers, and laughter, much laughter. Each of these women has struggled with something – past regrets, infertility, divorce, health issues, rocky marriages, job loss, the death of a child, ailing and infirmed parents, or some other type of hardship. Each has her own cross to bear, and bear it she does, with dignity, grace, and beauty that cannot be measured by the human eye. Each loves without judgement, acts without selfishness, and relies on her faith to see her through the toughest of times. I look at these women and am overwhelmed by them, by all that they’ve done, by all that they have to give, and by their strength and determination. At one point, one of the women said to me, “When I grow up, I want to be you.” Those words will never leave me because I just want to be like all of them.

IMG_7159.JPGThis week, I got to spend time with the women who matter the most in my life – my three girls. Along with us on our family vacation, is Rebecca’s life-long best friend, Bailey. It has been such a pleasure to spend time with them. Yesterday, we started the day by hiking Bushkill Falls. There were no easy trails for this crew. We knew that the harder and rockier the trail, the better the view, so onward and upward we went. The girls laughed at the warnings that the trails we had chosen would be strenuous, and even Bailey, not a fan of heights, tackled the mountain with grace and ease. It was another glimpse of the women they are and will be, and I marveled at the young ladies we had raised. Picture-cbkma-20170808-0015953In the afternoon, Morgan, her boyfriend, Katie, and I took on a five-level treetop adventure course. With each level, the challenges grew harder and higher. After the first three, Jacob decided he had spent enough time high above the ground (you’ve to hand it to a boy who is deathly afraid of heights but willingly takes on such a challenge). Katie, not one to give up, wanted to continue on to courses four and five, courses on which few people are willing to continue. In fact, she and I were the only females, in our group of two dozen or so people, to move on AND CONQUER the courses, and two of the small handful of women who even attempted the courses that day. As we were leaving, the men were offering us congratulations and compliments, and a woman waiting at the end,  high-fived us, telling us that a man ahead of us had called us the Warrior Women. 

But here’s the truth about all of this. I would never have taken Rebecca and then Katie to Europe after their graduations had Rebecca not encouraged me to do so. She was confident that the two of us could manage ten cities and seven countries in three weeks, and we did. That led to Katie’s trip in which we visited nine cities in three countries in just over two weeks with skill and ease. Their confidence in me in humbling. Their confidence in themselves in awe-inspiring. Likewise, I would never have taken on the job of camp director if another woman hadn’t been so positive that I was up to the task. She encouraged me to take the reins and has continued to support and encourage me for the past eleven years. IMG_7058.JPGI would never have formed the bond that I have formed with my sisters in faith from all across the country if they hadn’t been so open and trusting with each other, so supportive, and such faith-filled, persevering women. There is no judgement there, no attempts to be better than anyone, no snarkiness or cutting each other down. There is just pure love and the understanding that each of us is here just trying to do the best we can in a world that is a never-ending challenge. Much like my day with my family yesterday in which each thing we did was harder than the thing before it. Each level was rockier, higher, more challenging, but we encouraged each other to push on. 

IMG_9935We all have the ability to be Wonder Women, to fight for justice, for truth, for peace, and for love. We all have the ability to encourage one another, to see each other for what we have to give and not for what we lack, to be there for each other in the good times and the bad, to inspire others to have faith in themselves, each other, and God. I learned all of that from the ultimate Wonder Woman, my mom. She is my inspiration, my ideal, that to which I aspire. I am who I am, and my girls are who they are because of her. Happy birthday, Mom. I love you. May we all be blessed with a Wonder Woman, or a group of Wonder Women, in our lives.

 

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs without fear of the future. When she speaks, her words are wise, and she gives instructions with kindness. She carefully watches everything in her household and suffers nothing from laziness. Her children stand and bless her. Her husband praises her: “There are many virtuous and capable women in the world, but you surpass them all!” Charm is deceptive, and beauty does not last; but a woman who fears the LORD will be greatly praised. Reward her for all she has done. Let her deeds publicly declare her praise.

Proverbs 31:25-31

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Off the Grid.

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)

Three Simple but GIGANTIC Reasons to Try Something New

This morning, I had the pleasure of having my daughter, Rebecca, and her best friend, Bailey, accompany me to my weekly cardio class. While they teased me about it not being “their thing,” they both did just fine and even seemed to enjoy themselves. Whether they ever return to class with me or not, it was great to see them trying something new. Of course, that’s not unusual for our family. We are always willing to try something new, go somewhere different, experience things outside of our comfort zones. I think this is one of the reasons our family is so highly addicted to the The Amazing Race. For years, Rebecca and I have said that we’re going to go on the show (I’m just crossing my fingers that it’s still on once she finishes law school). It’s partly about the trip around the world, partly about the race to win a million dollars, but mostly about the chance to do things that no ordinary person would ever have the chance to do. What have we got to lose? More importantly, if you try something new, look at all you could gain.

Discover something you never thought you’d enjoy – Years ago, my sister-in-law invited us to go camping with her and her family. The closest thing I’d ever done to camping was to go to a Campfire Girl lock-in when I was about twelve. Chrissy even warned us that she was sure I was going to hate every minute of it. Now here I am, fifteen years later, running a week-long overnight, outdoor Girl Scout camp for 120 young girls. And it’s the highlight of my year. Who would ever have thought that I would not only enjoy camping, but that it would become a huge, and I mean huge, part of my life?

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Discover a hidden talent – I see young girls every summer stepping out of their comfort zones when they arrive at camp. Yes, it’s hot (some years, over 100 degrees). Yes, there’s dirt. Yes, there are bugs. Yes, we swim in a lake with frogs and fish and other creatures. And the girls zip line, shoot arrows, climb a rock wall, canoe and kayak, and take part in various programs that encompass everything from photography to baking to sewing. Girls who have never picked up a needle and thread go home with a whole quilt to hang on their walls. You never know what you’re capable of until you try.

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Discover yourself – There are many people who found their true calling simply by trying something new:

Theodore Geisel, better known as Dr. Seuss – While studying for his PhD in English Literature, Geisel learned that he had a talent for drawing. Throwing caution to the wind, he quit his job and his studies and wrote a little book called, And to Think I Saw it on Mulberry Street. Rejected 28 times, the book eventually became one of the most beloved children’s books of all time.

George Lucas – A passionate race car driver, Lucas gave up his ambitions after a crash that nearly cost him his life. With no idea what to do with his life, he enrolled at the University of Southern California and pursued a career in film. Over forty years later, the force is certainly with him.

Henry Ford – At the age of twenty-eight, Ford decided to try something new with his life and took a shot at becoming an engineer. Seven years later, he designed the first automobile, an utter failure. But through hard work and perseverance, over ten years after taking a chance on a new career, Ford had his first success and has become a household name and an industry standard.

J.K. Rowling – Having graduated with a BA in French and Classics, Rowling was married and had a child when she began writing the Harry Potter series on a whim after the idea literally “popped into her mind.” Today, Rowling is the first person to ever become a billionaire through writing.

https://www.wanderlustworker.com/48-famous-failures-who-will-inspire-you-to-achieve/

I could go on and on, but I think you get the point. Unless you try something, you will never know where it might lead you in your life. You might never discover who you are truly meant to be.

Never be afraid to try. Never say no to a new experience, a new job, a new endeavor. Take that leap. Give it a try. You never know where it may lead.

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What I was writing about one year ago this week: Finding the Way.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  10 Road Trips You Can Take Over a Weekend;  Did You Have A ‘Blankie’ As A Kid? Here’s What That Says About Adult You; and Men saying “no thanks” to college.

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/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)

Update on 150 Reasons to Go

DSC_7071.JPGI wrote the following blog almost two years ago.  Nothing has changed about the way I feel, but my life continues to be enhanced and made better by the girls and adults that I know through my role as a camp director.  Here are my thoughts on the “job” and an update from this year’s camp.

I hate driving in Baltimore.  Please don’t take offense. It’s not the city itself.  It’s the multitude of one-way streets.  Even when relying on my GPS, I always seem to get twisted around no matter where I’m going.  Give me DC any day with its wagon wheel street design, every spoke emanating out from the beautiful white dome of the Capitol with states going in one direction and letters in the other.  Now that’s a city in which I can find my way around.  Even if I get lost, I know I’m never truly lost and can easily find the way out.  I have a very hard time finding one good reason to drive in Baltimore.  However, tomorrow, I will find 150 reasons.

Tomorrow I will attend the State of Maryland Camp Director’s Training.  Though I’ve been a camp director for nine years now, I have never made it downtown for the training.  This year, however, there are several crucial changes in the healthcare laws, so I must make the trek into the city to learn how to properly construct the necessary forms.  So for the benefit of the one-hundred girls and the fifty staff members that attend Summer Roundup, I will boldly take on the streets of Charm City.

If you have never attended an overnight summer camp or have never volunteered for one, you couldn’t possibly understand the lengths to which I would go for the group of people I consider my second family.  My own daughters and I have been attending Roundup for twelve years now.  My girls have all three progressed from first year campers as Brownies or Daisies to know-it-all Cadettes to Teen Camp Aides, and for the second year in a row, one Adult Staff.  I have watched them go from knowing nothing about camping or rowing or shooting an arrow to teaching younger girls how to pitch a tent, paddle a kayak, or hit a bullseye.  I have seen girls cry their eyes out for four nights straight, and then a few years later, console and tuck into bed a new camper pining for home.  I have staff members who were once Roundup campers themselves and are now attending with their own daughters.

There is something so special about an all-volunteer camp that it’s hard to put it into words. I’m sure that high-priced, fancy summer camps with fully paid staff and college kids making enough money to buy a car are a lot of fun.  But nothing can compare to the heart and soul that is put into a camp by people who are there for no other reason than they love the camp.  There is a feeling that each person, camper and adult alike, takes home from camp that never leaves them.  It is that feeling that leaves all of us counting down until the next year when we will see each other again.

I highly encourage everyone to send your child to an all-volunteer camp.  Don’t do it because they are by far the least expensive camps.  Don’t do it because it’s a way to keep the kids busy for one week of the summer or to get them out of your hair.  Don’t even do it because their friends are going to camp.  Do it because it will be a week they will never forget, a week without phones or television or video games, a week of learning about nature and survival, and a week of learning about themselves.  But before you send them, I ask you to think about this, what are you doing for that week?  It’s just one week.  You’ll survive.  You might even learn something about yourself.  So go ahead, fill out that form for your child, and while you’re at it, fill out one for yourself.  It will be an experience you will never forget and will never regret.

** Update – this year, we have 163 people at camp with plans to possibly admit up to twelve more girls next year.  We’re also going to add an additional night and morning!  This excites me to no end!  Just before sitting down to write this, I visited the “Little Camper Annie” Theater program where Brownie Girl Scouts were performing their own version of life at Summer Roundup – Annie style, as well as the Dr. Seuss program where Daises were creating hot air balloon photo holders while wearing Thing 1 through Thing 9 t-shirts.  They presented me my very own Cat in the Hat chair, decorated and signed by each girl.  I couldn’t hold back the tears.  Some people spend the hottest days of the summer playing by the pool or heading to the beach. For me, the hottest days of the summer always have me trying to keep over one hundred girls and their counselors hydrated, cool, and having fun. You can take the pool. I’d rather take a walk to the lake to watch a group of girls swimming, kayaking, and playing water volleyball while laughing and smiling the entire time.  There’s no other way I’d want to enjoy my summer.

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)

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The 6 Top Reasons Every Girl Should Go To Outdoor Camp

DSC06238It’s that time of year, the time when parents are bombarded with emails and snail mails asking them to send their children to camp.  While there are many different kinds of camps that focus on everything from making your child the next Peyton Manning to teaching them how to audition for Broadway, every child should have the opportunity to experience a good, old-fashioned outdoor camp, especially girls.

Why, you ask, is it so important to send my daughter to camp?  Simply put, there are things that your daughter will learn at camp that she might never learn at home, and I don’t mean building a fire or pitching a tent, though she may learn those skills as well.  The truth is that there are things that are much more important that she will learn to do that you can’t teach her but that she can learn on her own through experience and observation.  How do I know this?  Because after twelve years of volunteering at an all-girls camp and ten years of running the camp, I have seen it happen over and over again.

Simple Milestones 

Imagine your five-year-old pulling out her own clothes, dressing herself, and even tying her shoes.  Oh, she doesn’t?  You’ve tried over and over to teach her about the bunny crawling into the hole, but she just can’t do it by herself?  You might be surprised.  I can’t count the amount of girls who have come to me with brilliant smiles because they just tied their own shoes for the very first time.  All of the other girls can tie their own shoes, and suddenly that stubborn, strong-willed, “mommy, please do it for me” child wants to accomplish this task for herself.  Add to the mix a totally cool, upbeat, teenage girl who encourages her every morning to get dressed, fix her hair, tie her shoes, even brush her teeth, and every little girl wants to prove that she, too, can be the big girl that her teen counselor knows she can be.  I remember the first time my niece came to camp.  My brother was amazed when she came home and insisted on fixing her own hair “the way Giggles fixed it at camp.”

Handling Things Out of Anyone’s Control

It’s raining today, and your daughter refuses to go to school because she has to walk from the front door to the car.  Imagine her running, giggling all the way, from her cabin to the unit house to play games with her friends until the rain passes.  Imagine her swimming in the rain (as long as there’s no thunder and lightning), not only without complaint, but without even noticing the falling drops.  When it rains at camp, the activities must go on.  The lesson leaned – life goes on.  Just because something comes along that we can’t control doesn’t mean we throw in the towel.  As long as it’s safe, everything continues.  And if it’s not safe to be outdoors, we improvise – games and activities inside the program center, extra snacks, maybe even a movie, whatever it takes to keep having fun.  Life throws you curves, and time at camp teaches girls that they can hit a home run no matter what the pitch is.

Trying New Things

Whether it’s a meal she would never eat at home or an activity she would never dream of trying, camp is all about doing something new.  We once had a girl at camp who quickly gained the nickname, Carrots, because, as you may have guessed, she would eat nothing but carrots.  By the end of day two, she was trying new foods and asking for seconds.  Camp makes you hungry!  And if all of the other girls are eating it, there’s a good chance, she will, too.  The same goes for trying things that she might never do with or for Mom.  No offense moms, but there are far too many times that we don’t push our daughters to do challenging or even scary things because, well, because they’re our daughters.  Part of it is the fear that something will happen to them, and part of it is because we often don’t give them credit for being able to do it, or, let’s be honest, we don’t want to do it ourselves.  There are few things that get me smiling more than watching a little girl go from crying her eyes out and refusing to even climb the ladder to hearing her squeals of delight as she glides through the air on a zip line.  The satisfaction comes not from knowing that she was talked into going, but from knowing that she convinced herself that she could.

Coping With Fears

There was once a little girl at camp who cried herself to sleep every night.  She cried through programs, she cried through meals, she cried through swimming and archery and everything else that the other girls did with joy.  This year, that little girl is the floor manager at CNN and an adult camp counselor.  She has been coming since the age of five, through grade school, middle school, high school, and college. She comforts little girls and tells them her story.  After twenty years of coming to camp, she boasts that there isn’t any place she’d rather be.  Whether it’s zip lining over a deep ravine, being away from Mom and Dad, or surviving thunderstorms and spiders, girls leave camp knowing that they can overcome anything.  And nine out of ten of those girls will be back the next year.

Discovering the Unknown

There is so much that girls can learn and discover at camp, and some of them might surprise you.  Inner city girls come to camp and see giant, sunbathing turtles for the first time.  Girls with no siblings learn to share a room (actually, a cabin or a tent) and eat at a table of twelve talking, laughing girls.  First time campers feel the power that comes with spending the week away from home.  More importantly, girls learn tolerance, respect, and empathy.  This past year, we had a little girl with autism attend camp for the first time.  At first, the other girls weren’t sure what to think about Brie (pictured above).  Some may have been scared, and several were apprehensive about being near her or working with her because they recognized that she was different.  It didn’t take long for them to see her as a beautiful, loving, intelligent girl who isn’t really any different than the rest of them but who just needed their assistance and their patience.  While Brie’s mother felt that her daughter left camp having learned so many new things, it was really the staff and the other campers who truly learned the most.  We are all better for spending the week with her.

Becoming a Leader

The vast majority of girls who return to our camp have one goal in mind – to keep coming long enough to become a teen counselor.  Those ultra cool young ladies who brush hair, hold hands, dry tears, and read stories are the envy of every little girl at camp.  The girls want to grow up to be just like those teens with intriguing camp names like Giggles, Broadway, Twizzler, and Trouble.  That is quite an honor because those teenagers grow up to be remarkable young women.  Many of them, like Tinkerbell who works at CNN, continue coming to camp through high school, college, and beyond.  One of our counselors is a schoolteacher who comes to camp every year with her own daughters.  She has been coming since she was in grade school.  We have several college girls who plan to be doctors, nurses, and lawyers.  We have adults who are in those fields and others: a school administrator, a former crime scene technician, heck, even a published author.  Many of our all-volunteer staff went to camp themselves, either at our camp or a similar one.  They know the importance of instilling goals and confidence in our campers so that they can be the leaders of tomorrow.

So before you delete that email or throw away that brochure, picture your daughter.  Not the daughter you live with, the one you see every day, the one you dress and coddle.  Picture your daughter as an independent, self-confident, successful adult.  She can get that way through a number of routes, but the one she will always remember and want to return to again and again is an all-girls summer camp.  She will develop friendships that will last a lifetime and memories that will both entice and inspire her to become the person you always knew she could be.  What more could you ask for?

Amy Schisler is an author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages who lives with husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland.  Her latest book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three eBooks of 2015.  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)

S’More Fun To Be Had

DSC01385For a country where all are entitled to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness, we sure do have to put up with a plethora of rules and regulations.  In my ten years as a camp director, I’ve seen the regulations regarding overnight camps skyrocket.  This year I will have 100 girls and 60 staff members at camp all week.  Think about that – a 6 to 10 ratio!  Why?  There is now a requirement that I give a two-hour break to all staff members every day.  I know, I know, that sounds reasonable enough; but this is an all-volunteer camp.  These adults have volunteered their time 24 hours a day (because incidents at camp don’t stop when the lights go out), and they expect to be busy running programs, watching on the beachfront, helping with crafts, going on hikes, etc. None of us expects to sit lazily under a tree or take a nap in our cabins for two hours.  And mealtimes and recreational time don’t count as breaks.  I’m turning away girls because I have to house staff in order to satisfy this rule.

Don’t get me wrong, I love our volunteers, but I’d love to welcome more girls to the joys of camp.

And paperwork!  You wouldn’t believe the amount of paperwork that has to be done to become a volunteer.  In addition to a lengthy application and three references who submit very detailed analyses of each volunteer, everyone has to do a background check through our Girl Scout Council, a state and federal fingerprint check, and a child protective services background check.  The theory is that one will catch what another misses.  Add to all of that the number of trainings required in order to run any type of program, and I’m surprised the volunteers don’t go running in the other direction.

Believe me, I know that our top priority is the safety of the girls, and I’m all for that.  But as Director, all of this paperwork is killing me.  Oh, and I haven’t even mentioned all of the medical information we are required to obtain, each piece carefully documented and signed by a physician.  Something tells me that Lord Baden Powell and Juliette Gordon Lowe would have given up before they even got started if they were trying to take children camping today.

Let’s hope that all of the state, national, and Council requirements don’t steer others from stepping up as camp directors and volunteers. Imagine all of this plus the time and effort put into just the administration and operation of the camp itself – planning programs, unit and cabin assignments, scheduling all events for the week without conflicts, meal planning, evening activities, and much, much more. It’s a grueling and full-time job at times, and I often wonder why I continue doing it.

Then the most amazing thing happens.  The time for camp arrives, and I see, often for the first time in a year, the wonderful volunteers I have come to love.  After spending 24 hours unpacking, cleaning, organizing, and setting up for camp, we greet the campers, smiling, happy girls from ages six to thirteen.  We work hard all week, but we have fun, too.  From the first night scavenger hunt to the closing ceremony, the smiles and laughs far outweigh the frustrations.  There is nothing else I would rather be doing each summer than spending it with this group.  We are family, and as we all know, family stays together through good and bad, thick and thin, sun and rain (but, please, no rain)!  So as the time grows near, and the first day of camp quickly approaches, I say let’s have s’more fun!

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