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).

A Mother/Daughter Adventure

Those who have been following me for a few years know that each time one of our daughters graduates, she and I embark on a mother-daughter trip abroad. Rebecca and I backpacked through seven countries, beginning in England and finishing in Sweden. It was a whirlwind, three-week adventure that we will never forget.
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Katie Ann and I spent over a week in London, exploring every British pop-culture phenomenon from the Beatles to Harry Potter as well as several neighboring cities, then we spent a few days in Scotland and a few days in Iceland.
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This year, Morgan and I are tackling the Greek Isles with five days on the mainland and a side trip to Pompeii.

While the places, the food, the plays, and the tours are memorable in and of themselves, it’s the little things that make these trips special. And you can experience your own special adventure with your graduate even if you only go as far as your own back yard. What’s important is to…

Let your child be the guide.
DSC01287Rebecca and Katie both had very specific lists of what they wanted to do on their trips. Rebecca had to see a Shakespeare play at the Globe, visit Elsinore Castle (the home of the real-life Danish prince on whom Hamlet was based), and see the Red Light District of Amsterdam (yes, we did walk through it, though I covered her eyes for most of it)!

Katie wanted to experience all of her pop-culture favorites. We toured the Harry Potter studio, walked on Abby Road, took part in the Sherlock Holmes tour, and saw Romeo and Juliet at the Globe. We took buses and trains outside of the city to see Windsor Castle and the Magna Carta in Salisbury. Katie was interested in digging up some family history in Edinburgh and visiting a glacier and a volcano in Iceland.IMG_4266

Morgan’s main interests are relaxing in the Greek Isles, doing some kayaking and hiking,  and shoppinglots and lots of shopping. It will be a very different trip from the others, but my girls are all three very unique individuals! To be honest, after the crazy spring we had, I am actually looking forward to a lot of down time in the hot sun and cool water.

Let your daughter plan your adventure, and give in to her wishes. You’ll see things and go places you never imagined (like standing INSIDE one of the tallest waterfalls in the world).
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Embrace the hiccups.
DSC01103.JPGRebecca and I wanted so badly to visit the beaches of Normandy, where her great-grandfather and his Brothers in Arms stormed the shore to liberate France. Unfortunately, there was a train strike the day we needed to get from Mont St. Michel to Normandy. We found ourselves spending an entire day inside the train station in Renee, France, playing scrabble on my iPad. We talked, laughed, and made the most of the time. When we arrived in Luxembourg a couple days later, we learned that there was an American cemetery not far from the city. It wouldn’t make up for not visiting Normandy, but we decided it was important to go. We had to take a bus and walk quite a bit to get there, but we were two of the few visitors there that day who were able to pay our respects to General Patton himself.

IMG_6473Like the train strike, we had small glitches here and there on both trips. There were some days when the weather was not in our favor. Katie and I ran through a downpour in London, lugging our bags and waving to taxis, and we walked the streets of Edinburgh in a foggy mist that probably would have kept us inside back home. Just because it rains on your parade doesn’t mean you should pack up the band and head home. An adventure is an adventure. Grab your umbrella, smile, and walk in the rain. You will never regret the time you spend with your child no matter the weather.

DSC01025-001Take God with you, or find Him there, and He will surprise you.
We spent a lot of time on our trips visiting churches and monasteries. Why? Because I love visiting churches, and in Europe, that’s where all the history is! While in Brugge, Rebecca and I found ourselves among a very small group of people visiting a local church. Well, unbeknownst to us, one of  Michelangelo’s Madonna statues stood in a corner of the church, and we got to see it. A year or so later, I sat in a dark movie theater and watched George Clooney and company save the Brugge Madonna from the Germans. Until The Monuments Men came out, I’m guessing most tourists would not have thought to visit that beautiful church, one of the highlights of our stay in Brugge.

One of the things I’m most looking forward to on this trip is our visit to Corinth. We will be walking among the ruins where Paul preached. We will trace the steps of the Corinthian Christians, whom Paul reminded that love is patient, kind, not jealous or pompous or rude, not brooding or quick-tempered, but believing, hoping, and enduring. What better lesson can a young adult learn, and what more could I want for my child?

No matter where you’re going or what you’re doing. Pray that the Holy Spirit be your guide. Let God lead you, or seek Him out. It will send a message to your child, reminding her that God is in all places and all things, and that it’s important to seek Him out and make Him part of your life, even on vacation. She will face many circumstances over the next few years where it will be crucial for her to remember that God is always there, waiting for her to find Him.

DSC00835.JPGBe in the Moment.
Yes, you may risk missing that plane to France, but when you hear the queen is coming, you must go see her! And running through the airport, shouting, “Look out, we’re on the Amazing Race,” will be one of the most memorable and talked about parts of your trip.

Embrace your time together.
Talk to each other. Laugh together. Try new foods, see new sights. Walk paths you’ve never walked, and reach for new heights. Ask your graduate about his or her hopes and dreams. Ask about her fears and his uncertainties. Remind your child how much you love him and how excited you are for her as she enters a new phase in life.

DSC00954-001Whether you head to foreign lands or walk to the neighborhood park, what maters most is that you do it together. Take this time to truly get to know this young adult, no longer a child, and enjoy her company. The summer will go by quickly, and before you know it, the first year of college will fade. You will blink, and law school will be almost finished. You will exhale, and a wedding is being planned. 

So, what are you waiting for? Live. Laugh. Love. Together.

More to come next week. For now, Morgan and I are off on an adventure.

Want More?

Subscribe to my newsletter for information on upcoming books, cover reveals, and insider information.  Do you know what my next book is about?  My newsletter subscribers do!

 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Defining Success.

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).

 

A Lost Paradise

“Why hasn’t our government done something about this?” I asked the question over and over throughout the week, and each time, the answer was hard to digest. 

On a recent trip to the beautiful island group of Puerto Rico, I was amazed by the beauty, intrigued by the history, and stunned by the infrastructure.
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IMG_3547-001.jpgMy husband is a VP for the division of a global energy company that specializes in clean energy. At least a dozen times per day, he stopped to gaze up at the electrical wires throughout the cities and towns we visited. He would just shake his head and say, “That’s so unsafe.” It didn’t surprise him though. Puerto Rico’s electric company is a pariah in the business. The corruption and failure to follow safety standards is well-known in the industry. In fact, one of the upsides of Hurricane Maria might just be that it shed some light on the company’s ineptness. 

Unfortunately, nobody seems to care. 

IMG_1468.jpgOn our visit to El Junque Rainforest, we drove to a beautiful waterfall where dozens of tourists were stopping for pictures. Sadly, it was the only place in the national park that we could visit. Why? Maria damaged the rest of the roads and trails. We were told that it would take another two years to make them accessible again. Can you imagine the National Park Service not having Yellowstone or Mount Rushmore back up and operating within weeks of a natural disaster? Why not work as hard to make this park accessible again? Tourists are flocking to Puerto Rico right now, and it’s a disgrace that they can’t fully enjoy this national treasure.

Vieques is a national treasure. A small island of Puerto Rico, it was hit particularly hard by Maria. For some inexplicable reason, the bioluminescent bay seems to have benefitted from the storm, but the rest of the island has not. While the island was packed with tourists, and our trip to the bay was full of eager kayakers, the damage was apparent. Buildings were boarded up, hotels were closed, and streets and sidewalks were in desperate need of repair.  Despite the mood of the island and the spectacular views, damage and devastation abounds.
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Each time I asked why nothing is being done, I was given a different, sometimes vague, answer. The Puerto Rican Government is corrupt. The Puerto Rican power company is corrupt. The bidding process is corrupt. The United States Government doesn’t care. The people aren’t demanding better treatment and can’t decide which government to support. The people don’t know to whom to turn. The government of PR doesn’t want the US Government to interfere. The US Government doesn’t want to interfere. The PR Government takes most of the federal aid and squanders it on other things. The US doesn’t send enough aid. Every person you ask, from the average citizen to those working on the inside, has a different answer. 

And look, I don’t know what the real answer is. I don’t know how much of what the Puerto Rican people are told is true. Heck, I have no idea how much of what we’re told here on the mainland is true. All I know is that we had the pleasure of visiting a true treasure. If only those in charge (on all levels) knew how to take care of that precious gem. The people on all sides of this should be ashamed.
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What I was writing about a year ago this week: A Real Boyfriend.

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.

Amy’s latest book, The Devil’s Fortune, is being released this Friday! Order your copy today, and join her at her book launch celebration.

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).

Peru: A Small Service Excursion Abroad

Hello faithful readers! My name is Megan, and I am Amy’s publishing assistant until May. Since she is on a trip this week, I’m here to share my experiences with you from my spring break trip over the last 10 days: Peru!IMG_9515.JPG

Before we get into specifics, I’ll give you a little bit of background information about me. This year I am a senior at Mount St. Mary’s University and will be graduating with a degree in Communication and with a minor in Spanish. I grew up as a military brat (Ooh-Rah!), and when my family was stationed overseas from 2006-2009, we traveled as much of Europe as we could manage. Though I don’t really have a place that I’m “from,” I currently live in Carroll County, Maryland, where I graduated high school. I love romance novels, which is what drew me to Amy’s open position, and my favorite novel of hers is Whispering Vines because, in my mind, it’s closely linked to my favorite movie, The Longest Ride, but features a fun Italian twist, and with recipes!

Over the first 10 days of March, my Spanish teacher finally achieved her four-year goal to get me on one of her Spanish study abroad experiences. Doctora, as she’s known by all her students, has been trying to get me to study abroad in Spain or Costa Rica, the month long excursions, since my first year in college, but I never wanted to spend an entire month away from my family. The Peru trip, though, was 1) only 10 days, 2) open to members of my family, which means I could take my mom, and 3) probably the only time I’d ever go to South America, so it was the PERFECT time and place to go.

Thus began our journey to South America.

Friday, 3/1/2019: Travel Day.

 

We woke up at 330 am to drive to Dulles airport, fly to Panama City International, and then fly again to Lima. Our passports were stamped with our visas, and we stayed overnight in a small hostel to rest before moving to lower altitudes.

Saturday, 3/2/2019: Travel Day Part 2

 

We woke up early again to fly from Lima to Cusco, and then took a van from Cusco to Urubamba, a town much lower in altitude. For reference, Cusco is about 11,000 feet above sea level, Machu Picchu is about 8,000 feet, and Urubamba is closer to 6,000 feet. Staying in Urubamba allowed us to adjust to the altitude gradually and avoid some altitude sickness! At the hotel San Agustin, they had Coca Tea to help with the altitude. Coca Tea is made by steeping the literal Coca leaf in water and drinking the tea produced. I, personally, was NOT a fan, and chose to stick to my Altitude Rx natural pills instead.

Sunday, 3/3/2019: Ollantaytambo Visit

 

Our first real day of excursions! We visited the town of Ollantaytambo (Oh-yan-tie-tahm-bo) which had some ancient Incan ruins. Doctora scheduled a tour guide to lead us on different cultural tours, and this was the first day we met her. She led us through the ruins of Ollantaytambo and explained many of the different histories of the Inca, including the importance of the Incan cross, the terraces created in the mountainside to help with irrigation, protection, and to support the structure of the mountain, and even where the name Ollantaytambo came from. One of the possible explanations for it being named so could be a misconstruction of the Quechua (the Incan native language) word “tampu,” which referred to a small resting place for many of the Incan messengers to stop on their journeys. A “tampu” was supplied with food by the “allyu,” which was the Incan equivalent of a state. The state paid its dues in labor and supplies to Cusco, the capital of the region, and each “allyu” was responsible for maintaining their “tampu” for the messengers and other travelers. “Tambo,” then, could come from a mispronunciation of “tampu.”

Monday, 3/4/2019: Machu Picchu

 

Our day to Machu Picchu started with a van back to Ollantaytambo, where we rode a train car with MANY windows to the Machu Picchu station. Machu Picchu, or MaPi for short, is now considered to be the eighth wonder of the world, and many more people travel to it than before. Our hotel was the new Casa Andina, and we heard the roar of the Urubamba river outside our window while we slept. The town of MaPi has become very centralized for tourists, and includes many different restaurants, a shopping market that you can easily get lost in, and bus trips to and from MaPi itself. Once we rode to the top of the mountain, we saw the breathtaking ruins, climbed many stairs, and learned more than enough about its history from our tour guide. There were even llamas roaming free across the grasses, and they were incredibly unbothered by all the people.

Tuesday, 3/5/2019: Machu Picchu Town and Travel Day

 

Because there are only two major times when the train rides between Ollantaytambo and MaPi, we had the morning to ourselves in MaPi until our 1:30 p.m. train departed back to Ollantaytambo. My mom and I strolled through the market for a bit before sitting in a cute little French bistro for the rest of the afternoon. I sampled a Mochaccino, which was homemade with authentic and delicious Peruvian chocolate. After we returned from MaPi, we took a van back to Cusco city and allowed our bodies to adjust to the higher altitude by simply relaxing and enjoying dinner in the hotel.

Wednesday, 3/6/2019: Cusco City Day 1

 

Our stay in Cusco City began with a trip to the Coricancha, or the Temple of the Sun God. For the traditional Incan people, the Coricancha is the equivalent of the Vatican for Catholics today. This was their holiest of holy places, and it was once covered in gold. Gold represented the tears and essence of the Sun God, also known as “Inti.” When the Spaniards arrived to colonize and conquer, they built a church and monastery over the Coricancha and ordered all other temples to stop construction as part of the conversion of the Incan people. Every 300 years, however, Cusco suffers a giant earthquake, and when the last one occurred in the 1950s, the Cathedral atop the Coricancha fell, but all the Incan stones of the Coricancha below remained completely intact. Because of this, the Incan belief in Inti and their historical culture is somewhat affirmed to the Incan people, and the Coricancha remains a reverent place for the traditions.

After vising the Coricancha, we took a short walking tour of Cusco city and made our way over to the orphanage where we would be serving for the next three days. As part of the Peru excursion, Doctora always works with an orphanage in Cusco to have us complete some time of service. We helped play with children ages three to six in the courtyard for an hour and a half, often giving hugs and physical affection throughout the time we spent there. Though there wasn’t much else to do, it was a good way to begin our service.

Thursday, 3/7/2019: Cusco City Day 2

 

We began the morning by shopping at the local grocery store for food to bring to the orphanage. Then we took the gifts we had of food and soap to the orphanage and volunteered until after lunch. Our Peru group had seven students this year, and we split into two groups for volunteering: those who could teach English to the older girls, and those who would play with the younger children. I was able to help teach English to some of the older girls, and while they knew some already, they were very eager to learn new songs, different English words, and what school was like at the university level in the United States. At lunch time, I was given a small two-year-old named Sandi to feed, and though I’ve never fed a baby anything before, I learned very quickly. She was so quiet, so sweet, and so cooperative that it was very easy! Her favorite thing to do when I held her before lunch and as she sat on the tiny chairs during lunch was swing her legs everywhere, but she was always looking for food.

After our time at the orphanage, we had the afternoon to ourselves, so my mom and I used our cultural ticket to visit as many museums as we possibly could in the Cusco area. We visited the Incan history museum near the orphanage, the Coricancha museum, and two different art museums that featured both popular and contemporary art pieces. We also found the Coffee Museum of Peru, which was free to enter and had a small hallway of information about coffee, as well as some delicious cafe snacks. Our server, Maria, was wonderful and I was able to hold a fluent, easily-understood conversation with her entirely in Spanish! As someone who aspires to be bilingual, if not multi-lingual, I thought this was one of the most rewarding parts of the trip.

Friday, 3/8/2019: Cusco Day 3

 

We attempted to start our day with more service at the orphanage, but due to a miscommunication, there wasn’t much for us to do. Before we left for Peru, Doctora handed out different school supplies for us to donate to the older girls at the orphanage who were attending school so that we could divide everything appropriately, and we handed these supplies out this morning. Many of the older girls at the orphanage actually do have parents, but their parents want to give them a better life, and the nuns who run the orphanage allow the girls to go to school in Cusco so long as they live and help with the younger children at the orphanage. This particular orphanage is only allowed to house children until they turn six, unless they are the older girls helping, and once children turn six they must either be adopted or they will be sent to another orphanage somewhere else in Peru, where more of the older orphans are.

The nun in charge of the orphanage spoke about one child who was in the orphanage because her mother was raped at 11 and had her at 12. Unable to care for the child and choosing to seek work elsewhere, the mother gave her daughter to her grandmother, who wanted to give her to the mother’s aunt who just had a baby herself. The aunt was unable to take care of another child, however, so the child was sent to the orphanage. This child was the one who, when we visited the first day, would go around to each person for a quick hug, over and over again in the circle, until she became distracted by someone else. The nun described how each child has a cross of suffering to bear, just as Jesus did, because they are unwanted or unable to be cared for, but there is Jesus in every one of their hearts, just as there is Jesus in every one of ours. By coming to volunteer, she said, she could see Jesus in our hearts and urged us to go home and hug our parents and our families, and to thank them for loving us and giving us the opportunities that we’ve had.

Sometimes our problems seem incredibly painful, but when compared to the suffering of others, it can easily put into perspective how lucky and blessed we truly are.

Without anything else to help with at the orphanage, we had another free day, and my mom and I took the day to explore the chapels and churches around. We met up with the main group at 2 p.m. to visit the Cathedral, and while no pictures were allowed inside any of the churches, I can promise you they were magnificent. Many of them were heavily influenced by the Baroque style of architecture, and gold leaf was a focal point for many of the decorations and didactic paintings.

Saturday, 3/9/2019: Lima City

 

On Saturday we flew back from Cusco to Lima, where we checked into our hotel next to the airport and began a 4-hour bus tour of the city of Lima. Though four hours may seem like a long time, we only scratched the surface of the cultural and historical elements that surround the city. We visited two main Plazas, the main church of San Agustin, and the Lover’s Park toward the ocean. We had another tour guide for this trip, and she told us many different facts about the history of the city. For example, there are three main colors of buildings from the old Spanish reign: red, blue, and yellow. Red buildings were often used to denote where native people and slaves, blue buildings were for the rich Spanish colonizers, and the yellow buildings were for different industrial shops and stores.

Another fun fact she mentioned was about the Lover’s Park, where they hold a contest every Valentine’s Day to see who can break the record for the longest kiss without breaking away. If you ever want to try and beat the record for yourself, the current one is at 1.5 hours, so best of luck!

Sunday, 3/10/2019: Travel Day Home

Sunday was, in a word, exhausting. We woke up at 3 a.m. for our flight from Lima to Panama City, which took about 4 hours. Once in Panama City International, we then went through ANOTHER security checkpoint that complies with the United States’ TSA requirements, and then flew another 5 hours from PTY to Dulles. Once there, we were free after customs!

Unfortunately, this meant we still had 2 hours to drive from Dulles to Carroll County, where I quickly did my laundry at home and had to drive another hour back to the Mount, where a quiz awaited me on Monday morning.

Normally I am a very organized person and always put my things away, but on Sunday night, I threw everything on the ground of my dorm room and went straight to bed. Though there was no time difference, travel jet lag is real!

Tuesday, 3/12/2019: Reflection Day

Writing this recap of my break has made me realize three things:

  1. No matter how experienced you are at traveling, there will still be hiccups and you will ALWAYS be tired. No one should have to fly 10+ hours in one day, but sometimes you gotta do what you gotta do.
  2. Peru, while never my first travel choice (I prefer Europe 🙂 ) was a beautiful place full of natural wonders, amazing history, no bug bites for me (!!!), and great experiences.
  3. Everyone deserves love, and everyone needs love, no matter how big or small. Our problems may be our own, but when we step back to serve others, we realize how fortunate and blessed we are to have what we do, especially when it comes to family. I’ve always been a big supporter of my family, and especially grateful for everything that my parents have done for me, but this trip helped put in perspective some other things about family. Though I may want to kick my little sister sometimes, at least I know I have a little sister. I know where she is, I can call her when I need her, and I know she’s usually safe. Even though my dad may try to go to Walmart more often than any of us needs, I know that I have a dad who is always supporting me, financially, emotionally, and in morale. No matter what hardships I face, I still have a full family. I still have a family that’s together. I still have extended family that I know, and that I know love and support me.

Not everyone gets that full family. Not everyone gets even half a family, or a small family. Sometimes all we have are those with Jesus in their hearts who reach out to help.

I hope you’ve enjoyed reading about my journey and seeing some of the pictures from the amazing trip that I was able to go on with my mom! Amy will be back shortly with more stories of her own trip this week. If I can leave you with one thing today it’s this:

Go hug someone you love and appreciate, and tell them so! In the end we’re all family, and sometimes family needs reminding just how important they are.

Thank you for reading and being a part of my journey 🙂

Sincerely,

Megan

Riding the Roller Coaster of Parenting

IMG_9543Today is Ash Wednesday, and our family certainly took advantage of Mardi Gras and Shrove Tuesday by indulging in food and fun over the past few days. We surprised Katie Ann and whisked her away to Orlando to celebrate her 20th birthday. This is not something we normally do, believe me, but she was on a wild ride on the roller coaster of life over the past few months, and we wanted to show her how happy we are with how she’s handled things and that we recognize how hard she’s worked academically and personally. So, we met Katie at a restaurant near the airport, supposedly for a surprise luncheon for someone else, and told her that we had packed a bag, so she should grab whatever else she needed because our plane was leaving in two hours time! Needless to say, there was a lot of screaming, and many happy tears were shed. While it was a wonderful, joy-filled weekend, there was a lot of introspection for me…

Princess Belle and girlsMany years ago, we took our own princesses to meet the princesses they idolized. Our girls were so little, unaware of the bad things in this world, and unable to grasp the concept that not every girl becomes a Disney princess. I’m sure that, like many young American girls, they never thought about ever having days of darkness, despair, loneliness, heartbreak, or even insecurity. Those big, bright eyes, looking at the beautiful fairy tale princess could not have imagined a world where people can lose hope, lose faith, and lose themselves. 

 

This past weekend, as I watched the dozens (and dozens) of girls in their princess dresses, with big eyes and wide smiles, I longed for a return to those days.

Those were the days when my girls rarely felt like a fish out of water,
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were unafraid of monsters in the closet, 
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and believed nothing could solve problems better than a big bear hug.
Pooh breakfast Pooh and girls

Those were the days when they knew, without a doubt, that with a smile on your face, a song in your heart, a heart full of inspiration, and perhaps a little bit of pixie dust, all your dreams could come true.castle Amy girls (1).jpg

Of course, my girls are still pursuing their dreams. When life knocks them down, they get back up. When there’s sorrow or heartbreak or despair, they put on those smiles, shake the real dust off their hands and start over. And as a mom, I’m so proud of them each time they do that, but my heart still pines for the days when we thought there really is a happiest place on earth where all cares can be forgotten, where the real world doesn’t exist, and where we don’t have to return to the rat race of daily life. I know that the trials and tribulations my girls have faced are just the beginning for them. As they enter adulthood, they will be faced with problems that will feel like it’s them against the universe. And I want them to know this…

My girls, no matter what, no matter how hard it gets, no matter how dark it seems, no matter how broken you feel or how intense your pain is, your dad and I will always be there for you. 

We will help you catch whatever is thrown your way.IMG_7687.JPG

We will ride the roller coaster with you.IMG_9675

We will always remind you that life can be magical if you let it.IMG_9473

And that, when you’re ready, we’ll smile and wave as you climb to new heights and make all of your own dreams come true.IMG_9468

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Ashes and Chocolate

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.

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).

 

 

 

Me Enamoré

This past week, Morgan and I were blessed to be able to go on a business trip with my husband, Ken, to Colombia. We spent three days in Cartagena, where his conference was being held, and then the weekend in Bogota. The weekend was an add-on, and the reason is quite funny. My husband does a lot of work throughout Latin America. He is fluent in Spanish and nearly fluent in Portuguese. When he was striving to be more conversational in Spanish, his tutor suggested he begin listening to Spanish-language music. That is how my husband fell in love with Shakira.

IMG_9866Though Ken has never been a big concert-goer (unlike the girls and me), he was beside himself with excitement when he learned that Shakira was coming to DC. He bought two tickets, and he and our oldest daughter made their plans to attend. Alas, Shakira developed some throat problems and had to postpone her world tour. The rescheduled date? When we were on our pilgrimage to Guadalupe. Ken was so upset! But hope was not lost. Fast forward to this past weekend. We knew that Ken would be attending this conference in Cartagena and that Morgan and I were going to tag along. If you’ve never been there, Cartagena is a beautiful city, rich in Spanish, Latin American, and Catholic history. I’ve been with Ken several times now, and I enjoy it every time I go.

So, a couple months ago, Ken came to me with a huge, boyish grin on his face.
“Guess where Shakira’s final concert on the world tour is?” he asked with excitement
“Where?” I asked.
“Bogota.” The grin widened.
“Okaaaay…”
“The weekend we will be in Colombia!”
Ah, I could see where this was going.
“And?” I asked.
“And…we can get a cheap flight from Cartagena to Bogota the night before, tour Bogota that day, and attend the concert that night.” His enthusiasm grew with each word.

And that’s how we came to be at the Shakira concert, in Bogota, on Saturday night. We spent the day climbing to the top of Monserrate Hill, exploring the historic downtown, and even witnessing an ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen. We enjoyed obleas, a yummy concoction of two large, round wafers (that Morgan says remind her of the Eucharist) sandwiched with various fillings–fruit spread, cream, caramel, or any combination of the three. Morgan and I have decided that we are going to figure out how to make them ourselves (Amazon must have the wafers, right?).

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The view from Monserrat Hill
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The plaza in the historic district of La Candelaria
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An ordination at La Iglesia de la virgin della Carmen
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Obleas!

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Saturday evening, we joined over 30,000 other fans, waiting in line to get into the park. Even with the VIP tickets that Ken ordered (at a lower price than the standard cost-inflated American tickets), we had to wait over two hours to get into the Simón Bolívar Parque. Once inside, we felt like the filling in the obleas. It was packed! There were no chairs, and even the VIP section was general admission. This did not bode well for someone who is under 5’5″! Luckily for Ken, he’s nearly a foot taller than I am and had a great view, and luckily for me, there were three giant screens above and next to the stage. The concert was great, and Shakira put on a fabulous show. Ken never stopped smiling the entire time.

IMG_9927I was exhausted. I didn’t know or understand the lyrics. I couldn’t see a dang thing other than the back of the heads in front of me. But the predicted rain held off. Morgan and Ken sang along with every song. And I got to see Ken do something he never, ever does. He spent an entire evening doing what he wanted to do. Honestly, that’s so rare. Ken spends most of his life trying to make the girls and me happy. He bends to our every wish and never asks for anything in return. So what if it wasn’t the evening I would have chosen (and my phone was stolen on the way out). For Ken, it was a dream come true. So, maybe no me enamoré (I did not fall in love) with Shakira, but I did fall in love a little more with my husband–a grown man loving life, enjoying a simple pleasure, and wanting to share it with his wife and daughter. 

What I was writing about a year ago this week: Saint Buck, Patron of Granddaughters.

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 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.

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).

 

Welcome to My World

Before I was an author (I was always a writer), I was a librarian, and before that, I was a history major. I’ve always loved history, but I was prejudiced—I only liked American history. I was so naive! And honestly, arrogant. How long have Americans even existed? What have we really done or learned or taught in the short 250 years we’ve been a nation? Not that America hasn’t made many significant contributions to the world, but in comparison to the Romans, the Greeks, the Byzantines, the Florentines, the Vikings, etc, what kind of history do we really have?

It has only been in the last ten years that I have truly come alive as a history student. Having been so blessed as to have a husband who works in the global energy industry, I’ve been able to travel extensively. I’ve traveled often without my husband, but it’s his frequent flyer mileage that I’m typically using, so I have to give him the credit for that and for helping me figure out that I have the confidence to travel the world without him.

In becoming a world traveler, I’ve fallen in love with art and art history. I often say that I’d love to get another degree at some point in my life—an art history degree. To know and understand art, its masters, and its influence is truly to know and understand history. It’s this love of art and history that inspired my book, Whispering Vines. Now, wherever I go, I’m in search of that same inspiration.

This week, Ken is on business in Sweden, and my schedule was open enough to allow me to travel with him. From the sleepy, little town of Mariefred to the bustling, economic center of Stockholm, we’re experiencing fall in Scandinavia. One thing I didn’t expect is the weather. It’s darn cold here! Having been to Iceland and Copenhagen during summertime, I expected the 60 degree temperatures, as predicted by my weather app, but I was surprised by the raw and damp cold of a cloudy day. Not that we’ve let that stop us!

We’ve enjoyed a ride on a narrow-gauge railroad, a visit to palaces in both Mariefred and Stockholm, a traipse though the ancient ruins of a 12th Century church, the brilliant display of military precision in the Changing of the Guard, an afternoon of fun at the ABBA Museum, and dinner at Viking and medieval restaurants. Junibacken is fun for all who fell in love with Pippi Longstocking and her creator, Astrid Lindgeren. The Vasa Museum takes your breath away when you walk beneath the shadow of the great 17th Century ship and truly is one of the most fascinating museums I’ve ever visited. The list of museums I’m trying to fit in is endless!

 

It’s an amazing world we live in. Never stop learning about it and striving to explore it. Whether you regularly travel the world by plane or from your reading chair, be open to all aspects of history—the art, the culture, the military, the literature, and the people, living and long passed. It’s only in learning about the past that we can improve the future. I hope I’ve instilled this important fact in my girls and that they are open-minded and open-hearted when it comes to experiencing all that this great planet and its peoples have to offer. Life is an adventure. Embrace it in whatever way what you can.

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).