A New Beginning

They say every good thing must come to an end, but is that really true? I’ve been thinking about that as Morgan and I approach the end of our trip to Greece. With all the pictures, videos, and—best yet—the memories, does our trip truly come to and end? And even if the trip itself does end, isn’t the entire trip actually more of a beginning?

Why is the sunset considered the end of the day and not the beginning of the night? Why is the end of a relationship not the beginning of a new start? Why does everyone see graduation as the end of something so momentous when life has only just begun?

Sunset on Naxos

I remember, when I graduated from high school all those years ago, we were told that we were not celebrating our graduation but our commencement—not marking the end of something but the beginning of something even better. We were starting over, becoming who we were meant to be, discovering ourselves in a new way and in a new place. My oldest daughter always says that nobody should peak in high school because life doesn’t really begin until you leave home and discover who you are. Perhaps this is why we should celebrate not the ending but the beginning, the chance to truly grow into the person God designed us to be.

This is what my daughters and I celebrated after their graduations. I can honestly say that those trips with my daughters were new beginnings that opened new worlds for us both literally and figuratively. We visited new places, experienced new cultures, tried new foods, and spoke new languages. Our worlds expanded in the most concrete ways. However, our worlds as mother and daughters expended just as much, perhaps even more.

Oia, Santorini

Over the course of the past 10 days, Morgan and I, like each of her sisters and I in the past, visited new places in our relationship. We weren’t just mother and daughter. We experienced Greece as traveling companions and as friends. We developed a new culture, a new way of life, a new understanding of who each other is. We learned things together. We found new foods we want to make at home and new drinks we both enjoy. We learned a new language, not the language spoken by a particular civilization but the language spoken between a mother and an adult daughter.

Morgan and Amy in Santorini

I’ve been impressed with my daughter’s maturity, her take-charge attitude, and her willingness to try new things, including cliff jumping into the Mediterranean! I’m convinced there is nothing she can’t do, and it makes me feel like an accomplished mom of a confident and competent adult. It’s a gift to see her in a new light–an adult ready to take on the world.

Morgan cliff jumping on Milos

It’s always difficult when something ends. As human beings, we sometimes find it challenging to accept change, to embrace something new, to say goodbye to those things to which we are accustom. But I’ve learned that from endings come beginnings. Though it saddens me to think that my baby will soon be living over five hours away, it excites me to see what she will do, accomplish, become. I’m so proud of the person she is growing into and look forward to seeing her embrace her new circumstances, new challenges, new life.

My baby is all grown up (Syros)

This trip isn’t the end of our time together any more than her graduation was an ending. Like the sunset, it’s merely a transition into something new, something wonderful, something to look forward to. I spent eighteen years getting to know my precious child. I hope to have twice that many years to get to know this wonderful adult.

Sunset at the Temple of Apollo, Naxos Island
You can see videos of our amazing adventure.

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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Glimpse of Paradise.

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 follow up, Island of Promise is a reader favorite. Amy’s children’s book is The Greatest Gift. The suspense novel, Summer’s Squall, and all of Amy’s books, can be found online and in stores. Her latest novel, Island of Promise, was recently awarded First Prize by the Oklahoma Romance Writer’s Association as the best Inspirational Romance of 2018 and was awarded a Gold Medal in the Independent Publisher Book Awards 2019 for Inspirational Fiction. It is a finalist for the RWA Golden Quill Contest and the Eric Hoffer Award of Fiction.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is now available! Order your copy today.

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).

Who Are You?

My married name is Schisler, but I will always be a MacWilliams, a Scot by name and blood. Aye, there’s some Irish and Welsh in there, too, but when asked about my ethnicity, my answer is always, “I’m Scottish.” So I was delighted when my daughter, Katie Ann, chose Scotland as one of the destinations on her graduation trip. When our oldest, Rebecca, graduated from high school, she and I backpacked through Europe for three weeks. It is a trip neither of us will ever forget, and one that Katie and Morgan have been planning ever since.

Beginning in England, I took Katie to all the famed tourist stops: London Bridge, the Tower Bridge, the Tower of London, Shakespeare’s Globe, etc. Katie selected three tours: Sherlock Holmes, a day trip to Salisbury, Bath, and Stonehenge, and of course, the Harry Potter studio tour. What fun we had doing all of those things! But our favorite day was the one we spent traveling by train to Windsor. The town was charming, and we loved visiting Windsor Castle. As fans of the PBS series, Victoria, we enjoyed seeing the young queen’s favorite home. All the while, as we toured London and the surrounding areas, I told Katie about how the histories of England and Scotland intertwine.

Upon arriving in Edinburgh, Katie and I went to lunch, and I told her as much of the history of Scotland that I could, knowing just bits of the long and winding story. After checking into our flat, we visited Edinburgh Castle and then roamed the Royal Mile. In and out of the tartan shops we went, picking up scarves and other items with my family’s crest and tartan on them. We did some research about our family and its exile from Scotland. Highlanders, they were, and they fought against the crown until being thrown out of the country. Most of the MacWilliamses fled to Ireland, becoming McWilliamses, but many were sent to the new colonies, which, we believe, is how my ancestors arrived in the U.S. While it makes for an interesting family history, it has caused much debate among family members about exactly who or what we are and from where we came. Some claim that we are all Irish, while others, like myself, cling to our Scottish heritage.

It saddens me that such a beautiful country has suffered so much turmoil and upheaval throughout its history. But rather than tear down the people’s pride of or love for their country, all of the turmoil seems to have strengthened their patriotism. Scotland still clings to its own traditions, its rich history, its whiskey and plaid and heroes. The more a Scot fought for independence against the Brits, the more he is loved by the people. 

Toward the end of Dragonfly in Amber, book two of the Outlander series, Claire wonders about the legacy that Bonnie Prince Charlie left to Scotland. Seeing modern-day graffiti, demanding “Free Scotland,” she asks, without the prince’s series of battles aimed at granting the country’s independence, would Scotland have “endured two hundred years of union with England, and still—still’—she waved a hand at the sprawling letters overhead—’have kept its own identity?”

It made me think about where we are in the United States, still a toddler of a country. Without the will to hold true to and fight for our heritage and beliefs, what chance do we have to preserve our history, culture, and traditions? If another country stole the Liberty Bell, would we, today, even attempt to get it back? Perhaps there has to be over a thousand years of history and tradition before there can be a Stone of a Destiny. Hopefully, if our nation were to ever face trials like those of Scotland, Americans, no matter their differences, will come together to like the Scots have. I love my country, and I will always be an American, but I will always be a proud Scot as well. Aye, I’m Scottish, and proud of it. 

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Striking Gold.

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)

Football is Family

IMG_1217I’ve heard the question asked many times.  I’ve felt it in the disapproving looks and seen it in the shake of a head.  I’ve read it on social media in the form of memes and comments.  Many of my friends ask it.  “Why is a nice person like you so fanatical about a violent, physical game like that?”  I have to smile when confronted with the question.  You see, for me, it’s only partially about the game.  As the NFL has touted all season, “Football is Family.”

When I was growing up, most Sundays were for going to church, enjoying a large, family breakfast, doing homework, and perhaps seeing a family-centered matinee (or in later years, renting a movie).  But from the first weekend of August through the month of January, Sunday afternoons were spent with the Washington Redskins.  I grew up in a great era for Washington football.  In my younger years, there were Sonny, Charlie, and Ritchie; and in my teens, we had Joe, Riggo, Art, and the Hogs.  The team wasn’t always good, but it was always there, like family.

Okay, I admit it.  When I was a little girl, I hated football.  And I do mean, I hated it.  I dreaded football season when my brothers wore nothing but numbered jerseys emblazoned with the names of their favorite players, my mother screamed at the TV and playfully punched anyone near her when something distressing happened, and meals during 4:00 games consisted of pizza and cheese and crackers.  No matter my feelings for the game or for the antics of my family, I had to endure those three hours every Sunday as if they were part of a sacred ritual.  I was allowed to read, do homework, even sleep, but I had to be in the room with my family.  Eventually, Redskin fever took hold of me.  I was 11, and I discovered something never before realized in my pre-adolescent brain – boys liked football.  And at 11, I realized that I liked boys.  I never knew until that year just how much I had learned by osmosis; but that season, the season of the Hogs at their best, when Joe and Riggo took us into battle against the Miami Dolphins and pulled out a Super Bowl victory, I figured out that I could join in any conversation the boys in my class were having that involved football.  It was an eye-opening revelation.

When the team rolled into Washington, D.C. for their victory parade, my family was there.  An advantage of going to a private school near the District – our principal actually closed school that day so that those who wanted to could attend the parade.  I still have very fond feelings for Sr. Victoire because of her understanding of the importance of the game to families.  A game that, as quoted in the movie, Concussion, “is a mindless, violent game. And then it’s Shakespeare.”  And in my house, it’s more than a game, more than a story; it’s family.  It’s about a family watching the game, talking about the game, and spending time together (even if some members of the family are reading or sleeping rather than watching).

Ironically, my husband was not a sports fan when we met.  For our first “date,” I invited him over “for dinner and the game.”  It wasn’t until after we were engaged that he revealed to me that he had no idea what I was referring to by “the game.”  After twenty-two years of marriage, I can happily report that he is a fan.  Unfortunately, having all daughters, it is a challenge to get our children even interested in football.  Our oldest will watch for a little while before becoming bored and complaining that the game is too complex, too hard to follow and understand.  And she’s right.  For those who don’t pay attention and learn the intricacies of the game, it is hard to follow and understand, but for those who take the time to learn it, football is a ballet involving the mind and the body that is danced on a 100 yard, green stage.

Sadly, I can no longer ply my girls to watch by using the logic “boys like girls who like football” because my girls are growing up in a different world where video games and personal electronics trump watching real, live sporting events.  While most of the boys my girls have dated claim to have a favorite team that they follow, none of them actually watches the game.  It breaks my heart, to tell the truth, that children today won’t experience the bond, forced as it was at times, that my family experienced.  Football is just one more thing that families no longer do together, and it’s a shame.  The good news is that my girls will share the love of a sport with their children – they are huge hockey fans. But in my house, win,lose, or tie, football will always mean family.

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.  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)

Time to Make the Doughnuts

IMG_3326Do you have a favorite family tradition from when you were little?  I think that both of my brothers would agree with me that one of our all time favorite family traditions was making homemade doughnuts on the first snow day of the year.  Of course, back in the 70s, they were deep fried, like everything else was back then, but oh, they were so good!  I’m not sure how many we ate in one day, but it was a once a year tradition, so I’m guessing our Mom turned a blind eye when we snuck back for more.

I don’t know when or why the tradition stopped.  At some point, I guess my brothers and I started sleeping in rather than getting up to make doughnuts.  I do know that ever since I’ve had children, I have awaken on snow days thinking back to those fun times in the kitchen with Scott, Michael, and Mom.  I can still picture us huddled around the kitchen counter taking turns putting in the ingredients and mixing the batter.  After they were baked, we dropped them into powdered sugar for the boys and sugar-cinnamon mix for me.  Sometimes I feel like I can taste them.  No doughnuts from any chain bakery could ever compare.

Today is our school’s first snow day of the year, and guess what my mother gave all of us for Christmas this year?  She gave us a pan for making baked doughnuts and a recipe to follow.  She says she has tested it out, and while they’re not the same as the good old fried ones we used to make, they are pretty darn delicious.  I don’t know how they taste, but I do know that my youngest daughter, Morgan, is having a lot of fun at the moment frosting them with homemade icing and topping them with sprinkles.  So if you don’t mind, I think I will sign off for the week and have myself a doughnut.  What snow day tradition will you continue or re-establish this year?

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

Making Memories

IMG_3301Our family has many traditions that we observe throughout the year.  When it is somebody’s birthday, we eat in the dining room and the birthday girl (or husband) eats on the “It’s your special day” plate that was given to us by dear family friends when my first daughter was born.  At Easter, the girls fill their baskets with dyed Easter eggs, the same baskets they have been using since each of them celebrated her first Easter.  We always take a family portrait on the 4th of July, each one of us decked out head-to-toe in red, white, and blue.  But there is no other time throughout the year that is more steeped in tradition for our family then during the Christmas and New Year’s season.

For many years, my mother and I were part of the millions of people who spent all day shopping on the day after Thanksgiving.  Two things that have happened in recent years have changed that for us: the first was the transferring of all of the best sales to Thanksgiving Day (we refuse to leave our family dinner table to go shopping), and the second was Rebecca’s Freshman year of college.  Since Rebecca leaves the Sunday after Thanksgiving to head back to school and doesn’t return until just before Christmas, we now spend that weekend decorating our house and putting up our tree instead of running to the mall.  It takes an entire day to strip all of the shelves and tabletops of all of our framed pictures, dozens of books, and many collectibles from our travels and replace them with our extensive nutcracker collection and the Nativity sets that my husband and I have brought back from all over the world.  The nutcracker collection really belongs to the girls.  Rebecca started the collection the Christmas she was three after seeing the Nutcracker on stage for the first time.  Over the years we have all added to the assemblage and have now amassed nearly 100 in the form of everything from the original Nutcracker Prince to my prized Washington Redskin.  Most of these will go with the girls when they get married, which leads me to the next tradition that we hold very dear, one that was actually started by my parents when I was a baby.

Every year when we put up our tree, everybody in the family gets a new ornament representative of something special that happened in their lives that year.  Some of Rebecca’s ornaments include a clarinet, a field hockey player, and, of course, her graduation cap.  Katie has an artist’s palette, a drama mask, and a piano.  Morgan’s ornaments include a swimmer, a bow and arrow, and a lacrosse player.  Just as I did when my husband and I celebrated our first Christmas after we were married, each of our girls will take their ornaments with them when they start their own married lives so that they have ornaments for their first tree.

Of course, the most cherished traditions of the Christmas season are the times we spend with family and friends.  This weekend, we will open our home to our closest mother-daughter friends for our 10th Annual Mother-Daughter Cookie Swap.  This year, the participants will make 14 dozen of their favorite kind of Christmas treat ( which may be cookies, or fudge, or bread), and everyone will take home 14 dozen different kinds of treats for the holidays.  I will prepare a gourmet meal to serve them and make homemade gifts for each of them to thank them for their friendship and support over the past year.  Later in the week, our family will enjoy Christmas Eve dinner with my extended family and Christmas Day dinner with Ken’s extended family.  It’s a lot of work, yes, but I wouldn’t trade any of it for anything  in the world.

New Year’s Eve will find us once again opening our home to friends as the girls will host their 14th New Year’s Eve sleepover!  Why do we do all of this, I’m sure many will ask.  Why not, I say!  What is life if we’re not truly living it, making the most of it, and creating memories and traditions that will go on for generation after generation?  I know that when my children are grown and have busy lives of their own, these will be the things they will cherish – not the materials things, the nutcrackers or the ornaments – but the memories that go with them.  And when you think about it, that’s all we can really take with us when we go, so let’s all make memories that count.

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

Giving Thanks

1459342_10152131697541349_1446286180_nOh, the hustle and bustle of the holidays!  Is there any sweeter sound than the melody of family gathered together to celebrate a holiday, or any occasion?  We have had the same Thanksgiving tradition for the past twenty-one years.  We head to my mother’s house (about two hours from our home) the Tuesday before Thanksgiving at whatever time the girls’ afternoon activities end.  This year, it was after Katie’s evening piano practice (Christmas recitals begin on Sunday!).  We met our oldest, Rebecca, halfway to Mom’s.  She was able to get a ride with a friend at college, about three hours from home.  As soon as we entered the house, the smells of Thanksgiving were already in the air: pumpkin bread, chocolate chip bars, Southern Maryland stuffed ham, and Mom’s famous ham and bean soup just for my husband to have for Wednesday’s lunch.  For those who have never had the pleasure, stuffed ham is like eating a little slice of Heaven on earth.

This morning, my three nephews arrived to join in the fun and laughter shared by my three daughters and my niece.  I thought they were supposed to get quieter as they got older, but no, the raucousness never ends; and what a beautiful sound that is!  Later today, they will make gingerbread houses to take home to display throughout the holidays, and Mom and I will begin cooking the turkey.  By the time we go to bed tonight, the smell of turkey will fill every corner of the house.

When we gather around Mom’s dining room table tomorrow afternoon, we will all take turns thanking God for what we are most grateful.  That includes the presence of every person at our table and those no longer with us.  Then we will feast on turkey and stuffing, sweet and mashed potatoes, Grandma’s famous rolls, a plethora of vegetables, and (my own favorite) my father’s incomparable fried oysters, fresh from the Bay.  One of our traditional favorites at every holiday meal is my Godmother’s baked pineapple, a delicious mixture of pineapple and other ingredients that melts in your mouth.  See below for a special treat for you, my readers!

Once we have finished eating and cleaning up the dishes, we say goodbye to my family and head back across the great Chesapeake Bay to spend the rest of the day with Ken’s family.  We arrive just in time to eat again!  This time, our choices include pumpkin pie, homemade cookies, cheesecakes, and my double chocolate chip pound cake.  The day usually ends with a rousing long-distance run of Dominoes, from the double fifteen down to blanks!  Christmas decorating will begin on Friday as the holidays have officially begun.  There will be a lot of eating, a lot of driving, and a lot of family togetherness, and I wouldn’t have it any other way.  It’s these times for which I am most grateful.

Happy Thanksgiving to all!

Godmother Judy’s Baked Pineapple (as mentioned in my upcoming novel, Picture Me – Sarah Book Publishing, Spring 2015)

Ingredients:

6 pieces of  toasted bread, buttered                            1 15oz can of crushed pineapple

1/2 cup of sugar                                                           1 egg

1 teaspoon vanilla                                                        1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Heat oven to 350.

In a greased 2 quart casserole dish, combine the pineapple and its juice with the sugar, egg, vanilla, and cinnamon.  Add slices of toast, torn into small pieces.  Stir and mix well until all bread is coated with the pineapple mixture.  Cut the remaining toast into small squares, and arrange over the top, covering the pineapple mixture.  Bake for 25 minutes.  Serve hot and enjoy!

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