Withdraw From Your Cares

IMG_0884-001I recently heard of a survey, showing that 52% of Americans reported unused vacation days in 2017. This is down 2% from the previous year, but the trend remains–Americas, unlike their counterparts around the world, are not leaving work behind to spend downtime with their friends and family. And while more people did take time off, half a million more vacation days were lost in 2017 than in 2016. 705 million vacation days were left unused. Of the days not used, Americans forfeited 212 million days, a donation of $561 per person on average in work time to their companies.

I read those numbers and gasped, shaking my head that so many people would rather work, or feel the need to work, rather than take time for themselves. While cost was cited as a barrier to taking time off, I can’t help but ask, what is the cost of a day at home, or at a local park, or at a free museum? Compare the cost of a vacation to that of a hospital stay after a heart attack or stroke brought on by long, stressful days at the office? Almost the same number of people reported their children as barriers to time off. Really? People won’t take vacations because their children get in the way? What kind of world are we living in?

For the first half of our marriage, Ken was an elected official and then the head of a state agency. For all of those years, he was expected to work, or least be available, twenty-four hours a day, seven days a week. He and I both knew that, for the sake of his mental health and the health of our family, he needed to take breaks. Vacations, no matter how big or small, near or far, were always vital to our family and his sanity. For more than ten years now, Ken has worked for a global company, which means that often, while I’m in bed asleep, he is on the phone with colleagues in Korea or Australia. He travels often, almost weekly, and his sleep schedule is never normal. I fear that, without a vacation, he will have a mental or physical breakdown. And his job is not at all abnormal in this world of the internet, cell phones, and ease of travel.

When I was a child, our family didn’t have money to spare, but my brothers and I felt like we were the richest kids in the world. My parents took us to Andrews Air Force Base to see the Blue Angels. We visited every Smithsonian Museum. We hiked up and down the hills at the National Zoo, laughing at the monkeys and marveling at the elephants. All of those things were free. Meals? Hot dogs at the concession trucks. To my parents, these were low-cost days away from work, spent with family. To my brothers and me, they were priceless days that made lasting memories.

I encourage everyone to take a break this summer, or multiple breaks. Go outside. Connect with nature. Discover a passion. Enjoy time with your family. Play ball with your kids. Last summer, the company that Ken worked for was being sold, and we weren’t sure of Ken’s employment future. Rather than a long, expensive vacation, we borrowed a dear friend’s cabin in the Poconos. We hiked, zip lined, and even parasailed, but most of the trip was spent playing games, doing puzzles, and taking it easy. Morgan and Jacob spent hours fishing, and Ken and Katie enjoyed frequent naps. It was wonderful.

So, work hard this summer. Make each day count. But don’t forget this beautiful advice:

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The second book in Amy’s Chincoteague Island Trilogy, Island of Promise, is now available to pre-order.

What I was writing about this time last year:  Oh, The Places You’ll Go (to borrow from Dr. Seuss)

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 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/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)

Twelve Travel Tidbits To Remember

IMG_0673Over the past ten years, I’ve done more than my fair share of traveling, both foreign and domestic. With a husband who travels weekly, I often have my pick of getaways; and all the frequent flyer mileage adds up, meaning I can travel with Ken on business as well as travel on my own or with friends and family. I’ve learned a lot about traveling, sightseeing, and staying sane when all plans seem to go awry. Here are the most important things I’ve taken away from my experiences.

Plan for the unexpected. We used to laugh at my grandmother who always carried an extra pair of underwear in her purse in case she was stranded somewhere. And an extra pair of shoes, but that’s another story. We might have thought she was crazy, but she was on to something. More often than they’d like to admit, airlines screw up. Twice in the past five years, I arrived at my destination without a bag. Both times, I had a carry on with enough clothes to get me through a couple days. Included in the bags were my essentials – reading glasses, contacts (when I wore them), camera, device chargers, and any medication I might need. This past week, I spent almost three days without my luggage. No need to panic. I had just about everything I needed and could easily obtain the rest. Okay, the thought of losing all those souvenirs almost killed me, but I had to let the worry go and have fun. Thankfully, everything showed up just when I needed it.

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Checking off lists in Scotland

Plan your itinerary. Last week, Katie and I met a mother and son traveling from Florida. Maru had an extensive list of everything she wanted to see on their trip. As they traveled, she checked off the items one by one. Katie and I also had a list, but ours was a daily itinerary of what we should see each day. We checked the list each night to see what we did and what we missed. The key to doing this right is to research ahead of time, and know what you want to see and how much time it takes to do each thing. But in the end, you must be willing to….

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Peggy’s Cove, Nova Scotia

Be flexible. Not every day goes as planned. Waits in line can be longer than anticipated. An unexpected visit from the queen might cause the palace you planned to tour to be closed for the day. Or, like Katie and I, you might meet others and decide to switch things around so that you can all do things together. While in Canada, we completely shifted gears and gave up our second night in Halifax after falling in love with the smaller coastal towns and opting to stay in one of those instead. While planning can save you a lot of headaches and heartaches, being flexible can make the entire trip go more smoothly and be more enjoyable.

Know your money situation. What is the currency? Does your credit card charge fees for international use? Does your debit card work overseas? Do you really need to use foreign currency, or are US dollars better? In some countries, particularly in South America, they are. Research before you go. Know if you’re visiting countries that are more expensive than than others. How will this affect your travel? A word of advice: if you’re going to Iceland, plan on eating a lot of hot dogs and drinking water; and in Copenhagen, know where the McDonald’s is. Or be prepared to allot a hefty sum for food and drinks.

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Seljalandsfoss in Iceland

Know when you need a camera and when you don’t. When Ken and I visited the Holy Land, it was impressed upon us to not worry about taking pictures because it’s more important to concentrate on being in the moment in the holy places. While we did take pictures, we took far fewer than we normally would, and we tried to really soak up everything around us before worrying about snapping the shots we felt would be the most meaningful. Sometimes, I take my camera with me, but other times, I rely on my phone. If you’re climbing a mountain or walking behind a waterfall, leave the camera behind. Reach for your phone only when you know that you, and the phone, are safe from harm. Are you going biking on an island off the coast of Australia? Then the phone is sufficient. Riding a tour bus with several historic and scenic stops? Then the good camera is a must. Be wise, and know which is the best option for the type of photos you want or the logistics of the place you’re visiting.

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Stonehenge

Take the bus. Most often, you visit someplace where you want to explore every alley and corner. Other times, you just need enough time to see the highlights. And many times, there’s just one particular thing to see. Whether it’s a ride to Stonehenge or a twelve-hour manic race to see everything in a thirty mile radius of Quebec City, don’t be afraid to join the tour. Bus rides provide so many opportunities and benefits – you can see multiple sights in a day without having to rent a car or read a map; you have a built-in tour guide (and they’re usually fabulous); you can meet other travelers along the way and get ideas for other places to visit; you learn a lot about the culture, history, and landscape of the place you’re visiting; and, though you may be disappointed that you can’t hit every shop in each town you go to, most of the time, the driver has the timing down to a tee. He or she knows exactly how long it will take for you to climb to the top of the waterfall, take a boat ride on the Loch Ness, or visit the black sand beach.

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Ireland

Don’t be afraid to drive…on the left. When Mom and I went to Ireland, I admit that I was pretty nervous about renting a car. But  our plan to see every single part of the country in eight days would not have worked otherwise. So I bit the bullet and rented the car. Though it felt a little strange at first, before long, driving on the left side of the road become natural. A year later, when Ken and I visited New Zealand and decided to take a drive up the coast, I actually offered to do the driving. Just like riding a bike, the skill came back to me. Would I be nervous to do it again? Sure, I would. It’s not the way I learned to do a task I do every day, but I wouldn’t say no.

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The Colosseum in Rome

Know when you need a guide. Most of the time, you can see everything you want without help. We have the Internet to teach us history before we go. We have the Maps app to keep us from getting lost. And there’s a City Pass for almost every major city in the world that cuts your cost or saves you the wait in line. However, there are times when it’s best to hire a guide. Some examples: the only way to avoid the three to four hour wait at the Vatican or the Colosseum, is to have a guide. Not only is it well worth the time you save, you will learn more about the Basilica and museums than you ever could on your own. Likewise, if you really want to get know the city of Florence, with hundreds of years of history, a guide is your best option. And those kooky nighttime ghost tours you can do on your own with the online guide – forget about it. Only a guide will really make the stories come to life. By the way, that City Pass I mentioned? I highly recommend them. But do your research. We found them to be a total waste of money in Madrid, and depending upon your schedule, choosing the right length of use can be tricky. But I wouldn’t visit New York or London without one.

Be alert. I have never felt unsafe when traveling, and so far, I’ve never had anything stolen or taken from a pickpocket, but those things do happen all the time. Know your surroundings. Keep your distance from people or situations that don’t look or feel right. Always know where your money, credit cards, phone, etc. are at all times. I sacrifice my purse for a smaller cross-shoulder bag whenever I’m traveling. It keeps everything close to my body and keeps my money and cards stored neatly without the need for a wallet which can be easily lifted from an open bag. In Barcelona, last summer, a woman walking near us on the sidewalk kept steering uncomfortably close to me. Bells went off, and when she reached for my purse, I was ready. Firmly holding onto the bag with both hands, I looked right at her and said, “No, go away.” She quickly darted through the crowd without looking back. When my family asked what happened, I told them. I knew my instincts were right, and it was a good lesson for my girls. If I had been one to pay more attention to my phone than to those around me, that story could have had a very different ending.

Keep a check on your items. While I’ve never had anything taken, we have had the unfortunate lost article or two. Twice on this last trip, Katie left something behind in her haste to pack up and move out. One was a tube of posters she had bought in London for her dorm room. The other was the blue and purple tartan scarf we bought in Scotland that so beautifully matched her eyes. If you’re changing planes or trains, or grabbing a quick meal somewhere between destinations, always pack up before it’s time to leave, check your area, and then double check that you’ve gotten everything. A coupe posters and a scarf can be easily replaced and don’t present a large monetary loss. A piece of art, a hand-knitted sweater, or a one-of-a-kind purchase, would be another, tragic, story.

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Good friends made in the Holy Lands

Make friends. I know, that sounds crazy. How can you make “real” friends while traveling? Believe me, you can. Some of my closest friends are people Ken and I met on a ten-day pilgrimage to the Holy Lands. While that is a little different as it’s an emotional and spiritual journey rather than just a vacation, the same general rule applies when traveling. While you can’t fully let your guard down with strangers, you can make friends. On a cruise, several years ago, my girls joined the kids’ clubs offered onboard. To this day, they are still friends with a number of those kids and keep in touch via social media and email. Rebecca even went to a senior prom with a boy with whom she became friends. Katie and I had so much in common with the mother and son that we met in Scotland last week, that we’re trying to make plans to get together again. You never know where a chance meeting might lead, what long-lasting friendships may develop. As I’ve said many times before, I don’t believe in coincidence. Everything happens, and every person enters our lives, for a reason.

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Gullfoss in Iceland

Enjoy every moment. Don’t lose sight of why you’re there and with whom you’re traveling. Put down the phone (I know, you all get tired of hearing me harp on that), talk to your companions and to other travelers, savor your meals, rise with the sun, and go to bed when everything shuts down. Do that late night ghost tour. Eat that local delicacy you never thought you’d try. Visit the museums, the parks, the beaches, the out-of-the-way overlooks and grueling hikes. You will never regret having done those things, but I guarantee that you will regret what you don’t do. Life is short. You might never get back to the same place twice. Take advantage of everything you can while you’re there.

Screen Shot 2017-03-14 at 12.20.12 AMBe inspired. Traveling has taught my children to reach beyond their own worlds and eat new foods, learn about other cultures, and dare to try something new. This sense of adventure can often lead to new experiences even after returning home. After discovering foreign foods that we like, we often go home and attempt to recreate the recipe. More times than not, it works! Reeling at the expense of the Icelandic sweaters, Katie bought a kit with yarn and a pattern and is planning to knit one for herself. Ken’s cousin, Crista, came home from traveling and began brewing her own craft beer. We all took up kayaking after Ken and I paddled with the penguins off the south coast of New Zealand. And I’ve won two literary awards for my book, Whispering Vines, inspired by a trip to a small, family-owned winery near Verona. Be open to learning and to doing. Every trip has the potential to lead to something bigger in your life.

Finally, share your love of travel and your experiences with others. Some may only see these places through your eyes. Others may be inspired to follow your lead. It’s both a large and a small world out there. See all that you see, and let others know how easy it is to do the same.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: No Place Like Home.

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)

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)

Seven Reasons to Put Down Your Electronic Devices This Summer

School has been out for less than a week, and so far, my girls have worked at their respective jobs, gone kayaking, watched movies on our backyard movie screen, gone on bike rides and boat rides, and spent time lying on the hammock, reading books. The requirements that they get outside every day, read every day, and work a summer job have been drilled into them their entire lives. However, I still see them spending way more time on their electronic devices than I would like, but I’m coming up with some ways to change that. And you should, too. Since it’s summer time, I’m going to ask you to step outside. Outside your house or office, outside your comfort zone, maybe even outside of yourself.

 

 

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There is a whole world outside that awaits you, but the only way to really appreciate it is to get up off the couch or away from your desk, and go outside to see it. Perhaps this means taking a bike ride, going out on the water, or even visiting a museum. The main point is to get outside of your house. Go somewhere. Do something. You’ll be amazed at what you might learn. But first, you’ll need to…

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nlearn

It takes hard work and effort to break a habit. Believe it or not, that phone is not actually glued to your hand. And don’t think that I’m Miss Perfect when it comes to putting down my phone. I’m absolutely as bad as the next person. The other night, we were watching a movie in the backyard when Rebecca looked around and said, “Every one of you is playing a game on your phone or iPad instead of watching the movie.” While I protested that I could certainly watch a movie and play Words With Friends at the same time, I knew she was right. Note to self: the next time we have movie night, the iPad stays in the house. Watching a movie in the backyard with my family, with a glowing fire blazing nearby, and two dogs slumbering next to my chair, should be all the entertainment I need.

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ry something new

Last week, I wrote about trying something new. There is so much in the world that I haven’t done, and I’ve done a lot! I could probably make a list of over 100 things that I’d still like to do. Of course, I can’t fit them all in this summer, but I’ve been trying to decide lately what I can do. For starters, I cut a mango today for the very first time. And I’m going to be visiting my first active volcano in July! Now those are certainly very different firsts, but they both count! Your something new can be small, large, or life-changing. The point is, you’re trying something new, but you must do it physically and not using a phone, tablet, or laptop!

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ee the world

Ken gets very frustrated when we go on long drives and everyone has their eyes glued to some kind of screen. “Look around you,” he’ll cry. “You’re missing all the good stuff.” And as much as I love to read in the car, I know he’s right. When everyone is staring at their screens, they’re missing the real show outside their window. Luckily, my girls have been able to experience some of the those beautiful things they’ve missed as the world goes by while they’re on their phones. They’ve slid down a snowy hill on a warm, sunny day in the middle of July. They’ve white-water-rafted in the Rocky mountains. They’ve kayaked in the Gulf of St. Lawrence. And not once during any of those times did they ask, “Where’s my phone.”

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Rebecca and Ken on the Gulf of St Lawrence in Percé, Quebec.

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magine

Imagine a world without cell phones. I know, we say it all the time, “What did we ever do without cell phones?” Or without computers? Hmmm, let me see if I remember. Oh yeah, we talked. We played. We stayed out late, well after dark, playing hide and seek and jailbreak. We played street hockey. We rode bikes. We played flag football in the backyard. We went on long walks, spent time in the neighborhood park, took tennis lessons, joined Girl Scouts and Boy Scouts, and so much more. The list goes on and on. And not once did we wonder what we were missing. Not once did we worry about who was trying to reach us while we were out. Imagine what life would be like if we could do all those things today without frantically looking for a place to charge our phones!

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iscover

Discover life beyond your laptop. A study in New York Magazine from 2015 showed that about 1/3 of Americans have never interacted with their neighbors. Researchers believe this is because we are more in touch with people through electronics than through personal relationships. The study also showed that those who did know and interact with their neighbors are healthier and enjoy their day more. Many neighborhoods today have playgrounds, swimming pools, hiking trails, bike paths, and more. Step outside and look around. Wave. Have a drink with the guy across the street. Check out the local park. Go on a bike ride. And take your kids with you.

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We hiked to the top of that waterfall!

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ssentials

Just look at these research titles:

Reasons Cell Phone Usage Reduces Happiness

Science Shows Your Cell Phone Is Ruining Your Life — Even When You’re Not Using It

Happiness Tip: Stop Checking Your Freaking Phone

Science Says Your Cell Phone Use Could Be Hurting Your Relationship

If I were a anthropologist in the future, studying the collapse of the human race, I could probably trace the demise back to one single invention – the cell phone. People are on them ALL. THE. TIME. At dinner, at the movies, on the subway, walking down the street. What is so important that none of us, myself included, can go more than sixty seconds without looking at our phones?  I’m sure you’ve all heard that America is suffering from a terrible, contagious, life-threatening disease. It’s known as FOMO. Time Magazine even did a story on it recently – This Is The Best Way to Overcome Fear of Missing Out. The answer? Gratitude. “Really?” you ask. Yep. It’s that simple. Be grateful for what you have. Appreciate your friends, family, home, job, life. The article sums it up by saying, “Gratitude is essential.”

By focussing on the good in your life, going outside without your device, trying something new, seeing the world, imagining the possibilities, discovering the people around you, and being grateful for what you have, you can kick the electronic habit. It’s worth a try, don’t you think?

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Morgan’s boyfriend, Jacob, went horseback riding for the first time last summer.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: Lessons From The Stage – Ten Things I Learned From Broadway.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  A Summer Reading Guide for Kids;  Dear Husband, When I Forget to See You; and Why Are Fireflies Disappearing?.

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)

Mothers, Daughters, and Memories

Recently, I read an article in a magazine entitled, A Moment in Time: Try Not to Forget. It was the story of Laurel Miff’s visit to London with her grandmother who now suffers from Alzheimer’s. That trip is one of the few memories that Miff’s grandmother still recalls. “Whenever I visit her now,” Miff wrote, “she speaks of how we deftly made our way through the Tube from one London site to another, with barely a moment’s pause to enjoy a cup of tea.” The article brought tears to my eyes as I remembered the wonderful trip my mother and I took to Ireland. We spent our days, from sunup until long after the sun went down, touring site after site in city after city. Some nights, though exhausted, we laughed so hard we thought we might be booted from the hotel. We still love to joke about our Psycho experience in Kilkenny, our favorite town, where the hotel owner, bellhop, cleaning service, chef, and concierge were all the same person. Those eight days are among the most wonderful of my life, and I thank God that we were able to spend that time together.

Four years ago, when Rebecca graduated from high school, she had this crazy idea that a group of her friends and a couple moms (myself included) would drive cross country and back. I say crazy because this was when gas was over $6.00/gallon! Ken laughed and told her that, with all of the frequent flyer mileage he accumulates, he could fly her and me to Europe and back cheaper than she could drive halfway across the country! Well, he didn’t have to say that twice.

Rebecca spent the next couple months planning our trip, based on what she learned in two of her favorite classes: World History and World Geography. Over the course of three weeks, we visited seven countries on a budget of $6000, and no, I did not stay in any hostels. There comes a time, or an age, in life where you have to draw the line! 

We knew that we had opened a real can of worms with two younger sisters eager to follow in our footsteps, but the trip was worth every penny spent then and will be worth what is spent in the future. Rebecca and I created memories that we will both cherish for a lifetime. From walking around the ancient stones of Stonehenge on a chilly, windy day to seeing three different figures of royalty, live and in person (Queen Elizabeth II of England, The Grand Duke of Luxembourg, and Queen Beatrice of Denmark), to sipping wine and eating escargot at an outdoor cafe in Paris as we watched the passersby, the trip was magical. 

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In a few weeks, Katie and I will embark on our journey. While she has planned a week’s stay in London, we will be using the time there to venture out to places neither of us has seen: Bath, Windsor, Wimbledon, and a few others. We will then visit Scotland (alas, no trip to Craigh na Dun for me) and finish our trip in Iceland. It’s a completely different itinerary as Rebecca and Katie are very different people, but the end goal is the same. It’s a time for mother and daughter to renew our relationship, reminisce about the past, talk about the future, and create memories to last a lifetime.

I can’t figure out where the time has gone over the years of my life and the lives of my children, but I do know that I haven’t let it go by without trying to create as many lasting memories as I can. I cherish every moment I have with my mother as well as every moment with my girls. Sure, we have disagreements, and there are moments of drama, but I can honestly say that cross words are few and far between. I consider myself the luckiest person in the world to have the mother I have and the daughters Ken and I have raised.

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It’s a big world out there with lots to see and do. Take the time to see explore it, and take a friend. I highly recommend your mother, grandmother, or daughter. Create memories that are so good, even Alzheimer’s can’t cause them to fade. And I’ll remember you, my readers, in a few weeks as I sip my scotch and look out over the city of Edinburgh or stare at the volcanoes of Iceland. Raising a glass, I will toast to you, to travel, and to mothers and daughters everywhere.

What I was writing about one year ago this week: A Season for Changes.

Things I’ve read this week that are worth sharing:  Helicopter Parents Are Raising Unemployable Children by Marcia Sirota of The Huffington Post; Husband’s Confused When Wife Climbs In The Crib. Then, He Learns The Heartbreaking Reason… by Jenny Brown on Shareably; 21 Highly-Anticipated Book Club Reads Coming This Spring by  on the BookBub Blog.

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)

 

How Do You Measure A Year?

DSC08677.JPGOne year ago this week, Ken and I received the news that we were chosen to go to the Holy Land with a group of pilgrims.  As excited as we were, we had no idea how life changing that trip would be.  To see the places about which we’ve only read or heard, to walk in the footsteps of our Lord, to stand on the shores of the Jordan River and inside the tomb of the Holy Sepulcher were things that we never imagined being able to do.  To top it all off, we made new friends, some of whom have become among the closest friends we have.  It’s amazing to me, when I look back over the course of this past year, that one year ago, I had never been to Mount Tabor.  I had never looked down at the city of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives.  I didn’t know George or Tammi or either Anne.  I had never met Bianca or Mary Ann or either Michelle.  How different my life was just a year ago.  And that got me thinking…

How different are all of our lives from just a year ago?  In the past twelve months, I’ve attended graduations, weddings, christenings, and funerals.  I’ve seen my girls go from being just “in high school and college” to being Seniors about to graduate and move on.  I’ve traveled to new places and returned to old favorites.  In June, I published my third novel, and within a few weeks, I will be publishing another. 

As the song asks, “how do you measure a year?”  Three-hundred-and-sixty-five days.  That’s how we think about a year: a long, drawn out collection of days.  But 365 is a small number that is gone in the blink of an eye.  It sounds like a lot – five hundred, twenty-five thousand, six hundred minutes.  But in less than a year, a baby is conceived and then born, a wedding is planned, a school year is completed and another started, a fine wine ages, a house is built and occupied.  And we look back and say, “where did the year go?”  How does time get away from us so easily?

So as you begin to think about your New Year’s Resolutions, think about the past as well.  Think about all that you did in the past year, the people you met, the places you visited, the things you accomplished.  And think about the minutes that got away from you, the tasks left unfinished, the goals left unmet.  Don’t think of the future as long and drawn out.  Think of it as short and fleeting.  Make the most of every day, every minute.  There’s much to be seen in the world, many new people to meet, and a lot to be accomplished.  And the reality is, there is never enough time in which to do it.  But there is enough time to enjoy life.  I urge you to start today.

Amy Schisler is an award winning author of both children’s books and novels for readers of all ages.  She lives with her husband and three daughters on the Eastern Shore of Maryland. Her book, Picture Me, is the recipient of an Illumination Award, placing it among the top three inspirational fiction eBooks of 2015. Her most recent book, Whispering Vines, is available for purchase; and her next novel, Island of Miracles, will be released in January of 2017.

You may follow Amy on Facebook at http://facebook.com/amyschislerauthor on Twitter @AmySchislerAuth, on Goodreads at https://www.goodreads.com/amyschisler and on her web site http://amyschislerauthor.com.

Amy’s books: Crabbing With Granddad (2013), A Place to Call Home (2014), Picture Me (2015), Whispering Vines (2016)