“Ain’t Nothin’ Gonna Break My Stride”*

Katie diving for the ball

This past Thursday, I watched Katie play in a tennis match in which she spent each break between games doubled over, holding her stomach. Apparently she was coming down with something, and her stomach cramps were causing her great pain. Afterward, her coach asked her why she didn’t quit or tell him she wasn’t feeling well. Katie just looked up at him and replied, “I wanted to play, and I wanted to win.” And win she did, 8-1, losing only the first game, which is her usual strategy – to spend more time focusing on how her opponent plays than trying to win that first round. Katie ended up being sick all night and stayed home from school the next day but bounced back by early afternoon.

Since then, I’ve thought a lot about the next comment her coach made, “I guess it runs in the family.” I don’t know why he said that, other than the fact that he has spent the past eight years coaching one Schisler or another in both tennis and field hockey. Surely he knows that neither Rebecca or Morgan let anything stop them from reaching their goals, and he watches Katie do that every day at practice and in matches. Thinking about it made me wonder where they get it from, and that led me to ask where I get it from. The answer is simple.

Over the past thirty years, my father has battled three different types of cancer. He has had a hip replacement and hears very little of what is said to him. In less than three weeks, he will turn eighty, and I’m sure he will spend that day like every other. He will wake up early, walk at least a mile, attend Mass, run errands, and then go to work in his garage, building amazing outdoor chairs or benches or tables, birdhouses, children’s play furniture, bookcases, or closet storage units –  whatever has been ordered that week.  He’ll spend the evening watching TV with mom, looking forward to watching his Orioles play. Dad was probably one of those kids who got perfect attendance every year in school. He lets nothing slow him down or stop him from achieving whatever goal he has set before him, even if the goal is to simply live to see another day.

My favorite office accessory – my whiteboard wall!

My father-in-law once told me that I’m impatient and always want everything “yesterday.” He wasn’t trying to insult me; he was just pointing out that I don’t like waiting for things to be done. And he’s right. But I don’t think it has to do with impatience (although I readily admit to that being one of my major flaws). Rather, I think it’s because an unfinished project or open task means that a goal has not been met; the next goal is put on hold. I constantly have a list running, a tally of things I need to accomplish in a day, a week, a month. My family sees lists posted all over the house that remind them of tasks to be done. If things aren’t completed within my set timeline, it throws off the whole system. It sounds neurotic and controlling, I know, but I tend to see it differently.

You see, we were all put on this earth for a reason, to fulfill something, to attain our purpose. If I were to spend my days taking naps, watching TV, playing video games, or socializing with friends, does that mean I would enjoy life more? Would I obtain greater satisfaction? A bigger sense of fulfillment? Perhaps, but I don’t think so. On the other hand, when I finish a successful week of summer camp and see the girls leaving with smiles on their faces, calling to their friends, “See you next year,” I am filled with deep, unwavering satisfaction. All of the time and effort that I put into planning the camp, throughout the entire year, pays off. It’s the same with my writing. Selling books and garnering good reviews isn’t a means to satisfying my wallet but a means to satisfying my soul. It’s the feeling of a job well done, but more importantly, it’s the feeling of bringing enjoyment to others. And sometimes, like with finishing my new home office, it’s simply the sense of satisfaction that it brings to me.

Perhaps I have it all wrong. Maybe pushing myself to stay on task, looking ahead to the next thing on the list, and constantly striving to accomplish my goals isn’t good for me. Perhaps I’ve created monsters that my children will never be able to overcome that will lead them to anxiety, fear of failure, and the inability to move forward. I certainly hope not. I hope that they will learn to harness anxiety and turn it into motivation, recognize that failure is sometimes success on an alternate path, and that moving forward sometimes means taking one baby step at a time. I also hope that we all continue working hard, crossing off our goals, and enjoying our lives until we’re at least eighty. My dad seems to have found the path to a long and happy life. All I can do is pray that I’m following in his footsteps.

My Dad and me at Christmas

What I was writing about one year ago this week:  Make Me an Instrument of Your Peace.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Not a Perfect Mom, but an Enough Mom  by Wonderoak,  A Craving for Confession at Y’all Need Jesus, How the Like Button Ruined the Internet from the Atlantic. 

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. Amy’s most recent novel, Island of Miracles, is now on sale as well as Stations of the Cross Meditations for Moms, her collaboration with the authors of the blog, Y’all Need Jesus.

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)

*Title taken from the lyrics of Break My Stride by Matthew Wilder.

Stretched Thin

Do you remember Stretch Armstrong?  He was the superhero doll from the 70s who could be pulled and stretched to three times his size just for the fun of it.  I’m not sure why many children from my generation spent so much wasted time stretching this otherwise useless toy to his limits just to see him warp back into himself again.  Sometimes I think we did it just to see how far we could pull until he broke and that gross, gooey, syrupy stuff came oozing out of him.  Looking back, I think whoever made that silly toy must have had a vision of the future. Somehow he knew that GenX was going to live the life of poor Stretch Armstrong every single day.

Let’s take a look at just this week in my life.  On Monday, Ken left for a business trip at 4am, I had yoga at 8 (scratch that – girls were running late, so I had to make do with a yoga video at home), then I wrote the next chapter in the novel I’m currently writing.  Off to take Morgan to the orthodontist at 2:30, then Katie to tennis at 3:30 so she could warm up for her match at 4.  Somehow I managed to do a couple of loads of laundry and wash the dishes.  That was a slow day.  Tuesday saw us leaving on time for school, me on the resistance bike by 8:30, another chapter down, tennis practice at 3:30, and team dinner at 6.  I finished my day folding more laundry.  Today, yoga, blog, tennis match at 4, Morgan’s tennis lesson at 5:30, and then dinner (something, somewhere, somehow, with someone – maybe all of us if we can manage it).  Tomorrow, girls to school, meeting in Annapolis for a board I’m on, at school by 1:30 to set up the desserts for the end of the year Awards Banquet, take Katie to tennis at 3:30, rush home to change for the banquet, pick up Katie, wait at the Y while she changes, be at the school by 5:30 and home by 10.  Friday, well you get the picture.  And guess what, this is an easy week!  It’s the end of the school year, and activities are winding down!

Some days I feel like I have been stretched to my limits, like one more pull and that gross, gooey syrupy stuff will start flowing out of me.  Other days, I feel like I’m already drowning in the gooey stuff.  But here’s the thing, I already have one daughter in college (if you think my days are busy now – try imagining all of this with an extra child thrown into the mix).  In just two years, Katie will be off as well.  And it will go by so quickly!  I can already feel the moments slipping away.  So while I may be stretched to my limits, and my insides may be starting to feel syrupy and out of shape, I know that I wouldn’t trade a single thing I do or have done.  Someday I will actually be able to write multiple chapters in a day, and I’ll wonder how I managed to survive all of those years spent driving children from one location to another while serving on boards and committees, and writing books and blogs, and cheering at games and crying at awards ceremonies. And you know what? It will have been worth every single stretch mark.

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.

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